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Former GE CEO Jack Welch was known for being a tough and ruthless boss.Mark Little experienced this first-hand when Welch demoted him in the mid-1990s.
He had his first big executive job as VP of engineering for GE’s Power Systems group when its industrial turbines failed, which led to hudreds of millions of dollars in losses, reports Joseph Walker at the WSJ’s FINS. Although the problems predated his tenure as VP, Welch and Bob Nardelli — then president of the Power Systems group who later became Chrysler’s CEO — still demoted him. It was devestating. Walker spoke with Little about what that was like:
“It was horrible. I was a very young officer, very much a rookie. They brought in another guy to take over the gas turbine business. I thought at that time that my career at GE was over. I saw Welch at the time and he said, “This is a mess.”
At a deep level I didn’t feel personally responsible for either the financial or the product malperformance because I didn’t have control over the financials and on the product side I wasn’t responsible for the engineering when the products were designed. Nonetheless they wanted to strengthen the team, and bring in someone with core experience in a technology that I didn’t have. I hated every damn minute of it. … I figured it was the end of the road for me. “
But Little recovered and climbed up the ladder again by focusing on the duties he did have. He even got another chance to lead the Power Systems group, and took it from $200 million in the red to turning a $4 billion profit. Now he’s GE’s SVP of Global Research.