Leading at a Higher Level


Few people have influenced the day-to-day management of people and companies more than Ken Blanchard. He’s a prominent, sought-after author, speaker, and business consultant. Dr. Blanchard is universally characterized by his friends, colleagues, and clients as one of the most insightful, powerful, and compassionate individuals in business today. Ken is one of the most influential leadership experts in the world and is respected for his years of groundbreaking work in the fields of leadership and management.

I’m sure, like most of the listeners,, I’ve been reading Ken’s stuff for the last 20 or 30 years. When Ken speaks, he speaks from the heart with warmth and humor. He is able to speak to an audience and communicate with each person as if they were alone and talking one-on-one. Ken is a sophisticated storyteller with a knack for making the seemingly complex easy to understand 

Dr. Cathy Greenberg:  I have the great honor of introducing our guest, Ken Blanchard. Dr. Blanchard is the co-founder and the Chief Spiritual Officer of the Ken Blanchard Companies. It’s an international management training and consulting firm that he and his lovely wife Margie began back in 1979 in San Diego, California. In addition to being a renowned speaker and outstanding consultant, Ken also spends time as a visiting lecturer at his alma mater, Cornell University. He is also a trustee emeritus on their board.

Starting with his phenomenal best-selling book, The One Minute Manager, coauthored with Spencer Johnson, which by the way has sold more than 13 million copies and still remains the best-seller, he’s also added to that list, Raving Fans, Gung Ho!, and Whale Done! Ken’s impact as a writer is really far reaching. His books have combined sales of more than 18 million copies and have been translated into more than 25 languages. Leading at a Higher Level, published in 2006, and Know Can Do!, published in 2009, have now graced the shelves along with The One Minute Entrepreneur, published in 2008, and all are receiving critical acclaim.

Ken has received many, many awards and honors for his outstanding contributions in the fields of management, leadership, and speaking. The National Speakers Association awarded him one of their highest honors, the “Council of Peers Award of Excellence.” He was inducted into the HRD Hall of Fame by Training magazine and Lakewood Conferences, and he has received the Golden Gavel Award from Toastmasters International.

Ken has received The Thought Leadership Award for his continued support of work-related to learning and performance by ISA and Ken has been inducted into Amazon’s Hall of Fame as one of the top 25 best-selling authors of all time. The business school at Grand Canyon University bears his name and Ken teaches students in the Masters of Science in Executive Leadership Program at the University of San Diego.

Ken Blanchard:  Well it’s a joy to be with you and what good work you guys are all doing in both the coaching realm and emotional intelligence. It’s so important, you know, I just feel more and more of the leaders and parents need to realize that life is not just about performance and results. It’s about both people and results. It’s not an either/or, it’s both and we can’t do anything without the people around us, so I applaud what you guys are doing.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg:  Thank you. I want to give Relly here the opportunity to ask the juiciest question of all so, you go ahead, Relly.

Dr. Relly Nadler:  Very good. Well thanks, Ken. It’s great to have you on the call like I said earlier. It’s probably been 25 to 30 years of looking at your books for me. What we like to start off with is just give us a little bit of your background of how you got into this leadership area. Then could you talk about your philosophy and some of the key people that may have influenced you so that we can get a little bit of the make up of who Ken Blanchard is?

Dr. Ken Blanchard:  Well you know, when I think about who really got me into this field, I have to really first of all think of my mother and my father. My father was a wonderful character. He retired as an Admiral in the Navy but he was kind of a Mr. Roberts character. I’ll never forget in 7th grade, I was elected president of the class and I came home and I’m all pumped up and dad says, “Congratulations, Ken but now that you have a leadership position, don’t ever use it.” He said, “Great leaders are great because people respect and trust them not because they have power.” So, here I am. a young kid with a father starting to teach him that.

My mother believed in positive thinking, I think before Norman Vincent Peale started talking about it, she told everybody, “I laughed before I cried. I danced before I walked. I smiled before I frowned.” So it’s pretty hard for me not to come out as a positive person who really thought that leadership was not all about power and control and all those kinds of things.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg:   You know, as you were speaking, Ken, I can’t help but think of a very small but very powerful book that I have carried around since 1999 when it was published called, The Heart of a Leader. It had a lot of the little sayings that you just shared with our audience and in that book and maybe as we go through our conversation today together, we can take a look at some of those things and how you have chosen to take what you’ve learned and influence those around you using those very resilient words. Would that be okay with you?

Ken Blanchard:   Yes. It would be interesting, you know, and in The One Minute Entrepreneur that I wrote, we have at the end of each section, One Minute Insights. The Heart of the Leader is really like one minute insight because you know, as I look back, Cathy and Relly, when the people who have impacted my life the most didn’t go on with long diatribes, you know and all. It was just short, pithy advice that really made a difference like my father saying, “Now that you’ve got a position, don’t use it.” My mother used to say, “Choose your friends carefully because people are going to be looking at who you associate with and through that, they’re going to get the impression of who you are and who you gather around you.” That’s really kind of a key. I wish the presidential candidates would tell everybody now who their cabinet was going to be. I want to know who’s going to be gathering around them.

Dr. Relly Nadler:   Right. That’s exactly true because now, that’s the next step for them as a leader. Ken, I was thinking in preparing for this, you really started, I think an innovation about how to reach people through the story versus long textbooks, even with the pithy statements and things that you’re saying in some of your newer books. Can you talk a little bit about that because there has now been a lot of books that have followed suit with more teachings through a story.

Ken Blanchard:      Well it’s interesting, you know because I was a college professor and the first thing I wrote was actually a textbook of management organization behavior with Paul Hersey and everybody told both of us we couldn’t write. So we thought we would be a great team. It’s in it’s 9th edition now so there’s more today than it had in 1969. The reason I got into parables is because Margie and I were invited to a party in San Diego for authors when we first went out there. We were on sabbatical leave from the University of Massachusetts and Margie ran into Spencer Johnson.  Spencer was an M.D. who was in medical communication and he wrote a series of kids’ books called ValueTales of Value of Determination, the story of Helen Keller. The Value of Believing in Yourself, a story of Louis Pasteur.

Margie hand carried them over and said, “You two ought to write a children’s book for managers because they won’t read anything else.” So that’s how she introduced us and I invited Spencer to a seminar I was doing on the following Monday. He was working on One Minute Scolding with a psychiatrist on child rearing. He stood in the back and he laughed at all my stories and everything and he came running up and he said, “You know, let’s forget the One Minute Parenting. Let’s go over The One Minute Manager. Since he was a children’s book writer and I was a storyteller, we decided to write a parable; a kids’ book for managers because people don’t argue about the facts. They get into the story and you can teach a few concepts rather than a lot of concepts.

So that’s what The One Minute Manager was and so Spencer and I both have continued not necessarily working together. He did one, Who Moved My Cheese? I’ve gone on to Raving Fans, Gung Ho! and Whale Done! They’re all kids’ books for big people which has a wonderful kind of story and people can get into it.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg:  Ken, when you look back on the years of experience that you’ve had, from your perspective, why are management strategies so difficult to understand, but yet you’ve made it your life’s work to help make these strategies simple and easy for anybody to achieve?

Ken Blanchard:  Well I think what happens with most people when they want to teach somebody is they want to teach them everything. We believe that you ought to give people a 20% which are vital and leave the 80%, the old Pareto’s Law. And so every time I work on a book, I think about what the key things are that I want people to understand in terms of this topic that can make a difference, then how do I focus on that rather than everything, because I think what we do is paralyze people by overkill instead of giving them some key simple things. It’s amazing, The One Minute Manager is still a bestseller today  and people come up to me and said, “God, that changed my life.” I realize I just needed to be clear on goals and then wonder around and catch people doing things right. If they made a mistake, I would redirect them and reprimand. Boom! Those are three things. If they remember those, they’re going to be effective.

Listen to our complete interview with Ken Blanchard, without commercials above, and find yourself inspired!

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