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'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

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