All About Jack Welch From His Speechwriter
Jack Welch, the inimitable former CEO of GE, is not just a renowned business leader — he’s a publishing franchise. In addition to writing the best-selling books, Winning and Jack: Straight from the Gut, Welch has been the subject of business and inspirational books too numerous to mention.
Which brings us to the burning question: Do we really need another book about Welch? The answer lies in the author’s introduction to Jacked Up: The Inside Story of How Jack Welch Talked GE Into Becoming the World’s Greatest Company. Bill Lane writes, “I observed a hilarious, terrifying, inspiring, crazy side of Jack. I often urged him to put this side of himself into his memoirs, which he never did .… So I’m doing it in this book.”
With that, Lane proceeds to tell an insider’s story of GE and Welch, for whom Lane wrote speeches for 20 years. Lane weaves some of his own background into the book, so that we understand how GE contributed to his personal and professional growth. The reader obtains rare first-hand insight into the company’s challenges and opportunities. At one point, for example, we learn that Welch could have acquired IBM and turned it into a GE division, but he “perceived its condition as more perilous than it turned out to be,” says Lane.
Observations From an Insider
Lane describes Welch’s no-nonsense style in a way that is both endearing and alarming. We learn of his impatience with buzzwords, his withering wit, and his disdain for those who don’t speak candidly. In the eyes of Lane, Welch is often irascible, always outspoken — as infuriating as he is brilliant yet, in his own way, caring. Welch is also downright funny. The reader cannot help but laugh out loud at many of Lane’s tales; at the same time, there is a sense of relief that we are observing Welch from a safe distance.
But Lane’s objective is not merely to reminisce about a great leader. The book is actually a corporate communications manual of sorts, deftly weaving Welch’s communication philosophy together with Lane’s professional observations.
Lane exhorts managers to grab any opportunity to make a presentation in front of influential people — but to be thoroughly prepared. Within the book’s short chapters, Lane offers advice about how to prepare for and make exceptional presentations — while depicting how Welch often “blew up” his managers’ verbal efforts. In the words of Welch: “If you find a mistake, however small … point it out. Unimaginable impact. If you do so, you have served notice to this presenter, and by ripple effect across your whole organization, that you mean business as far as this meeting goes, and that the days of ‘wing it’ and ‘blow and go’ are over.”
Jacked Up is not just another Welch book. It is a welcome and refreshing volume that adds a uniquely personal perspective to the body of work on Welch — while serving to guide managers through the thorny world of effective corporate communication.