Blanchard mixes humor, wisdom in final lecture

March 27, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

Dr. Ken Blanchard cloaks his wisdom about managing people in simple, often humorous statements, and Wednesday night, in the final installment of “The Power of Self-Leadership” lecture series, he had students laughing and nodding their heads as he rattled off his thoughts about everything from marriage to teaching to “seagull management.”

And what is “seagull management,” you ask?

“That’s when they don’t say anything until you screw up. Then they swoop in and make a lot of noise,” Blanchard said.

Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard

Blanchard preaches exactly the opposite: giving employees simple, quantifiable, attainable goals and then using situational leadership to help them succeed. The subject Wednesday at the Ken Blanchard College of Business was matching leadership behaviors to maximize human potential, and Blanchard began his one-hour talk by going through six hypothetical situational-leadership challenges, both at work and at home, and how best to solve them.

“What I hope this shows you,” he said after that part of his one-hour lecture was over, “is that you need different strokes for different folks.”

To underscore his point, Blanchard shared what happened when he first started using a computer six years ago – he still produces all of his books by dictating material into a recorder or writing it out on a yellow legal pad. He just wanted to learn simple computer tasks, such as using email, but knew he would need managing to avoid lapsing from a D1 (Enthusiastic Beginner) development level to D2 (Disillusioned Learner).

Blanchard hired a computer expert to teach him and was doing OK under her S1 (Directing) leadership style, but then it was time to go on a business trip. They both knew he wasn’t ready for an S4 (Delegating) style, so she gave him multiple ways to reach her by phone. When he had the inevitable computer issue, she was prepared to coach him through it.

“You don’t go straight from directing to delegating. They won’t know what they’re doing,” he said.

Blanchard had similar advice about golf schools and why he started his own: “People get to disillusionment quickly – there’s too much delegating.” And then he got going on another institution that sometimes produces more frustration than love.

“It’s the same thing with marriage. If you say that you’ve never had trouble with your marriage, you lie about other things, too,” he said with a grin.

Blanchard shared how he and his wife of 52 years, Margie, went to counseling for the first year and a half of their marriage simply because, in his opinion, you can’t expect to seamlessly transition into living with someone new without some instruction. He said they are in the process of writing a marriage-counseling book based on the principles of his most famous book, “The One-Minute Manager.”

Teaching is another topic that rouses Blanchard’s passion for excellence. His method was to give students his final exam – which he describes as “tough” – at the beginning of the term and then teach them the answers. As you might expect, that drew a rousing ovation from the audience.

“I haven’t convinced everybody. I have my name on the building, but I have no authority,” he said, evoking more laughter.

Blanchard then rattled off a series of thoughts, one-liners and advice about leadership and how to apply it:

  • A manager should meet with direct reports every two weeks but let them set the agenda. “If you’re a manager, you’re supposed to spend time with your people,” he said. He cautioned trying to spend the same amount of time with all employees – some need more help than others.
  • “You’re trying to get people to move from dependence to independence. Don’t teach them about leadership. Teach them how to be leaders.”
  • “Leadership is a side-by-side thing more than a top-down thing.”
  • Effective leaders aren’t afraid to ask employees what they think. “The most powerful phrase you can say to somebody is, ‘I need your help.’ You can’t lose. Either you get help or you don’t, and if you don’t you didn’t have it in the first place, so you haven’t lost anything.”

Blanchard said he plans to continue the lecture series during the 2014-15 school year. In the meantime, those interested in learning more about The Ken Blanchard Companies and its programs can go to, or they can read any of the 62 books he has co-authored.

“Someone told me, ‘You write small, simple books,’” Blanchard said. “Well, I’m simple-minded. I’m always looking for simple ways to do things.”

He likes to punctuate his points by asking obvious questions followed by “Duh”, such as, “Do people like to be treated with dignity and respect? Duh.” Situational leadership is so effective, in his view, he can’t understand why everyone isn’t doing it. “Our hope and dream,” he said, “is that everyone everywhere is led by a situational leader. Our goal is the world.”

Did the students in this little corner of the world Wednesday night enjoy his talk? Duh.

Contact Rick Vacek at 639.8203 or [email protected]

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