The Powerful Practice of Applying Simple Truths

Last week I announced the February 1 publication of my new book with longtime colleague and trust expert Randy Conley, Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways to Be a Servant Leader and Build Trust. This week I’d like to talk about the inspiration behind the book and why I’m so excited about it.

The beginning of my mission statement is “I am a loving teacher and an example of simple truths.” From the time I was a young college professor, I have always looked for simple truths that reflect commonsense practices people can use to make their work and life—as well as the lives of the people they care about—happier and more satisfying.

Simple truths are not complicated but they are powerful. An example would be “All good performance starts with clear goals” or “Praise progress!” When I talk to audiences about these simple truths, I often add, “Duh!” because what I’m saying is so obvious. The audience always laughs because it’s common sense. The trouble is, too many people aren’t applying commonsense leadership principles in the workplace. When was the last time your leader took the time to review your goals with you? When was the last time your leader praised you, in specific detail, for a job well done? If it was recently, you’re one of the lucky ones.

Effective leadership is about implementing everyday, commonsense practices that will help your organization thrive. Yet so many leaders get caught up in the next urgent task that they forget to “walk the talk” and apply these basic good principles. That’s why we organized our book into 52 simple truths—one for each week of the year—which leaders can implement on the job. Each simple truth is described on a single page and can be read in about a minute. That’s brief enough for even the busiest leader!

When commonsense leadership is put into practice, everybody wins—leaders, their people, their organizations, and their stakeholders. If you’d like to know more, my coauthor Randy Conley and I will be talking about these common-sense practices in a webinar on Wednesday, January 26 at 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time. To sign up, click here: Simple Truths of Leadership: Becoming a Trusted Servant Leader. You won’t want to miss it!

Simple Truths of Leadership Book Coming February 1!

Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley

I’m thrilled to announce that my new book, Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways to Be a Servant Leader and Build Trust, will be available on February 1. My longtime colleague and expert on trust, Randy Conley, is my coauthor. I’m especially excited about this book for several reasons:

  • Randy Conley. Randy has been writing and speaking about the importance of trust in leadership for many years. His expertise and passion around the topic—along with the fact that he is a lot of fun to work with—has made him a dream coauthor. Randy and I firmly believe that servant leadership and trust go hand in hand.
  • The Message. For years, we’ve wondered why commonsense leadership isn’t common practice. We know how much more enjoyable it is for leaders to work side by side with their people—serving them, empowering them, and allowing them to bring their brains to work—than to keep looking over everyone’s shoulders and questioning every decision. To help drive home this point, Randy and I share 52 commonsense philosophies we believe will resonate with leaders and show how each one can be applied in your workplace.
  • The Format. Although Simple Truths of Leadership contains more than 140 pages of time-tested lessons on the best way to lead, it’s not a weighty book you’ll need to read for hours on end to benefit. The book was designed so readers can enjoy learning and then applying what they’ve learned bit by bit. It’s a fun, easy read that features 52 simple leadership truths, defines them, and provides suggestions for how to make common sense common practice.
  • The Discussion Guide. Whether you belong to a business book club at work, enjoy talking with a friend or two about leadership strategies, or prefer independent study at your own pace, you’ll appreciate the discussion guide located at the end of the book. It’s filled with questions that will challenge you to delve into your ideas and beliefs about leadership.

I’ve been saying this for a long time, but it’s truer now than ever before: the world is in desperate need of a different leadership role model. Trusted servant leadership is not quaint, and it’s not nice to have—it’s critically necessary for every industry, organization, and leader working to manage the immense changes still happening in the way business is done.

We hope Simple Truths of Leadership provokes your thinking and brings you closer to the trusted servant leader we know you can be!

Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways to Be a Servant Leader and Build Trust is available for preorder at your favorite online book retailer.

Looking Back on 2021 and Forward to 2022

One of the things I like to do when December rolls around is to think back about where we’ve been the past year, where we are now, and where we’re going. I do this because research has shown that reflecting on your past and how you’ve successfully dealt with challenges helps you build resilience. Taking stock of where you are now helps you decrease anxiety and focus on the requirements of the moment. And looking ahead helps you set goals, complete projects, and turn your picture of the future into reality.

Where We’ve Been

In so many ways, 2021 has been a year of healing. We’re closer to being able to do the things we did before the pandemic hit. People began coming back to the office and we started having face-to-face meetings again. Officials in California just announced another indoor mask requirement to combat a 47% increase in COVID-19 case rates across the state since Thanksgiving, so we’re not out of the woods yet. The good news is that we’ve adapted to dealing with this pandemic.

So, how was your 2021? What did you get done this year that you feel good about and can praise yourself for?

Where We Are Now

Like so many organizations, 2020 sent our company into a financial tailspin. This year we’ve had a financial comeback and so have many of our clients. It’s still a tough time for many organizations, though, and the movement to digital work has led to some concerning trends: fatigue, weakened interpersonal connections, and dissatisfaction with virtual offerings.  Our company is working with organizations to help them overcome these issues.

How about you? Where are you as 2021 comes to a close? Take a deep breath and appreciate this moment.

Where We’re Going

Our company has lots planned for 2022, starting with our Blanchard Management Essentials, Self Leadership, and SLII® Experience™ programs in the first quarter.

I’m personally excited about 2022, because I’ll be launching my new book with Randy Conley, Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways to Be a Servant Leader and Build Trust. The book will be out in February 2022, and you can pre-order your copy now.

I’m also excited about the release of “The Mulligan,” a film based on the book I wrote with PGA touring pro Wally Armstrong. It’s all about second chances in life—and who doesn’t need those?

What are you looking forward to in 2022? Whatever it is, I wish you a rewarding new year!

The 3 Types of Training Leaders Need in 2022

In our recent 2022 survey of learning and development leaders, we asked people to list the training topics they felt were most important in the new year. The top three topics listed were coaching, leading teams, and change management. All three of these topics are near and dear to my heart. Why? Because they are all about leaders working side by side with people to help them achieve their goals.

Coaching

Managers who have been trained in the essentials of coaching are able to offer their people a terrific one-two punch of support. When leaders gain coaching skills such as listening, asking questions, sharing observations, and showing confidence, conversations with direct reports can spark valuable connections that last for years. What’s more, team members who receive coaching from their manager are more likely to become high performers and self reliant problem solvers who not only remain with the company but become leaders themselves. That’s a win-win if I’ve ever heard one!

Leading Teams

High performing teams don’t happen by themselves. Teams need leaders who understand the importance of clear goals, a shared purpose, and mutual accountability in a team setting. Managers who are trained in team leadership know how to diagnose an entire team’s stage of development and apply the right leadership style for each situation.

These days, with many meetings still happening online, it can be tricky for leaders to keep track of team dynamics. Having managers trained in team leadership will give them the skills they need to build effective, collaborative, creative teams that produce the results organizations need today.

Change Management

I don’t need to tell you that change has been part of almost everybody’s day-to-day life for close to two years now, and far longer than that for many. Training leaders in change management shouldn’t be an option these days—it should be a mandate! Why? Because even when it’s done the right way, leading people through change isn’t easy. When it’s done the wrong way, it can be a waste of time and money that causes productivity to crash and employee turnover to shoot up, because people feel ignored and disrespected. And no organization can afford that.

The strongest, most resilient companies stay ahead of their competition by making change a part of their corporate culture. Leaders who know how to uncover and manage team member concerns can head off and reduce people’s natural resistance to change. This leads to increased buy-in and commitment from team members as well as faster results. It’s all about involving your people and making them part of the solution.

So make sure your leaders have the skills they need to help their people achieve their goals in the new year. Managers who are trained in how to effectively coach direct reports, lead teams to high performance, and get everyone working together on positive organizational change are the leaders who will help your company thrive in 2022—and for many years to come.

(Learn more about this year’s survey results by downloading the 2022 HR / L&D Trends eBook!)

Want to Give Your People More Autonomy? Set Boundaries First!

This may seem to be a contradiction in terms, but the very best way for organizations to begin developing a culture of empowerment is to set boundaries. By boundaries I don’t mean restrictive, barbed wire fences that tell people where they can and can’t go; I’m talking about flexible, rubber band guidelines that are able to expand to allow people to take on more responsibility and autonomy in relation to their skill level.

Some leaders believe giving people autonomy means allowing them the freedom to do anything they want to do. But that’s not true. Just as river banks allow a river to flow, effective boundaries help channel people’s energy in the right direction. Giving people freedom within boundaries empowers them to grow, develop, and accomplish their goals in a way that makes sense.

A great example of boundary setting is budgeting. People who lack the skills to set budgets are given a boundary—a spending limit—before being given more responsibility. They are also given the training and skill development needed to enable them to handle greater autonomy.

Again, even though it may sound illogical, organizations must have a fundamental structure in place before they can create a true autonomous culture. This structure includes a common purpose, values, and goals, individual job roles, specific incentives and other motivators, along with models of appropriate behavior and measures of success. Basic structure elements also can include company rules, policies, and procedures, of course—but with the provision of allowing people to use their brains to make exceptions when a policy doesn’t make sense.

Team members may think autonomy means they immediately get to make all the decisions—and they may be disappointed when they learn their manager will continue to make strategic decisions. But as people learn from their manager what goes into decision making, and as they become more comfortable assuming the inherent risks, their manager will involve them in operational decisions. Through regular training, people gradually become accountable for their decisions and the potential consequences, and managers pull back on their involvement in decision making. These guidelines allow managers and their people to operate freely within their newly defined roles.

A true culture of empowerment involves establishing boundaries, providing structure and training, and then getting out of the way and trusting your people to be magnificent.