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Cover of "Winning"

Cover of Winning

Yes, I know I am probably years late in reading Jack Welch’s book Winning­­, but better late than never.  I am now a Jack Welch groupie – not only because his management advice is pragmatic (my middle name) but can be applied to making decisions throughout your life.

As I near the last pages of this book, Jack (remember, I am a first name kind of gal) admits he is not an authority on work-life balance.  In that very same paragraph he states “For forty-one years, my operating principle was work hard, play hard, and spend some time as a father.” I applaud him, not because he will ever get any father or husband of the year awards, but because he made a choice and he owns it.

Women and men I meet, so often leave the choices to circumstance rather than setting up their ‘operating principle’.   I have a workshop named (Life) Infrastructure 101…after reading this book I think Operating Principles for Work/Life would be a much better title.

I have worked with and for people who make decisions that affect clinical trial designs for developmental drugs that go into actual living people, decisions that affect if employees are retained or let go, decisions to spend not hundreds of dollars, but tens of millions of dollars.  When entering the work place, they are confident, challenging and instinctual.  In many cases, they exhibit the two things that Jack Welch keeps coming back to in his book – candor and gut.  So why do these same people let themselves be held hostage to uncomfortable child care situations?

I have picked out a couple of items in the book that are pertinent to managing your home life.  I know that I won’t do it justice on a blog so if it resonates with you, I urge you to pick up the book or load it to my all-time favorite tool – Audible.com, and Jack will read it to you himself in that raspy, quick talk, Boston voice he has.  But listen and see the advice from your home lenses – when you do this, it will help you link the information to your management style at home.

Deal Heat

Let’s start with something called “Deal Heat” which Jack describes in chapter 14.

“……you see it every time a company is hungry to buy and the pickings in the market place are relatively limited.  In such situations, once an acquisition candidate is identified, the top people at the acquirer and their salivating investment bankers join together in a frenzy of panic, overreaching, and paranoia, which intensifies with every additional would-be acquire on the scene.”

And I see this exact thing every time someone comes to me with advice on child care.  They hire someone who has their own young children because they like their warmth or that they have already raised healthy babies… and in every case, eventually  there is an issue where the child care individual will need attend to his/her children’s needs first.  Or the nanny who is too shy to interact with the other nannies or stay at home mothers so you end up having to do double time to get play dates set up.  There is an endless list of things – cleaning, available hours, money, communication skills, homework help ability… it keeps going and it is different for anyone.  My advice: you absolutely must know and document your needs out of this deal which becomes essentially the job description.  If they cannot meet it 100%, then walk away.  Both child care and any other help you require at home – walking dogs, house cleaners, lawn care, etc. – is there for you without any exceptions.   Your only portion of the deal is to treat them with respect and pay them a fair wage.  And if the ‘market pickings’ are slim,  you will have to pay more than what you might consider a fair wage.  You can spend it now, or you could possibly feel the effects later in lost earnings because you were overlooked for a promotion.   But I assure you, you will feel it emotionally.

Jack lists 6 pitfalls of deal heat in this section – I will only give you one.  When you enter into deal heat and allow it to alter your needs, you will “enter into a ‘reverse hostage situation,’ in which the acquirer (you) ends up making so many concessions during the negotiations that the acquired (nanny) ends up calling all the shots afterwards.”  This is a little over the top given our subject at hand, but it is true to a large extent.  And every time you find yourself in this situation, your cortisol levels will rise, and voila – Mommy Brain will set in and impede your highest performance at work.  For more on this, you can re-read a post called Mommy Brain, Real or Imagined.

Candor and Gut Instinct:

Once you have a chosen the right ‘acquisition’, for child care, cat sitting, house cleaning, etc.,  there are a couple of items that are important to put into practice.  Jack states that candor ‘gets more people into the conversation’, it ‘generates speed’, and it ‘cuts costs’ in reducing the amount of BS that sucks up resources (and raises your cortisol levels).  He also says that we should not question our gut instinct.  If something about an interviewee or a situation is not sitting well with you, even if unsubstantiated – listen to your gut.

True story:  I had a colleague who prior to having children had a dog walker to stop by their house every day.  For some reason, he and his wife thought something was off with the individual.  I can’t remember exactly what led them to believe she wasn’t being honest, but they did begin to question her activities (how long was she there, did she play with the dog, did they go for a walk) and still something didn’t feel right.  But instead of simply finding another person to walk the dog they allowed the relationship to continue, and they installed a nanny cam.  Once they had ‘proof’ they fired the individual and sought service elsewhere.

Just two doors down in another office, another individual was struggling with understanding if their nanny was taking him and his wife for a ride… she was calling in sick more and more often.  How long should they let this continue he asked – my answer: if you have to ask then it has already been too long.  I bring up these two stories because it is amazingly common – two men, successful and decisive in the workplace, two offices apart, and the same issue in less than a year.  And both of these gentlemen are outstanding in the work place – they can smell BS a mile away, and they are both phenomenal at making difficult decisions in the work place.

I have encouraged many people to change their child care situation.  I haven’t had one person ever come back to say that they have regretted it.  Instead the follow-up is always how wonderful it felt once the change was made, they were no longer a hostage.

If you can’t be candid when it comes to the most important people in your life (or furry friends) then why ever be candid.  If being candid with the folks who take care of what’s most precious to us unnerves or offends them, then we need to move on.

So the advice I give moms and dads when asked about child care… if your gut tells you something is off, if they are not performing the completed job duties as given to them in writing (yes, do this!! Jack says to be ‘painfully clear’), then be candid and have a discussion with them.  If your gut still says something isn’t right, move on and move on quickly, don’t wait for proof.   Which always leads to the next statement – “I can’t, who’s going to back-fill them?!”   As a parent – you need to have a resumption plan in place at all times – another thing we learn extensively in the work place.  We can talk about that at a later date.

My goal for this post is to really encourage everyone to use the skills that you use in climbing the ladder (or the Jungle Jim as Sheryl Sandberg says) throughout your life.  There is so much more in this book that can be applied in our personal lives, I truly encourage anyone who is struggling to get ‘life’ under control to read or listen to it.   And if you need help establishing your ‘operating principle’ for life, just give me a call.

Note: all quotes in this post were taken from Winning by Jack Welch and Suzy Welch.