TEMPE, AZ — If you ever feel like throwing in the towel at your company, with your employees, or in a personal relationship, you need to come and listen to Ken Blanchard, Ph.D. You might remember his name from the early 80s, as he is the author of the best-selling book,The One Minute Manager. That book alone sold more than 9 million copies.

Blanchard was the keynote speaker at the Contractors 2000 Super Meeting XXI held here recently. On the first morning of the conference, he captivated the crowd of hvac and plumbing contractors with stories relating to his book Gung Ho! Turn on the People in any Organization.

Blanchard would like to see more organizations implement the performance management system outlined in Gung Ho!; he says it leads to happier employees and “raving fan” customers. (For those not familiar with his book Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service, raving fan customers are people so excited about what your company does that they can’t wait to talk about you.)


According to Blanchard, it all comes down to leadership.

He noted that there are four dimensions of leadership: heart, head, hands, and habits. The first two are the most important, according to Blanchard.

The heart is the motivation or intent of the leader, and it means that effective leadership starts on the inside, according to Blanchard. To determine whether or not you have the right heart to be a leader, Blanchard encourages people to ask themselves, “Are you a servant leader or a self-serving leader?”

It may be difficult to decide, because we come into this world as totally self-serving beings. It’s not until we grow up that we realize (hopefully) that not everything in the world centers around us. A self-serving leader is usually one who is driven — he may think he owns everything, including relationships, and he spends a lot of time protecting his things.

A servant leader is “called.” “Called people think everything is on loan, and you never know when the loan might be called,” says Blanchard. “These leaders think their positions are also on loan.”

You can tell a servant leader from a self-serving leader by offering feedback. If the leader is self-serving, he will take offense at any suggestion, believing that you do not want him to lead. A servant leader will thank you for giving feedback, as he really wants to improve his organization. It’s important to note that a servant leader isn’t there to please everyone; he’s there to set the direction of a company.

The head is where a clear vision must be formed in order to provide good leadership. There are four parts of a good vision:

1. Mission statement — Look at the business beginning with the relationship to customers. What are you doing for them? Blanchard noted that Disney has this down pat; specifically, Disney is in the business of making memories for their customers.

2. Have a picture of the future — As a leader, it is your responsibility to make sure your people know where they’re going. Share the vision with them. They shouldn’t have to guess what it is.

3. Develop a set of three or four operating values and list them in order of their priority. — Again, everyone must know values in an organization. Going back to Disney, its four values (in order) are safety, courtesy, show (you’re either on stage or you’re off), and efficiency.

4. Finally, write down and share your organizational goals. — Without clear goals, a business won’t go anywhere.

The hands concern how the leader goes about applying these points. Basically, a servant leader creates a high-performing organization. The habits are the daily recalibration of commitment to the mission and the values.


According to Blanchard, the implementation role — living according to the vision and direction — is where most leaders and organizations get into trouble.

“The traditional pyramid is kept alive and well, leaving the customers uncared for at the bottom of the hierarchy,” he says. “All the energy in the organization moves up the hierarchy as people try to please and be responsive to their bosses, leaving the customer contact people quacking.”

“Quacking” is the term Blanchard is fond of using when discussing run-of-the-mill companies and their employees. He says “duck” employees merely quack: “It’s our policy,” “I just work here,” and “Do you want to talk to my boss?” Eagles, however, respond to customer problems and soar wherever necessary to fix these problems, because these employees are responsible. “People have to feel empowered to make decisions,” insists Blanchard. “They have to act like they own the place.”

He talked about employees at the Ritz-Carlton hotels, who, after extensive training, are each given a $2,000 “budget” that may be used at their discretion to solve customer problems.

Note: Training is key. The Ritz doesn’t simply hand out the money and turn their employees loose, hoping they’ll use their best judgment. They explain their vision to employees and discuss their mission statement, so employees know exactly how to respond to customers.

Blanchard says companies that have an “employee of the month” award are usually the most duck-like of all. He likes to see organizations have an eagle’s nest, where there are “employees of the moment.” “Elevate your employees immediately. Recognize when they help customers. Unfortunately,

we often treat external customers better than we treat our internal customers (employees),” says Blanchard.

He’s also a big fan of sharing financial information with employees; for example, having monthly meetings to discuss how much the company is making and where it is in terms of meeting its goals. Implementing an employee bonus plan that is related to meeting those goals is a terrific way to motivate people, he says.

After an invigorating morning, Blanchard left with this question: “Within your environment, what can you do to gung ho your people?” Given the positive response from the contractors in the audience, I think their employees will soon find out.

Sidebar: It’s No Fish Story

Blanchard took a few moments to discuss his next book.Whale Done!is about the power of positive relationships, and he wrote it with the help of two of the top trainers at Sea World. The trainers noted that their jobs involve building trust with enormous sea creatures. A new killer whale receives no training for its first six to eight weeks at the park. Instead, trainers play with the new whale and do everything they can to convince the animal that they mean no harm.

As they start the training process, whales are fed every time they do something right. If the whales make a mistake, the trainers quickly redirect their energy. The whales are never punished for their mistakes; they are redirected.

For employees, the Whale Done! redirection response should be to:

  • Describe the error or problem as soon as possible, clearly and without blame.

  • Show its negative impact.

  • If appropriate, take the blame for not making the task clear.

  • Go over the task in detail and make sure it is clearly understood.

  • Express your continuing trust and confidence in the person.

  • Then, observe that person’s behavior and try to catch him or her doing something right or approximately right. Praise progress.

    — Joanna Turpin

    Publication date: 05/06/2002