NATO Golf

With spring around the corner, I find my mind turning to golf. I love to play golf. I’ve always tried to not take it too seriously and remember that it’s just a game—but I didn’t really love to play until I started to use an approach called NATO golf. In case you haven’t heard of it before, NATO stands for Not Attached To Outcome.

BallWhen you’re attached to outcome, you might be having a good game but then you hit the ball wrong and find yourself focusing on the wrong things—every move you make, every breeze, every bump in the grass. It really tightens you up and you can’t perform as well. You become fearful of your results because you believe that who you are depends on how you score or play that day.

I can’t tell you how much more fun it is to play NATO golf than to grind my teeth over the score. It doesn’t mean I’m not interested in hitting good shots or scoring well—but I know that I am not my score. I am not each shot. As a result, I’m much more relaxed and able to swing freely at the ball without fear. I play so much better when I’m not worried about whether I’m going to be able to hit that hole or make that putt. I just get up there and let it happen. It’s beautiful.

Golf is always interesting to me, because I believe golf is a lot like life. Think about it. Sometimes you’re playing better than you should, so you learn how to deal with success.  Sometimes you’re playing worse than you should, so you learn how to deal with failure.  Sometimes you get good breaks you don’t deserve and sometimes you get good breaks you do deserve.  Sometimes you get bad breaks you don’t deserve and sometimes you get bad breaks you do deserve.  All in four and a half hours!  Ha! And one of the best ways to get to know somebody is to play golf with them and watch how they behave. It says a lot about a person.

In life, as in golf, sometimes we get so focused on outcome that we don’t enjoy the ride.  We’re so uptight about the importance of the outcome that we miss the dance of life, the dance of relationships, the dance of the sales call, or the dance of doing a seminar.

Mark Twain said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” I can’t say that I agree. Golf is a wonderful game as long as you don’t start believing that who you are is dependent on how you score. Don’t get attached to outcome—just be who you are and you will be amazed at how much more you’ll enjoy the game of golf—and the game of life.

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.

Remembering Stephen Covey and Zig Ziglar

Two great men who were mentors and friends to me passed away this year—Stephen R. Covey in July and Zig Ziglar just this past week. I’d like to share a few thoughts about these wonderful guys.

Stephen Covey was a devoted husband to his wife, Sandra, and dedicated father of nine, grandfather of fifty-two, and great-grandfather of six. He was also a great friend and colleague to many, including me.

A great memory I have of Steve was when we did a session together in Salt Lake City. During my presentation, I talkedstephen_covey about how the most popular management philosophy was “Seagull Management,” where managers don’t come around until something goes wrong—and then they fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everybody, and fly out.  That line normally got a good laugh from audiences, but not this time. Then Steve whispered to me, “Ken, the seagull is the state bird of Utah.” Oops!  He later told me about the role the seagull played in Mormon history.  When the early Mormons were settling in Utah and planting their fields, they were plagued by swarms of locusts that began eating all of their crops. The people thought they were going to starve to death. At one point they looked up and saw a huge cloud of seagulls flying toward them. They thought the seagulls were coming to finish off what the locusts hadn’t eaten.  Instead, the seagulls ended up eating all of the locusts, saving the settlers’ harvest and their very lives. Steve even took me to the place in downtown Salt Lake City where they have a statue of a seagull.

Steve was such an inspiration and a teacher to so many.  He was a giant in our field and a very special human being.  His legacy here on earth will go on for years to come.

Zig Ziglar had a big impact on me. During the times we were on the platform together, he modeled for me that it was okay to share my faith as long as I wasn’t trying to convert folks. He told me, “Your faith is part of who you are, and people want to know what makes you tick and what is important in your life.”

Zig ZWhen I was 65, I called Zig because Margie and I had been invited to the 59th Anniversary of his 21st birthday. I asked him, “Zig, are you going to retire?” I will never forget his reply: “There’s no mention of retirement in the Bible!  Except for Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and David, nobody in the Bible under 80 years of age made much of an impact. I’m not retiring—I’m re-firing!”  What a difference his phrase of “re-firing” has made in my life the last eight years.  I quote him all the time. In fact, I’m working on a book on “re-firement” and my coauthor and I are going to dedicate the book to Zig.

One last thing I learned from Zig.  He once told me, “I never met a golf game I didn’t like.”  Ever since, I play a lot of N.A.T.O. golf—Not Attached To Outcome—and I enjoy the game so much more. He was an inspiration to everyone fortunate enough to meet him.

It’s always tough to lose important people in our lives. I think the best way to honor them is to make sure you reach out—today—to the people you love, and tell them how important they are. As Margie says: “Keep your I-love-yous up to date.” You’ll never regret it.

New Year’s Resolution Time!

It’s time again to think about New Year’s resolutions. I like to picture myself sitting here one year from today, looking back on 2012 and smiling because I’ve accomplished two or three things that I wanted to accomplish over the year. I’m patting myself on the back! 

So what would you like to do between now and then?  Now you’re going to obviously have some goals in terms of your job and your organization, but what about you personally?  What about your weight?  Your exercise?  Your health?  What about learning a new language, like Spanish or Chinese?  What about improving your organizational skills?  What about writing something that you’ve wanted to write for a long time?  What would really make you feel good if you accomplished it by the end of next year? 

It’s great to write out your resolutions as SMART goals.  Be Specific on what you want so that it’s observable and measurable.  M stands for motivational—make sure it’s something that excites you. Is it Attainable?  Don’t set some unrealistic goal that there’s no chance you’ll accomplish.  Make sure your goal is Relevant and important to you.  And have a goal that is Trackable, which means you can chart it over time so you can catch yourself doing things approximately right and see yourself making progress. 

I have found that I do best on New Year’s Resolutions if I share them with my wife Margie and people at work, and anybody else who is around me, so they can help and support me. We all need an accountability group to help set ourselves up for success. 

So in the next few days I’ll be thinking more about what I would like to accomplish that’s going to make me feel good.  What would you like to do?  How do you want 2012 to go for you?  Let’s see if we can help each other keep our commitment to our commitment.  So often New Year’s Resolutions are just announcements.  Don’t just announce it; really make it happen!  And good on you for 2012!

Lastly, I’ve posted a few of my resolutions for 2012… take a read, and let everyone know a few of your own! http://howwelead.org/resolutions/

Take Care of Each Other During the Holidays

This coming week is the week people can really get stressed out if they work on it.  We’re rapidly approaching the heart of the holiday season. Hanukkah begins on December 21st and runs through the 28th, Christmas is coming up next Sunday the 25th, and then Kwanzaa begins on the 26th.  It can be a busy and stressful time, with all of the celebrations, traveling and gift-giving attached to the holidays.  We all need to keep a sense of humor and laugh and enjoy this time of year. Don’t knock somebody down trying to get into a parking space.  Remember, this is the time to feel the spirit of love and appreciation and thankfulness.  Keep things in perspective as you go along—even if you don’t get all of the shopping done that you expected to.  It’s a special and meaningful time. Reach out and give somebody a hug and tell them that you love them—that’s probably the most important gift.  

I came across a wonderful quote by Henri Nouwen.  He was a Catholic Priest from Canada who spent much of his life ministering to the less fortunate and he has written some great things over the years.  Just listen to this as a way to think of this holiday season:

“More and more the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, sit up on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them.  It is a privilege to have time to practice the simple ministry of presence.  Still, it is not as simple as it seems.  My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, and to be a part of some impressive project is so strong, that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets.  It is difficult not to have plans; not to organize people around an urgent cause; not to feel that you are working directly with social progress—but I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and to tell your own.  To let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them but you really love them.” 

Isn’t that wonderful?  I think that we get busy with work, busy with shopping, and aren’t practicing the whole wonderful ministry of presence—simply being present with people we care about.  So today and throughout the holidays, consider the idea of just being present with each other.  Maybe what you ought to be doing first is to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own.  Let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, you truly love them. I think that’s what the holiday season is all about. Take care.