GE used to be great.
Jack Welch started working at General Electric Co. (GE) in 1960, a freshly minted chemical engineering PhD working at a plant in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, with a starting salary of $10,500.
In 2001, Welch retired from his position as CEO of the same company with a $417 million severance package, the biggest type of payment made to any U.S. CEO in recent history.
He spent 20 years moving up the management ladder before becoming the company's youngest CEO and chairman ever in 1981 and holding that top spot for another 20 years. It's safe to say Welch knows how to get a promotion. Here's the best way to move up at a company using tips Welch has espoused over the years.
In a 2015 piece for then Microsoft-owned (MSFT) LinkedIn, Welch said the first key to professional growth is constantly over delivering. "If you can consistently deliver on performance and you have the behaviors to go with it, your boss will know that you can always be counted on," Welch said.
If your supervisor sets criteria for you, do a few extra tasks. Performance standards to meet? Shatter your last review with stellar outperformance. If the team has an obligation to complete a project by a certain time, do your part early. Always go above and beyond.
Don't Wear Your Ambition On Your Forehead
But while you're going above and beyond, be careful not to "wear your ambition on your forehead," as Welch told Northwestern University business students. It's natural to seek higher positions and set goals for your professional life, but understand that moving up in a company is a process.
It won't happen overnight, and you'll look stupid if you act like that's possible, Welch said. Put in the extra hours and prove yourself through your work, but keep your nose to the grindstone instead of sucking up to the boss.
Learn From Your Mistakes
When Welch was still a chemical engineer in 1963, he was "eager and ambitious and trying like hell to build a plastics business in an electrical company," he wrote in a Fortune piece on his biggest mistake. In his bid to beef up GE's plastics operations, Welch blew up a pilot plant - as in collapsed roof, shattered windows, smoking clouds blew up.
No one was hurt, but Welch was sent to New York to meet with the upper level management. He was sure, Welch wrote, that he would be yelled at, humiliated and fired. But none of that happened, and it changed Welch's career tremendously.
Welch's boss Charlie Reed "was calm, he was kind and he was thoughtful," Welch said. Reed helped Welch understand why the explosion happened and what he should have done differently. "I learned to never kick someone when they're down. Everyone makes mistakes, and some are real whoppers. But that makes the whopping opportunities, too - for growth."
Make Your Boss Smarter
The best way to be promotable, Welch wrote for LinkedIn, is to work every day to make your boss smarter. "So when your boss asks you to do something, don't only do that, but expand your responsibilities and lay out a much bigger picture," Welch said.
In many appearances and publications, Welch has told the story of implementing this very tip during his own career. When Welch was a process engineer early in his career, he developed a new pilot plant and pipe system.
"When the New York boss came up to see us, I gave him the requisite update on the plastic and my little project," Welch said. "But I also painted him a bigger picture of how the plastic we had fit into the entire plastics industry and where the industry was headed."
"Now, I had only been there a year and I was not a genius by any means. But I had done a hell of a lot of research to show how our product fit into the larger scheme of things. It was enough to give a clear view of what he was investing in, where we were in it, and how our plastic compared to our top three competitors - what our strengths were, compared to what their strengths were," Welch said.
The next year, the boss from New York remembered Welch's presentation when performance reviews came up. Welch got a big promotion.