Management guru returns to UMass for talks, dinner

by Daily Hampshire Gazette

AMHERST - With the 1982 publication of their business blockbuster "The One Minute Manager," Ken Blanchard and co-author Spencer Johnson became gurus of the fledgling leadership in business movement.

"Doors broke down," Blanchard recalled of the book's reception. "Everybody wanted to talk to us."

That book, whose sales hit 13 million copies and counting, spawned a genre of similar titles devoted to compassionate management, a philosophy admired but not exactly embraced by corporate America before or since.

Next month, Blanchard will bring his management expertise to a benefit weekend for the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Education, where he was a faculty member from 1970 to 1976.

At a dinner and reception Nov. 19, the author and consultant will give the keynote address "Lead with Luv." On Nov. 20, he will offer the workshop "Leading at a Higher Level."

"I think we'll blow their minds with different ways to run organizations," he said. As an example, he pointed to Southwest Airlines, which for the past 39 years has dodged the losses experienced by the rest of the airline industry.

How does Southwest do it? Blanchard recalled a customer who wrote to the airlines to complain about a flight attendant who told jokes during a safety announcement. The airline's response to the customer: "We'll miss you."

"Telling jokes: that's one of (Southwest's) values," he said with a laugh.

People are the most important asset of any business, he said. "Leadership and management is not about you," he said. "It's about your people."

Last year, even in a bleak economy, the San Diego, California-based Ken Blanchard Companies celebrated 30 years in the international management training and consulting business.

"We knew we were going to be down 25 percent, so we brought in a trainer to break our 350 people into small groups to look at revenue and ways to survive without getting rid of people." The strategy worked.

Blanchard's philosophy for business success in a nutshell: Help people set and accomplish worthwhile goals (while treating them with dignity and respect); praise them when they do something right; and (briefly) reprimand them when they do something wrong.

"Just like we did with our kids," he said. "My son is a speaker now. He gets up and says, 'When I was a kid, when I did something wrong, I wished I'd gotten punished like all my friends. But no, I had to talk about how my behavior was inconsistent with our family values.'"

Money, by itself, is not a worthwhile goal, Blanchard said. "Profit is the applause you get for taking care of your customers and creating a motivating environment for your people."

Blanchard's 2009 book, "Helping People Win at Work," written with Garry Ridge, CEO of the WD-40 Co., describes how Ridge tripled his company's annual sales, from $100 million to more than $339 million in 2008, by applying Blanchard's business philosophy "Don't Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A."

As an educator, Blanchard used to give his final exam at the beginning of the semester, so that by the end, his students would know the material and get As.

"At its best," he wrote in "Helping People Win at Work," "leadership is a partnership - one that involves mutual trust and respect between two people who work together to achieve common goals."

The cost of the Nov. 19 reception and dinner is $100. The leadership workshop Nov. 20 costs $75. A sponsorship for a student to attend the workshop is $75 and professional development points are available with a registration of $50.

Proceeds from the programs will benefit the faculty and students of the UMass Amherst College of Education. There is a late fee of $35 for registrations after Nov. 4.