When I was a young leader trying to learn how to build teams and lead organizations, I remember reading something that Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, wrote that has stuck with me. Welch said there were four kinds of employees at GE.
- Those who shared the GE values and produced
- Those who shared the GE values but did not produce
- Those that did not share the GE values and did not produce
- Those that did not share the GE values but DID produce
Welch said it was easy to know what to do with the first three groups.
- Group 1: (those who shared the GE Values and produced) were to be rewarded.
- Group 2: (those who shared the GE Values but did not produce) were to be given training and another opportunity.
- Group 3: (those who did not share the GE values and did not produce) well, you had to free up their future for other opportunities.
But what about Group 4? Technically, Welch said that if an employee didn’t share the GE values, then he didn’t really want them on the team; but in all honesty, Welch said he would look at their performance and think, “But, oh those numbers!!!”
I think that every supervisor has felt the tension that Welch felt. We know that when an employee is not aligned with the core values of the organization, it is like playing with fire. We know that tolerating someone who is guilty of habitual dysfunctional behavior is like protecting a cancer within our team. Leaders have a stewardship to the organization not to trade in long-term health for short-term gains or convenience.
Values matter. They are like the “out of bounds” markers on a playing field. You can do a lot of different things in a lot of different ways within the boundaries, but you can’t go out of bounds or the play doesn’t count. It’s the same way with your core values. If you cross the line on your core values, then you are out of bounds. No one wins when you violate your core values.
We often repeat a quote from John Rockefeller who said that leading a business is a lot like raising preschoolers. He said, “Have a few rules, live by them, and repeat yourself over and over.” If you hope to build an organization that attracts and keeps people who are both passionate for your core values and excel in execution, Rockefeller’s timeless advice is worth hearing.
Have the self-awareness to know your core values and the courage to live them. That’s what great leaders do.