Friday, April 2, 2010

Management Wisdom From Ken Blanchard & Garry Ridge: "You Have to Have Heart"

Management guru Ken Blanchard and Garry Ridge, President & CEO of WD-40 Corporation, who teamed together to write Helping People Win at Work, shared some of their management wisdom to a leadership forum in San Diego on Thursday evening. Reflecting on the recession's dark times, Blanchard advised the audience, "As the leader you need to be the bearer of hope."

According to Ridge, at most companies only 29% of the staff are engaged in their work. Observed Blanchard, "Without your people, you're nothing." Blanchard said he'd like to see a "Fortunate 500" list off of companies that are financially sound, have a great relationship with their people and care for the community.

Blanchard recalled the darkest times of the recession at his own company as demand for consulting services dropped in 2008. The company met with employees to look for ways to reduce expenses without layoffs. "You have to view your people as your business partner," Blanchard said, noting that a good leader has to be a "servant leader." On this Maundy Thursday evening, the night Jesus washed his apostles' feet, Blanchard said Jesus was an example of a servant leader.

"None of us is as smart as all of us," said Blanchard, noting that subordinate staff are capable of coming up with better ideas than the boss, adding that he enjoyed watching the new TV show "Undercover Boss."

"There are a lot of CEOs out there with no guts," Blanchard said. "You have to have heart." He acknowledged there may be a time when a reduction in force is necessary; if so, it should only be done once (as Machiavelli advised) and the CEO needs to wrap his or her arms around those who remain.

Blanchard said he's the "Chief Spiritual Officer" of The Ken Blanchard Companies and leaves a three-part daily message for his employees:

1) Who to pray for. Blanchard said he believes in the power of prayer and he'll remind his staff to pray for sick and recovering employees.

2) Praise for someone. Blanchard said it's important to accent the positive and to reinforce the power of positive thinking.

3) Inspirational message, sharing with others something he learned.

On the power of positive thinking, Blanchard recalled at a golf school the predictable results when a student hit the ball into a bunker and said, "I can't hit it out of the sand." He suggested with practice and a positive attitude of "I love sand traps!" that a golfer can learn to hit good shots from the bunker. It's the same way when you tell people "they're fabulous" and when you greet someone as if they're the most important person in the world. Positive reinforcement is more effective than negative.

At WD-40, Ridge said the company refers to employees as "the tribe" which implies continuity. He outlined an effective way of doing "performance evaluations" by having each tribe member write down what they do and reviewing the list monthly with their manager. That way, there are never any surprises, and people understand what they need to do. "As a manager, my job is to help you get an A, not to grade your paper," Ridge said.

WD-40, the maker of lubricants, Lava Soap and a dozen other products, also avoided layoffs during the recession and has positioned itself for one of its strongest years ever. In stark contrast to the average company, Ridge said 93% of the WD-40 tribe are "engaged" and passionate about their work and 99% say "I'm treated with respect and dignity."

The speakers suggested those interested in studying leadership could attend a monthly public lecture at the University of San Diego School of Business or consider enrolling in the Master of Science in Executive Leadership (MSEL) program, which uses a curriculum developed by The Ken Blanchard Companies. Ridge was one of the first graduates of the MSEL program 10 years ago and several WD-40 tribe members have attended for continuing education. "The program changes lives," said Blanchard.

The discussion was sponsored by Leadership Builder, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspire, nurture and enhance members' leadership capacity to serve their family, organization, and communities, according to Leo Lee the group's founder.

"The essence of this book is," said Ridge holding up a copy of Helping People Win At Work, "Talk to your people." The WD-40 CEO suggested executives behave like the TV character Detective Columbo: "Always ask questions."

(Readers, what do you think: Is it a senior manager's role to lead with "heart" and "inspiration"? Or, to strictly manage processes, numbers and the bottom line?)


Lise Norris said...

Hi Craig,
Nope right on! However not all members of the sales team (sorry but I'm in sales) are mature enough to be counted on as partners. So you need to do both. The team needs to feel you are behind them and you can listen to what they have to say. At the same time, if they won't embrace the partnership then you need to look at processes.

Lise Norris said...

Unfortunately the numbers are important as any manager knows because if they aren't met and the bottom line is not where it is supposed to be then we're the first fuses to go but with a responsible team contributing to the success of all, you're nearly there!

Jonathan Brickman said...

I couldn't agree more. Without leadership and a vision no one will follow and neither will the numbers. Leadership is critical for success especially for sales! No one needs a nagging scorekeeper.

Terry Moore said...

Wow I loved this...thanks so much for sharing! Would love to attend events like this in the future!

Leo Lee, Leadership Builder said...

Craig - great summary of last Thursday presentation. We all try to do our best. However, our best is limited by our own awareness. Leadership Builder is dedicated to inspire, nurture and enhances individual leadership capacity to serve their family, organization, and the community. - Leadership Builder Founder - Leo Lee