WOBInar with Jeff Immelt: Leading Through Volatility 

These are my notes from listening.  If anything does not appear accurate please advise so I can edit. Thank you!

Right at the start…

  • Remember that a crisis is a unique blend of decisiveness and patience.
  • Nitty gritty matters right now.
  • First of all, make sure your workforce is safe.
  • Establish clear lines of communications to constituents, to your board, customers, staff, community.
  • Deliver frequent communications.
  • Establish a clear inner circle of leaders that you can bounce the toughest decisions against to get intelligence and insights.
  • Decide what decisions you need to make, when you need to make them.
  • Determine what data you need to make the decisions you cannot make now.
  • Always be thinking “what is the next decision you need to make?”
  • Take action to reduce spend (e.g. discretionary spending, headcount)

What can we do for and with our teams?

  • Frequent communication with your internal teams (even if you have say, “I do not know right now…”)
  • Share any progress, even if small.
  • In a crisis the interest of your team may be disconnected from the interest of the company – find ways to talk through the decisions you may need to make for the business with empathy and transparency.
  • Delegate people into smaller working teams that are flexible.
  • Get teams that can hold two truths at the same time – to consider the worst case and how to be ready for it, and also to see the opportunity of a future.

Scenario Planning

  • Have a flexible point of view.
  • Decide on the most important 3 or 4 metrics to track right now.
  • Make the decisions you need to make today.
  • Keep options open for the future.
  • Keep your cool even when bad things are out there and can happen…maintain your optionality for what the future can hold.
  • Double down on the things you believe in.
  • Support your customers.
  • Have your own instincts and point of view AND trust the team around you.
  • Knowing WHEN to do things is harder than knowing WHAT to do (you may have to wait for information or data at certain points of the crisis that will come in waves.
  • Have some context for what is going on in China by talk to people in China.

How can companies manage the Financial Future?

  • Access Government programs – every country will be different.  Find people to help.
  • Need to have a context for what the recovery could look like.  Too early to say at the moment – make your own judgements in how you can live in the world.
  • Business models of Telehealth and others are at an advantage – think how quickly you can grow and increase your services.
  • The approach will be different to every company, every person and within every country.

How best to manage the present and plan for the future?

  • Be intensely focused on what is going on today.
  • Look at your schedule and your teams of how and where time is spent.
  • Create time for yourself and your team to think about scenarios 1-2-3 years ahead in terms of what your company could do for the longer future.
  • Now is not the right time to wipe out your R&D or Marketing department.
  • Ask yourself to complete this sentence, “The company I want to see emerge from this crisis is…”
  • Don’t allow yourself to go mentally dead.

This crisis is a challenge for leaders.  What are your recommendations for leaders?

  • First, with each crisis, you get better – there are no style points in a crisis, you learn about yourself and crises reveals character.
  • Have a way to self-renew – be willing to absorb fear, take care of yourself, get sleep while you can, take care of yourself physically.
  • Show up – on the toughest time, darkest day, toughest decisions – make yourself present in those tough moments.
  • There is no easy button.  You have to be able to go to bed a failure and wake up the next morning thinking you are the best person ever.
  • Recognize that this will all come in waves and we are still in the early moment of time.
  • Be able to take criticism.  The decisions you are making are unprecedented. We are dealing with things in real time and no one wrote about this risk in their annual report.
  • Make the decisions you need to make now. You are not yet sure what these decisions will lead to.

What other advice and tips do you have?

  • I wish I had said “I don’t know…” more. Sometimes with the desire to put people at ease or show confidence I think leaders can be too determinant in these types of situations.
  • Keep moving…keep an activity level of things that are affirmative.  Blend into the day a sense of affirmation about the things you are doing into the mix of the terrible.
  • Reengage with the people you work with (and maybe even their families).  Remind yourself about what you love engaging in and why you like your team and company so much.


  • Communication – be ever present and connect with people in as many different ways as you can.
  • People are NOT looking for you to be perfect – they are looking for you to be real and engaged.
  • Make the decisions you need to make, and you then get more information to be smarter.
  • Hold two truths.
  • Have a sense of endurance and resilience because this will come in waves.
  • Absorb fear – give a sense of hope – optimism is figuring out a path to the future and being courageous enough to grab it.