Relationships Need All the HELP They Can Get

It’s summer—the peak season for weddings, so I hear! I’ve had the honor and privilege of officiating several weddings over the past ten or twelve years, and every couple I’ve married has been excited and hopeful about their future. Realistically, though, we all know there is real work involved on both sides if two people are committed to making a marriage—or any loving relationship—succeed.

Of course, Margie and I aren’t marriage counselors, but I think because we’ve been happily married more than 57 years now, people occasionally ask us to address the topic. As a result, we’ve developed an acronym called HELP—Humor, Ego (getting rid of it), Listening, and Praising—a framework that spouses and other romantic partners can use to examine their relationship and keep it moving in a positive direction.

Humor. If there is anything that every relationship needs, it’s laughter. I’ve heard it said that a four-year-old child laughs between 200 and 300 times a day, while most adults laugh only 10 to 15 times a day. The older we get, the more serious we seem to get about life. So try taking your relationship seriously but yourself lightly. When I say something that gets a good laugh out of Margie, that makes my day. Start off every day with cheerful good humor.

Ego. Let me explain what I mean by ego—I’m not talking about self-esteem. We all need to feel good about who we are. Strong self-esteem is necessary to handle the bumps and bruises of everyday life. The ego problems I’m talking about are false pride and self-doubt. People with false pride put themselves in the center of their world and think more of themselves than they should. They think they can solve every problem alone. People with self-doubt are hard on themselves and think less of themselves than they should. They are consumed with their own shortcomings. When either kind of ego problem gets in the way of a marriage, it Edges Good Out. Don’t let that happen! Always keep your ego in check.

Listening. No matter how long you have been with your partner, it is never a bad idea to practice listening. Margie and I sometimes facilitate at marriage retreats where we put couples through a powerful listening exercise called Heart to Heart. Couples begin by sitting in chairs, facing each other, with their knees touching.

There are three rounds to this activity. During the first round, one partner shares by finishing this sentence: “Something I want you to know about me is…” The partner listening must verbally respond in one of three ways: “I understand,” “Thank you,” or “Tell me more.” Each partner takes turns sharing, with the other partner responding.

The second round is similar, but each partner shares: “A concern I have…” Once again, their mate responds in one of the three ways to each concern that is shared, and they take turns.

The final round is where each partner shares: “Something I admire about you is…” Again, their partner responds with either “I understand”, “thank you” or “tell me more” to each statement.

This exercise has been a big hit in our sessions. The couples find this to be a valuable method of communicating thoughts in an honest, nonthreatening way. Give it a try.

Praising. The concept of praise is so key in marriage relationships—particularly in keeping them strong and healthy over the years. We all know when you first fall in love, you start off catching each other doing things right. Over time, though, things tend to shift and you may find yourselves catching each other doing things wrong and accentuating the negative. Don’t forget that you need to stay positive and continue to praise each other’s progress—it’s a moving target!

Whether you’re newlyweds, a long-married couple, or in any other kind of loving relationship, it’s important to keep things moving in a positive direction. Remember our HELP tips: keep your sense of Humor, get your Ego out of the way, always Listen to each other, and don’t forget the power of Praising. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be like us and make it past the 57-year mark—and we’re still going strong!

One Simple Strategy to Be More Effective as a Manager

The Dysfunctionally Connected WorkplacePeople often ask me how they can be more effective as a manager. One approach I recommend is to meet one-on-one with each of your direct reports for 15 to 30 minutes at least once every two weeks.

Having one-on-one meetings is a simple strategy and just plain common sense—but it’s not common practice, according to polling we conducted together with Training magazine earlier this year. When we asked people what they wanted out of their one-on-ones with their immediate supervisor, we discovered managers aren’t making time to meet with their direct reports on a regular basis—and when they do meet, they aren’t using the time effectively. (See infographic.) Continue reading

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

Trust Works!

I’ve written more than a few books over the years, but I still get excited when a new one comes out. We’ve just released a new book I coauthored with Cynthia Olmstead and Martha Lawrence called Trust Works! Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships. We think it will make a difference in people’s lives while giving them a smile.

trust-works-book-coverThe first part of the book is written as a parable about a dog and a cat and how they learn to trust each other. It’s interesting—we asked people for feedback on one of our first drafts, and some dog lovers were offended because it seemed as if the dog had to do all the work to get the trust from the cat. We realized that we needed to emphasize that trust is a two-way street. So in our finished story, not only is the dog trying to get the cat to trust him, but the cat has to get the dog to trust her too. Of course, the story is a metaphor for any relationship where people need to create and build trust with one another. Readers will be able to apply it to their working relationships as well as their relationships with family and friends.

Cindy Olmstead spent years developing the wonderful ABCD Trust Model™ we use in the second part of the book to highlight the four behaviors that need to be present in order to build trust. If even one of these behaviors is absent, trust erodes.

First, you have to prove that you’re Able. You are competent to solve problems and get results. You strive to be the best at what you do and you use your skills to help others.

Next, you have to be Believable. You act with integrity and honesty. You show respect for others, admit your mistakes, keep confidences, and avoid talking behind others’ backs.

You also have to be Connected. You care about others, which includes showing interest, asking for input, and listening.  You praise the efforts of others and share information about yourself.

Finally, you need to be Dependable. You do what you say you will do. You are organized and responsive. People know you will follow up and be accountable.

How would you assess your trustworthiness in these four key areas? Go to http://www.trustworksbook.com and take the self-assessment. While you’re at it, ask the people you work with to evaluate you as well.

That’s how I learned that my lowest score in these four areas was in the Dependable category. What an eye opener! I never thought of myself as undependable but since my executive team and I understood the four factors, we were able to have that conversation and zero in on the problem. Turns out that my desire to please everyone showed up in real life as a tendency to over-commit myself—which resulted in people ultimately being disappointed because I couldn’t meet their expectations.

Using the ABCD Trust Model™, my team came up with a great solution for me. Now when opportunities come up, instead of saying yes without thinking, I hand out my executive assistant’s card so she can make sure I have the time and resources to follow through.  As a result, my Dependable score has soared!

In most organizations, trust issues are simply avoided until they reach a breaking point. You can’t just assume that trust will grow over time—sometimes the exact opposite happens.

Trust is hard to define. You can tell when it’s absent—but how do you create it and build it when it doesn’t exist? Trust Works! provides a common language for trust—and essential skills for building, repairing, and sustaining it. Building trust is one of the most needed skills for leaders today. Don’t leave trust to chance in your organization.

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.