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Ken Blanchard answers members’ questions


Q&AKen Blanchard, of One Minute Manager fame, generously answered a selection of members' questions after our interview with him appeared on site. Here's what the chief spriritual officer has to say about the leadership 'faith', and how to put the head, heart and conscience back into leadership... stirring stuff!

Tom Boydell asked:

I'm interested in a spiritual dimension to what we do, though to be quite honest I'm not clear in my own mind what I mean by this! I'm struggling to make sense of it. I'd therefore like to know more about what Ken Blanchard means by 'spiritual' - a word that crops up quite a lot, including in his job title as 'chief spiritual officer' (a term that I have to say makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, with connotations of someone being more spiritual than others). At one point he defines spirituality as "a desire in business to do the right thing for your customers and employees". However I rather imagine others might see this as a social or humanistic intention, not necessarily spiritual as such. And, of course, it raises a number of questions about the nature of 'the right thing'. Are there some given 'right things' that we can all agree on? Or is the 'right thing' in the eye - or experience - of the beholder/stakeholder?

There's also an assumption in there that spiritual is always positive. I think there are a number of views of spirituality that have a distinctly negative or destructive aspect - and I'm not particularly referring here to fanatical fundamentalism, although to my mind that always does have negative consequences.

Photo of Ken BlanchardKen Blanchard replies:

An important question for you to consider as you think about spirituality is: are you a human being having a spiritual experience, or are you a spiritual being having a human experience? What that means is, where do you get your identity? What is the audience that you are playing to? Is it the applause you get, the money you make, the power or status you have, or is there something bigger than that? I think when you are a spiritual being having a human experience, you think that your real job here on earth is to serve rather than be served. I think when you are a human being sometimes having a spiritual experience, you spend some time thinking about things more important than you, but you spend most of the time focused on yourself.

I think when you realise as an adult that you are here to serve rather than be served, you're here to help people, then the way you treat your customers and your employees and the way you do everything really changes. You begin to focus on the reality that profit is the applause you get for taking care of your customers and creating a motivating environment for your people. When you realise that profit and accumulation of wealth is really a means towards a bigger end, then I think you're starting to look at your life from a spiritual standpoint.

Yuvarajah Thiagarajah asked:

The world is moving at such a fast pace, aided by technological and innovative ingenuity, I wonder how leadership wisdom is going to shape up in fixing things.
Ken's wisdom has led many to become better leaders over the years. The other day I watched his video ‘Whale Done’ and found the brilliance of his message, although I could not help feel sceptical leaders can be taught to learn from animals on how to show respect, engage and develop people towards success. What advice would you give to turnaround a work culture imbued in ‘fear Management’, where people dare not speak or stand up for spiritual enlightenment!.

Photo of Ken BlanchardKen Blanchard replies:

I used to teach a course years ago on why humanistic teachers get fired… basically, it was because they acted in an imprudent way. They would take on organisations and people when they have neither positional power nor personal power. When I look at an organisation that is run through fear-management, if you attack the management that is generating the fear, they will drive you out of the organisation. What I think you have to do first, is develop a relationship with those in power, so they trust you and see you as part of the team. Then you can slowly try to give feedback and lead by example to create change. You have to develop personal power in an organisation before you can do this and turn around a fear-based culture.

This person asked not to be identified:

I'm afraid that most people in top management miss a world of opportunities to reach their very own narrow aim and objective of making great profits because of their style of chasing profits that is marked by what I believe to be the absence of 'heart, head and conscience'.

But how do we put back the heart, head and conscience into these leaders? They are not searching so they may not find. They are not open so you may not teach them what they lack. And they are in a teaching mode all the time, teaching with a strong sense of 'authority' that does not tolerate any sensible suggestion/submission from subordinates!

Photo of Ken BlanchardKen Blanchard replies:

I know of three ways to get the head, heart and conscience back into people. First is to have a near-death experience, which seems to help people by realising that profit isn't the only way and that their life is not defined by their performance and the opinions of others. Second is that they have a spiritual awakening, where they learn to get out of their own way and realise that there are more important things than their own self interest… seeing that the world doesn't centre around them. Finally, they become a role model. By modelling leadership behaviour themselves, they show people that there is such a thing as people and results. Not either/or. You see, you can treat people a different way and still get performance. Some people think that now it's just about profit and bottom line, and that is just wrong.

Read our exclusive interview with Ken Blanchard, One Minute Manager: An exclusive interview with Ken Blanchard


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