Data dilution

John F. Kennedy once remarked,
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” And people have taken this philosophy to heart.

They attend lectures, seminars and night
classes on a host of topics. They subscribe
to cable television services that provide a
nearly limitless smorgasbord of choices.
They proudly report to their friends that
they’re “on their third book this month.”
And they surf the Web. But how much of
this information really sticks? How much
of it has an impact on people’s lives, either
professional or personal?

“Very little,” says Dr. Dick Ruhe, a senior
consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard
Companies®. “And if there is a trend right
now, it’s in the wrong direction. Now, we
can get our hands almost immediately on
anything that’s out there. The problem is
there’s too much of it.”

Smart Business spoke with Ruhe about
this tidal wave of information and what to
do about it. He recently coauthored “Know
Can Do!” with Ken Blanchard and Paul J.
Meyer. The book deals head-on with the
challenge of getting things to stick.

What are the three reasons people don’t

The first is ‘information overload.’ There
is simply too much coming in. People
either don’t focus, or can’t. The mass of
data dilutes any one piece of it. We don’t
need more breadth, we need more depth.
The second is ‘negative filtering.’ People
close their own minds through negative
thinking. They critically question all new
ideas. Such evaluation is helpful, but too
much of it is crippling. The third is ‘lack of
follow-up.’ The research is clear that even
when people successfully incorporate
fresh information into their thinking, it rapidly goes away unless used very soon.

Can less actually be more when it comes to
reading and learning?

One of the problems that people have
with knowledge is they keep wanting to
know new things. Who wouldn’t want to be
in the group that wants to know new
things? Besides, they actually don’t have a
choice. We already know that most people
spend the majority of their communications time reading and listening, rather
than writing and speaking. So there is a
nonstop flood of information coming in.
People complain about being buried in it.

The problem is that people can only
emphasize a few things. Those who try to
emphasize everything emphasize nothing.
In order to take advantage of new information, we have to reduce this flood down to
the ‘critical few.’

The book mentions Green Light Thinking.
What is that?

Not only are people themselves hyper-critical, but they are surrounded by wet
blankets. When approached by others with
ideas, there is a natural human tendency to
look for what is wrong or at least the major
obstacles to adopting a new order of
things. A limited amount of this is OK, but
too much reduces any chance of running
with a new approach or solution.

We suggest holding people accountable
for Green Light Thinking. Before they can
say anything negative about something,
they must identify reasons and solutions
that support it. There will be plenty of time
later to coarse- or fine-tune the recommendation. During meetings it can make
sense to literally assign someone to be the
Green Light Thinker. The person becomes
the advocate and contributes the optimism and positive mindset that often are

How can you change the energy level people
have to do things differently?

An essential ingredient in making change
happen, any kind of change, is ensuring
that there are positive consequences in
place. Whether it’s for others or for ourselves, there must be a conscious or subconscious association of good things with
the initiative. Energy includes drive, motivation, attitude, inspiration, enthusiasm,
etc. All of these have a strong positive correlation with positive consequences. If you
go on a diet, recognize progress — any
progress. If you are trying to adopt a new
problem-solving system, celebrate success
in moving forward.

How does the concept of unconditional love
come into play?

This is quite related to positive consequences. People get so accustomed to trying to do better, they actually don’t even
see the improvement; they only see where
they could have done better. So they pre-dispose themselves to a critical, negativistic attitude. In ‘Know Can Do!’ we suggest
‘catching people doing something right.’
Many people go through their whole lives
trying to finally get approval from important others who may not even be with them
any longer — parents, teachers, coaches
and so on. There isn’t enough unconditional love. If there were, there would be less
dissatisfaction and depression and more
good in the world.

DICK RUHE is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. Reach him through The Ken Blanchard Companies
Web site at

Driving results through culture

Corporate culture — an organization’s
personality — is the sum total of the
company’s values, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and practices of its members. But
many managers may have just a vague view
of their organization’s culture and little background around how it came to be.

So how is corporate culture established in
most organizations?

“By default,” says Chris Edmonds, senior
consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard
Companies.® “And if organizational cultures
are created by default rather than intention,
you’ll likely have people who aren’t consistently behaving in ways that deliver high-quality solutions.”

Smart Business recently spoke with
Edmonds about how to assess your company’s culture and how you can transform culture if you’re willing to move away from seeing it as a soft and fuzzy, irrelevant concept.

Why is culture so important?

Our research and research by Jim Collins,
the Gallup Organization and others provides
abundant evidence that work forces with
engaged and accountable people deliver
strong customer loyalty, increased productivity and higher profitability and return for
shareholders. One of our culture change
clients, Banta Catalog, generated a 20 percent increase in employee passion, turnover
was cut by 50 percent and profitability
improved 36 percent in the first year of the
values alignment process. The creation of a
purposeful culture — one that holds employees accountable for exceeding performance
expectations while modeling the organization’s declared values — is critical for business leaders in today’s marketplace.

What are the ideal foundations and the realities of culture?

We talk about four foundations of culture,
including vision, purpose, values and strategies. Vision is what you are striving to
become and purpose is about what you are in
the business of doing. Values are what you
stand for and use as a guide for actions and
decisions, while strategies are your plan for
making your vision a reality while living your
purpose and your values.

Unfortunately, most organizational cultures
happen by default rather than by intention,
and the existing culture of an organization
can hold staff back from consistent high performance and strong engagement. Existing
practices can actually ensure delivery of mediocre performance and poor customer service, which cost companies money every day.

Where will leaders find soft spots in their
corporate culture?

Many organizations publish a mission statement and desired values, but values are not
measured or monitored with the same discipline and diligence as goal accomplishment
and performance. And culture often is
viewed by senior leaders as soft, not relevant
to performance and hard to put one’s hands
on. If you can’t measure culture, it is seen as
peripheral to core business operations. The
trick is, if you’re not getting what you want,
then it’s time to change those expectations.

How can culture be transformed?

First, you have to assess the issues with a
purposeful culture assessment. The assessment differentiates between current reality
and best practices, provides a snapshot of
current organizational systems and practices,
and it can be used as a gap reduction or
action planning tool.

After the assessment, you have to take
proactive steps and intentionally create a culture that allows the organization to differentiate itself from competitors, to really live its
values, and to really deliver on the promises
it makes for products and services. Most senior leaders have never experienced successful culture change. Far fewer have led successful culture change. Senior executives
and senior leadership teams must learn to
follow proven practices that fit their unique
environment and effectively manage obstacles and gain traction on the desired high-performance, values-aligned culture. The focus
is not to simply identify culture issues but to
map out strategies to address those gaps,
execute that strategy, and see demonstrable
improvement in performance.

What are the best culture transformation
practices and their outcomes?

First, senior management must embrace
and actively lead the change effort, and a
steering committee should be in place to
guide the change. You must ensure there is
involvement at all levels. It’s critical that all
staff members are held accountable for
demonstrating the new behaviors and rules,
and finally, continued communication about
the change and stories that reinforce the
effort must be in place.

The outcomes to these best practices are
numerous. Following the best practices creates involvement and buy-in for change
throughout the organization and creates
accountability for creating and sustaining the
culture. Next, it provides a vision that people
can relate to and increases organizational
alignment and focus. It also aligns performance expectations, values and rewards systems, and creates a sense of community and
pride. Finally, following best practices
demonstrates measurable gains in performance and passion and creates an environment in which even small changes can have
dramatic impact.

CHRIS EDMONDS is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies in Escondido. Reach him at The Ken Blanchard
Companies Web site at

Managing up

As business leaders compete to boost
their return on human capital while
perfectly executing their company’s latest business strategies, it’s no wonder
that employee passion remains a top priority. So how are today’s leaders creating a passionate work force, energized and prepared
to meet the challenges of today’s agile

“We have companies that are trying to do
more with less, with a shrinking employee
population,” says Phil Reynolds, senior consulting partner, The Ken Blanchard
Companies®. “So companies must create
self leaders who will give the extra energy
toward the key performance indicators critical for overall organizational vitality.”

Smart Business recently spoke with
Reynolds about certain key concepts discussed in Ken Blanchard’s book “Self
Leadership and the One Minute Manager,”
(coauthored with Susan Fowler and
Laurence Hawkins) including how managing up helps self leaders get the job done,
builds trust and creates passion in the people who are willing to give extra effort.

What is the definition of a self leader?

The book ‘Self Leadership and the One
Minute Manager’ defines a self leader as
someone who has both the skill sets and the
mindset to lead themselves to reach their
critical tasks and goals.

How is self leadership a benefit to organizations?

Companies want to create a work force
that is both able and willing to meet the challenges of today’s fast-paced, flatter organizations. There’s been a lot of focus on retention
as the grand prize, but sticking around might
actually mean that people are stuck in a rut,
and retention doesn’t automatically deliver
stellar performance or extraordinary effort.

Self leaders are employees who will be
both productive and also go the extra mile
toward achieving those key performance
indicators and key work areas. So it’s not just
people sticking around or hanging around —
it’s retaining people who are actually giving
their best to the customers and to their job.

How does an employee ‘manage up’?

As a self manager, you must first honestly
ask yourself a set of questions including,
what is the task or goal I’m being asked to
do? Am I competent? Do I have the skills to
do this task and goal? What’s my commitment level? Am I motivated? Am I confident
I can do this task without help? Once you
determine these needs, then you can begin
to ask yourself if you need additional direction or support. Managing up means not just
going to your leader but also taking the
responsibility of going wherever you need to
go to get what you need. It could be your
boss, it could be your colleague, or it could
be a team member.

What is a major roadblock to managing up?

Mindset can be the most difficult aspect of
managing up. You can have the skills in place,
but if your mindset is that you believe you
can’t manage up, you won’t. Let’s say you feel
your boss won’t listen to any of your ideas —
that is a constraint you have around your
working conditions. So that assumed constraint — a belief based on past experience
that limits current experience — actually limits you from managing up. One of the things
that research has shown is that the truth will
not set you free. Someone can come in and
tell you the truth about something, but unless
you have a mindset and framework that reinforces that, you’re not going to act on it.

Where do you see companies struggling with
building self leaders?

We’ve taught leaders how to let go, but we
haven’t taught people how to hang on. Companies teach leaders how to delegate, communicate and lead through change, but we
don’t teach the employees how to manage
themselves through that process. When you
empower leaders but they don’t know what
you’re empowering them for, they become
frustrated because they feel that the organization is dumping work on them. With no
sense of enthusiasm around what they’re
doing, they’ll do the very minimum required.

What are the managers’ responsibilities for
self leadership?

The managers’ responsibilities are communicating to employees a clear picture of what
a good job looks like, a clear outcome or target, and then providing the communication
mechanism or venue for the employees to be
able to share with them what they need. The
main responsibility of the manager is to provide the followers what they cannot provide
for themselves by building trust with fair
practices and helping them reach their goals.

What are the responsibilities of self leaders?

As a self leader, your job is to diagnose and
determine what you need from your leader.
Most of the research that has been done on
the subject of leadership has been written
from the perspective of the leader — the top-down approach. The leader ‘empowers’ you
or tries to ‘engage’ you in the workplace. The
self leader takes ownership for the power
and responsibility that is given to him or her
in the workplace.

PHIL REYNOLDS is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. Reach him through The Ken Blanchard Companies
Web site at

Motivational momentum

The euphoria and promise of a new
employee’s first few weeks can be difficult to maintain. Recent studies have shown that, over time, nearly 70 percent of
employees become disengaged with their

These numbers suggest a gap in leadership’s ability to build on the initial energy of
a new hire. Workers always hit the ground
running, but without a mix of motivation,
inspiration and a clear vision of the big picture, they soon run out of steam. So how do
the best leaders maintain motivational

“Every day, our employees leave us clues or
triggers about what motivates them,” says
Mark Paskowitz, senior consulting partner,
The Ken Blanchard Companies® in Escon-dido. “We need to be aware of what they are.”

Smart Business recently spoke with
Paskowitz about the perils of a one-size-fits-all motivational strategy and why the best
leaders know how their followers are feeling when they come to work on Monday

How can a motivational strategy backfire?

I remember early in my career as a new
supervisor wanting to acknowledge one of
my peak performers for a job well done.
Since I was extroverted in my personality
and communication style, I assumed that my
employee would like to be acknowledged in
front of 50 of her peers. Immediately after
the public celebration, she pulled me aside
and said, ‘Never do that again.’ She was an
introvert and didn’t like public celebrations.
As a new supervisor, it was an early wake-up
call, which taught me one size doesn’t fit all.
What motivates one person may not motivate another.

What practical tools and insights can managers apply immediately?

It starts when employees first join your
organization. How do you maintain their initial excitement about joining the company?
Their immediate manager can make all the
difference in the world. I remember, before
payroll automation, a manager who would
leave positive comments regarding my performance attached to my paychecks. It was a small and simple thing, and yet, it was very
powerful. People want four to five positive
strokes to one redirect/reprimand. Redirection should be focused around keeping the
energy positive and delivered while not punishing someone who is still learning. You
learn a lot about organizational culture and
leadership when people make mistakes. It is
human nature to largely focus on people
making mistakes instead of when they do a
great job. Praise is one of the most underutilized skills that managers can always do
more of.

What are some different forms of motivation?

Intrinsic motivation focuses on activities
an employee enjoys doing that bring them
meaning, fulfillment and enjoyment. The key
is being able to tie the intrinsic needs of the
person with critical performance indicators.
Can this worker find fulfillment with what he
or she is doing while providing value and
high performance for the organization? The
critical question to ask as leaders is how do
our employees feel when they come to work
on Monday morning?

Extrinsic motivation focuses on external
rewards or outcomes an employee receives for doing a job well. Whether it’s a promotion or earning a well-deserved raise, the
key is to build the person’s confidence and
competence so he or she performs well on a
day-to-day basis. The focus should remain
on what we can do to help our employees
achieve success.

What motivational methods are best from an
organizational perspective?

One of the big motivational factors for
organizations is having individuals understand how what they do is tied to something
bigger or how what they do ties to the business strategy and organizational purpose.
You must ask yourself, ‘Do people rally
around the vision of our organization?’

Another best practice is to tie great performance into the performance management process. A lot of people fear the end of
the year review because they aren’t sure
what is coming. By having frequent and
quality conversations, we ensure that
employees are aware of what is going on.
That way we celebrate having employees at
the end of the year earning an A. The key is
to develop a systematic process instead of
an annual event.

How can leaders define a process for motivational strategies moving forward?

In partnering and coaching our employees,
we must take the time to intimately get to
know them — letting them know we care
and continuously inquiring about their interests and well-being. The old saying, ‘People
want to know you care before they care how
much you know’ is so true. You should develop a series of courageous and compelling
questions to help discern your workers’
motivations. Some questions to ask include:
What brings them energy and fulfillment?
What do they strive for in a great working
relationship? How do they learn successfully on the job? Where do they see themselves
going in the future? How can we best support them? These are a sampling of the questions we need to ask over time to maintain
motivational momentum.

MARK PASKOWITZ is a senior consulting partner at The Ken Blanchard Companies. Reach him through The Ken Blanchard Companies
Web site at

Don’t be the last to know

When a poor leadership style is
revealed by climate surveys or 360
feedback, ugly symptoms like frequent turnover and low morale may
already have a foothold in the company.

There are many ineffective leadership
styles — from being too collaborative, too
analytical, too controlling or too slow —
that can send employees running to the

“One of the most difficult styles for teams
is when the leader is perceived as arrogant
and self-serving,” says Linda Miller, global
liaison for coaching, The Ken Blanchard
Companies. “This style often results in a
team that is demoralized or stalled in its
development toward self-reliance because
the leader wants to be overly involved.”

Smart Business recently spoke with
Miller about how executive coaching, if
properly sold and embraced, can help
struggling leaders recognize behaviors like
arrogance that, when changed, create
opportunities for exponential personal and
team growth.

How is an executive best sold on a coaching

Especially with high-level leaders, it’s
important to position executive coaching
as an investment, based on wanting them to
progress upward in the company. Even
when behaviors need to be addressed, positioning coaching as an investment rather
than as a punishment creates higher buy-in
from the leader.

One of the first areas to address with arrogant and self-serving leaders is their level of
self-awareness. Often with arrogance, the
level of self-awareness is low, even though
the leader may not agree that it’s low. Denial
might be another way to put it. Getting this
leader’s attention is a first step, and this can
occur through multirater (360) feedback
tools. Part of the purpose and goal of coaching is to get agreement that the leader is
behaving in a way that is having an unintended impact. If the leader doesn’t agree
that behaviors need to change, it limits the
success of the coaching. The success of the
coaching improves when the leader is fully
engaged with the process and recognizes
that behaviors must change.

What happens in the early phases of the
coach/leader relationship?

In the interview and early phases of
coaching, rapport and credibility must be
established within the first few minutes.
Whether the initial coaching contacts are
by telephone or face to face, there has to be
a sense that there is a good connection and
partnership for a working relationship. Part
of this is establishing a clear agreement
about what coaching is and is not, what to
expect, logistics, etc. It’s also important to
establish the leader’s level of buy-in. For
example, is the leader complying with the
coaching because he or she was required to
be coached, or does the leader want to be
coached, knowing that he or she is engaging in the process as a choice for his or her
own development? Once this is determined, it’s time to identify and clarify the
focus for the coaching. Identifying at least
two to three clear objectives for coaching,
based on feedback, is best. Many leaders
decide to invite their leader or HR professional into this conversation to ensure the
correct objectives are being addressed —
for the leader as well as the organization.

How do accomplished leaders first react to
the coaching experience?

There are a variety of responses. Many
have no idea what to expect. Some don’t
want the truth and are reluctant or defensive. Others embrace the coaching eagerly.
I’ve been asked, ‘What makes you credible
to coach me, and why should I talk with
you?’ Another commented, ‘I have no idea
what coaching is or why I’m here. Am I in
trouble?’ Another said, ‘I know where I
want to go in this company, but I’m not getting there. I’m committed to moving forward.’ In a best-case scenario, the leader
will be open with the coach and express
concerns, skepticism or hope so that the
responses can be addressed early.

What benefits await leaders who make the
commitment to coaching?

Leaders who embrace coaching can find
themselves growing exponentially. Remember, we are talking about high-functioning
people. When they embrace coaching, they
often recognize behaviors or results they
hadn’t seen before, and they can use this to
make substantial changes in their team.

A great example is the senior leader who
knew he was going to be tapped for an
executive position, and coaching was
offered to him for his development. Many
years before, this person had seriously
offended an executive leader in the organization and now this executive was blocking his promotion. As part of the coaching,
the leader decided that he needed to clean
up this old mess, and he spent several
coaching sessions planning his approach.
When he called the executive and took
responsibility for the situation that had
occurred, he was amazed at the executive’s
response. Several months later, the leader
was tapped for the executive position and
ultimately found out that his former adversary had become one of his biggest advocates. This is just one of the prizes that can
await those who embrace coaching.

LINDA MILLER is global liaison for coaching at The Ken Blanchard Companies and co-author of a new book entitled, “Coaching in
Organizations: Best Coaching Practices from The Ken Blanchard Companies.” Reach her through The Ken Blanchard Companies Web
site at

The best bosses

Take a moment to remember your
favorite boss — the person who most
inspired you to be your best. Have you ever examined further the traits you most
admired in him or her? Looking past that person’s awards and successes, you’ll likely
uncover a caring leader, skilled in relationship management.

So what creates the foundation for a caring
and effective style for leading people to be
their best?

“It’s all about healthy, successful, effective
relationships,” says Ann Phillips, senior consulting partner, The Ken Blanchard Companies, in San Diego. “And it’s our relationships — positive or negative — that determine the outcomes and results we get.”

Smart Business recently spoke with
Phillips about certain key concepts explained in Ken Blanchard’s book, “Whale
Done,” including “best boss activities” and
the three keys to positive relationships.

What is putting even more focus on leadership activities?

According to a 2002 study by The
Conference Board, just over half of all workers in the U.S. are satisfied with their jobs,
compared to 59 percent back in 1995. So
today’s leaders have to develop strategies
around increasing employee retention and
keeping the best talent. We talk a lot about
improving service to your team members
and customers because employees who feel
appreciated and fairly treated take better
care of one another and your customers. Ken
Blanchard said, ‘The one thing your competition can never steal from you is the relationship you have with your people and the relationship they have with your customers.’

What is the basis for a good relationship-building strategy?

There are three keys to positive relationships, including building trust, accentuating
the positive and redirecting the energy when
mistakes are made. To build trust, your team
should perceive that you mean no harm. For
this to happen, you need to be visible, with a
physical presence. Another key is to make
yourself known by sharing some personal
experience with your followers and engaging them in meaningful dialogue. And you’ve got
to follow up this dialogue by maintaining
consistency between your words and your
deeds. Finally, the best leaders are always
asking themselves, ‘How can I help people
grow?’ You’ve got to create a framework to
educate and train in a scenario that allows
risks and encourages experimentation.

Should leaders focus on improving negative
behavior or accentuating the positives?

One of the most effective ways to improve
negative behavior is to focus on positive
behavior. You absolutely need to accentuate
the positives, with the mindset of catching
people doing things right or at least almost
right. You first may need to undo your
‘gotcha’ history. Do you make time to talk?
Do you thoroughly explain the changes you
wish to make? And are you patient with yourself and others?

The groundwork for effective praising
starts with immediately telling people exactly what they did right or almost right, why
you care, and what the impact of their
actions was. This also is a great time to ask
why they did it and learn their motivation.
Finally, encourage them to keep up the good work and remember that the reward for
good work should not be more work.

How should leaders respond to mistakes?

Leaders often struggle with this: How do
you redirect the energy when mistakes are
made? Discipline should be reserved for
‘won’t do’ behavior, not ‘can’t do’ behavior.
Positive consequences and sustainability
strategies are important because 85 to 90 percent of what impacts future behavior comes
from consequences — what happens after
somebody does something. Leaders need to
learn that sustaining performance requires
learning the effect of four consequences: No
response, negative response, positive response and redirection. We find that most
leaders focus on the first two, when the biggest impact really comes from the last two.

How is behavior best redirected?

It’s important to describe the error or problem as soon as possible — clearly and without blame — and describe to them the negative impact of their actions. If it’s appropriate,
take the blame for not making the task clear.
Go over the task in detail and make sure it is
clearly understood, and express your continuing trust and confidence in the person’s ability to master the task.

What are proven ‘best boss’ activities for
leading people to be their best?

Try looking back at how you became the
leader you are today. Think of a person you
believe was your best boss and ask yourself
what made that person your best boss. Did
he provide tools and resources? Did he praise
and recognize? Was she a visionary? Did she
challenge you? This person may have had
those and many other admirable qualities,
but if you look more closely, you will realize
he or she genuinely cared about you as a person, not only as an employee. The journey to
improving relationships and leading people
to be their best may not always be easy, but it
will surely be worth it when they look back
and remember you as their best boss.

ANN PHILLIPS is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies in San Diego. Reach her through The Ken Blanchard
Companies Web site at

Pay it forward

No company is perfect, and, eventually, a big mistake may cost you a
big customer. But when you begin losing customers over small issues, it
may be a sign that it’s time to revisit
your commitment to being a customer-focused company.

When a trend of losing customers
develops, many leaders make a beeline
for their customer service department.
After all, isn’t it responsible for keeping
clients satisfied? Not if your goal is to
become customer-focused. The best
customer-focused initiatives run from
the top all the way down, and the speed
at which customers run to your competitor is, in fact, directly related to the
depth of their relationship with your
front-line employees.

“When you have emotional connections with your customers, it really
binds you together,” says Kathy Riley
Cuff, senior consulting partner, The Ken
Blanchard Companies. “And to get that
connection, your front-line employees
have to be passionate— if you don’t
have great employees dealing with your
clients, you’re going to continue turning
over customers.”

Smart Business recently spoke with
Cuff about why every company really is
in the business of customer service and,
while your products or services may
bring customers to your door, how it’s
the relationships that keep them coming

Is there a growth stage in organizations
when customer service typically suffers?

Yes. It happens when a company tries
to grow too big, too fast — bigger than
its ability to manage the process. You’ve
got to do your homework and have a

A lot of successful companies are successful in spite of themselves. You might
open up 10 new offices, but if your systems do not support that growth, your
internal folks, your employees, are the
ones that suffer, hearing the frustrations
from external customers doing business
with you. They’d like to serve the customer, but the current systems you have don’t support them. You need to set
them up for success so they can better
serve the external customer.

Can you describe an emotional customer

Here’s a grassroots example of building emotional connections. There’s a little restaurant where I live, with good
food and moderate prices. When my
kids were young, if the restaurant wasn’t busy, the owner would come over
and take my kids and say ‘come on kids,
let’s go look at the rabbits out the back
door.’ There were probably never any
rabbits there, but the owner wanted to
give us 10 minutes of peace and quiet at
the table alone together.

What happened was, the times we
went in and the service wasn’t great or
they were really busy and short-staffed,
I was willing to make exceptions for
that. I even got up and poured my own
water. The moral of the story is if you
don’t have an emotional connection
with your customers, it’s much easier
for them to find fault with you.

What is the most difficult aspect of creating a customer-focused company?

It’s getting people to buy in from the top
down and then getting them to live it. Top
management must walk the talk and really be good role models to the service initiatives. They can’t just say it and go
along with it to appease others — they’ve
got to be living it day in and day out and
promoting the beliefs. Beliefs drive
behaviors. For example, if you have a
customer service department, everybody
in the company may believe that department is the only one that deals with customer service. Instead, you have to get
everybody in the organization to believe
that it is everyone’s responsibility to
deliver service. The other difficult aspect
is keeping it front of mind. This shouldn’t
be the training program of the month;
you should be promoting that: We are
going to be a customer-focused company,
and we are going to consistently and persistently keep it in front of you.

How can you turn front-line employees into
customer-focused employees?

There’s been a lot of research by my
colleagues around the leadership profit
chain. They found three aspects that
make an organization vital, including
financial success, employee passion and
customer devotion. The results have
shown a direct correlation between
employee passion and customer devotion and, if you have those two, financial
success happens.

Your people need to be asked for their
input on things and need to feel like
they’re listened to and that their ideas
matter. And I’m a true believer that there
is very little information that should be
withheld from your employees, because
you want to create ownership in these
folks — you want them to feel like this is
their business. An employee who feels
valued and supported by the systems is
going to be happier dealing with your
external customers.

KATHY RILEY CUFF is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies in San Diego. Reach her through The Ken
Blanchard Companies Web site at

Operational vs. strategic

It’s no accident that companies like
Microsoft, Starbucks and Southwest
Airlines are giants in their industries. They continue to grow because people get charged
up to work in the cultures these organizations present.

“Whenever you talk to people at companies
who are chasing some kind of industry
leader, they always think the other company
has a better strategy,” says Scott Blanchard,
executive vice president, Client Solutions,
The Ken Blanchard Companies in San Diego.
“But what these leading companies typically
have is a better run organization, and their
strategy involves people.”

Smart Business spoke with Blanchard
about the functions of strategic leadership
and operational leadership and how their
impact on employee happiness and customer loyalty cannot be ignored.

When do the two sides of leadership

In the beginning, the founders’ visions have
to be crystal clear to form the organization.
Most of the energies have to be around strategic leadership — entrepreneuring, or inventing, the business. As a company grows and
develops and starts to create some volume,
they then need to up the focus on operational
leadership. It’s not necessary in the beginning
because it’s so small and so flat, but as the
organization grows in size and complexity,
operational leadership becomes more important. You have to be careful though that you
don’t kill the entrepreneurial spirit. Look at
Google and eBay — they’re big companies,
but growth hasn’t killed their cultures of spirit and creativity.

What variables do the two sides of leadership affect?

When we took a comprehensive look at the
research and studied how everything related,
we discovered that there were, in fact, two
kinds of leadership out there, and categories
that we originally called employee success,
customer success and organizational success
were actually much broader than we
thought. So we created new labels — buckets or catch-alls — for all kinds of different
measures of the three variables.

We found that operational leadership has a
direct, positive and/or negative effect on
hard and soft measures of employee passion or employee success. It matters to the
way people feel about the company, the way
they think about the company, and the
memories and the meaning they create
working there. It also has a very strong
impact on customer success because the
operational managers make decisions
around the products and services you offer,
and they’re the ones ultimately responsible
for the quality of the service and the customer experience. Operational leadership
has less of an effect on organizational vitality or success because that primarily comes
from your customers and employees.

What is the most important connection
between the two sides of leadership and the

The connection between employee passion
and customer devotion is two-way and is so
strong that any prudent business leader cannot ignore it. Many organizations are run as if
those dynamics don’t matter very much.
Leaders need to understand how important it
is to create the right kind of culture, hire good
managers, and provide those managers with the skills and abilities to make employees
happy, productive and loyal — instead of
seemingly doing the opposite.

It starts with strategic leadership. If there’s
not a declared value — an imperative within
the company that says we are going to be a
really healthy company — then by default,
the natural dynamics of humans in organizations emerge. I often say that the only natural
things that happen in an organization are fear,
frustration, inefficiency, friction and political
mayhem. If you want to make something
positive happen, you need a clear vision and
a plan, and you need to stick to the plan.

How do the two sides of leadership impact
each other?

They have to support each other. It’s a cascading model — the vision and direction set
at the top need to cascade down to the senior
leaders, middle managers, managers who
run the business, supervisors and down to
the people at the front lines. When those people get information, they need to share it, and
that information needs to flow back up to the
top. In companies that don’t work, there is a
block in energy, information and influence
that goes down and up. That’s where companies like Sears ran into so much trouble
because there were nearly a dozen layers between the president and the store manager.

What should CEOs ask themselves about
their organizations?

I often refer to 13 questions that CEOs
should consider. Some of the toughest questions include: Are your leaders and managers held accountable for employee
morale? Do your employees feel and know
their work is meaningful and important? Do
your employees perceive that top management believes, communicates and behaves
as if people are critically important to the
organization’s success? Answering no to
these questions may indicate your organization is out of alignment — with energies
spent on things like politics and resource
allocation instead of delivering better products and services to your customers.

SCOTT BLANCHARD is executive vice president, Client Solutions, with The Ken Blanchard Companies in San Diego. Reach him
through The Ken Blanchard Companies Web site at

The science of change

Today’s spotlight on business speed and
agility is magnifying the shortcomings
and frequency of poorly executed change initiatives. The truth is that nearly 70
percent of all change implementations never
bear fruit. There are many documented reasons why change initiatives fail.

“Often, the people leading the change think
that announcing change is the same as implementing it, so they don’t pay attention,” says
Patricia Zigarmi, Ed.D., organizational
change expert and Founding Associate of
The Ken Blanchard Companies. “They don’t
surface people’s concerns regarding change.”

Smart Business spoke with Zigarmi about
how change elements are predictable and
why leaders of successful change initiatives
involve a broad-based team to address
employee concerns on the front end.

Why do change efforts fail?

A big reason why change efforts fail is leaders often don’t surface people’s concerns.
The immediate reaction when people are
asked to change is, ‘What am I going to give
up?’ They’re talking to each other about
those concerns but not to the change sponsors. Leaders need to eavesdrop on the conversations about concerns people are having.
Another big reason change fails is because
the people who are asked to change are not
involved in the planning for it. These employees feel closest to the customer, the work
processes and the problems at hand, and
they want to influence the changes that are
being architected at the top.

Some initiatives fail when there is no communicated sense of urgency or when the
business case for the change isn’t made clear.
People need to see a gap between the what-is and the what’s-possible. People are smart
— if you help them understand the change
from the standpoint of the person deciding
the change, they’ll come to the same conclusions about compelling reasons to change.
Other factors for failure include misaligned
systems within the company and change
leaders who are not credible or trustworthy.

Are there predictable reactions to change?

Absolutely. People have predictable and
sequential concerns with change. In the 1980s, I worked on a study to find out why a
set of educational initiatives tested extremely well, but when they were rolled out, they
didn’t achieve results on a mass basis. What
we found out was that nobody had surfaced
the concerns of the teachers with regard to
the changes. We created a model and ended
up proving in subsequent change efforts that
reactions to change are indeed predictable
and sequential.

How can change leaders apply this model?

The model delineated six buckets of concerns with change, and if leaders would only
pay attention to the first three, the rest of the
change would take care of itself. The first
bucket is around information concerns.
People don’t want to be sold on the change.
They want to know what it is, what you are
seeing and why things have to change. The
second bucket involves personal concerns.
They’re the most ignored because they sound
like whining, but what they really are, are
clues about resistance to the proposed
change. People don’t want to know why the
change is good for the company; they want to
know why it’s good for them, and they want
to know if they will be able to master the new skills the change requires. The third bucket is
around the nitty-gritty implementation concerns like system alignment, best practices
and the daily mechanics of making the
change happen.

The remaining buckets of concern are
impact concerns — does the change make a
difference; collaboration concerns — who
else needs to be on board; and refinement
concerns — what’s even better than what
you’re doing right now?

How can leaders best communicate change?

I think the minute people sense a crack in
senior leadership support for the change,
they think they don’t have to get on board, or
they believe they can wait around and see
what happens. It’s really important for dialogue to happen around the change, at the
top. What is the compelling case? What is the
vision? What is the picture of the future if
this change were to be successfully implemented?

The real need here is for leaders to speak
with one voice, to communicate the same
message, no matter who is communicating.
Leaders must explain the priority of a change
against all the other initiatives going on in the
company. Leaders also should express trust
and confidence in the decisions of their colleagues because if that doesn’t happen, the
change is doomed from the front end.

What are the key steps to a successful
change initiative?

Top-down change efforts appear to get off
to a faster start, but many times, the reality is
all of the details aren’t thought out and ultimately the change doesn’t get implemented.
Leaders need to listen to people’s concerns
and find ways to address them. They need to
create a compelling business case and
expand involvement and influence to gain
the buy-in of those impacted by the change at
all phases of the change process. A high-involvement, collaborative change effort dramatically increases the probability of a successful change initiative. <<

PATRICIA ZIGARMI, Ed.D., is an organizational change expert and Founding Associate of The Ken Blanchard Companies, a global
leader in workplace learning, productivity, performance and leadership effectiveness. She can be reached through The Ken Blanchard
Companies Web site at

Corporate coaching goes mainstream

Ten years ago if an employer asked
you to work with a business coach,
you might have taken it as a hint to update your resume. Now, coaching is perceived both as a valuable perk offered to
high-potential individuals, and a strategy
for companies to avoid the enormous costs
related to executive failure in the first year.

But what actually occurs between a
coach and executive to propel an already
successful individual even further toward
his or her goals and objectives?

“It’s like a brain massage that produces
permanent shifts in attitudes, belief systems and how people operate,” says
Madeleine Homan, founder of Coaching
Services at The Ken Blanchard Companies
in Escondido. “It translates into observable
differences in what executives do and say
— and that’s what organizations are looking for.”

Smart Business recently spoke to
Homan about how a clear mission will produce the most successful coaching results.

Why are leaders and organizations working
with coaches?

It’s rare that an individual wakes up one
day and says, ‘Wow, I really could use a
coach.’ The main reason for bringing in a
coach is that an organization is seeking
extra support for its leaders. With the trend
toward the abolishment of middle management, your new managers may only have
time to do the bare minimum. They may
not know anything about leadership and
haven’t had time to develop good management practices for themselves. That’s
where coaching comes in.

Coaches have all of the content background about best leadership and management practices, phenomenal communication models, skills around how to deal with
power and influence models, and they’ve
read all the books that you don’t have time
to read. A coach can share the one concept
in a book that’s going to be useful to you
right this minute. Organizations also are
utilizing onboarding coaching for people
starting new jobs or making the transition
from individual contributor to manager or
from manager to senior leader.

What mindset can help maximize coaching?

Coaches understand organizations and
understand people’s temperaments, personalities and types, and they don’t judge.
Many executives go into coaching thinking
their organization is giving them coaching
because something is wrong. That’s not
coaching. Occasionally, there is coaching
to close a gap in a skill set, but mostly, it’s
for development, because leaders today
need to go from A to B so much faster than
they have in the past.

People are realizing that coaching is a
perk for those who are adding value to the
organization. That is changing the mindset
of people going into coaching. Participants
should be oriented to coaching thoroughly
so they truly understand what it is, what
they can expect to get out of it, and what’s
expected of them. It’s like anything else —
you’re going to get out of it what you put in.

Sometimes people come in and try to
‘yes’ the coach. They try to fake it and
make their coach feel like they’re actually
working. Good coaches know how to recognize that and call it out. Coaches also
challenge people when they’re willing participants, but are not stepping up or taking
the risks.

What are turning points in a coaching program?

There is a positive turning point when the
organization’s sponsors first see that the
coaching is paying off. But the first individual turning point is not always a good one.
When people start the coaching, they
establish some useful areas to focus on
with their coach, and they get into action.
They get the low-hanging fruit and make
some easy changes. But sometime around
the third or fourth session, they’ll get up
against it with actually challenging themselves to do something that’s hard. They
become a disillusioned learner and hit the
wall. The coaches know this happens, and
they’re very adept at helping them work
through to the next level of having a win.

How is a coaching relationship concluded?

It’s a mark of a novice or unethical coach
to try to keep himself in the game. Both
you and your coach have to aim for a good
ending point. If you complete the program
and say, ‘Wow! I want to keep working with
my coach to accomplish a whole new set
of objectives,’ that’s fine. But when executives hang out with their coach without
clear objectives, action items and milestones, organizations start to feel like
they’re wasting money — and they are.
Unless the mission is clear, nobody will
know what has been accomplished.

Can coaching become a permanent activity?

The amazing part of coaching is that
when you’re facing big transitions — a job
change, a move to a different company, a
huge promotion, or you’ve left the work-force to become a full-time mom — it’s
great to be able to go back to your coach.
You can cut right to the chase because
there’s all that history, and the coach
understands your values and who you are.

MADELEINE HOMAN is founder, Coaching Services, at The
Ken Blanchard Companies, a global leader in workplace learning, productivity, performance and leadership effectiveness. She
can be reached through The Ken Blanchard Companies Web site