The business world has been so much of a concrete jungle where leaders, customers and employees are boxed by walls that were built to separate them from one another. However, what’s the need for these walls when we can instead create bridges to build good relationships and be one family? Sought-after author, speaker, and business consultant Ken Blanchard teaches leadership by service where leaders serve the employees and create raving fans out of them and the customers. Ken has published over 60 books, including massive hits like The Secret, The One-Minute Manager, and Gung Ho. He takes us into deeper understanding of the power of empowering your people.
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Leadership By Service: The Secret Of Great Leaders with Ken Blanchard
I am absolutely fired up to have the one and only, Ken Blanchard, on the show. Ken has published over 60 books, including massive hits like The Secret, The One Minute Manager, Gung Ho!. His books, Raving Fans, Whale Done!, The Simple Truths of Service, which we simply call Johnny the Bagger here had been arguably the most impactful books on my entrepreneurial journey and the Fans First team here. Ken has been a mentor from afar. I am so thrilled to connect with you and share your wisdom with my readers. Ken, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Jesse. It’s a joy to be with you because I think this whole country is built on entrepreneurs. I hate when people pick on business people because we create jobs. For you to go from nothing to pulling this ball club together and selling out is great. It’s because of your theme about customers first. I want to share a little bit our journey because I believe you live your brand. I sent you a letter about three years ago thanking you for the impact that you started to make on our company. You fired back a handwritten letter with a couple of extra books. I was blown away. A very few people write back with another handwritten letter. A few years later after we’ve got out of the airbed and started having success, I sent you another thank you letter and you called me.
Ken, I remember it vividly. I was driving home and I get this call from California. I was like, “I’ll answer it.” You go, “Jesse, it’s Ken Blanchard.” There’s so much to set about. You’re living what you share with the world. I want to thank you for that and make sure the readers know. It’s not saying what you believe in, it’s living it.
One of the things I’ve gotten into lately is we developed a twelve-step egos anonymous program because the thing that keeps people from being real with others is they get their ego in the way either with false pride when they have more than philosophy where they think they’re brighter than in all or they have a less than where they have self-doubt and fear. A lot of people wouldn’t think that’s an ego problem, yet it is. The reason I think the ego is the biggest addiction, the people who have self-doubt and fear, what do they do? They go to outside agents like alcohol, sex and drugs and all to build themselves up. It’s interesting about the false pride types which everybody said, “I know their ego.” Thomas Harris wrote a book years ago called I’m Okay – You’re Okay. He said, “The worst life position is I’m okay, you’re not, which is false pride.” He said, “All the research shows that people will act like I’m okay, you’re not okay are covering up not okay feelings about themselves.” I’ve found that in working with managers. When I find a manager who’s considered a problem and get to know them, they’re scared little kids inside. The first thing I have to do is try to help them realize that God didn’t make any junk, that they’re absolutely beautiful. They don’t have all the strengths in the world, but they can gather people around them that fill their weaknesses as a team. It’s fascinating.
Ken, your body of work share so much of your beliefs. I personally don’t know your story. It’s interesting to someone that rises up and make such an impact on millions of people. I want to impact the world. I’m wondering before we get into this amazing customer experience and employee experience, tell us your story. How did you become this person of putting out great pieces of work over and over again?It's not just saying what you believe in, it's actually living it. Click To Tweet
My life story is interesting because to think that you never had any bumps along the way was crazy. I went to Cornell. I was running a freshman dormitory when I was a junior and a senior to pay for school as a dorm counselor. I thought, “What I want to be is a dean of students. How do I do that?” “You better get a Master’s degree.” I said, “How am I going to do that?” I had a gentleman 75, average at best. I applied to a bunch of schools and couldn’t get in, but one of our deans had gotten a Master’s degree at Colgate in a small program they had over there. He convinced them to provisionally accept me into this Master’s degree program in Education. I went over there and I had been a government major at Cornell, which was interesting. I got to these education courses. They were so boring. I was sitting at the bar at the Colgate Inn saying, “I can’t believe I’m going to be here for two years.” The way God works, sitting next to me was a young sociology professor, who had come and his wife was backpacking up. He had finished his Doctor’s degree in Illinois.
I was telling my story and he said, “Why don’t you come and major with me?” I said, “What’s sociology?” He said, “We study people and leadership.” I said, “That’s interesting.” He got me into this program so I get a Master’s in Sociology. I said, “I’m ready to be a dean.” They said, “You better get a Doctorate degree.” I said, “Doctorate degree? You’ve got to be kidding me. How am I going to get a Doctorate degree?” They said, “You need one.” I applied a bunch but couldn’t get in. I had taken a course one time in the summer before I went to the Master’s degree program from a guy who headed up an educational leadership program at Cornell. I called him and I said, “Dr. McCarty, could you get me provisionally accepted in your doctoral program?” He said, “Why not?” To me, graduate of education is more endurance than is intelligence to think it got me through the doctoral program. I played competitive sports. I was a basketball player and tennis player because you get hit a lot, you have to decide whether you’re going to get up.
I drove my legs and all. I said, “I’m ready to be a dean.” I went to their big national convention. I had great interviews at Dartmouth, Wesleyan, Northern Illinois and some other. They all were going to invite me to campus. I never heard from any of them. I called this guy at Dartmouth, who I had gone out and drank with. I said, “John, you’re going to invite me to campus but I never heard from you.” He said, “Ken, I feel bad. I should have called you. You got two terrible recommendations in your placement file. This is the years when you would ask people to write recs, but you couldn’t look at your placement file.” I said, “From who?” He said, “The dean of students and the associate dean.” I said, “That’s very helpful. What do the deans say?” They said, “Ken Blanchard is a wonderful guy.” He said, “Don’t let him near the faculty. He’s got no academic interests.” I said, “That’s great.” I took a course from him. We called it sleeping with Stan. It was terrible. I said, “What did the associate dean say?” He said, “Ken Blanchard is a wonderful guy, not particularly intelligent, but a wonderful guy.” I’m dead.
I go back to the bar and there’s a guy there who was getting the Doctorate degree in Organizational Behavior. He had been at Harvard Business School. I had met him before. I told my play. He said, “The guy who was an associate dean at Harvard Business School went to be president of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Why don’t you write to him and tell him your situation?” I wrote Vern Alden and he sent my credentials to the dean of the business school. I get a call from Harry Edwards and he said, “Ken, you get a crazy background, but I’m looking for crazy people.” Because he thought it was stupid that we taught business administration, educational administration and hospital administration. He said, “Why don’t we study, get a graduate program in administration and then have a course in institutional settings.” I went initially as an assistant to him. When I got there he said, “Ken, I want you to teach a course.” I had never thought about teaching because my faculty had told me that my writing wasn’t academic enough. I found out later you could understand it, but it was confusing to them because I talked plain language. He said, “I don’t care about that.” Paul Hersey had arrived as Chairman of the Management Department. He put me in Hershey’s department to teach a course.
After two weeks, I came home and I said to my wife, “Margie, this is what I want to do is be a teacher. This is great.” She said, “What about the writing?” I said, “We’ll figure something out.” I had heard that Hersey taught a great course in leadership. I came up to him in December 1966 and said, “Paul, do you mind if I sit in your course next semester?” He said, “Nobody audits my course. If you want me to take it for credit, you’re welcome.” He walked away. I thought, “That’s something. I had a Doctorate degree and he didn’t and he’s making me take his course.” I talked to Margie and she said, “Is he any good?” I said, “He’s supposed to be great.” She said, “Get your ego out of the way and take his course.”
I went and signed up. I wrote all the papers. In June ’67, Hersey comes into my office. He said, “Ken, I’ve been teaching leadership for ten years. I think I’m better than anybody.” He said, “I’m having trouble writing.” He said, “It’s not my real thing. They want me to write a textbook. I’ve been looking for a good writer like you, who understands the field.” I had done my Doctoral dissertation on Fred Fiedler, who was the first situational leadership guy. He said, “Would you write a book with me?” I said, “We ought to be a great team. I’m not supposed to write. You’re having trouble with it, so let’s do it.” We wrote a book called Management of Organizational Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources. It was great because the students loved it because Paul and I didn’t know any big words and all of that. I went to the dean and I said, “I quit as an administrator because I got a book. I’m going to be a faculty member.” He said, “You can’t quit.” I said, “Why not?” He says, “Because I was going to fire you.” I said, “Fire me?” He said, “Yeah, because you’re a lousy administrator.”
I wish I was. It was a photo finish between him firing me. I ended up staying. A bunch of my buddies went to the University of Massachusetts to the School of Education. Dwight Allen had come there. He was a great innovative educator. They said, “You ought to come here.” I switched and went to UMass in the School of Ed and taught there. In 1976, I got a full professor with tenure early because I was out publishing people. We were doing all kinds of stuff, Hersey and I. I went on one-year sabbatical leave to San Diego and after several months, I was going to write another addition to the book to Paul and I were writing. We were writing a book called The Family Game: A Situational Approach to Effective Parenting. After a couple of months, my wife said, “We’re going to go back to Massachusetts?” Summer in Massachusetts is two weeks of bad skating.
I’m from Massachusetts originally. I know all about Massachusetts.
That was several years ago. We ended up out here and ran into a group called the Young Presidents Organization, YPO. You have to become president before you’re 40 years old. I did some sessions for them. They adopted me and said, “You’re one of the greatest presenters we’ve had. What are you going to do at the end of the year?” We said, “We’re going back to the university.” They said, “No, you’re not. You’re going to start your own company.” We said, “How are we going to do that? We can’t even balance our own checkbook.” They said, “We’ll help you.” Five presidents volunteered to be our advisory board: one from Oregon, one from San Diego, one from Mexico, one from Pennsylvania, one from Illinois. They flew out and helped us set up the company. We’re going to be celebrating the 40th anniversary of our company, which is amazing. I went on pretty long to tell you the story, but people tell me, “What does it take to be successful?” You’ve got keep your head up and look for opportunities. If somebody hits you, bob and weave and go on.
In 1980, we were invited to a cocktail party by Adelaide Bry who wrote Visualization: Directing the Movies of Your Mind. One of the first people on self-cure yourself of cancer, she had a party of authors in town. Since I had this textbook, I qualified. I went there and Spencer Johnson was there. My wife, Margie, met him. Spencer had written children’s books. This whole series called Value Tails, The Value of Courage: The Story of Jackie Robinson, The Value of Determination: Story of Helen Keller, The Value of Honesty: The Story of Confucius. Margie hand carried him over to me and said, “You guys should write a children’s book for managers. They won’t read anything else.” Spencer was working on a one-minute scolding with a psychiatrist on disciplining kids. I invited him to a seminar I was doing. He sat back and laughed. He came running up at the end of the day, said, “Forget parenting, let’s do The One Minute Manager.” Because he was a children’s book writer and I’m a storyteller, we decided to write a parable about a young man searching. We met the second week in November. We had a draft of that book by the time we will go into the Rose Bowl at the end of December.The thing that keeps people from being real with others is they let their ego get in the way. Click To Tweet
We gave a draft to people to read and they loved it. I said, “Spencer, we’ve got to go to New York and get a contract.” He says, “No way.” He said, “They’ll beat us up and take all the money because they don’t know who we are.” He said, “Let’s self-publish it.” We did. A friend of mine, Dick Gavin, was the head of the National Restaurant Association, their big convention. He let us give a keynote speech. We sold 1,500 copies of The One Minute Manager at the back of the room. We sold 20,000 copies with no advertising, just from clients that I had in all. When we went to New York, we had a track record. We had endorsements. We were on The Today’s Show in 1982 Labor Day. It went on the best seller list the next week and never left for a few years. That went crazy. It helped us build our company. That’s a fairy tale story. I say to all of your readers, “Don’t let people discourage you at all, bob and weave until you finally find out something that you’re confused about between work and play.” People tell me, “I’m going to be this year celebrating the 59th anniversary of my 21st birthday.” People say, “When are you going to retire?” I said, “When they take me up,” because why would you retire? I wrote a book Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life. You’ve got to keep on going. It sounds like you and your wife refired.
We’re living with so much passion. The great thing from what you shared is you talked about storytelling a little bit but it was the simplifying. You worked with a children’s author into your ideas and put it into one. The One Minute Manager sold millions of copies. Before we get into the experience and the customer experience like that’s what resonated with me. Every speech that I give, Ken, I referenced Raving Fans because I can tell the stories in the book because it’s so simple. I think a great point is the simplifying. Why doesn’t everybody do that? You made it so easy and that’s why you’re having success. Every book, it’s like I can read it in one day and I get the message.
Let me tell you that background of Raving Fans. I’d mentioned to the Young Presidents Organization, Sheldon Bowles was a YPOer from Winnipeg in Canada. I had met him on. We were doing a university one time, one of the days where they bring a lot of these presidents. I was on the program and Sheldon came. He said, “Ken, I wrote a draft of a book that I’d like us to coauthor called Raving Fans.” The reason he did that is Sheldon was an entrepreneur. He was doing a certain thing. He started asking people, “If you didn’t have to go to a gas station, would you go to one?” They said, “No, we wouldn’t.” “What do you want from a gas station?” They said, “We want quick service at a reasonable price from a friendly environment.” He got this idea for what he called Domo Gas in Canada. He thought of the Indianapolis 500 races where they have the pitstop. The car pulls in there. These people race for the car. He dressed these people up in red jumpsuits. We’d tell the story in the book. Somebody would drive in there and three people would race for their car.
One would be cleaning the outside, somebody would be pumping gas, and somebody would ask him to open the window and give him a cup of coffee and a donut or something and say, “Could you step out and I’ll dust bust your car?” People started saying, “You’ve got to go to this Domo Gas. It’s crazy.” He said raving fans are people who are so excited about what you do that they want to brag about you and they become part of your sales force. I’m walking up to that room and he gave me this draft. I said, “Wow.” What do you tell a guy? How good a writer could this guy be? I get up and I started reading it. I said, “Margie, this is unbelievable.” It turned out he was a journalist when he was young.
Together was what he came up with and integrating with my ideas, we wrote Raving Fans. The essence of it was in Sheldon’s story. It’s amazing. That’s what I try to do is find people with a story that needs to be told and how can I help the story? I wrote a book with Colleen Barrett, who became the President of Southwest after Herb died. Herb just died. I don’t know if you knew that. Herb Kelleher was a fabulous guy. I had to meet her because she started as his executive secretary in 1967. He brought her up. She put her in charge of customer service. When he wanted to step down, he said, “Colleen, you be president.” She was unbelievable.
It’s fascinating because obviously everything since we read Raving Fans has changed our mindset. Envisioned that perfect experience for the customer from the first time they see you to when they leave because that last impression leaves a lasting impression. Coming to a bananas games, we always share, we have a pep band outside. We have our banana shaped tickets that are scratch and sniff like bananas. We have a senior citizen dance team called the Banana Nanas dancing. It’s a whole circus as you come into the ballpark. I’m so fascinated on some of these stories that you’ve shared like Johnny the Bagger. We have everyone on our staff read that. Do they come to you and then you put that together? It’s such a simple concept, take everything in your business and make it amazing.
Barbara Glanz, who I wrote that book with, she was given a session for the big grocery chain. In that session, she had all the frontline employees, she said, “Now go home tonight and think about how you can make a difference for your customer because every one of you, I don’t care what your job is, you could make a difference for your customer.” Johnny was a kid with a learning disability. He went home and he told his father that this woman who came, and he was a bagger, how could I make a difference. She said, “We all can make a difference.” He and his dad started to talk and Johnny used to love to collect sayings. His father said, “This would be a great idea.” They thought that. They took one of his sayings a day and made 150, 200 copies of it. Johnny would sign the back of it and put it in a paper bag. When he would finish bagging somebody’s groceries, he’d reached in and say, “I’d love to have my saying for the day.” It was unbelievable. In fact, the manager of the store called me and said, “You won’t believe what Johnny has done to our store. The other day, I’m out there. Johnny’s in line for his way back. I’m trying to say, ‘Go at other lines.’ All the people have said, ‘No, I’m not going to get out. I want to get Johnny’s saying for the day.’”
It shows you that if every human being does it, they can make a difference. What you did, you and your wife, is you followed the first secret of Raving Fans, which is you need to first decide what experience you want your people to have. Most people say, “Why don’t you ask your customers first?” You ought to have a vision of it. The first one is to decide what you want them to do. The second one is ask the customers, “Based on what we’re doing, what are we missing? What else would you want?” You can see where that fits in. You can add their ideas. We call that discover the step. The last one is to deliver, which is to create it. That’s why you’re doing so well. If everybody would realize that they would be able to kill the customers because the customers would become raving fans of yours.
Henry Ford said many years ago, “If I asked people what they wanted, they’d say faster horses or I’ll give the customers a car of any color they want as long as it’s black.” Those are two of his famous quotes. We realized what the friction points were. At a ballpark, if you’ve been to a stadium, one of the things that happen is you get nickeled and dimed. All of a sudden you pay $5 for a burger, $6 for this, $4 for this. What we decided going into this is we’re going to create the best experience with all the tickets, all you can eat. Every ticket includes all your food, all your soda, everything for $15 and all night. We eliminated that. We didn’t ask because if you ask the customers, I guarantee they would say, “No, I don’t want them. I’ll buy what I want. I’ll buy whatever I want there.” They leave spending a lot more money and frustrated. We eliminated that. We didn’t ask them. We kept going.
How did you make any money though?You're only as good as the people around you. Click To Tweet
We figured out that later. When you started writing books, you do and then you learn.
Because for $15, they could eat up your profit the whole night.
It didn’t happen. Getting into the model, not everyone can eat three, four or five burgers but they’re having a great experience. We measured it from the beginning to when they leave. We realized that many people, baseball is long, slow and boring. How do you make it more exciting and have dancing players? It’s a lot because of your Raving Fans concept and the Johnny the Bagger. We talked to everyone, our staff, “What station? What can you do?” We have the players deliver roses to little girls in the crowd in the middle of the game. It’s all those types of things inspired by you. My question is I love stories and other examples, are there other ones from all the companies that you’ve worked with that are like, “Wow.” They’re putting into play some of these amazing customer experiences that you’ve seen. Obviously, you’ve got Southwest and what they’re doing. Have you seen any others or maybe that you’re doing in your company?
What you need to do is make sure that everybody understands it. When we brought Raving Fans into our company, one of the things we said is with each department, “Why don’t you, if you’re going to believe in Raving Fans, is name your department based on what you’re doing.” You walk in our front door and the receptionist, it has a sign “Directors of first impressions” because that’s their job. In our shipping department, they call themselves fulfillment because their job is to fulfill the promises that the sales folks did. Your key is that you have to first have the vision of the thing, but then you involve people on how they can implement it. We did that with the San Diego Padres. They’re considered one of the best customer service stadiums. We went down and we built a whole vision down there. You’ll see on the walls down there, they have their four values in the form of a baseball. Their first value is safety because of the business that they’re in. They talk about caring for the customer, all these kinds of things in it.
It makes a difference and you get people excited about it. You’ve got to make sure that it continues as management changes. That’s hard. One of the things I’ve often said is that I think companies make a mistake bringing an outsider in to take over the presidency. Number one, they don’t know and love your people. Number two, they often have their ego when they want to make changes right away to show we’re an insider, can know what you’re doing and how can they continue that movement there. We made a mistake a couple of times and brought some outsiders into our company. They were a disaster. Our President, Howard Farfel, was with us ten years before we made him president. He headed up our Marketing Department. He headed up our Sales Department. We made him president so he can continue the old philosophy that we have.
I met Howard at the Customer Service Revolution and your daughter. It was obvious how much they care about what you’re doing. That’s such a good point. Everyone always talks about hiring. We worked so hard for interns. We have interns that start with us that learned the culture while they’re in college. I’ll tell you they believed the fans first way they are in it. We call our biggest fans are our own people. We believe in loving our employees even more than our customers. That’s a good transition because of the Whale Done! concept again, so simple, a book that made a big impact. The recognition in the world right now, I feel like it’s so down from what it should be. The simple concept, if you could share how Whale Done! came about because that’s made an unbelievable impact on our team?
It’s interesting with Whale Done!. Let’s go to Gung Ho!. I did it with Sheldon Bowles because what happened is people would say we’re excited about Raving Fans and all that thing. How do you create Raving Fans in an organization where they’re not into that? The top management isn’t into that. The first aspect of Gung Ho! is a visionary one. It’s a fun story about this gal that takes over this company. It’s her first management job. She goes in it. She finds out they’re not performing very well except one department. They’re doing well. Her aides say, “No.” That’s being run by this Indian. He’s a troublemaker, Andy Longclaw. After the first day, she’s discouraged. She walks across this bridge of stream by their place to go sit on a bench and think, “What am I going to do? This place is a mess.” All of a sudden this guy comes walking up and he said, “Do you mind if I sit?” She looks up. He looks like a Native-American, but he doesn’t look very happy. She said, “What’s your problem?” He said, “I work over there.” He said, “I understand that I’m going to be fired by the new manager.” She looks at him and she says, “Why would I do that?”
He heard that she was the Wicked Witch of the West. She said, “Why would I do that? I’m the Wicked Witch of the West. I’ve heard that you must be Andy Longclaw. You’re the only one running this place well. What is your secret?” He said, “Do you really want to know?” He goes and starts to teach her. He said, “Why don’t we meet about late afternoon tomorrow? I’ll take you out and teach you the first secret.” He takes her out to this forest area where his grandfather had a cabin that he gave him. He says, “I’m going to sit over here in the hammock and take a nap but watch the squirrels.” She said, “I thought you were going to teach me about Gung Ho!. He said, “Watch the squirrels.” He wakes up. He said, “What did you see?” She says, “They’re amazing. If we could get people to work as hard as they do, we would make a difference.” He said, “What else did you notice?” She said, “They help each other. They’re storing food so they can help each other.” He says, “That’s the spirit of the squirrel, which is having worthwhile work.” She first learns that. It’s a powerful thing for her to learn. He says, “You’ve got to learn eventually the second secret, which is the way of the beaver.”
He takes her one morning out to this stream after there has been a big rain and the beaver’s dam is being dead.” He said, “Look at the beavers, who do you think is the leader?” She looks out and she said, “I can’t tell. They don’t seem to have a leader.” He said, “You’re right because everybody is a leader.” If somebody is working on one part of the dam and they need help, people go over and help them. The way of the beaver is everyone should be taking a leadership role. Finally, his last secret, he takes to show her the birds, what kind of birds, I forget, they were pigeons or something. He goes down to watch the seagulls fly. He said, “What do you notice about them?” She said, “They seem to fly in a V.” He said, “Everybody knows about that.” He said, “What do you notice about them?” She said, “They make a lot of noise.” She says, “Where are most of the noise coming from?” She stopped. She said, “It’s interesting, it seems to be coming from the back of the V.” He says, “Yes, they’re cheering on the people upfront because they’re cutting the wind. That’s where the hard work is.” It was a great parable story, but it is key. If you want to know, you need to have a vision for people.
You have to create an environment where you empower people to be leaders and then what do you need to do? You need to recognize them. Of all the things I’ve taught over the years, if somebody says to me, “Blanchard, I’m going to take everything away but one thing, what would you hold onto?” The second secret of the woman, a manager which is about a one-minute praising, which is wandering around and catching people doing things right and encouraging them. I know you want to eventually have everybody to be self-motivated. In the beginning, if they know you’re out of your office and you’re trying to catch people doing things right, what a difference it makes.Create an environment where you empower people to be leaders. Click To Tweet
I’ll never forget when a young employee we had, our Director of Operations, we were literally having a huge concert at the stadium and he did unbelievably. We had to service 5,000 people, feed them and take care of them. At the end of each year, we ask our employees what was their favorite moment in the past year? Jonathan came to me and said, “Jesse, after that concert, when you put your hand on my shoulder and said, “I’m proud of you, Jonathan. You did amazing tonight. I’m so glad to have you part of this team.” He goes, “I’ll never forget that.”
I don’t even remember it. It was so simple and such a little gesture but that means so much. That’s why that one-minute praise. As you were sharing, one thing that came to me, Ken, is that you’ve been able to have a vision for the perfect experience for everything. You simplify it. Literally Gung Ho!, I don’t know how you came up with all those concepts. You’re like, “If I’m going to teach how to build a great organization, I get to have a vision here and then simplify it so people learn from it.” Not many people have a vision for every part of their life and it seems like you have a vision for every book and everything that you’re doing.
As I implied, remember I’ve written over 60 books. My mother used to say, “Why don’t you write a book by yourself?” Because I’ve only written two books by myself. One on golf, so many people helped my golf game. I didn’t know how to write it with. The second is my spiritual journey. I wrote Gung Ho! with Sheldon Bowles. He’s one of the most creative people I’ve ever met. We came up with the whole story and all that thing on that. What is interesting is how do you create a story about it? When I met Colleen Barrett from Southwest and I said, “We got to write about what you’re doing and how can we get it in a way that hooks people and all that thing?” That the whole thing. I love to learn from other people and take what they’re excited about and see if I can simplify it and make it available to everybody. That is fun. I finished two of the biggest projects I’ve ever worked on.
One was called Servant Leadership in Action. I’ve got 44 people that contribute short articles, most reading books. The articles are too long. I got people like Marshall Goldsmith and Frances Hesselbein up the Girl Scouts and Laurie Beth Jones, Patrick Lencioni and Jon Gordon. All these guys and gals that were amazing. People who have implemented like Jimmy Blanchard, who was President of Synovus for several years. They won the best company to work for from Fortune. Often they asked him to stop applying so they made an all-star list. He was implementing servant leadership. Garry Ridge, President of WD-40, has built that place up from $200 million or $300 million to $2 billion implementing servant leadership concepts.
It sounds like the lesson here as I’m trying to work through this is you have known what your strength is and to tell stories to simplify it. You find the stories that you want to share together. You’re working together with people, but you have to understand what your greatest strength is. I’m looking at myself and these people out here that want to make an impact. What can we take from your journey in the sense of, “I’ve written 60 books,” but you mentioned only two solely by yourself? What can we take from that?
What you can take from that is you’re only as good as the people around you. One of our favorite sayings is that, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” Where I’ve found companies and problems is when the CEO and other people think all the brains are at the top of the organization. They forget that the people there because they’re the closest to the customer, they know. In servant leadership, there are two parts of it. One is vision and direction and goals. You need to set that vision. That’s got to come from the hierarchy. It doesn’t mean you don’t involve people, but it’s a responsibility in the hierarchy. That’s the leadership part of servant leadership.
Once that’s done, what you do is philosophically turn that pyramid upside down so that as the top manager, you’re at the bottom and the customer contact people are at the top. This is the servant part of servant leadership. Your job is to serve everybody there. Robert Greenleaf used to say years ago that “The great leaders serve first and lead second.” That’s what you’ve all tried, you and your wife have done. You’ve had a vision, but then you keep on going to your people and saying, “You are the boss. You are the ones that deal with our customers. You’re the one taking flowers to the kids and all that thing.” They loved that because it makes sense. I’m working on a book called Duh, which is why it’s common sense, common practice because what you’re doing, that’s common sense. Why isn’t it common practice? It’s so crazy.
I’ve been impressed by how much it seems like you are still obsessed with learning as you are about teaching.
We finished the second edition of our book leading at a higher level with the 25 of our consulting partners and colleagues, which says all the waves that we tried to implement servant leadership, servant leadership in action is the mindset. It tells why you should be thinking this way and leading at a higher level is the skill set. What do you need to do? We have four sections. The first one is to have the right vision and target. The second is to treat your people right because the best companies like yours realize your number one customer is your people. If you take care of your people, empower them, love them, then they go out of their way to take care of the second most important customer that people use your products and services. They become raving fans and that takes care of the bottom line and the profit part of the game. It is powerful. The servant leadership in action is the mindset. We move to the skill set. It’s vision and direction, take care of your people, take care of your customers. The last one is have the right kind of leadership, which is servant leadership.
It’s simplifying that to people. It’s the vision of where you want to go, take care of your people and take care of your customers. Make sure you have the right people in place. That should be every single book on leadership and on experience should be those. I appreciate that. I’m going to give you an opportunity because before we finish with our last few questions, I’m going to flip the script. We do this every show. You are now the host of Business Done Differently and you can ask me one question.
Where did you and your wife get the inside pitch? I’ve tried reading books. To do what you do, you must be learners. What was the motivation for you? What got you to do this? Because you’re a perfect example of servant leadership in action and all the things we talk about.
I don’t share it enough, but I think being a sponge, but a lot of times you have to be forced into that. Sometimes you have to create your own friction or built friction. When I first started at 23 years old with a team out of Gastonia, there was only $268 in the bank account. There were only 200 fans coming to the games. The team has lost over $100,000 a year. We had no options. I couldn’t pay for myself. I started reading. Your books were first on the list. I started reading everything about marketing and customer experience.
From there, I believe in being a sponge, not in your own industry but getting so far out of it. We go to conferences like Customer Service Revolution and Cruise ships. We don’t go to baseball conferences. We learned from others. We had to be a sponge or we wouldn’t have been successful. I think you got to do it and learn. You would have never known if you didn’t put your first book out there. You would have never known the impact you can have. We try crazy things at the ballpark every day that don’t work but some do. That’s what it is. I appreciate that question.
The next big question for you is that Margie and I have been interested in maybe writing a book sometime on couples that work together because, with the whole concept of marriage and divorce, you would think that working with your spouse would be a conflict. How have you made it work with your wife? Margie and I have worked together for over 40 years. She’s good at things that I’m not good at. I’m good at things that she’s not. We don’t get in each other’s pond. I don’t know how does that apply to what you did?God didn't make any junk. There's a pearl of goodness in every human being; dig for it. Click To Tweet
We had to learn that. In the beginning, this was crazy. It was literally me and Emily running two teams at once with no other staff members. It was two people running two teams. We were doing everything. It wasn’t until we became very clear on what our roles are, what fires us up every day, what we’re the best at and then be very clear and support it. Now, she’s very clear on what she does. I’m very clear on what I do. We talk every week. We had a two-day retreat, my wife and I, before the end of 2018 and said, “What are our family goals? What are our personal goals, our business goals?” We spent two days getting together, which I’m sure you’ve done with Margie and you’ve reconnected with her.
Is your family involved? Are the kids involved in the business now?
Yes, Maverick is less than a year old. He asked me in a crazy way. He comes to every game. Our fans have got them yellow tuxedos. He was our banana baby one game. We don’t have kids that involved but soon.
It’s interesting because our company now is run basically by our daughter who’s the head of marketing that you met. Our son who ends up working with product development and one of our top consultants. Margie, his brother was born when she was a freshman at Cornell. There are five kids in the family. He’s the youngest. Four girls and they were trying for this boy. He’s eighteen years younger. He’s our chairman and CEO of the company. Howard is the President and COO of the company. One of the things that were helpful to us, which is important is Peter Drucker convinced my son and me. One time he said, “Nothing good happens by accident, put some structure on it.” When Scott and Debbie and Tom joined our company several years ago, Scott said, “Do you remember what Drucker said? He said, ‘I think we should hire an outside consultant to work with our family so that we don’t miss our family up by running a business.’” He had worked for a company where they had had an outside consultant, so we hired this guy, John Eldridge, who was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
For a couple of years that they’ve been involved, the five of us have met once a quarter for a whole day with an outside consultant and nobody’s ever missed a meeting. If the kids ever had any problems, they would go to the consultant first and talk about it. John asked us, over in the beginning, he said, “Ken, I’m going to ask you and Margie an important question. Do you want Scott, Debbie and Tom to be our owners regardless of if they work in the business?” We said, “Why do you ask?” He said, “Because one of the problems with family businesses, the only way you get to make any money is if you work there and you get daughters who are raising families. They don’t get any evolvement and it causes problems.”
He said, “I suggest that the three of them all become owners. They get some money from their ownership. If they work in the company, pay them a salary based on what industry would pay that position.” Debbie was for three years down in Brazil. She didn’t work in the company, but she had her ownership position and now the five of us are all 20% owners. Margie and I held onto a veto in case they do something stupid. Now Scott’s wife, Madeleine, who heads up our coaching is now a part of the family. John Eldridge isn’t working with us anymore. We have a wonderful woman, a consultant who works with us, Patti Cain-Stanley. It’s communication and making sure that you stay communicating and have somebody who can facilitate that.
Thank you so much for that advice. That’s very helpful. What’s great about a family though is we try to build a family with our team. A lot of people don’t understand, they think teams. We believe in it. We think we love like a family. We care like a family, but there can be challenges. The reality is you have to have a vision.
To tell you our philosophy, number one is when you hire somebody, the first day they walk in the office and you see them if you don’t feel a chemical difference in your body because you’re excited to see them, why did you hire them? There are enough jerks in the world. We don’t need that working for us. We have a lot of couples in our company. We have one couple who had two or three kids also working in the company. Our President, Howard, now his wife works in the company. Our Head of Product Development, who’s fabulous, Jay Campbell, his wife works in the company. The rule when we have a new employee says, “Don’t talk down about anybody else because they might be related.” Margie, at our age, people say, “Why do you keep on going into the office every day?” She says, “Because everybody I love is there and I don’t have to invite them.” It’s family and friends.
I’m fascinated by moments, the moments you create, how you make people feel. I’m intrigued about you. If there is one magic moment that stands in your life that first come to you, what was it?
In terms of who I am, two things. One is my mother said to me, “Ken, there’s a pearl of goodness in every human being. God didn’t make any junk. Dig for it.” My father retired as an admiral in the Navy and when I was elected president of the seventh grade in junior high school, I came home all pumped up. I said, “Dad, I’m the president of my class.” He said, “Ken, now your leadership training begins. Now that you’re president, don’t ever use your position because great leaders are great because people trust and respect them not because they have power.” Those two things are major incidents in my life that gave me a philosophy.
If you were to give advice to someone to stand out in business and in life, what would you tell them?
I would tell them that none of us is as smart as all of us. Don’t think that all the brains in your office, you’re only as good as the people that you gather around you.
Ken, how do you want to be remembered?
My mission statement is to be a loving teacher, an example of simple truths that help myself and others to awaken to the presence of God in our lives so that we realize we’re here to serve, not to be served. When I talk about God, I’m not talking about religion. I’m a follower of Jesus, but he didn’t come to start a religion. He came to build a relationship. He said there were two things to remember which our philosophies of mine, number one is you’ll be known as my disciples by how you love each other. To me, love is an amazing word. We’re loving each other. When you come to our company, everybody’s hugging and everything. Some people say, “Aren’t you afraid of getting accused of sexual harassment or something?”
I said, “Everybody knows my relationship with Margie. This is what we do.” The second thing Jesus said, which a lot of Christians forget, “Judge not or you shall be judged.” It’s not my job to judge. We have a daughter, an inherited granddaughter who’s fabulous and she’s gay. She has the most wonderful partner. People say, “Why don’t you straighten her out?” I said, “Are you kidding me? That’s above my pay grade. My job is to love them. Why am I sitting around judging what people are?” People are beautiful. It’s not my job to tell them what they need to be. My job is to love them and to not judge them.
If we can simplify one thing from this show and everything, it comes down to love. It’s loving your people, loving your customers, loving your family and not judging people. That is one of your simple truths that you’ve shared. I hope everyone gets that and understands. Love more. Love yourself. Love others. Ken, I can’t tell you again how much of an impact you made on me. It’s been an honor talking with you. You’re going to continue to make an impact on me, the people who join our show, in our team and my family. Thank you. Is there anyone else people can learn more? You’re so out there everywhere, but where can people learn more or connect with you or what you’re doing?
They can go to KenBlanchard.com or we now have a thing called KenBlanchardBooks.com and check out our books. I also have a ministry called Lead Like Jesus not to convert people, but to realize when I started to read the Bible later in my life, I laughed because everything I had ever taught about leadership. Jesus did with the twelve incompetent guys he hired. You’d never have hired that a lot. He was a situational leader who was a one-minute manager. He did it all. That ministry is all over the world. It’s housed in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It’s a wonderful community. Servant leadership is love in action. That’s what we need to model in life.
Ken, thank you so much again for being on the show and sharing your wisdom and love to everyone.
It’s great to be with you, Jesse. This was fun.
- The Secret
- The One Minute Manager
- Gung Ho!
- Raving Fans
- Whale Done!
- The Simple Truths of Service
- I’m Okay – You’re Okay
- Management of Organizational Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources
- The Family Game: A Situational Approach to Effective Parenting
- Young Presidents Organization
- Visualization: Directing the Movies of Your Mind
- The Value of Courage: The Story of Jackie Robinson
- The Value of Determination: The Story of Helen Keller
- The Value of Honesty: The Story of Confucius
- Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life
- Barbara Glanz
- Howard Farfel
- Servant Leadership in Action
- Lead Like Jesus
About Ken Blanchard
Few people have influenced the day-to-day management of people and companies more than Ken Blanchard. A prominent, sought-after author, speaker, and business consultant, Dr. Blanchard is respected for his lifetime of groundbreaking research and thought leadership that has influenced the day-to-day management and leadership of people and companies throughout the world.
With a passion to turn every leader into a servant leader, Ken Blanchard shares his insightful and powerful message with audiences around the world through speeches, consulting services, and bestselling books. When Ken speaks, he speaks from the heart with warmth and humor. No matter how large the audience, he is able to communicate with each person as if the two of them were alone and talking one on one. Ken is a sophisticated storyteller with a knack for making the seemingly complex easy to understand.
Ken’s impact as an author is far-reaching. His iconic 1982 classic, The One Minute Manager, coauthored with Spencer Johnson, has sold more than 13 million copies and remains on bestseller lists today. In the past three decades, he has authored or coauthored 60 books whose combined sales total more than 21 million copies. His groundbreaking works—including Raving Fans, The Secret, and Leading at a Higher Level, to name just a few—have been translated into more than 42 languages. In 2005 Ken was inducted into Amazon’s Hall of Fame as one of the top 25 bestselling authors of all time.
Dr. Ken Blanchard is the cofounder and Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies, an international management training and consulting firm that he and his wife, Margie Blanchard, began in 1979 in San Diego, California. In addition to being a renowned speaker, author and consultant, Ken is a trustee emeritus of the Board of Trustees at his alma mater, Cornell University, and he also teaches students in the Master of Science in Executive Leadership Program at the University of San Diego.
Born in New Jersey and raised in New York, Ken received his master’s degree from Colgate University and his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees from Cornell University.
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