When Ken Blanchard was a
college professor, he was always being “investigated by
some of the best faculty committees” because on the first
day of class, he would pass out
the final exam.
“The other faculty members
would say, ‘You’re supposed to
teach these kids, but don’t give
them the questions from the
final,’ and I’d say, ‘Not only am
I going to give them the questions to the final, what do you
think I’m going to do all semester? I’m going to teach them
the answers so when they get
to the final exam, they get A’s.’”
Blanchard’s “The One Minute
Manager” and other best-sellers
written by him are on executive
bookshelves worldwide, and he
plans to explore the final-exam
concept in his next book, “Don’t
Mark My Paper — Help Me Get
an A,” which he is co-authoring
with WD-40 Co. President and
CEO Garry Ridge.
In his “spare time,” Blanchard
leads 293 employees as co-founder, chief spiritual officer
and “chief cheerleader” of The
Ken Blanchard Cos., an international management training and
consulting firm that posted
2007 revenue of $55.5 million.
Smart Business spoke with
Blanchard about how to encourage your employees to thrive.
Get your ego out of the way. The
biggest addiction that most
chief administrators, managers
and presidents have to deal with
is their ego, which I describe as
‘edging God out,’ and somehow
thinking you’re the center of the
universe. When you do that,
you’re pushing and shoving for
money, recognition, power and
status. You forget you are there
to serve rather than being
When leaders want everything
running up the hierarchy, they
create a duck pond. You end up
talking to a duck that goes
‘Quack, quack. It’s our policy.
Quack, quack. I just work here.
Quack, quack. I don’t make the
rules. Quack, quack. I’ll have to
talk to my supervisor.’
In an empowered organization, you’ll be dealing with
eagles, and they will say, ‘I’ll
take care of it. I’ll give you a call.
Consider it done.’ And when
they do that, then you will go
crazy as a customer because
you’re not used to it.
Make a plan to succeed. The first
part of empowering your
employees is performance planning. At the beginning of every
fiscal year, the leaders at WD-40
sit down with each of their
employees and they create a
final examination with goals
If they hit those kinds of numbers, they’re going to get an A.
If the employee doesn’t get an
A and the manager says, ‘I think
I’m going to have to get rid of
this person,’ Garry [Ridge, WD-40 president and CEO] asks,
‘What did you do to help him
get an A?’ If the manager can’t
tell him, he fires the manager,
not the poor performer.
Stay in the loop. The second part
of empowering employees is
day-to-day coaching. Your job as
the leader is to help your employees get an A when you’ve agreed
on what the goals and objectives
are. That’s where you turn the
pyramid upside down with your
people because you’re really
working for them now.
In so many organizations, they
have these normal distribution
curves that you have to screw a
certain percentage of your people. Or, you take the Jack Welch
philosophy and rank-order your
people. None of that builds trust.
Day-to-day coaching means
that you are in the information
loop with your employees on
their performance. You’re there
to praise their progress or redirect them if they’re off. Part of
your agreement in performance
planning is not only the final
exam but how the supervisor is
going to be kept informed on
how well the employee is doing
so the supervisor can be there
to help when the employee
You don’t want to be out of
the loop. So many managers set
goals, and then they abdicate.
The difference between delegation and abdication is that, in
abdication, you’re out of the
information loop and that creates the most familiar management style in our country —
seagull management. Seagull
managers aren’t around until you
make a mistake, and then they
fly in, make a lot of noise, dump
on everybody, and then fly out.
Be the people’s partner. Every
manager in an organization
should meet once every two
weeks for 15 to 30 minutes with
each of their direct reports. The
employee would be in charge of
the agenda, and that person
would talk about anything that’s
on his or her mind.
You can’t exceed 30 minutes
with the meeting because then
it’s going to be a drag, and people are going to start saying, ‘I
don’t have time to do this.’
For instance, if you’ve got
10 or 12 people working for
you, and you can’t afford six
hours with them over a two-week period, then you’ve got
your priorities out of whack.
You’re going to too many meetings, and you’ve forgotten your
Most bosses don’t know what
their people are doing because
they’re running around playing
politics and spending more
time sucking up the hierarchy.
They’re not focused on the
achievement of their people.
Review the results. The last part
of empowering employees is
performance evaluation. If you
really work with your people to
help them accomplish the goals,
the goals help the organization
achieve its goal. When the water
goes up, all the boats rise.
You empower people by making sure that they know what
they’re being asked to do, and
then you’re there to help them.
As they get more and more
experienced, they’re going to
need less and less help, and
that really drives them to do
HOW TO REACH: The Ken Blanchard Cos., (800) 728-6000 or www.blanchardtraining.com