Jack Hammered It
“Debbie, Debbie, did they tell you?” were the first words he said to me. “Are you the one who did it? Did they call you? I told them to call you and tell you. Did they?”
The questioner was none other than business rock star Jack Welch, and no, whoever “they” were hadn’t called me or told me anything. He and his wife, Suzy (who is a force of nature in her own right) had just stepped off their airplane and into a van with yours truly. “Uh-oh,” I thought, “here we go.” I’d been in their presence about 30 seconds and had already messed something up for sure.
I will admit being a bit nervous about hosting the Welches as keynote speakers at our Auto Glass Week/International Window Film Conference in Reno last week. Most of the nerves came from the unknown because, let’s face it, some rock stars are down-to-earth people and others, well, they just want the green M&Ms and would walk out if they see a red one. I had no sense of where Jack and Suzy fell on this scale, but I would soon find out. Would they be able to relate to an audience of business owners and technicians who travel in circles far from their own?
“Hello Mr. Welch, I’m Deb Levy, and welcome to Reno,” I said, stretching out my hand as far as it would go.
“Call me Jack, please,” he said, “and did you write that briefing paper they sent me?”
“Yes, I did,” I answered, “I am sorry if there was a problem.”
“Well,” Jack Welch continued, “I had told them to call you about it. I have been doing speeches like this for more than 15 years, and I told them to let you know that that was the most well-written, cogent briefing paper I’ve ever gotten on an industry. I wanted them to let you know that.”
[I can’t even describe how that felt. I was stunned. I wanted to jump and shout and, I swear, I even thought I saw fireworks.]
“Well, you just made my life,” I said. (As you can see by my comment, I am not prone to the dramatic.) I will tell you, though, you could live on a compliment from Jack Welch for the rest of your life. And I say this with all due respect to my grade school teachers, especially Sister Rosario, who admonished us to never, ever repeat a compliment because it’s really a form of bragging. She is right and I just did it anyway, my apologies.
What impressed me most about Jack and Suzy was that beyond their accomplishments, they were real and without pretension. Jack’s message, too, though really very simple, is hard to learn: lead. Lead with transparency and with ethics, lead to win. “Don’t you want to win?” he asked as he ended his talk.
Yes, Jack, we do.