Summary: The Heart of a Leader By Ken Blanchard
Summary: The Heart of a Leader By Ken Blanchard

Summary: The Heart of a Leader By Ken Blanchard

The Heart of a Leader

The key to developing people is to catch them doing something right.   Catching people doing things right is a powerful management concept. Unfortunately, most leaders have a genius for catching people doing things wrong.

Ken always recommends that leaders spend at least an hour a week wandering around their operation catching people doing things right. But he also reminds them that effective praising must be specific. Just walking around saying, “Thanks for everything,” is meaningless. If you say, “Great job!” to a poor performer and, “Great job!” to a good performer, you sound ridiculous to the poor performer and you “demotivate” the good performer.

Catching people doing things right provides satisfaction and motivates good performance. But remember, give praise immediately, make it specific, and finally, encourage people to keep up the good work. This principle can also help you shine at home. It’s a marvelous way to interact with and affirm the people in your life.


Don’t wait until people do things exactly right before you praise them.

Many well-intentioned leaders wait to praise their people until they do things exactly right, complete the project, or accomplish the goal. The problem here is that they could wait forever. You see, “exactly right” behavior is made up of a whole series of approximately right behaviors. It makes more sense to praise progress—it’s a moving target.

Can you imagine standing a child up and commanding him to walk, and then, when he falls down, yelling, “I told you to walk!” and spanking him? Of course not. You stand the child up, and he wobbles a bit. You shout, “You stood up!” and then shower him with hugs and kisses. The next day, he wobbles a step, and you are all over him with praise. Gradually, the child gains confidence until he finally walks. It’s the same with adults. Catch them doing things right—and remember, in the beginning, approximately right is just fine.


What we give our attention to, grows.

The more attention you pay to a behavior, the more it will be repeated. Accentuating the positive and redirecting the negative are the best tools for increasing productivity.

Killer-whale trainers know that when you don’t pay a lot of attention to what the animals do wrong but instead give a lot of attention to what they do right, they do the right thing more often. When trainers start working with a new whale, the whale knows nothing about jumping over ropes. The trainers begin with the rope underneath the water, high enough from the bottom for the whale to swim under. If the whale swims under the rope, the trainers don’t pay attention, but every time he swims over the rope, they feed him.

Focusing on the negative often creates situations that demoralize people. When good performance is followed by a positive response, people naturally want to continue that behavior.


You get from people what you expect.

Whenever Ken talks about the power of catching people doing things right, he hears, “Yeah right. You don’t know Harry!” Do you have a “Harry” in your life? If so, perhaps you should take a look at your expectations for that person and see if he or she isn’t currently living down to them. It’s all in what you notice. When you judge someone, it impairs your ability to see him or her clearly, as if a filter is screening out everything about that person except what fits your assessment.

Fight through your filter and catch your “Harry” doing something right. It will not be easy, but if you persevere, you will notice that your behavior, even your attitude or degree of acceptance toward “Harry” will change. Try it and see what happens. Then try it again. You might even like it. Guaranteed—“Harry” will.


Get your ego out of the way and move on.

The minute you decide to be part of a team, you’re going to lose some things and gain others. What you’re going to gain is synergy—one plus one equals more than two. What you’re going to lose is having your ideas automatically accepted.

If you’re going to be part of a winning team, you have to be willing to accept some losses. Certainly fight for your ideas. Try to convince others. But if they can’t or won’t buy into your thinking, it’s time to take a deep breath and let go.

Learning to let go, to put the team’s will first, is an empowering experience that leads to the most wonderful of all experiences: being a member of a high-performing, gungho, high-five team. Remember, leadership is not all about you.


Never punish a learner.

When a learner makes a mistake, be sure he or she knows immediately that the behavior was incorrect. Place the blame on yourself by saying, “Sorry, I didn’t make it clear.” Then patiently redirect by reviewing the assignment. If possible, demonstrate what a good job looks like. Observe the learner’s new behavior in hopes of catching him or her doing something approximately right, and having the opportunity to praise progress.


When you stop learning, you stop growing.

Learning is more important today than ever before. In the past if a person was loyal and worked hard, his or her job was secure. Today, the skills you bring to the party constitute the only available form of job security. People who are continually learning and upgrading their skills increase their value in their specific organizations and the job market in general.

The only three things we can count on are death, taxes, and change. Since organizations are being bombarded with change, you would be wise to make learning a top priority and constantly strive to adapt to new circumstances.


Leadership is a high calling.

Leadership should not be done purely for personal gain or goal accomplishment; it should fulfill a much higher purpose. Nothing is wrong with accomplishing goals, but when you focus solely on results, you miss the big picture. As a result, things like morale and job satisfaction will tend to fall by the wayside. Leadership becomes about getting as much as you can for as little effort as possible. With that kind of leadership, it’s a short leap to thinking that the only reason to be in business is to make money. Leaders are forced to choose between people and results because they falsely believe that they can’t focus on both at the same time.

Leading at a higher level is the process of achieving worthwhile results while acting with respect, care, and fairness for the well-being of all involved. It’s only when you realize that it’s not about you that you begin to lead at a higher level.


In life, what you resist, persists.

If something is bothering you and you don’t deal with it, you are gunnysacking your feelings—holding them inside. This can backfire later when you find yourself “dumping” in an inappropriate way and at exactly the wrong moment. Most of the time, if you simply deal with what is bothering you, the problem will disappear in the process. Have you ever said, “I’m glad I got that off my mind”?

Anything worth doing does not have to be done perfectly—at first. Managers should recognize that good performance—both their own and their people’s—is a journey, not an announced destination. Everyone learns by doing. It takes time and practice to achieve specific goals.

Being too hard on yourself is counterproductive. Don’t expect instant perfection. Though self-criticism is healthy, it should not be destructive. It’s unfair to be hard on yourself the first time you attempt something new. It is also unfair to expect others to meet such an unrealistic expectation. Keep in mind that it’s unnecessary to do everything exactly right the first time.