5 Keys to Connecting With Your People

bigstock-Different-46099117I was talking with some friends at a recent morning men’s group. Our focus was on the importance of being connected to other people and what it means. We came up with five things we think help you really get connected to others—at work, and in all aspects of life. How would you rate yourself in these five areas?

  1. Listen more than you speak.  We talked about listening a lot. If God wanted you to speak more than listen, he would have given you two mouths!
  2. Praise other people’s efforts.  This one has always been so important to me. Catch people doing things right.  That really helps you get connected with people.
  3. Show interest in others.  It’s not all about you. Find out about people and their families and learn about what’s happening in their lives.
  4. Be willing to share about yourself.  In our book Lead with LUV, my coauthor and former Southwest Airlines president Colleen Barrett said that people admire your skills but they really love your vulnerability. Are you willing to share about yourself?  I think being vulnerable with people is really important.
  5. Ask for input from others—ask people to help you.  People really feel connected if they can be of help to you. Continue reading

The Difference between Leadership, Management, and Supervision

A lot of people ask me, “What’s the difference between leadership, management, and supervision?”  Most people think it’s about where you are in the hierarchy—if you’re at the top, you’re a leader; if you’re in the middle, you’re a manager; and if you are closest to the people who are actually dealing with the customers, you’re in supervision.

I’d like to break the mold and forget about those labels. I believe all three are leadership roles. No matter whether you’re at the top, in the middle, or supervising people on the front lines, as a leader you first need to make sure that everybody is clear on goals. The first secret of The One Minute Manager is One Minute Goal Setting. All good performance starts with clear goals, which is the vision and direction part of leadership. The next thing you need to do is to help people accomplish those goals. That brings to mind the second and third secrets of The One Minute Manager. The second secret is One Minute Praising. After people are clear on what they are being asked to do, you need to wander around and see if you can catch them doing something right. Accent the positive and praise them. If someone does something wrong, but is a learner, don’t punish the person. Just say, “Maybe it wasn’t clear about what we were working on,” and redirect. However, if you are dealing with an experienced person who for some reason has a lousy attitude, give the person a One Minute Reprimand, which is the third secret of The One Minute Manager. That’s where you make clear what the person did wrong: “You didn’t get your report in on Friday, and I really needed it. Let me tell you how I feel – I’m really upset about it.”  Be sure, though, that you always end with a reaffirmation: “The reason I’m upset is that you’re one of my best people and I always count on you for that.”

Every level of leadership starts with clear vision and direction and then moves to implementation. Remember that managers, supervisors, and CEOs are all leaders. Don’t let yourself get hung up on labels.

Should You Reprimand or Should You Redirect?

Before you give a reprimand—think!  In many cases an employee needs to be redirected rather than reprimanded. In today’s workplace with constant changes in technology, people are continuously learning new skills. With all that learning, mistakes are bound to occur. For this reason, generally speaking, the need for redirection is much more prevalent today than the need for reprimands.

Use the following “decision tree” to help you determine whether an employee’s misstep in behavior or performance should lead to a reprimand or a redirection.

When someone does something wrong, first ask yourself, “Should this person have known better?”


·       If the answer is “No,” then the person is obviously unfamiliar with his or her assigned responsibility or task and still in a learning stage, and needs redirection. Never reprimand a learner—whether it’s a new hire learning the ropes, an experienced employee working on a new task, or your daughter learning to tie her shoelaces.  It will only cause confusion or outright discouragement.  In this instance, your role as a leader is to help, or redirect, the person who is having a problem. The five steps of an effective redirection are:

1.    Give the redirection as soon as possible after the problem happens. Prompt feedback is very important.

2.    Explain specifically what went wrong and how it could affect others.

3.    Take on a bit of the responsibility by saying something such as, “I must not have made it clear enough…” This reduces the pressure on the employee who is simply in need of supportive redirection.

4.    Reiterate the importance of the task.

5.    Reassure the person you still have confidence in him to help him move toward success on the task. The purpose of redirection is to set up, as soon as possible, an opportunity for a praising to occur.


·       If the answer is “Yes,” and you believe the person should have known better, then you must ask yourself, “Did this person make the mistake deliberately or because of a lack of confidence?” Remember—only reprimand deliberate behavior or unusual regressive performance of a normally strong performer.

  • If the problem revolves around a lack of confidence, try to determine the reason.  It could be that a new situation exists that is unsettling to a seasoned worker. For example, perhaps Brad, an experienced cashier, makes many errors on the new cash register.  The reason is most likely a lack of confidence due to a change from the familiar.  Brad doesn’t need a reprimand; rather, he needs training and practice on the new register, coupled with support from an understanding boss.  Reprimands have no place in this example.
  • If you have good reason to believe the person purposely did something wrong, or if the person’s typical good performance is continuously and obviously declining, a reprimand may be appropriate. If you deliver the reprimand with “caring candor,” a phrase coined by Garry Ridge, President and CEO of WD-40 Company, it can be a powerful motivator for a high performer whose recent goal achievement is not up to normal high standards.  Remember these four steps when you must reprimand an individual:

1.    As with a redirection, deliver the reprimand in a timely manner—as soon as the unusual poor performance or behavior is detected. A reprimand should never be saved for an annual performance review.

2.    Be specific about what was done incorrectly and the impact it could have on you or others; i.e., “You didn’t turn in your weekly report on time. When I don’t get reports from all our team members, I can’t do a complete analysis for my Monday leadership meeting.”

3.    Share your exact feelings about the situation—frustration, disappointment, surprise, etc.

4.    Finish by reaffirming the person’s past performance and letting her know the reprimand is not about her as a person, but about her behavior or actions. “This upsets me because it’s so unlike you. You’re one of my best people and you usually get your reports in on time.” This last step is very important because you want the person to walk away thinking about what she did wrong, not about how poorly you treated her.


Above all, remember to catch your people doing something right and praise them at every opportunity. You will be making deposits in the bank of goodwill, so that if you occasionally need to make a withdrawal via a redirection or reprimand, the sting will be short-lived and the employee will be that much more motivated toward high achievement.

Lead with LUV

I’m really excited about my brand-new book, Lead with LUV, that I wrote with Colleen Barrett, President Emeritus of Southwest Airlines. The reason I’m excited about it is that if I were asked to leave a legacy of my thinking today, this would be it. The world is in desperate need of this message of love and people first.

If you know anything about Southwest Airlines, you know they’re all about love. (They sometimes spell it L-U-V because LUV is their symbol on the New York Stock Exchange.) They love their people and they love their customers. They love their work and take it seriously—but they don’t take themselves seriously.

For example, a colleague of mine was flying on Southwest recently when the attendant got on the public address system and said:

“You know, this is the last flight of the day and we’re really tired. To be honest with you, we don’t have the energy to pass out the peanuts, so we’re going to put them on the floor in the front the plane and when we take off and gain altitude, they’ll slide down the aisle.  If you want some nuts, just grab them.”

And that’s what happened! The whole airplane was in hysterics—laughing, having fun, grabbing peanuts, passing them to their neighbors—just having a blast!

That’s leading with LUV. How different is that than your typical experience on most airlines, where everyone seems so uptight?

Leading with LUV is about treating your customers right. Southwest really gets this. For example, when you call most airlines to change a reservation, you usually get a recording that says they really value your business, but all of their operators are busy right now; they’ll get to you as soon as possible. Then the music starts.  You could be waiting on hold for fifteen or twenty minutes or more.

But when you call Southwest Airlines, you usually get an operator, and if you don’t, you get a recording that says, “Your business is really important to us.  We’re sorry all of our operators are busy right now, but at the beep, please leave your name and phone number and we’ll get back to you in ten minutes.”

I did this recently, and you know what happened in ten minutes?  My phone rang and somebody said, “Is this Ken Blanchard?”

“Yes, it is,” I said.

“This is Bob from Southwest Airlines,” he said. “How can I help you?”

Now that’s what I call raving fan service! And that’s how you lead with LUV. No wonder Southwest is the only airline that has consistently turned a profit while the others have struggled.

These heart-warming stories don’t happen by accident. When an organization has happy people, happy customers, and happy shareholders, it’s because the leadership has created a culture that supports leading with LUV.  So, how do you do that?

First, you have to create a vision—something to love, something with a higher purpose than just making money. Southwest’s vision was that all people—not just the elite—would be able to afford to fly.

Second, you have to create the rules of the road—the values that will guide people as they work toward that higher purpose. For example, Southwest has three values:

  • A Warrior Spirit
  • A Servant’s Heart
  • A Fun-LUVing Attitude

Third, once you have the vision in place and the values established, the leaders have to get out of the way so they can cheer people on to achieve the vision. This means turning the traditional pyramidal hierarchy upside-down, so that the leaders support their people, rather than vice versa.

What does this look like in the real world? How do you, as a leader, lead with LUV?

First, by acknowledging people. When she was president of Southwest, Colleen Barrett sent out thousands of hand-written notes to her people every year, celebrating their successes, sympathizing with their losses, and thanking them for being extraordinary.

Second, by backing people up. Southwest founder Herb Kelleher once got a letter from a grumpy customer complaining about how much it bothered him that the flight attendants goofed off during the safety announcement. Because a Fun-LUVing Attitude is a Southwest value and this was a customer who tended to complain a lot, Herb didn’t apologize or offer him a coupon. Instead he wrote back, “We’ll miss you.” He stood by the values and the people of Southwest.

The third way to lead with LUV is to make your people your business partners. For example, pilots at Southwest have personally paid for hotel rooms for customers who, because of bad weather, had to spend the night in an unfamiliar city. The pilots could see that the people needed help. Because the pilots knew they were Southwest’s business partners, they didn’t call and ask, “Is it okay? Will I get reimbursed?” They led with LUV and created grateful, satisfied customers.

Leading with LUV is not soft management—it’s smart management. When you put positive relationships ahead of profits, you end up with an abundance of both.

Someone once said to my wife, “Margie, you’ve lived with Ken for almost fifty years. What do you think leadership is?”

Margie nailed it when she said, “Leadership IS love, it’s not about love.  It’s loving your mission, it’s loving your people, it’s loving your customers, and it’s loving yourself enough to let other people be magnificent.”

I couldn’t say it any better. So if you’re looking for satisfying, long-term success, remember: Leading with LUV is not about somebody else in some other organization. Leading with love is about you. So treat your colleagues and your customers like family, and Lead with LUV.

Here are a few other great things we’re doing around the book:

  • We opened a new webpage for people to learn more about how our company uses the Lead with LUV principles at www.leadwithluv.com. You can even watch Southwest’s fantastic corporate video!
  • Do you know someone who leads with LUV? There are two ways you can let the world know about it:
    • Go to our Lead with LUV page on HowWeLead and post your story in the comments section. Do you know of a great video like Southwest’s? You can even embed a YouTube video if you like!
    • Catch someone doing things right via Twitter. Use the hashtag #leadwithluv and post a quick Tweet about a friend or coworker who exhibits these great qualities.
  • Watch a video introduction by Colleen and myself, read the first chapter of the book, and learn more about leading with LUV at our book page.

Have a great day!