Ken Blanchard scores with talk on self-leadership

February 12, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

Dr. Ken Blanchard, known best as a leadership coach but also an avid sports fan, used athletic analogies to make some of his key points Tuesday night in the third installment of the “The Power of Self-Leadership” lecture series at the Ken Blanchard College of Business on the Grand Canyon University campus.

Blanchard, author of “The One Minute Manager” and dozens of other books, including “The One Minute Golfer,” demonstrated his theories about diagnosing self-leadership issues by explaining why he founded The Golf University in San Diego years ago.

Too many golf instructors, in Blanchard’s view, have tried to teach their inexperienced students the complexities of the game when a more basic approach would work better. “They were teaching beginners how to hit out of an uphill/sidehill lie when they just wanted to get the ball in the air,” Blanchard said.

Ken Blanchard makes a point. (Photo by Darryl Webb)

Ken Blanchard makes a point at Tuesday night’s lecture on campus. (Photo by Darryl Webb)

In attempting to transform attendees from the first stage (D1 = Enthusiastic Beginner) in Blanchard’s Situational Leadership II model to the goal (D4 = Self-Reliant Achiever), Blanchard’s golf school instead tried to keep it simple and build confidence. Blanchard noted how attendees were taught to shy away from negative thoughts, such as “I can’t hit out of the sand,” and to instead talk positively about their abilities as they worked on improving.

In the same vein, Blanchard looked to the great Boston Celtics basketball teams of the 1980s as an example of applying the appropriate leadership style to get the most out of the people involved. K.C. Jones, who coached those teams, used to say that the extent of his input was to “just throw the ball out there” because he recognized that his players all fit in D4, starting with one of the greatest players in history, Larry Bird.

The key, according to Blanchard, was that Jones analyzed the situation before he started and diagnosed what would work best. “Before you do anything, you have to look at what has been happening,” Blanchard said. “Servant leadership usually begins with a clear vision and goals.”

But the vision isn’t always exactly the same as the goal. Blanchard said that John Calipari, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach with whom Blanchard has worked, tells his players that their vision is to be the best team in the country, but his goal is simply to help each player improve.

To better create SMART (Specific, Motivating, Attainable, Relevant, Trackable) goals for each member of the team or each employee, Blanchard said a manager should meet with each person for 15 to 30 minutes every two weeks and let that person set the agenda.

The “Heart to Heart” technique involves three categories (something I want you to know about me, a concern I have and something I really appreciate about you) and three appropriate responses (thank you, tell me more and I understand). The key is to let the employee talk honestly and openly without interruption.

To show what happens when a company’s management needs aren’t properly diagnosed, Blanchard referenced what happened when Carly Fiorina took over as CEO of Hewlett-Packard from 1999 to 2005. Fiorina’s “my way or the highway” approach didn’t sit well in a company that had been largely successful before her arrival, and she was forced out in a highly publicized ouster. “You have to analyze first, and she didn’t,” Blanchard said.

Blanchard went back to sports to give an example of how he would handle one of his pet peeves: the inability of many basketball players to make a free throw. Blanchard’s company incorporates a free throw contest with an annual two-on-two basketball tournament, and he said that if he were coaching a team, he wouldn’t let a player go home from practice without making 10 consecutive free throws.

“If you want to do anything well,” he said, “there are three parts to it: focus, matching physiology with focus, and routine. I guess you would call that ‘situational foul shooting.’”

The series concludes at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26, with Blanchard’s talk on matching leadership behaviors to maximize human potential and profits. Admission is free. For more information about the series, contact Helen Hammond at 639.9703 or [email protected].

For more about the Ken Blanchard Companies, go to

Contact Rick Vacek at 639.8203 or [email protected].

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