Chief cheerleader Featured

8:00pm EDT August 26, 2008

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

and objectives.

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

needs help.

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

their best.

HOW TO REACH: The Ken Blanchard Cos., (800) 728-6000 or