I’m a Jack Welch fan. I’m obviously not afraid to admit this. I admire the man not only for what he accomplished during his reign at GE, but also for what he’s passed on to countless leaders and talent-based organizations about optimizing performance and generally creating meaningful career experiences.
On Wednesday, Jack pissed off a bunch of powerful women because he made a poignant observation about how “results and performance”, not “programs promoting diversity, mentorships, and affinity groups” advance female leaders. He made this comment while speaking to a gathering of female executives at the Wall Street Journal Women in the Economy Conference and evidently a din of “angry murmers” materialized instantly. Come on, ladies. Can we just take a chill, please? Do you really think Jack Welch doesn’t understand the value of a diverse workplace? Do you really think he doesn’t see the important role diversity programs and affinity groups play in the advancement of women? Really? And even if he doesn’t, don’t you think his point is an interesting one…if not a valid one?
It is about results and performance. It should only be about results and performance. Jack’s point is that advancing employees – whether they be male, female, black, or white – on anything other than performance is fundamentally a slippery slope. In essence he’s saying that if a man is promoted because he’s a man and not because his results and performance warrant it, then it’s just wrong. It’s wrong and it’s ultimately detrimental to the organization.
Affinity groups and diversity programs are really important to heightening awareness to non-business related bias. No one is arguing that – and I certainly don’t think Jack was. But those programs do not – nor should they ever – eclipse the importance of performance and results.
Image Credit: luc.viatour