All posts in Interviews

Jack Welch and the Art of Management

I’m a business guy but I’m not one of those suit wearing, MBA-toting, “Excuse me while I check my portfolio” kind of business guys. I’m a creative person in a creative industry so you probably won’t hear me saying things like, “core competencies”, “critical path” or “EBITDA”.

You can probably see why I knew Jack Welch without really knowing Jack Welch.

I kinda knew that he was famous for getting rid of the bottom 10%.
I kinda knew that he had the nickname “Neutron Jack”.
I kinda knew that he had a long and successful tenure as CEO of GE.
I kinda knew that 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy worshipped the ground he walked on.

Yesterday, I interviewed Jack in front of 2,000 people at the Art of Management.
Well, I certainly know him now.

He’s kind. He’s candid. He’s open. He’s passionate. He’s fun. He’s brilliant.
And whether you like it or not, he’s Jack.

My experience started with a pre-interview phone call that was brief and to the point.

“Ask me anything you want. There are no inappropriate questions. I’ve heard it all – I’m an asshole, I walked out on my second wife, I’m a bully. Ask me what you want. We can talk politics. We can talk management. We can talk about my personal life. I don’t care. In business, people are the most important thing and everything else is bullshit.”


While others in his position have teams of handlers, communications people and complex algorithms to suggest strategic questions and pre-scripted answers, Fortune’s “Manager of the Century” apparently wanted to wing it.

I had no agenda, other than a desire to make it interesting and informative for those who assembled to hear him. In the end, I think I had more fun than anyone.

He playfully scolded me for referring to work as a “grind” (I referred to it as a “bitch slap” on stage). He called out academics for over-analysis. He shot down mentorship. He admitted when he didn’t understand the issues around the NHL lockout. He said tuitions are immoral. He gave examples and case studies filled with both successes and failures. He even gave the crowd some nice tweetable bits:

“Everyone is a mentor. Everyone knows something you don’t.”
“Find a better way, every day.”
“The Director of HR is just as important as the CFO.”

He was larger than life. And his wisdom filled the room.

Most of us would claim we never judge people without meeting them but the truth is, we do. We judge their decisions, we evaluate their behaviour and we say we know what makes them tick without ever meeting them in person. That’s wrong and I realized I was just as guilty as you are.

What I loved most about yesterday wasn’t the laughs, the insights, or the content.
It was discovering that when it came to the man and his values, I was wrong.

Thanks, Jack.

The name of the show is Montana Cookies. I mean… Monkey Toast.

Montana Cookies
. That’s the name you could give to the November 10th edition of Monkey Toast, the live, improvised talk show that I host once a month featuring some of the best improvisers in the country.

Well, for Saturday’s show, we’re all thrilled to welcome best selling author, Globe and Mail columnist and co-founder of Smart Cookies, Angela Self along with Doug Lieblein, writer and executive producer of Hannah Montana and Life with Boys.





Monkey Toast: The Improvised Talk Show

Saturday, November 10, 2012
The Comedy Bar
945 Bloor Street West

Featuring the Monkey Toast Players:
Lisa Merchant
Jan Caruana
Sandy Jobin-Bevans
Naomi Sniekus
Jim Annan
Herbie Barnes

Music Director:
Chris New

For advanced tickets call 416-551-6540 or go to


This 71 year old knows more about social media than you and I do.

While various social media apps can help you be more effective or more productive or more accurate, a passionate desire to connect is far more powerful than any software package. A brand that has a genuine willingness to engage with their customers will trump one that doesn’t, regardless of the budget, websites, widgets or tools used.

You want proof? Don’t talk to the 21 year old social media evangelist who’s busy building their Google+ profile in the corner. Talk to 71 year old Evelyn Hannon.

Back when putting brochures online was considered breakthrough, Evelyn decided to launch a website for female travellers called

That was 1997.
And she hasn’t changed the design since.

Seriously. There’s no flash. No video. No HTML 5. Or, in her words, “…there’s no fancy shmancy”. Check it out. You’ll be amazed. It’s so old school, it’s retro. Her site is the Polaroid in a sea of iPhone 4 HD cameras. One look and you’ll think you got to it by putting a punch card into a mainframe.

What it does have, though, is a massive loyal community of active contributors.

• She has an e-newsletter with over 75,000 subscribers.
• She has 13,000 Twitter followers.
• She built a global database of female mentors.
• She’s been an imbedded blogger on a ship sailing around the world.
• People from over 200 countries follower her, read her and trust her.

She has no heavily researched strategy, she’s never checked out Google Analytics, she doesn’t read up on what the experts say she should do and her approach to engagement, refreshingly, doesn’t even use the word “engagement”.

All she does is care.

She cares about the subject of travel. She cares about helping women. She cares about being genuine.
She acts like a grandmother. Not surprising because, well, she is.

Evelyn reminds us that real communities don’t live on Twitter or Facebook. They camp out there. Real communities live because of a passion that is shared by those who belong to it. And when it’s strong enough, that community can exist anywhere.

Have a listen. You won’t just love Evelyn. You’ll love her approach.
Success may be a journey but this woman has figured out what to do along the way.