My Mentor and Friend, Paul Hersey

This has been a tough time for me, losing great friends like Steve Covey, Zig Ziglar, and now my friend and mentor, Paul Hersey.

I met Paul in 1966 when I worked at Ohio University as the assistant to the Dean of the College of Business, Harry Evarts. It was my first job out of my doctoral program. Paul was chairman of the Management department. The reason I took an administrative job was because all of my professors had told me if I wanted to work at a university, I should be an administrator since I couldn’t write. They thought it would be hard for me to be a professor due to the well-known adage Paul Hersey“If you don’t publish, you perish.”

When I got to campus, though, Dean Evarts told me he wanted me to teach a course like all the rest of his assistants had done. I had never thought about teaching. He put me in Paul Hersey’s department and Paul gave me a basic management course to teach. After a couple of weeks of teaching, I came home and told my wife Margie, “This is what I ought to be doing. This is great. I should be a teacher.”

She said, “What about the writing?”

I said, “I don’t know. I’ll have to work something out.”

I had heard that Paul taught a fabulous course on leadership, so in December 1966 I went up to him in the hall and told him I’d love to sit in on his class the following semester.

He said to me, “Nobody audits my course. If you want to take it for credit, you’re welcome to do that.” Then he walked away.

I thought, That’s really something. I’ve got a Ph.D. and he doesn’t, and he wants me to take his course! So I went home and told Margie about it.

She said, “Is he any good?” 

I said, “He’s supposed to be fabulous.”

She said, “Then get your ego out of the way and take his course!”

I had to convince the registrar to let me into the course, since I already had a Ph.D.  So I took the course and wrote the papers.

In June 1967, after the course was over, Paul came into my office and said, “Ken, I’ve been teaching leadership for ten years and I think I’m better than anybody. But I can’t write. I’m a nervous wreck because they want me to write a textbook. I’ve been looking for a good writer like you to write it with me. Would you do it?”

I laughed and said, “We ought to be some team. You say you can’t write and I’ve been told I’m not able to. Let’s do it!”

So Paul and I sat down and wrote Management of Organizational Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources. It recently came out in its 10th edition and it sells more today than it ever has. It’s been a wonderful legacy for both of us.

That was my start as a writer. If it weren’t for Paul Hersey, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today. I owe so much to him. That book introduced Situational Leadership®, a leadership model that has been taught to hundreds of thousands of students since its inception. Even though The Ken Blanchard Companies now teaches Situational Leadership® II while Paul’s company, Center for Leadership Studies, has held on to the original Situational Leadership® model, we really have been “co-petitors” instead of competitors through the years because we valued each other and the way we thought.

I’m so fortunate that Paul Hersey came into my life. I’ll miss him.

Thanksgiving Thoughts from Ken

This week brings one of my very favorite holidays—Thanksgiving. I love it because it’s not focused on gifts and things like that. It’s about what everyone brings to the table. You pass around the turkey and the dressing and all, and it’s a chance for everyone to really express what they are thankful for. I hope you’ll be able to do that.

I’m thankful that I live in this country. I’m thankful that I had a wonderful mom and dad who always lifted me up and a great sister who encouraged me constantly. I’m grateful that I met my wife Margie and she’s been my companion and my love and my partner for over fifty years now—it’s unbelievable. I’m thankful for our son Scott and our daughter Debbie and what they’ve brought to my life, and all of our grandkids who are all really special. I’m blessed to have a sweet little dog, Joy, who is a perfect example of unconditional love. I’m thankful for a wonderful God who loves me and loves you and loves all of us. I’m grateful that I’m healthier and in better shape than I have been in years. I’m thankful for everyone in our company. I think we’ve created a wonderful place and we want to continue to build on that as we go forward. We’re all in it together and we support each other.

I like to say, “Life is a very special occasion—don’t miss it.” Part of that is being thankful for the blessings you have. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t troubles along the way. But life is a very special occasion. Every day when we wake up we need to be thankful that we have another day to share and be with people and maybe make a difference.

So this week, reach out to the people you really care about and love, and tell them you care. I’m wishing you all the very best and I’m thankful that we all have an opportunity to make a difference in the world. Have a wonderful holiday. Recognize how blessed you are and reach out and tell people that you love them.  Take care.

The Power of Gratitude

I have a long-time friend named Walter Green who just wrote a book called This Is the Moment! Walter, in his 70th year, decided he would make a list of the people who really impacted his life at different stages. He had to locate some he had lost contact with, but over the year he traveled the country and met with 44 people to thank them and tell them how important they were to his life. I think the book’s real message is the enormous power of gratitude. Walter wrote this book to motivate all of us.

Are there people in your life who have really made a difference? Have you reached out to thank them? Have you thanked your parents, friends, mentors—perhaps a teacher, professor, or colleague who had an impact on your life? Don’t wait to reach out. This is the moment.

Yesterday, just one day after being inspired by Walter’s book, I had the perfect opportunity to put his idea into action. Every morning, our newspaper delivery person drives through our oval driveway and drops off the paper right at our front door so we don’t have to go to the end of the driveway to retrieve it. I’ve always wanted to thank her for this courtesy, and yesterday morning I saw her through the window just as she was getting out of the car to deliver the paper. I met her at the front door and said, “I just want to tell you how fabulous and caring you are, and what a difference you make, and how much we appreciate what you do,” and I gave her a little money. Her face just lit up and she almost had tears in her eyes as she gave me a hug. She said, “You’re really special,” and I said, “I’m not special. You are.”

This morning, tucked into the newspaper, I found a note from her. On the outside of the envelope was written: “To a great and loyal customer.”  This is so consistent with what Blanchard research has found:  If you hire passionate people, they want to go out and take care of your customers. Then the customers become loyal and get excited about the company and tell others, and it keeps going back and forth—and that’s what makes a great organization.

On the card inside it said: “Thank you, thank you, thank you. You made my day yesterday. I was flying high on a cloud of appreciation. Your recognition of my service to you has revived me. Thank you for taking the time to think about me.”  Then she signed her name and phone number and wrote: “Please call if you ever have a bad or poor quality paper delivered.” Isn’t that amazing?  It made me feel good to read her note.

I hope this motivates you to reach out and thank people who have done special things for you—people who have made a difference in your life, whether big or small.  If we all took the time to do this, think of the difference we could make in the lives of others. So reach out and say “thank you.” It’s such an easy way to make another person feel special, and it is guaranteed to boost your spirits, too.  Have a great week.