8 Questions with Ken Blanchard

I met Ken Blanchard through Harvey Mackay's Roundtable a few years ago. Ken's best-selling book, The One Minute Manager, has been read by millions of managers in Fortune 500 companies and small businesses worldwide--and for good reason. Ken is a management expert and started The Ken Blanchard Companies, which is an international management training and consulting firm that he and his wife, Marjorie, cofounded in 1979.

I talked to Ken recently to get insight into some of the best practices that have brought him sustained success in the business world and in life and hope you will take something valuable away from our conversation.


Brandon Steiner: "A great start makes all the difference." Why?

Ken Blanchard: I’m a big believer in starting my day slowly. Rather than jumping out of bed and into my to-do list, I allow my reflective self to set the tone for the day. Every morning I read a booklet of favorite inspirational quotes.

I also read my mission statement, which is to be “a loving teacher and role model of simple truths who motivates myself and others to be aware of the presence of God in our lives and realize we are here to serve, not to be served.” Also, I’ve written my own obituary, which I read to remind me of what I’d like to be remembered for. Finally, I review my five key values. All this helps me decide who I want to be that day.

This process only takes a few minutes and it helps me begin my day with a positive, happy perspective. Instead of immediately doing activities I can check off a task list, I’m able to be thoughtful about how I approach each task. I can prioritize more easily, be more creative, and eliminate a lot of stress this way. I even have more time for the most important activity of all—spending time with loved ones. And what’s better than that? Entering my day slowly makes all the difference in being able to focus on the important things and have more energy to face challenges.

At the end of the day I try to sit and say, “How did I do today?” I give myself praisings—what did I do that I feel good about? I also write redirections—what did I do today that I’d like to redo? Do I owe anyone an apology?

BS: What is leadership?

KB: In our book Leading at a Higher Level, my coauthors and I define leadership as “the capacity to influence others by unleashing their power and potential to impact the greater good.” Leadership is a high calling. The best kind of leadership has a higher purpose than mere goal accomplishment. It’s the process of influencing others to achieve worthwhile results while acting with respect, care, and fairness for the well-being of all.

BS: How can The Ken Blanchard Companies give leaders a voice?

KB: The Ken Blanchard Companies gives leaders a voice by providing them with the knowledge and tools to make a positive difference. Whether it’s teaching skills to first-time managers or helping key leaders solve complex issues like managing growth or leading change, we are passionate about helping leaders succeed.

BS: You're given a blank piece of paper and tasked with coming up with an idea that's going to change a business. What steps do you take to create a plan?

KB: If you want to change a business into a place that turns customers into raving fans, then create a plan to treat people right. Provide them the support and encouragement they need to be their best. When you treat people like winners, they treat customers as if they’re the most important people in the world. That’s what creates raving fans—and profits. Remember, profit is the applause you get for creating a motivating environment for your people and taking care of your customers.

BS: What is the best advice you have ever received?

“Leadership is not about you, it’s about the people you serve.”

KB: I learned my first leadership lesson from my father, a World War II hero who retired as a rear admiral in the Navy. One day when I was in junior high, I came home all proud, because I had just won the election to become president of my seventh grade class. My dad said to me, “Congratulations, Ken. But now that you’re president, don’t ever use your position. Great leaders are great because people respect and trust them, not because they have power.” That was some of the best advice I ever received about leadership.

BS: If there were just two things that someone should learn from hearing you speak or reading your books, what would they be?

Of all the things I’ve ever taught, the advice I most want people to remember is to catch people doing things right. People don’t get enough acknowledgment at work. How many people complain that their boss praises them too much? I’ve never heard anyone complain about that.

The other thing I’d want people to learn is that the best kind of leadership is servant leadership. You really become an adult when you realize that you are here to serve, not to be served.

BS: What is the key to sustained success?

KB: The key to sustained success is to keep going when the going gets tough. Challenges are bound to arise no matter what business you’re in. People and companies that succeed over the long term know that there’s a difference between being interested and being committed. Rather than just talking about doing something, they actually do it. An interested exerciser wakes up in the morning to rain and says, “I think I’ll exercise tomorrow.” A committed exerciser wakes up to rain and says, “I’d better exercise inside.” Those who achieve sustained success review their vision and take steps every day to make that vision a reality.

BS: How has The One Minute Manager changed your life?

KB: The original book was such a ridiculous success—it spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list—that I knew I couldn’t take full credit for it. For some reason I think God must have been involved. I wasn’t very spiritual or religious at that time, but the success of the book began my spiritual journey, which is very important to me today.

I think it was the right book at the right time. Before The One Minute Manager, business books tended to be rather long and dry. My coauthor, Spencer Johnson, was a children’s book writer; I’d been a college professor but had never been a fan of overly complicated writing. Our goal was to take a complex subject—management—and present some simple solutions that worked. People all over the world responded to the way we did that.

The success of The One Minute Manager—which was recently revised and released as The New One Minute Manager—helped The Ken Blanchard Companies become a global international training and consulting firm and paved the way for me to publish many other bestsellers, including Gung Ho!, Raving Fans, and The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do. At last count I had coauthored 63 books—and I have no plans on stopping anytime soon!

BS: Thank you, Ken.


A minute can change everything. Watch a short clip of what Ken had to say from his recent visit to talk to my staff at Steiner Sports:


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