JUNE 19, 2006
IDEAS -- THE WELCH WAY
By Jack and Suzy Welch
As an ambitious
22-year-old readying to enter the corporate world, how can I quickly distinguish
myself as a winner? -- Dain Zaitz, Corvallis, Ore.
To stand out among your peers, you have to overdeliver. But
be careful to avoid obvious career lust
First of all, forget some of the most basic habits you learned in school. Once
you are in the real world -- and it doesn't make any difference if you are 22 or
62, starting your first job or your fifth -- the way to look great and get ahead
is to over-deliver. For years you've been taught the virtue of meeting specific
expectations. And you've been trained to believe that an A-plus performance
means fully answering every question the teacher asks. Those days are over.
To get an A-plus in business, you have to expand the organization's expectations
of you and then exceed them, and you have to fully answer every question the
"teachers" ask, plus a slew they didn't think of.
Your goal, in other words, should be to make your bosses smarter, your team more
effective, and the whole company more competitive because of your energy,
creativity, and insights. And you thought school was hard!
Don't panic. Just get in there and start thinking big. If your boss asks you for
a report on the outlook for one of your company's products for the next year,
you can be sure she already has a solid sense of the answer. So go beyond being
the grunt assigned to confirm her hunch. Do the extra legwork and data-crunching
to give her something that really expands her thinking -- an analysis, for
instance, of how the entire industry might play out over the next three years.
What new companies and products might emerge? What technologies could change the
game? Could someone, perhaps your own company, move production to China?
In other words, give your boss shock and awe -- something compelling that she
can report to her bosses. In time, those kinds of ideas will move the company
forward, and move you upward.
But be careful. People who strive to overdeliver can swiftly self-destruct if
their exciting suggestions are seen by others as unfettered braggadocio,
not-so-subtle ladder scaling, or both. That's right. Personal ambition can
Now, we're not saying curb your enthusiasm. But the minute you wear career lust
on your sleeve, you run the risk of alienating people, in particular your peers.
They will soon come to doubt the motives of your hard work. They will see any
comments you make about, say, how the team could operate better, as political
jockeying. And they will eventually peg you as an unrestrained striver, and, in
the long run, that's a label that all the A-plus performing in the world can't
overcome. So by all means, overdeliver -- but keep your desire to distinguish
yourself as a winner to yourself. You'll become one faster.
Revenue growth is at the top of my to-do list. What should I look for in
hiring great sales professionals? -- John Cioffi, Westfield, N.J.
Good news. You're halfway there, because you realize that great salespeople are
different from you, us, and most everyone. Which is not to say that salespeople
shouldn't have the qualities you look for in every hire: integrity,
intelligence, positive energy, decisiveness, and the ability to execute. It's
just that they need other qualities, too. Four to be exact.
The first is enormous empathy. Great salespeople feel for their customers. They
understand their needs and pressures; they get the challenges of their business.
They see every deal through the customer's eyes. Yes, they represent the
company, and yes, they want to make it profitable. But they are geniuses at
balancing the interests of the company and the interests of the customer so
that, even at the end of difficult negotiations, both sides would describe the
process as more than fair.
Not surprisingly, then, the second quality of great salespeople is
trustworthiness. Their handshake means something. They see every sale as part of
a long-term relationship, and customers usually respond in kind.
Third, great salespeople have a powerful mixture of drive, courage, and
self-confidence. No one likes cold calls. But the best salespeople are so eager
for business that they make them relentlessly and have the inner strength not to
take inevitable rejections personally.
Finally, the best salespeople hate the "postman model." No offense to letter
carriers, but the best salespeople love to get off their set route in search of
product and customer opportunities. In that way, then, they are just like you.
Revenue growth is at the top of their to-do list. But unlike you, or any other
boss for that matter, it's also at the middle and bottom. That's what makes
great salespeople so special.