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.

My Personal Leadership Point of View

In my last LeaderChat blog post, I talked about the importance of having a clear, teachable leadership point of view. In this post I thought it might be helpful for me to share my personal leadership point of view, so you can get a sense of how to create your own.

Developing your leadership point of view can be broken down into three basic steps:

  1. Identify key people and events that have shaped and influenced your leadership point of view.
  2. Describe your leadership values.
  3. Share your expectations of yourself and others.

Identify Key People and Events

Who mentored you, taught you, inspired you? What did you learn from these people that shaped your leadership behavior? For me, it’s my mom and dad.

My mom was the ultimate positive thinker. She told everyone that I laughed before I cried, I smiled before I frowned, and I danced before I walked. With those kinds of messages, how could I have ended up anything but a positive thinker? Mom also helped me keep things in perspective. She said, “Ken, don’t act like you’re better than anybody else. But don’t let anyone act like they’re better than you either. Remember, there’s a pearl of goodness in everyone.”

My dad was a career naval officer who retired as an admiral. I learned from him that leadership was a ‘both/and’ relationship—both people and results were important to him. He taught me that position power and “my way or the highway” are not the way to lead.

As far as key events go, I’ll never forget the moment my dad taught me a lesson that has stayed with me all my life.

I was elected president of the seventh grade and came home all excited. Dad said, “It’s great, Ken, that you are president of your class. But now that you have a position, don’t use it. Great leaders are followed not because they have position power, but because they’re respected and trusted as individuals.” That lesson has stayed with me all my life.

Describe Your Values

Values—things like integrity, excellence, success, humor, freedom, power—are the core beliefs that you feel strongly about. What qualities and principles do you value? Jot them down on a piece of paper.

You may come up with a long list. Narrow the list by holding each value against the others until you have just three to five of your most important values. You might want to look back at your stories about key people and key events in your life and think about the values reflected in those stories.

I had trouble narrowing down my top values, so I combined two words to create “spiritual peace” as my number-one value, followed by “integrity,” “love,” and “success.”

The next step in clarifying your values is to define them. To be able to live consistently with a value, you must be able to explain what that value means to you. For example, I define “love” by how it makes me feel and behave:

“I value love. I know I am living by this value anytime I feel loving toward myself and others, anytime I express compassion, anytime I show love to others, and anytime I receive the love of others.”

Your Expectations of Yourself and Others

Clarifying your expectations for yourself and others is the last step in crafting your leadership point of view. These expectations should flow naturally from the key people and events that have influenced you and your values. Your expectations really are the essence of your leadership point of view.

Here’s how I describe my expectations of myself:

“I believe my role as your manager is to help you win—to help accomplish your goals. I want you to get an A. If I am behaving according to my expectations of myself, I will be cheering you on. If progress is not being made, I will be redirecting your efforts and helping get you back on course by either providing direction or support or both. In other words, you should know when you are getting ‘wrong answers’ so that we can discuss what would make a ‘good answer.’ If I am living up to my expectations of myself as a leader, everything I do with you will be geared toward helping you produce good results and, in the process, feel good about yourself.”

Letting people know what they can expect from you underscores the idea that good leadership is a partnership. It gives people a picture of how things will look as you work together.

Here’s what I expect from the people who work with me:

“I expect you to partner with me as we work together to achieve goals. I expect you to be open and honest, so that we’re both clear and enthusiastic about the goals we set. If you are unclear about a goal, my expectation is that you will communicate with me so that I can provide the direction and support you need to succeed. Finally, I expect us to have fun together. Life is a very special occasion, and we don’t want to miss it!

When you let people know what you expect from them, it’s a gift, because it tells them how they can be successful under your leadership.

Okay, I’ve shared mine—now it’s your turn. What’s your leadership point of view?

If you need some help, check out Blanchard’s free webinar on Creating and Sharing Your Leadership Point of View.

Communicating Your Leadership Point of View

In case you didn’t read my blog last time, please take a look. It’s about an important exercise you can do—creating, writing, and communicating your leadership point of view. Where did you get your image of what a good leader looks like? What beliefs about leadership led you to become a leader?

Sharing your leadership point of view can be a significant part of gaining trust and building relationships with your people—because as you share your thoughts and experiences with them, they begin to see who you are as a human being and can’t help but feel closer to you.

In this post, to help you get a better idea of what your leadership story should include, I’m going to repeat the steps of creating your leadership point of view and include some examples written by real leaders. These pieces of someone else’s history may be just what you need to get started with your own creative process.

Elements of Your Leadership Point of View

Developing your leadership point of view is a process that includes these three steps:

  1. Identify key people and events that have shaped and influenced your thoughts about leadership.
  2. Describe your leadership values.
  3. Share your expectations of yourself and of others.

Step 1A: Identify Key People in Your Life. Who are key people who have influenced your leadership style, and what did you learn about leadership from these people?

“When I was considering moving into leadership, I looked to a colleague who was a wonderful leader and role model. He led with love in all his relationships because he valued his direct reports and coworkers. I learned the phrase ‘It’s not about me’ from this man and he taught me what it meant coming from a leader. I learned how to love serving others both at home and at work, which indirectly led to me meeting my future spouse. My amazing colleague flew across the country to attend my wedding and I know it was because he knew I had acted on what I had learned from him.” – L.R.

“While I owe a great debt to my parents, they were very strict when I was younger. Fearing consequences, my siblings and I made up stories about where we were going when we wanted to hang out with friends. It felt bad to not be honest with my parents—but because of that feeling, since becoming an adult I’ve been committed to truthful communication at home and at work.” – T.C.

Step 1B: Identify Key Events that Shaped You. What significant events were turning points for you, what did you learn from those experiences, and how did they prepare you for a leadership role?

“I was the oldest of four children. My family traveled extensively when my siblings and I were in school due to my father’s job. As a result, we were constantly the new kids in the neighborhood and were sometimes subject to bullying from the locals. This taught me to look forward to better times because there was always a new situation around the bend. When I was in my mid teens, my parents divorced. I took on the role of the “man of the family” and began working to help pay the bills. It was a challenge but I was able to help my family, make my mom proud, and still excel in a few areas in school. From misfortune, I learned hard work pays off.” – T.J.

“I once was the head of a work group that messed up on a huge project I had fought for. We drastically underestimated our workload and were going to miss the delivery date by at least three months. My boss, an executive leader, left me a message that the project needed to be wrapped up in two weeks. I summoned the courage to call and let him know the truth. Needless to say, it was not a fun conversation—but it ended up being a turning point in our relationship. He later told me that call convinced him I would always tell him the truth. We still meet for lunch every few months. It was a tough lesson, but it taught me telling the truth is always the right option.” – B.R.

Step 2: Select Your Leadership Values. Values are core beliefs you feel strongly about that have determined how you behave as a leader. Think of three to five fundamental values reflected in your stories about key people and events in your life. Then define each one in your own terms and explain why that value is meaningful.

“I value helpfulness and describe it as regularly seeking moments to offer support and assistance. On a team, helpfulness is one of the primary ways you can demonstrate respect and kindness to others. What makes me happier than just about anything else is to see teammates proactively reaching out and helping others.” – O.S.

“Esprit de Corps is a value I define as pride, camaraderie, loyalty, and accountability shared by the members of a team. It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself. We all spend a significant part of our lives at work and it’s my firm belief that accomplishing great things and having fun are not mutually exclusive—the more fun you’re able to have, the more likely it is you’ll come out on top.” – D.Y.

Step 3: Communicate Your Expectations of Yourself and of Others. What do you expect of yourself as a leader in terms of your behavior and your leadership style? What can people expect of you? And what do you expect of your people? When your people know your expectations, they can more easily determine how they can succeed under your leadership.

“What do I expect from myself? No less than what I expect from all of you. I hold myself accountable for how I’d like to show up in my interactions with you and I ask you to hold me accountable for these three things: high standards (set your mind on big things); transparency (frank, candid communication); and tenacity (do whatever it takes to accomplish a goal).” – K.R.

“Because people and relationships are both values of mine, you can expect me to see you completely—not as a means to an end. To honor my relationship value, I will be honest with you and work to help you get through rough patches at work and in life as we partner to achieve our goals.” – E.S.

“I expect three things from people I work with:

  • Self leadership: ask for the leadership you need to be successful. This is the only way for me to effectively lead my team.
  • Be reliable: don’t make me chase you to do basic job responsibilities.
  • Peer-to-peer influence: Set the bar high and push each other to do more than you’d do on your own.” – D.D.

These short excerpts from real leadership point of view essays are meant as writing prompts to get you thinking about your story. If this feels out of your comfort zone, that’s good—we all need to stretch our comfort zone once in a while. In this case, some people may feel they don’t have much of a story to tell—or that their life isn’t interesting enough for anyone else to care about. But here’s the truth: when you are the leader, standing in front of a group of people talking about your leadership influences, what kind of experiences you’ve lived through, what you value, and what you expect of yourself and others, believe me—you’ll be able to hear a pin drop.

Sharing with Others Creates Strong Connections

So often in organizations, people don’t have an opportunity to really know their leaders—what kind of person they are, what their needs are, what’s important to them. Sharing your thoughts on leadership forms a trusting bond can’t help but strengthen your relationships with people. The experience will help you, your people, and your organization flourish together.

I hope you are able to get started soon on crafting your leadership point of view and sharing it with others. It’s a powerful experience.

Celebrate Your People as They Come Back to the Workplace

It was a long time coming! When California dropped most of its COVID restrictions, our company decided to have a celebration at our corporate headquarters here in Escondido. We wanted to bring everybody—over 100 people—back together for three reasons:

  1. First and foremost, everyone, everywhere, has been through a pretty rough 15 months. We wanted to give our people an opportunity to get together, face to face, and see that it could be done in a fun and safe way. To respect everyone’s individual feeling of safety, we used a unique approach where each person wore a colored wristband that indicated their comfort level. Those who wanted to keep a six-foot social distance wore a red wristband. People who preferred an elbows-only distance wore yellow. And those of us who wore green bands were basically saying, “Come on in for a hug!”  
  2. We’ve made a lot of changes to our physical office areas during everyone’s work-from-home time, so we gave tours to anyone who asked. Our fabulous Campus Comeback Team—led by the one and only Shirley Bullard, our CAO—redesigned, remodeled, and redecorated most of our office spaces. We are so proud of our beautiful new open space designs where people can safely work together in person.
  3. There’s something about “breaking bread” together that brings out that real family atmosphere. Because everyone needs to eat, we hosted a made-to-order taco grill in the parking lot with beer and sodas for all and plenty of tables and chairs that made it easy to munch and mingle. It reminded us of the fun we’ve had together at past events and got us excited about today—and tomorrow.

Even though many of our people are not coming back to the office full-time, most will be back at least once or twice a week. Starting out our “new normal” with a successful, well-attended celebration was a great way to show everyone that our offices are back in business—even though everyone has been working harder than ever all this time. It’s okay to come back. It’s still the same place. Welcome!

So how is your organization bringing people back to the workplace? Make sure people feel welcome by bringing them back in a way that lets them know how important they are and how glad you are to see them again.

If you’re not yet sure how to tackle the challenges of bringing people back to your workplace, we have some great content for you to read and watch in our newly updated Returning to the Workplace Resource Center Stream. For even more information, catch our free Returning to the Workplace webinar series featuring luminaries like culture expert Stan Slap on employee culture and commitment; Craig Weber, author of Conversational Capacity, on candor and curiosity; Blanchard president Scott Blanchard on setting a vision and leading people through change, and trust expert Randy Conley on accelerating trust during times of change. Lots of free information you can use to help your organization make your people feel special!