Expert Advice: How Not to Step in It

You can’t always tell a book by a cover – or by it’s title for that matter. And that explains why Jacked Up is such a surprise. It’s actually a book about speeches and presentations. But rather than providing a step-by-step guide, its advice runs along the lines of how not to step in it.

The subtitle explains author Bill Lane’s motivation for writing his tome. Jacked Up is The Inside Story about How Jack Welch Talked GE into Becoming the World’s Greatest Company. Lane wrote it to capitalize on his experience working closely with the larger-than-life Welch. For 20 years while Welch ran GE, Lane ran the uber-CEO’s executive communications.

As Lane explains, Welch placed a lot of stock on presentations as a means of communicating culture and learning within GE. He also demanded complete candor. He could not abide showy, report-style presentations that played up successes and played down or ignored challenges and setbacks. Internally, he encouraged presenters to share lessons learned and to talk about disappointments and things they wished they had done or would do “next time”. He wanted employees to take away solid, practical information that they could apply in their jobs.

Lane also says Jack Welch was a great speaker and he demanded that his lieutenants be good on the podium as well. Welch put hours of preparation into every speaking engagement; especially those he gave to the investment community. And that effort paid off handsomely. Year after year, Welch’s presentations got attention on the same scale as Warren Buffett’s annual message to shareholders.

Jacked Up gives readers a sense of the competitiveness and camaraderie that existed at GE under Jack Welch. The book also flashes back to Lane’s experiences as a soldier who saw combat in Vietnam. While the bullets didn’t fly around his head at GE Headquarters, one gets the sense that his battle-tested survival skills came in handy.

Jacked Up: The Inside Story about How Jack Welch Talked GE into Becoming the World’s Greatest Company, Bill Lane, McGraw-Hill, New York, 2007.