“Your assignment,” Peter Cohan said, “is to explore General Electric’s people strategies. Particularly under Jack Welch’s leadership.”
“Through his 20 years as CEO, GE produced so much management talent that its castoffs ended up running many of the world’s biggest companies.”
The MBA students were in Cohan’s “Strategy and the CEO” class at Babson College.
“Identity key lessons and how they apply to startups?”
Four talent management lessons
Here are four key lessons Cohan’s students identified from GE’s story, along with stories from their workplace experiences. To win with your people strategy:
- Weed out C-Players — GE encouraged people in the lower 10% of the workforce to leave. “At my company, my manager’s inability to rid the team of C-Players caused the A-Players to bolt,” one student reported. “It’s even harder for startups to absorb the drag of less productive team members.”
- Hire A-Team managers — GE’s system ranked people based on whether they met their numbers while following the company’s values. “My company promoted an individual contributor to a manager role. He made his numbers but hated people, how’s that supposed to work?”
- Bring in broadly talented people — GE leveraged all their different business units and situations to develop emerging leaders. “For the smaller operation and startup,” another student reported, “hiring talented people from outside with previous experience will be necessary.”
- Link rewards to performance — GE pays more to top performers. “I work for a government agency,” said one Cohan’s students. “It’s disappointing to be paid the same as those who clock-in and do enough to get by, while others work hard and give their best. I’m looking for the exit.”
What’s the answer? Consider Marc Sparks’ story as a serial entrepreneur with over sixty startups he’s personally launched. In his book, They Can’t Eat You, he writes about “The A-Team.” A plaque with 45 names on it hangs in his office and proclaims:
An A-Teamer is an individual who
sees a challenge and resolves it without the need for acknowledgment;
understands the vision of the company and takes ownership of it;
is dedicated and loyal to the success of the company for a lifetime;
is motivated by the love of his other work rather than by money;
has earned the respect and admiration of co-workers;
and always seeks more responsibility.
Creating space for reflection
“No organization,” Cohan told his class, “particularly a startup can survive in a competitive market unless it measures performance consistently and rewards the stars. The owner, manager, or leader either helps the weak performers to improve or manages them out.”
So, what characteristics would an A-Player demonstrate on your team?
Here are the keywords from Sparks’ statement. First, how would you rate your candidacy as an “A-Teamer?” (1 low – 6 high)
- Sees a challenge and resolves it
- Gets the vision and owns it
- Dedicated and loyal to the organization
- Passionate about the work, beyond the paycheck
- Respected and admired by team
- Seeks more responsibility
What about individuals on your team?
What must happen to develop and recruit A-Players?
Here’s to your future success,
Image credit: tanakawho via flickr