Dr. Ken Blanchard is the the author or co-author of 50 books that have sold 20 million copies. Dr. Blanchard was honored by Amazon as one of the world’s 25 bestselling authors. His blockbuster books include The One Minute Manager; Leadership and the One Minute Manager;Raving Fans; Gung Ho!; and, most recently, Leading at a Higher Level and Helping People Win at Work. His latest book, “Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life,” talks about how successful leaders don’t rest on their laurels. Leadership has to be a living process, not a title, not a business card.

I had the pleasure to do a radio interview with Dr. Blanchard about his latest book, “Great Leaders GROW.”

GROW is an acronym and a strategy.

“G” stands for “gaining knowledge.””

“R” for “reaching out to others.”

“O” for opening your world.”

“W” for “walk towards wisdom.

Steve Kayser:  We covered the “G” in the first part of the interview, now on to the “R” of GROW, “Reaching out to the others.” In the book you say part of reaching out is to teach others. Why is it so critical for great leaders also to be great teachers and storytellers?

Ken Blanchard: I think everybody intuitively understands that the best way to learn anything is teaching. And the best way to teach is through storytelling. And so, one of the things that we tell people in our seminars, number one is, “Take notes, don’t sit there and just listen,” because if you listen, in 3 hours after you hear something, you’ll have forgotten 50%. Within 24 hours you’ll forget another 50%. Within one month you have less than 5% recall.

I’ll go to annual meetings at companies and I’ll say, “Who spoke to you last year?” And they’ll say, “Gee, who was it, who was it?” “What was the topic?” “Some topic; I know they talked about something.”


They can’t remember anything. So I tell them, first of all take notes, and then within 24 hours, go over your notes and pull out what are the key learnings that you have. And then, within a week, get a meeting of all the key people that work with you that weren’t at your learning session and teach them what you learned from your notes. It will be an amazing way for you really to solidify what you’ve learned – and you’ll be sharing valuable information with your team.

Reaching out to others is really important, becoming a mentor to other people or looking for teachable moments, all those kind of things are really important.

Steve Kayser: In the book you divide teaching into two categories, formal and informal?

Ken Blanchard: Yes, formal is when you get a chance to actually lead a seminar. So we do “training for trainers” programs where we teach people how to teach people our material, and actually run seminars. That’s one way.

The other is informal, which is, when you are in a meeting or when you are in a situation, where it’s a teachable moment where you can say to people, “ I think there is something to learn here, what can we do on that?” And you can even share something you’ve learned.


Garry Ridge, who is the President of WD-40, and I wrote a book  called “Help People Win at Work: A Business Philosophy Called Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A.” At WD-40 they have no mistakes. Everything is a learning opportunity. And what a difference it makes, people will go to their boss and say,

“Boy, did we have a learning opportunity yesterday.”

Which means they screwed up and all, but it’s so much easier and they’ll say, “Gee, what can we learn from that?” And I think that’s a wonderful thing where the people are constantly teaching and learning from each other.

 Steve Kayser: In reaching out to others, you’re trying to pass on knowledge and helping them draw their own conclusion.  You are helping them grow. Being effective in that also means being a great storyteller. Now, that’s easy to say, but very hard to do because the business world is chock-full of corporate gobbledygook. How do you approach storytelling?

Ken Blanchard: Well, my wife has a great concept because she is fabulous. She said,

“You have to be a participant observer in your own life.”

To me, people say, “Where do you get your stories from?” Well, just look around, stories are all over. There are good stories, there are bad stories. My dad was a great story teller. He retired as an Admiral in the Navy and I have so many memories of stories that he would tell me that would make points.

Like he’d say, “Ken, you can’t act like you’re a big deal with people because you are only as good as your people.” And he said, “I’ll never forget this young Ensign in our ship. One of our ships in the Pacific was a landing craft  for taking  Marines and the frogmen in. It got hit, so they were getting guys off the ship to could repair it. And this Ensign comes running down the flank point and shouts out,

“Stand aside for an officer, you can’t all be saved!”

Then he jumped in the boat. My father is there with his executive officer, and said,

“That poor guy, he is going to get shot by our own men.”

That was just a wonderful story of acting like you’re a big deal, “stand aside for an officer, you can’t all be saved.” And, so, just constantly look for stories. I am always looking for opportunities to find stories.


Flickr Photo courtesy of Graham Coreil-Allen,