Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bridging THE GAP and getting promoted in Thailand


'I was asked by a new manager how he could get promoted within a short period," a young CEO, Vichit, tells me. "I am CEO because my father owns this firm. I have never been promoted before."

"What do you think?" I ask him.

"I guess diligence, honesty, endurance and delivering work according to the assignments."

"That makes you meet the standard but it's not much help for a fast-track career," I say.

"What's your suggestion?"

"Jack Welch, the former GE CEO, devoted a chapter to the topic of getting promoted in his book Winning, now available in Thai under the title Soo-Chai-Chana:

1. Deliver sensational performance, far beyond expectations, and at every opportunity expand your job beyond its official boundaries.

2. Manage your relationships with your subordinates with the same care that you manage your relationship with your boss.

3. Get on the radar screen by being an early champion of your company's major projects or initiatives.

4. Search out and relish the input of lots of mentors, realising that mentors don't always look like mentors.

5. Have a positive attitude and spread it around.

He also lists two things to avoid:

1. Making your boss use political capital in order to champion you.

2. Letting setbacks break your stride."

"Can you give me some examples?" Vichit asks.

I offer two from the book:

In the first year of his career, Jack Welch worked in a laboratory developing a new plastic called PPO. A vice-president was coming to town, and his boss asked him to give an update on progress.

He stayed late at work for a week, analysing not only the economics of PPO, but of all the other engineering plastics in the industry. His final report included a five-year outlook, comparing the costs of products made by key competitors and outlining a clear route to a competitive advantage for GE. His boss and the VP were very positively surprised.

Another example: GE assigned John Krennicki to run a US$100-million silicones business in 1997. The company expected John to deliver 8-10% growth a year. But John had a bigger idea. He saw an opportunity, if GE built a new plant to produce raw material in Europe.

His request for capital investment was turned down. But instead of letting go, he talked with several of his European competitors in search of a partner who would contribute local sourcing and technology expertise in return for GE's global strength.

After long negotiations, John found what he needed in a joint venture with a German firm. He successfully expanded business to $700 million. Later he was promoted to CEO of GE Transportation.

When it comes to managing people, Jack Welch warns about two traps: 1. Some people only manage and do not care about the team, and 2. Some people get too close to the team and act like a buddy to subordinates.

Jack explains that before he was promoted to CEO, he was strongly opposed by two powerful vice-chairmen, who supported their own candidates. Unbeknownst to him, he was really helped by his direct reports. He found out later that they had advocated relentlessly for his promotion with the chairman.

They told the chairman that Jack was tough but fair, and that Jack would push GE harder and faster than others. Jack was not sure the direct reports liked him - he was rough around the edges and pretty short of patience. But Jack guessed they respected him for respecting them and building relationships with them - not just when Jack needed them, but years before.

To get on the radar of senior management, Jack explains that one should volunteer to lead in a project. This is a way to get noticed by results. You can raise visibility by putting up your hand when the call comes for people to lead major projects and initiatives. He notes that one-third of GE's approximately 180 senior officers have significant Six Sigma experience.

On mentors, he writes that throughout his career he had mentors ranging from a young woman in PR who taught him how to use the internet when he was 60, up to a board of directors. Jack says that business media, books and journals were also his mentors. He learned a lot from reading. Several initiatives in GE were adapted from his reading.

A last example is about dealing with setbacks. Jack gives the example of a manager in GE's Power Systems, Mark Little. In 1995, when Mark just started to run this business, it was in a mess due to several factors. Mark got a new boss who demoted him and reduced his team to one-third its former size. Mark was hurt and upset.

But Mark stuck his chin out and got back to work. Over the next couple of years, he energised his team to revitalise the business. After a successful turnaround, he got the position and his full team back.

Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the brand TheCoach. He can be reached at Copies of previous columns are available at


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