tv Jeff Immelt Hot Seat - What I Learned Leading a Great American Company CSPAN April 25, 2021 9:00am-10:01am EDT
mpd bookscan reports print book sales were up 6% for the week ending april ten. the 41st annual los angeles times book prizes were awarded virtually last week. this year's winners include isabel wilkerson, martha jones, and william souder biography. booktv will continue to bring you new programs and publishing news. you can watch all of our past programs anytime at booktv.org. >> jeff, nice to be with you even if it -- >> to be with you. great to see you again. >> so if you slip us, and a call just tell people that's my nickname from college so let's keep this very informal. let this single and it would like to start by just telling a little personal anecdote that involves you way back when, and
windows were classmates at dartmouth come classmates at harvard business school but we were also roommates at harvard business school our first year alone with our good friends and classmates steve who grew up in darien, lived nearby and know he and his wife sue are plugged in tonight. i'll never forget that first week we were at harvard business school together thrown in his roommates. we lived in that awful peabody tariffs across the river from harvard business school, and back then harvard business school was as you member run by fear and intimidation.us it was a case method, three cases ati day, 50% of class participation, 50%ip of the gret was class participation and 10% of the class was flunked each class. there's a lot of pressure to succeed. i'll never forget the first few nights studying with you and steve. we had her own study group in that awful apartment and they couldn't keep up with you and
steve. you guys were light years ahead of me in every case. we got to the right place. i never did i get asked you guys to out what you did that i was thinking to myself i'm going to flunked out of this place, i'm just not smart enough. pretty quickly after couple of days of class i realize i was actually fine. i was more than holding my own. it just that you and steve were just rocket scientist smart off the charts smart and i knew back then even then the two of you are pretty special. steve went on to found lone pine capital, one of the most successful hedge funds in the world and you would on to run ge for 16 years. pretty amazing stuff, pretty amazing roommates so that's just a little backgroundd here. it's sort of fun to bring to the present now and be with you with your new book, "hot seat: what i learned leading a great american company." and hey, i found it a thought-provoking read. there's a lot to talk about so let's get right to it because we do have a lot of time. i want to tell everyone what the format is tonight.
i have prepared a number of questions for jeff and i also got a number of pre-submitted questions from audience that i would like jeff to answer as well. i may pick and choose been on a fast we go, but let's get this going. are you ready? >> ready to go. >> i thought i would start out with one about your predecessor. you reported directly for many years to the most famous business executive in the world. what was your most memorable story about jack welch when you worked with him? >> it's good to be with you and you and i actually studied unlike steve, so that's a whole nother story but we can tell that later. it's a great to work with jack turkey was a fantastic boss and leader. probably two stories that i i remember the most about jack. one happen in the late '80s when i was really in my early 30s and i was running the appliance
service business during the biggest product recall in history of ge at that time. all the compressors that went with refrigerators all failed, and so we had to take charge of almost $500 million come this was a timet when the company mae $2 billion and we had to go, there were four of us, i boss and cfo and me, we had to go to fairfield once a month for 18 months these were just -- it would be like 20 people on the site, four of us and jack was just blithering with respect to details. i did one smart thing. i learned how toai fix compresss myself. i would f go on tech rides and o i could describe, it was probably going to get me from getting fired. but i saw in jack at that time, he knew how hard to push.
he knew how to make people accountable, but we left every meeting, like i remember one time it was like he and i for maybe 90 minutes. i told my wife, listen, i'm going to get fired. i'm walking out the door and he went over and grabs the and says, you're doing a great job. so really hold people accountable, motivate people i thought was amazing. and then ten years later i was running the healthcare business and probably a third of u.s. of. healthcare system was run byhi catholic charities. it was all run by nuns and there were 12 in this council, very powerful, and they asked to meet jack welch. so i took 12 nuns to headquarters, and jack and i had breakfast with them.
i did some introductions and the first question, you know, mr. welch, you fired so many people over the years. how did you do it? how do you sleep with yourself? and i'm thinking oh, shit, i'm going to get fired again. [laughing] but he turned the charm on and you know, he asked of them how they measured people in a not-for-profit and all those things. i saw in him and ability to show grace, to be charming. it was a great conversation. they all kind of thought it was amazing, and so his ability to be a different person which was always required at every given moment i thought was a amazing gift. i never saw anyone before aftern who could run thanks to scale. he r was just a remarkable guy. >> for sure, for sure. for the first 15, 20 years of
your career at ge you are always moving around. lori and i had a hard time keeping track of where you were. you were in dallas, chicago, louisville, i think pittsfield twice. we visited there a couple times, wisconsin. so a lot of different jobs, a lot of different divisions. which position below ceo was your most favorite position and why? >> i i love the healthcare business.? i loved, it's kind of the intersection of technology, public policy. it's kind of a basic human need. it's a fascinating, complex industry. when i was very ge was relatively small. we were maybe $3 billion in a two or $3 trillion industry but i had a green light to grow the business and that was fun and exciting. it was one of the first ge businesses in china and india, different places around the world, but it began to me a
lifelong passion healthcare which is why do today and i find it to be, to certain extent kind of the u.s. against problems, because opportunity, biggest industry and there's just a bunch of opportunities ahead but that really was great fun. i just looked forward to work every day and i learned a lot and it was just a great platform for me. so that was one that was always immensely enjoyable. >> right. and you are running ge medical when you are tapper ceo, is that correct? >> i i was. i did it for the last five years and it was just like a blank campus. he gave me an opportunity to take a lot of different kinds strategic initiatives and a lot of global growth and it just gave me a really good foundation for i think the world that was ahead of me. it was a great, just a great
job.at >> and for the last year or so, maybe six months of your tenure at ge medical, that's when this competitive runoff for ceo really started to go public, correct? >> go ahead. >> you described it contentious, distracting and downright weird and you living in the fishbowl. i would love to talk about that, but also you are running against two guys who are considerably older in bob and jim, highly accomplished employees but jack went with a younger guy. why did he pick you over those two guys? what was it like during that competitive runoff? it had to be held. >> it was downright weird. nobody has ever followed that. nobody has ever done quite same way beforee after. it was awfully public. it was just really strange. i think in 1999 really it
started to become more apparent and more serious. then in early 2000 jack called each of the separate into his office and said that if you don't get picked you have to leave, you have to leave the company. i kind a said, you're kidding? [laughing] look, you're the boss, if that's what you think i'll go but i wouldbu stay. when he called and said that i was going to get the job, it was a really necessarily joy of getting the job as much as it was relief that it was over and we kind of had some certainty. and then i had eight months with him after that to kind of get to learn the company. it sounds strange today but before i became ceo i had never
been to a ge board meeting. >> really? >> you know, so it was all kind of like new and he was kind of the centerpiece of the company. none of us had done much media or anything like that. it was really, i had so much to learn really. in terms of why, it's hard to tell. i think jack had a vision that the person who would replace him to do the h job for a long timeo being younger wasn't necessarily a bad thing. i worked in plastics and medical which is where most of the latest incumbent come from those two businesses. i had a lot of friends inside the company. jim mcnerney was a great leader, so was bob. a were all, they were really fantastic people as well. you never know exactly why it happens but that's the way it happens. >> a related question to you from the audience, from nigel in the audience.
question is what advice would you provide to a new ceo taking over for a very successful predecessor? >> so in the year 2000, "fortune" magazine named welch the best manager of the previous century. when hundred years. >> that's all? [laughing] >> one of those guys -- sit ins it okay, that's kind of a narrow lane to swim and if you think about. i think when you replace somebody famous, you have to try, like i wanted to run the company differently. i actually thought there were things we didn't do well and that we needed to do better. i wanted the company to be more technical. i wanted the company to be more global. i wanted the company to be more customer oriented and he wanted the company to be more diverse. so i had a very clear set of things i i wanted to change ie
the company, but i never could say i'm going to do this because the old guy left. you just have to try and change quietly when you replace somebody famous. i wouldbu add to that, for the audience and just for anybody that wants to be a leader, even when you replace somebody that is not as famous as jack, trashing the past has the short shelf life. i s watch president ivan. at this point nobody really cares about trump did anymore. that kind of want to know what's next and it w doesn't matter, president of united states are running a small company, just nobody gives a damn about what happened last. they want to know if you are going to do, so in some ways i think the ge team was ready for change and nobody ever really pushed back or plot the kinds of things i wanted to do.
>> good. when he became ceo you had a stand the last 16 years which is a long time for a ceo of a fortune 500 company. you let one of the most famous companies in the world but would you describe in that entire tenure as your most, their biggest accomplishment? >> so you know, when i joined ge in 1982, the company was 80% in the u.s., and when i became ceo the company was 70% inside the u.s. and when i retired the company was 70% outside the u.s. in one generation we really globalized the company, and i would say in our generation ge had really the best global footprint. we very much dated our own way. people frequently say, they will
criticize president trump because he was more of a nationalist, but basically globalization was breaking apart long before president trump became president. china was coming on the scene. there's nobody that's harder on globalists than europe is, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary. what we did is we basically localize the company. we put theal company, we empowed local teams, we into doubt headquarters and think we had a really winning play from the standpoint of what i would call modern globalization. i knew china gets a lot of criticism today. some of it for good reason, but it is going to be a hugely important market, and i think ge did a fantastic job in markets like china and india. we were exporters so we were net exporters would basically globalized in a way that could
create american jobs. we kept our head down. we avoided getting into political traps, but from canada to saudi arabia to china to africa and every place around the world, i just would like to thank that we rent a global play ahead of others and better than most people did. >> so now let's go in the other direction. what's the most important thing you would have done differently? >> look, i think, i had a chance after 9/11 to reset the company. i think one of the things, one of the challenges we had was generational was we had kind of 50% financial, 50% industrial and we had a price-to-earnings ratio of a tech company, and that was just on balance. that wasn't sustainable and that was a real challenge -- unbalanced or in early 2000s we
had to reinvest back into our industrial businesses which were kind of just not that good. we just had not invested enough in them over time. in order to get we felt like we had to grow ge capital and to help create the earnings and cash flow to grow the industrial business. and by the time the financial crisis hit that didn't look very smart. i think in many ways i couldn't reset the company after 9/11, probably should have, reset industrial and financial next to being bigger industrialist, maybe not grown ge capital quite as much because again over the course of 15 years we never got as much value out of the ge capital businesses as we should have. this was a great team, there's a great group of people, many really fantastic businesses. we had absolutely, when lehman brothers went bankrupt, it really crush the debt markets.
so we had really the wrong business model for the time and that just put handcuffs on us for a period of time. i just think, we didn't navigate it as well as we could after we allowed the financial businesses to get bigger than we should have. i own all that. i talk about in the book and it just was, ages was really, there was nobody whose business model was hurt worse the data lehman brothers went bankrupt than ge capital, and navigating that just took a ton of effort and time, but ge capital is a great group, great set of leaders and i just never get as good a a b as i could have to help us navigate all that volatility. >> now, you take one for the team they're saying that's on your watch, but that brings me to this next question which i think is a good follow-up here which a, you even in the book the ge you inherited seemed
overwhelming and its complexity nearing its responsibilities to my head exploded written some of the things you had to deal with on a day-to-day basis. i mean, because you are making decisions where you do need to have control over the outcomes of some of these businesses. and a top of that 9/11 occurred, the financial crisis occurred which you just talked about, that only heightened your challenge. did you ever seriously question whether or not the company was so complicated, big and diverse that one person could really run it? it just seemed overwhelming to me and your sink okay, that one is on me, but is that fair? >> it's a funny thing because again everybody says what did he say about jack? [laughing] it's like this is a 350 page book, there's probably seven pages were jack is mention and that's what people -- let you know, i love jack but it's just
a different day. in other words, the '80s and the '90s were really kind of lots of tailwind. the u.s. ruled the world and economies were pretty good. when the economy's were good, you can run a complicated company. would say that kind of our business model was the best business model for the 1990s here but when you trip into 9/11 and you are in the commercial aviation business, the entrance business and the needy business, this is too complicated. how long speed is how long you been ceo? >> i day. i member today before 9/11 you blew out your achilles. we're supposed to go out to dinner. [laughing] that was -- then fast-forward when lehman brothers went bankrupt and the financial crisis. you know, we had a huge financial service business and
for probably look, like if i were to describe, like code has been terrible and its heart wrenching, the people that have died in the people lost their jobs. it's just been a horrible year. my heart goes out to everybody that is affected. i think for the 90 days after lehman brothers went bankrupt, if you are in financial services, you'll you nevt as long as you live. it was just 90 days of fright. every day was a new crisis and had to be making decisions all over the place. at the same time i had a media business, aviation business and so those businesses i basically worked on from like 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. and then from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. i was doing financial services. it's just indescribable. i remember two weeks after lehman brothers went bankrupt,
washington mutual went bankrupt. >> right. >> and the bondholders got wiped out. we decided that night we were going to go raise $15 billion of equity the next monday, right? which was the biggest secondary in history of the world. so i i call my board like suny morning. nobody is there. it's all teleconference and i say hey, guys, kind of rocky out there. we're going to grow $50 billion monday. silence at at the other end of the line. finally roger penske do i really loved working with, he was a great director. rogers said let's get the money. everybody said let's get the money. forge a sunday night. we had to launch in asia. wachovia was going bankrupt. tarp failed. seven banks injure go bankrupt and had to decide kind of like 15 minutes to go to lunch the next day. i never felt like i had so much
pressure in my life, like i wanted to like suck my thumb and call for my mommy. [laughing] just like, it wasmb just like brutal. the market is down 1200 points the next day. we get and go two days later and we race $18 billion. that was just a normal day. >> right. >> quickly out to work on aircraft engines a of things e that. a long-winded answer to say i think in this era simpler is better than complicated. when life is complicated, simple is better. i just see that, i probably should've made the company simpler faster but it's just such a different time and we were probably toooo complicated for the era. >> right. okay. i'm going to switch gears a little bit.
get a little more subjective. we have been close friends for 45 years. our wives have been close friends. i know you really well here i come to appreciate a great sense of humor, your sincerity, your integrity your insatiable curiosity and your incredible work ethic. how would your ge peers describe your personality and your management style? i know that's different from friendship but i would just like to see the contrast. >> i think, peter, most of the senior people would say, they would come described as a consistent thinker. in other words, i look for connectionss, , and some initiatives we drove into digital or into cleantech or things like that, or even into china. we got there early because i tried that to look just out what was in front of me but what
might be around the corner. i think most people would describe me that way. i think they would say that i connect with people, that basically i build relationships and find ways to kind of see the world through other people's eyes and make good connections. i think many people would say that. i think the last way i would describe it is i think people would say, like i'm warm on the outside and tough on the inside. you know, in other words, i could be pretty stubborn. i can be pretty pointed when i need to be, but don't prefer it that way. i would say that's how people would describe it. one of the things i did come after the financial crisis i was just burned out, completely burned out. i was really doubt myself and
feeling really bad about everything. i decided, the one thing i i e to do was work with people. i decided to bring one senior leader in each month and we would have dinner, our spouses would have dinner and then we would go and spend five or six hours on a saturday morning just the two of us. we would just, i would ask them tell me about their business, about themselves and about the company. it helped me build my connections inside the company. the notion that even for fog company the ability to connect one-on-one and see individuals from the are and what their hopes and aspirations were, a kind of rekindled my love for the company and just again taught me again to be a good listener and to really listen to what people were coming from. connections matter. >> for sure. that's absolutely true.
speaking of connections i remember being on the golf course with you when you told me that nelson powell bought a big part of ge, , a relatively big part of ge and you took it as a positive sign, a positive sign of support. turned out he didn't do any favors in the end. if they hadn't gotten involved, do you think you could've turned, got ge contract given enoughgh time? i'm not talking many, many years but it came out in your book he felt like you were on your way and he just was not seeing it the same way. >> in 2015 i got a call from joe who was a friend of mine, great investment bankerjo andy said ad a half dozen activists were underwriting the company of which is needed to be ready because it was a conglomerate, easy to pick apart. we had had a tough time for the
financial crisis, et cetera, et cetera. so when he invested it was no real surprise per se that they invested. certainly added more scrutiny but to be honest with you, i can't blame triad for any of the challenges we got into markets and things like that. i think they made it tougher on my successor but i can't blame them for that. in terms ofan what happened nex, i didn't write the book to reflect on what happened after i left. i really wrote the book because i felt likero it was a complicad story, and that kind of truth equals facts plus context and i thought the context around ge had just gone missing, that basically between the media and the company itself not defending itself, that the narrative around the company didn't speak to the people i worked with. what i really wanted to do was
add more facts, add a more complete story about the good things we did and the bad things we did. but get a complete story out there, and that's really what i tried to do. in terms of running a company during the crisis or when things are not good, you have to make quick decisions. you have to operate the company better and you can't allow people to point fingers. ii would always focus on those three things, but that's not the reason why i wrote the book. i wrote the book really to speak to the thousands and thousands of really great people i worked with, and allow them to feel a more complete way around the company. that's really, that was really the context with which i wrote it. >> so on a related subject may be going deeper along that vein, now that you've written a book, with the passage of time and
more years going by in the future, what do you hope your legacy is at ge? i know you wrote the book for a lott of reasons i also know this is a pretty personal book for you because you are setting, you are saying what you think needs to be said and that's got to be part of how you want to be perceived. there's nothing wrong with that sort like tos give elaborate on that a little bit. .. find out who your friends are when things don't work you are one of them. but it didn't end the way i wanted it to. i've convinced my wife to move to california. >> hard to believe. [laughter] >> wanted some space and time to think and i wanted space to do it so one of the things i did is i went to stanford
and i have 8090 students and horrible article came in fortune about ge and about me and at the end of the class i said how many people have read this article in fortune and 90 hands went up and i said okay, how many of you want to come tomorrow and just for two hours i'll answer any question you want to ask. 90 hands went up. that was really tough and on the way home that night i decided to write a book. i hired a co-author who is a real talent. i asked her to go to the to 75 people. i had eight people that read as i finished it and another 20 kind of read it at right
and that's what the book is. it really is a reflection. it's an interrogation of pad and the ugly i'd be has as i. since the book has come out i've gotten hundreds of linkedin and emails from old colleagues basically said thanks for writing the book. so i guess i hope that in the eyes of work with that we have a relationship, that we have a love for the company, we take pride in the things we did well and learn from the things we did poorly and we all can look eachother in the eye and say did our best . i think if that's where it ends up, i'm happy with that. >> you should be. that's going to bring me to another audience question jeff because i think it's really.
time with young people in your role in stanford. what business advice would you give to graduatesstarting their careers ? >> there's just so much more water worldliness. we've heard this so one-dimensional. >> but basically as the last class, i look at my students and basically say anyone of you can be ceo of ge or ceo of mvi or a startup company. if you're in this classroom you've got enough brainpower, you've got enough moxie to do anything you want to do but you have to answer three questions . the first question is how quickly can you learn? that is, think about the world you're in today and how different it is from when you
started. how many changes you had to make and how much you had to learn and you know, a lot of people just don't want to keep learning. they just say i'd rather know it all i'm tired or whatever . how fast can you learn? the second question is how much can you take because if you want to do anything worthwhile you're going to get punched in the nose and it's going to be unfair sometimes . you're going to have to put up with more ships than you ever thought you were going tohave to . but if you can answer that question, a lot of people don't wantto do that . so that's number two. numberthree is how much will you give to others ? how much will you give to the team around you? how much will you give for the things that matter to you , how passionate can you be and i think if you can answer how fast can you work, how
much will you give and if you can answer those questions and keep answering them day after day, year after year you can do whatever you want to do and i think that's true if you're in high school or college or anything else. it's the journey. and who want to keep on that journey really determines how you go and i think that's what i tried to impart with the students. we have a ceo in each class and the ceos are very honest. i tell a few more stories. and it's fun to hear what questions are. >> i'm sure they love to hear the real life stories. it's not just the classroom, not just academics. i'm going to bring another question from the audience . brother-in-law football coach dave truelove who appropriately asks what lessons can you take from
your playing days in the y dartmouth college football team with your business career? i thinkit's a good question . >> i'm a combination of a math major and a football player. so i've always loved math. it really gave me the confidence as a problem solver. dartmouth leaned in on problems and i tried to describe the way things work. i've always been a real curious kind of person and things like that and then team sports, particularly football is about resentful relationships . it's about failure. like most places places fail. it's your ability to get draft themes, participate, get the next playoffs, it's a combination of those two things i think very much was part of my personality. the thing i like about
football and all sports is the only way you can understand it is to participate. in business there's a lot of people don't want to get in it. they'd rather sit inwthe back row, know all the tanswers . but they don't want to assert themselves and i think particularly when you play a sport like football you know most good things happen when you're willing to participate and try to get better and strive to do better things. that's very much how i identify with what i've done and what i like to do. >> you were an offensive lineman for dartmouth. we all know you were an offensive lineman but that puts it more in focus.
you were folder to shoulder with three or four other guys on that line in every play and you're only as good as your weakest link so talk about teamwork. you were doing that every day . >> i think particularly offensive lineman you get graded, your accountable . you learn to kind of do that. going back to theconversation , zach in some ways this reputation. he almost kind of carried it in some ways but i never saw him that way.i always saw him as somebody that wanted people to get better. the reason why he would criticize you is not to belittle you. it was because he wantedyou to be the best version of yourself . going back to the sports analogy, a good coach is somebody that wants you to be the best version of yourself and their critical not to belittle you but to get you
to motivate and be better and the managers that i had in my career who were that way just once i've always had a great association with. >> i remember you telling me a few stories about jack getting in your face and when he got mad and started rolling the escort around it was pretty remarkable to be around . >> in 1994 i couldn't get the places up and we missed our numbers and so to funny stories, one was we had to get in front of the gm and that was the whole doing the whole thing so my phone rings and i'm in the parking lot, my phone rings and my secretary says mister lutz is on the phone.
jack says put me on the box. i hit the speaker and jack is like, come get your guy. here he is, four or five levels below him but he's reaching down in the organization to say you know, i'm at the kickoff meeting this year and he says you know shep, i love you but you have the worst year atyour company . [laughter] again, i would always say the story about that is you go through tough times in your career and you realize you can live without approval. basically you say go be that way, i know i can live
without you and therefore i'm going to prepare myself but it's always fun. >> speaking of memorable business leaders, there are a number ofremarkable leaders out there today like elon musk , jeff bezos and classmate jamiediamond . what does this man do you admire most, would you really think is doing a great job? >> my hero is fred smith. because fred went from one playing as an entrepreneur and for 40 years has scaled the company and himself and he's grown every day and is curious and he's interested and it's just so rare to pick somebody that can be an ar entrepreneur and watch them e walk through every step and never lose their curiosity and the things that make them
special. so i adore fred. he's kind of like my hero. and having lived on the west coast for a couple of years, three or four years, you have to respect people like elon musk. they play so big. they shoot for -- i remember with being with elon musk on a panel in 2015 in this thing in arizona and he's talking about what he's going to do in space. and i'm sitting there saying you know, really? you're really going to invest that much money to build spaceships? and the guy has revolutionized the whole industry. he moves the scale and innovates in such a way you have to admire him .
let's say for the sake of completeness give a shout out to jamie because i think through all the pitfalls the jamie packing industry has gonethrough jamie has stood apart . dealing with strategy and execution and all the things that he stands for. i think i would say jamie of all of our peers, i really admire what he'sdone . >> same here. speaking of musk again he's doing what you liked doing at ge, doing things that are better in the world. he's doing that and i think you took a lot of pride in that ge. >> i think going back to why i wrote the book, i wanted to get some stories up in the air about how they can make a difference in saudi arabia or in brazil or in india and the different things that we did. and of the way we work with people.
i give a shout out and acknowledgment to a guy named bob sanford who ran the union at ge and just kni had respect for him and pete as you well know becauseyou and i have known each other for a long time . i dad was at ge for 38 years know but nobody ever claimed the value of the job. i was always a stable company, good guys to the people who were getting the work done. were down getting the work done and i always had a strong affinity with those people. >> i'm going to give you a question from clearly an xg employee, a very specific question where she said i worked for ge capital for four years and nine years at ge corporate and investor relations , it was interesting reading what i lived through. i was wondering is not only clearing the air for you also the beginning of some type of
political ambition or run ? >> that's a person that doesn't like me. i didn't write the book to clear the air, again. in 2010, i'm kind of a lifelong republican. i call myself and on the republican and there's maybe 12 of us left. i don't know what i am today. but i got to know president obama and my parents are really republicans republican so i call home one night and i said to my mom you're going to see the on tv tomorrow and i'm going to be with president obama. he's asked me to chair his job's counsel as my mom says well you said build the course and you're a
third-grade teacher, you know you're supposed to say yes so i did that and it was really hard but you get the sense that business people, you know, it's not as much translates into government as you would think. and it was hard to navigate when you're in business , you say to people here's what you should do. when you're in politics you say here's what i would tdo if i were you. it's a complete different context and i have a ton of respect for president obama and what you learn is he had different customers that idid . he had different investors than what i do. his investors were people who voted and he was about jobs and very singular focus so i would always work for the betterment of the country if
i could. but i just think it's a whole different ballgame to run for office and be elected and we're just in a particularly difficult time right now. we will see how it goes. n >> i already talked about the fact you're one of the hardest working people i ever met. there question here from a man saying one of our audience members was being the ceo of ge were the personal sacrifices and trade-offs with your family . you moved around a lot. what do you say to that? >> that's great and important question.i think everybody wants to live an active life has answer. i tried to do when my daughter was young and i had a great wife for 35 years, 34-year-old daughter and
their fantastic. i tried to simplify my life so that if i wasn't at work and i was with my family if i wasn't with my family i was at work. and fortunately i never lost connection with my daughter and my wife despite the pressures and the stuff that was underway. they were always my best friends and things like that i think you and i house, the last kind of five years haven't been easy for us. it's been a toughtime . and having a great family to kind of fall back on or to kind of protect me or to be on my side all the time, that's worth it. that's valuable. >> puts everything in perspective life goes in cycles and sometimes you win and sometimes you don't but
you always need just a few close friends to be with you even at work. in the financial crisis , it was brutal. i was taking it on the teeth every day. i was with sharon and mike neil and jeff gordon and my board and i was just people i trusted and when you're around people youtrust , even the bad days you can persevere. and at other times i got the tempo at work and i didn't have the clean relationship and trust, it's just brutal. it just work. i think surrounding yourself with people you love and trust is really a critical part of living a full life. >> how to live your life exactly. you talk about some of the other ge employees that you worked with and trusted. i've got another question for the audience from another
person who clearly worked at ge but a pretty specific one and i'll read it to you. you take a critical view of john flannery and his assumption of the ceo, how are some long-term care and my question is if you continue your role as ceo through 2018 what different steps or approaches would you take to set up fend off a steep decline in cash flow in the stock prices and an inevitable march towards the short. what would you have done differently western mark. >> i'm just going to say i respect john. i supported john in the job. it wasn't good for anybody that it didn't work out. i didn't really, i did try to second-guess him. it just was a tough confluence of difficult markets.
it underperforms what it should have done and it have good enough support from the people around him and leave it at that but i supported him. i respect john and i never wanted anything bad to happen to him. >> speaking of having important people around you that you trust, there's a lot of discussion and a lot being written about independence in governance, especially or publicly held companies you think your board of directors was independent enough from you and yourinfluence and your friendship ? did you feel like they were independent that they could tell you what they felt? >> is the incident the board have complete transparency . we insisted they go visit all businesses without us there. really had the run of the place which company is big and is computed as ge is the onlyway to run .
the board has complete autonomy to do the things they felt like they wanted or needed to do . there were a bunch of times, that the board pushed back on me or voted against me or disagreed with where i came down and i always respected that . by the same token, boards are perfect either. everybody assumes that the board is the adult in theroom . that's not always thecase . and so sometimes when your chairman and ceo you got to plead with your board. i never insisted the board support me for what i did is insist that they stood up to four decisions that they made . so if you're on the board and you asked for information, you assume theinformation and you decipher it . you should defend that decision. not the ceo the decision. everybody wants to be on
board because they imagine it's just coming in on a monday. >> there are many of those anymore. >> very few people, maybe half of board members want to be on the board. and that's where you just need a handful of people that you trust. >> was there one board member you relied on more than others that was you go to person? >> i love ralph arneson. he was the chairman of j and j and he had such great judgment. he was so tough-minded that he had zero humor. and ralph was just a great man. he died tragically in 2016 i
believe but he was just a wonderful human being and i just loved him. roger pinsky, the racecar owner he was a guy that would go from the board room to factory floor in like 15 seconds and i've never seen anybody able to go from high to low quite like roger could . he was a champ as well. >> he made an important call for you on the board, cutting through one of your .biggest dilemmas he just said do it. >> we were thinking about bidding on a big outfit with the company. we were preparing offer and roger looks and says i hate this. all risk, no reward. i said today you might as well as it down.he's not going to fly. hewas right. he was incredible .
>> i'm going to wrap up the meeting with one last question from the audience . it's another little bit wordy but i'm going to read it to you so you can digest it here. early in flannery's tenure there's this infamous meeting in schenectady with power leaders flannery and jeff bornstein and it's at this meeting it becomes clear flannery and bornstein is supporting profitability by modifying his contract and it's about to run out of cash. my question is given the checks and balances that existed in ge the blueprint reviews that took place in each business quarterly and the corporate auditing which was provided on an as-needed basis, howare these serious power issues identified sooner ? >> again, the meeting as it was described isn't actually the way it happened but for probably three years the board and i disagreed on how
the power business leadership was working. and we just had the wrong leadership at the wrong place at the wrong time and all the issues were property issues. now, what got past was that our team wasn't doing its work. it was reported to the media and it was bs and as a result we want the finance people who said basically my own company won't support me and we're going to leave and go someplace else. so again, why did i write the book? it wasn't to defend myself from criticism like that. it was to say when something as operating issues let's call it an operating issue. let's not throw a generation of finance people under the bus. this is a hard book to write but i wrote it because the
people i worked with deserved better. deserved much better. and i want that to be out there because i love working with them and i want to make sure their storygets told . >> in writing the book jeff, i heard you talk about it through the years and i wasn't sure if you were going to end up writing it but i'm glad you did . how did that befall? you probably had to wait because it was so raw for a while so was it fits and starts or was the timing right foryou to write it and i'm going to follow through ? that book was probably a little bit different. >> it's extremely raw and i had a great co-author and she made all the difference in the world. i basically waited until the end to make the final commitment.i gave all the money to my high school so
again, i like the way it read. i think it was truthful and raw and i felt like spoke to the people i worked with and then i reflected, you and i are sitting here. everybody watching this is in the terror of glennon doyle covid and my hope is people can grab the book, they can read a story about the financial crisis or going to china or something like that and they can say i'll put myself in jeff's choose on the decision he made or didn't make for did this or did something else . my hope is that it gives people the courage to make decisions and get judged and move on because we live in an era where there's no nuance and you'd better just be willing to make decisions, take the heat and keep going. >> i've enjoyed this tonight jeff, i hope our audience has
to and i wanted to wrap up by asking you if there's anything else you'd like to leave them with imparting. >> know, i just think that again, i hope people enjoy the book. i hope they can read it and reflect on it and i want to say how much your friendship has meant to me. how much andy and i love you and lori. >> it's been a great joy in my life so thanks. it's been great to spend the hour with you and to hear the other sideand hear your story . thanks for sharing it with us . [music]
>> fears programs to look out for on book tv. tonight on our weekly author interview program "after words", washington post staff writer john woodrow cox parts on the effects of gun violence on children. then former republican speaker of the house john weiner of ohio reflects on his time incongress and the future of the republican party . an investigative journalist amanda ripley shares her thoughts on how people can engage in the conflict resolution. that all starts this evening at 9 pm eastern onbook tv . find more schedule information at book tv.org or consult your program guide. >> i everyone, i'm sam. thank you for joining us to celebrate the publication of