The Real-Life MBA

Summary Written by Justin Gasbarre
"In sports and business alike, the players are in it to win"

- The Real-Life MBA, page 2

The Big Idea


"Think of Yourself as the Chief Meaning Officer"- The Real-Life MBA, page 17

Jack and Suzy Welch struck a major chord early on in the book when discussing the topic of purpose and the role that a leader plays in communicating the organization’s purpose. This mentality is one that companies with healthy cultures understand. Their mission and purpose is very clear from the CEO all the way down to the front line employee. Per Jack and Suzy, “Leaders exist, in large part, to give purpose to their teams; to relentlessly, passionately explain, ‘Here’s where we’re going. Here’s why. Here’s how we’re going to get there. Here’s how you fit in. And here’s what’s in it for you.’”

When you really step back and think about it, most people spend 40 hours a week for 40 years of their lives working. That thought right there is mind blowing in and of itself. If, as a leader, you aren’t helping your employees make meaning of that investment, you’re wasting their time and lives. This is the foundation on much of the leadership dialogue that takes place in the book. The discussion is always bringing it back to what’s the purpose of your organization, your team, and your people.

Insight #1

The Trust Dividend

"People may not always want to hear the truth, but they tend to trust the people who deal in it, demand it and display it at all times"- The Real-Life MBA, page 130

In my work as an organizational development consultant, this topic of trust is often discussed through a leadership lens and rightly so. It’s the foundational competency that every successful and effective leader needs to be good at. Easier said than done through, right? Jack and Suzy, however, give us the easiest and best way to effectively build trust with your peers, subordinates or others that you report to. Simply listen. While I’m sure we would all agree that this skill is an important one, Jack and Suzy emphasize that it’s vital to listen, especially when it’s hard to do. For example, during a crisis, during an acquisition or during some period of uncertainty. By letting people share their thoughts and perspectives and reflecting on them genuinely, your people will feel that they have been heard. This will act as a “trust enhancer whose effects will last long after the crisis passes.”

Genuinely listening to others will help you to build a more trusting relationships when done consistently and sincerely.

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Insight #2

Hiring 101

"You do have a hiring checklist, right?"- The Real-Life MBA, page 143

Having leadership responsibilities usually means that you have some input and say in the hiring decisions that are made for your team and organization. As Jack and Suzy say countless times throughout the book, “Great teams start with great players”. That’s why hiring the right talent is so critical to your success as a leader.

This brings us to a tool that the Welch’s live by when making hiring decisions – the hiring checklist. Simply said: “Good hiring checklists – are inextricably linked to your organization’s mission. Deeper still, they are linked to the specific skills and behaviors that you’ve ascertained will achieve that mission”. Here are a few recommended questions from Jack and Suzy to have on your hiring checklist:

  • Make sure the list includes IQ. In today’s business environment, the playing field isn’t level. It’s titled toward the team with the smartest people.
  • Personality matters. Even a bad one. Negative energy can infect your team and your organization.
  • Check references!

In short, whatever your process is, make sure you have one and that you constantly refine it over time.

Jack and Suzy Welch have created a complete, practical business book that covers topics that are vital to winning in business, becoming a more effective leader and finding out what your true purpose and passions are in your career.

Read the book

Get The Real-Life MBA on Amazon.

Jack Welch

Jack Welch is the author of “Winning,” a number one “Wall Street Journal” and international bestseller. In 2001, he wrote his #1 “New York Times” and also international bestselling autobiography, “Jack: Straight from the Gut.” From 2005–2009, together with his wife Suzy Welch, he wrote a widely read weekly column, “The Welch Way.” This column appeared in BusinessWeek magazine and was published by the “New York Times” syndicate and appeared in more than 45 major newspapers around the world, reaching more than 8 million readers. He recently launched the Jack Welch Management Institute, a unique online MBA program aimed at giving students around the world and at every career level the tools to transform their lives and the organizations of the future.

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