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.

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I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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