Jeff Immelt On Managing In A Downturn

I found an excellent discussion with GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt about how GE’s top managers should deal with the downturn. Here’s some of his advice:

Keep your company safe but keep building the future… Leadership is an intense journey into yourself. It’s about how much you want to learn. It’s about how much you want to give. It’s about personal change and just being ready to renew yourself every day.

Other valuable tidbits from Immelt:

  • While cost-cutting will be a priority in some businesses (e.g., financial services), GE plans to “pour it on” in other areas (e.g., renewable energy, clean water technologies, and fuel-efficient jet engines and locomotives).
  • Invest in the future to keep employees motivated. Rather than creating a sense of hopelessness, give people a sense that they can create a brighter future.
  • Immelt gave these specific words of advice to his leadership group:
    • Be decisive
    • Be accountable
    • Be transparent
    • Be a unifier
    • Be willing to change yourself

My take: I really like Immelt’s thoughts about the downturn; maybe because they’re similar to what I’ve said in previous posts :-). The one thing that I’d add to his list of advice is: “Be listening.” During a recession there’s more need than ever to listen to customers (to stay in tuned with their shifting needs and priorities) and employees (to address their needs and concerns).  

The bottom line: You can manage your way through a recession or lead your company out of it. You decide.

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

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