Book Review – The Real-Life MBA

In today’s #AshleyTalks, I present a review of one of my favourite books. The Real-Life MBA is a great manual for business owners, entrepreneurs and organizational leaders. Check out the review below.
For more great content about entrepreneurship, visit my youtube channel. #AshleyTalks

Book: The real-life MBA

Author:  Jack Welch, Suzy Welch

Score: 4.5/5

Great book for leaders in modern organizations. Highly recommended.


If you want to get off the grind, alignment has to come before, during, and after the work. It has to be happening all the time. It has to be part of what “the work” is.

The alignment of what exactly?

The answer is mission, behaviour and consequences.

  • Mission pinpoints an organization’s destination – where you’re going and why, and equally important if the mission is to succeed, what achieving it will mean for the lives of each and every employee.
  • Behaviours describe, well, behaviours – the ways in which employees need to think, feel, communicate, and act in order to make the mission more than just words.
  • Consequences put some teeth into the system. We are talking promotions and bonuses based on how much employees embrace and advance the mission and how well they demonstrate their behaviours.

The best missions are aspirational, inspirational, and practical.

  • Aspirational as in, “Wow, sounds amazing! I love the idea of trying to get there.”
  • Inspirational as in, “Great! I know we can do it do that if we stretch and try.”
  • Practical as in, “OK, sounds reasonable, and I’m going to work with my team to get it done.”

Here’s the kicker – the best missions let each and every employee know what’s in it for them.

“Values” can be a confusing word. Plain and simple, we’re talking about how people behave at work and how their behaviours bring the company’s mission to life. So “behaviours” it is. And, to return to the topic at hand, the only reason to talk about behaviours at work is that leaders need to be very public, very clear, and very consistent about what kind of behaviours are needed in order to achieve the company’s mission.


The loudest negative consequence, obviously, is letting people go. You have to make it clear which behaviours are unacceptable and which are rewarded.

When it comes to whether and which behaviours matter: a personnel move speaks louder than a hundred speeches. The promotion of people who demonstrate the mission and behaviours is a huge message and a great source of encouraging reinforcement through the organization. The same is true of outsized bonuses. Money talks.

Most often, however, the consequences part of alignment is simply a matter of having a good performance appraisal and reward system in place. Such a system does not have to be complicated or expensive. It just needs to touch – it must touch every employee as often as possible, and at least twice a year in conversations, in which the manager tells them, in candid terms, where they stand.

“Here’s how you are demonstrating the behaviours we need and here’s what you could do better and finally here is how your salary and bonus and your future here reflect what I’ve just said.” That’s it.

So much lost opportunity, just sitting there waiting to be seized and turned into success. Clarify the mission, name the behaviours, and then measure and award people on how well they demonstrate both.


In the vast majority of cases, fresh leadership is absolutely inseparable from the creation and installation of a stalled organization’s mission, values, and consequences. They go together because they must.

First, Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes

The best leaders actually care more about their people than themselves.

Second, Think of Yourself as the Chief Meaning Officer

How often do you talk about your mission? Every day? Try in every conversation, up and down the organization. That kind of over-communication is essential. It’s not just for the launch of a change process. It’s essential forever.

Here’s where we’re going. Here’s why. Here’s how we’re going to get there. Here’s how you fit in. And here’s what’s in it for you.”

Third, Remove Blockages

Bureaucratic nonsense is endemic in most organizations. There are rules and regulations that often exist just to make work for the people who enforce the rules and regulations. We’re talking about petty stuff that gums up progress. Sweep away those kinds of processes and avoid hiring people who love them – the action blockers, change resisters and process obsessives.

Fourth, Joyfully Demonstrate the “Generosity Gene”

The best, most effective and most awe-inspiring leaders share one pronounced trait: They love to give raises. They’re thrilled to see their employees grow and get promoted. They celebrate their people in every way they can – with money, more responsibility and public praise.

And Fifth, Make Sure Work Is Fun

Work is not something you do while you’re waiting to live. Work is life. Fun is great. It’s healthy and energizing – for organizations and individuals alike. Your people give their days to you. They give their hands, brains, and hearts. But as a leader, you need to feel their souls. You can do that by walking in their shoes, by providing meaningful work, by clearing obstacles and by demonstrating the generosity gene. And you can do it, perhaps most powerfully, by creating an environment that is exciting and enjoyable. How? Celebrate milestones and small successes. Embrace humour and candor. Let people be themselves. Minimize overly bureaucratic behaviours every time they creep in. Do stuff together outside the office. Whoever said bosses and employees shouldn’t be friends was crazy. Even in the hard times, work has to be a place where people want to be. Making it so is part of what leaders do!

Let’s stay in touch! You can connect with me through