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Book Review General Electrics Charismatic Leader Jack Welch As Seen by His Speechwriter Bill Lane

Jim Symcox

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Bill Lane's book entwines business presentation success with snapshots of General Electric's hot shot CEO - Jack Welch.

Bill acknowledges that this book is not an attempt to tell the same stories that Jack Welch has already told in his own books. Rather it is aimed at showing how Bill's own area of expertise, business communication, was honed and used to help Jack waken sleeping giant General Electric and set it on course to become one of the most highly rated companies in the USA.

Bill started off life stuffing guts back into a soldier to save his life whilst serving in the The Pentagon. By a stroke of luck his boss there found an advert for a job in the private sector that looked as if it would suit Bill. And the company was General Electric, just before Jack Welch took over as CEO.

In the introduction to Jacked Up, Bill says of his 20 years working for Jack, “I observed a hilarious, inspiring and crazy side of Jack. "

During Bill's tenure as Jack Welch's speech writer, and in due course also Manager, Executive Communications at GE, he had the opportunity to see at first hand how Jack Welch operated, how he functioned and understood how Jack truly believed in a set of core values that were inserted deep into the heart of GE.

Bill is a great storyteller and this book maintains your interest. You're keen to hear how Jack, Bill and GE move from huge, expensive “vision" presentations to “Don't Do What I Did, Do This Instead" presentations.

There are many presentation hints woven throughout the stories that Bill tells. I suspect that some of them may appear very rude. For example Bill suggests interrupting a presentation rehearsal with your comments at any point. In fact he goes further and suggests interrupting any presentation that hasn't looked at how it can help the viewer.

He also makes the valid point that bright, shiny we're the best and this is how you should do it become unbelievable. You need to add in one or two of the pits you fell down. Because as we all know the road to success has a few little holes to trip the wary or unwary!

And all the time that Bill is explaining how GE communications worked and how he presented at GE's staff college at Crotonville he's also giving us his insights into Jack Welch.

I have to say that Bill obviously holds Jack in high esteem and the stories he tells indicate that Jack's chief concern was that GE should be a fantastic company to work for. He also points out that making a presentation to people in GE could make or break a career. The same is true outside of GE.

If you've a career in a big company like GE this book is required reading. Because even if you're a hotshot or shooting star there are some examples in this book that you must read to make sure you don't cool down or have your star fade. Because once that happens you're only one step away from the door.

All the way through the book master communicator Bill Lane exhorts us to rehearse, rehearse and rehearse. And not just in front of the mirror, he suggests getting a few colleagues, someone from admin and other random “victims", including a known cynic. That way you're going to get feedback as to whether your presentation is a good sleeping pill or a wake-up call.

One of the suggestions I try to take to heart is to edit, cut and slash material that's boring, marginally interesting or just interesting to a few of your friends.

Bill also provides a lot of tips about running groups of presentations and one I warmed to was the chapter titled, “The Bore Test. Are You Relevant. "

Bill asks if the proposed subject for one of a group of presentations is boring, or likely to be boring to the people who will attend? If so don't deliver it!

Finally Bill describes Jack's departure, followed by his own, with a nice package a few months later.

I found that although this book was educating me it was also actually keeping me reading, rather like a good story. Rather like Bill's point - be a storyteller. I'm convinced this book can help any student of presentations.

Jim Symcox is a copywriter, blogger, business coach and the author of “How to Leap Ahead Of Your Competitors".

See Jim's with over 500 posts on a variety of mainly business boosting topics.


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