Ken Blanchard has had an extraordinary impact on the day-to-day management of millions of people and companies. He is the author of several bestselling books, including the blockbuster international bestseller The One Minute Manager® and the giant business bestsellers Leadership and the One Minute Manager, Raving Fans, and Gung Ho! His books have combined sales of more than 18 million copies in more than twenty-five languages. In 2005 Ken was inducted into Amazon’s Hall of Fame as one of the top twenty-five best-selling authors of all time. The College of Business at Grand Canyon University bears his name.
Ken is the chief spiritual officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies, an international management training and consulting firm. He is also coauthor of Lead Like Jesus and cofounder of Lead Like Jesus, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and equipping people to lead like Jesus.
Garry Ridge is president and chief executive officer of WD-40 Company, headquartered in San Diego, California. WD-40 Company is the maker of the ever-popular WD-40, as well as other household cleaning products. Garry has been with WD-40 since 1987 in various management positions, including executive vice president and chief operating officer and vice president of international. He has worked directly with WD-40 in 50 countries.
A native of Australia, Garry has served as national vice president of the Australian Marketing Institute and the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association. He received his M.S. degree in executive leadership from the University of San Diego in June 2001. Garry is an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego. He teaches leadership development, talent management, and succession planning in the Master of Science in Executive Leadership program.
In March 2003 Garry was awarded Director of the Year for Enhancement of Economic Value by the Corporate Directors forum. In April 2004 he received the Arthur E. Hughes Career Achievement Award from the University of San Diego. In 2006 Garry was awarded the Ernst & Young Master Entrepreneur Award.
IN WINTER 2007, my colleagues and I from Th e Ken Blanchard Companies published Leading at a Higher Level . It pulled together the best thinking from more than twenty-five years of working together. It truly is Blanchard on Leadership. Our hope is that someday, everywhere, everyone will know someone who leads at a higher level.
When you lead at a higher level, the development of the people you’re leading is just as important as the performance and results you desire. This is true whether you’re leading students in class, youngsters on a team, parishioners at church, family members at home, or direct reports at the office.
In the business realm, the importance of developing people applies to both your employees and your customers. In short, the well-being and personal growth of the people you’re leading are as important— if not more so—as the goals you seek to achieve.
As a result, we define Leading at a Higher Level as the process of achieving worthwhile results while acting with respect, care, and fairness for the well-being of all involved.
The Leading at a Higher Level Series
The feedback on Leading at a Higher Level has been tremendous. Now that people know our curriculum, the only additions they have requested are in-depth examples of how leaders and their organizations have taken aspects of Leading at a Higher Level and put them into practice while maintaining a dual focus on performance and people. We decided to introduce the Leading at a Higher Level series to do just that.
I am thrilled that the first book in this series is with Garry Ridge, president and CEO of WD-40 Company. Conventional wisdom tells us that if it isn’t broken, we shouldn’t fix it. WD-40 Company wasn’t broken when Garry stepped into the role of CEO in 1997. It was a brand leader that had produced consistent profits for more than forty years. WD-40’s philosophy and culture were conservative, and that cautious approach had served the company well. Yet that wasn’t good enough for Garry because he knew the company’s best was yet to come.
Garry bucked tradition and messed with success. Among the many changes that he and his colleagues initiated was a performance review system that has elevated Partnering for Performance—a major aspect of Leading at a Higher Level—to whole new heights. This process has helped WD-40 Company to become a darling on Wall Street.
Since becoming CEO and implementing the “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A” performance review system, Garry has seen the company’s annual sales more than triple. They have grown from $100 million—with only 30 percent coming from domestic sales—to more than $339 million in 2008—with a more balanced 53 percent coming from sales outside the United States. During that time the company’s capital value has nearly doubled, from $320 million to $600 million. And with sales per employee at $1.1 million, WD-40 Company is an extraordinarily effi cient operation.
Remarkably, they have accomplished this financial feat while making WD-40 Company a great place to work. The 2008 WD-40 Company Employee Opinion Survey found an astonishing 94 percent of the company’s people to be fully engaged in their work.
Partnering for Performance
At its best, leadership is a partnership—one that involves mutual trust and respect between two people who work together to achieve common goals. When that occurs, both leader and direct report have an opportunity to influence each other. Both parties play a role in determining how things get done. In other words, it’s all about we, not me.
My thinking on this dates back to my ten-year experience as a college professor, when I was periodically in trouble with the faculty. What drove them crazy more than anything was that at the beginning of every course I often gave my students the final exam. When the faculty found out about that, they asked, “What are you doing?”
I said, “I thought we were supposed to teach these students.”
The faculty said, “We are, but don’t give them the final exam ahead of time!”
I said, “Not only will I give them the final exam ahead of time, what do you think I’ll do throughout the semester? I’ll teach them the answers so that when they get to the final exam, they’ll get As. You see, I think life is all about helping people get As—and not force-fi tting them into a normal distribution curve.”
Yet many organizations do exactly that. They force their managers to evaluate, judge, and sort out their people according to that wonderful mathematical formula. A woman came up to me recently almost in tears. She said, “I wish I had eight people reporting to me.”
I asked, “Why?”
She said, “Because I have two outstanding people. With seven people I can rate only one of them high, but with eight, I could recognize both.”
Other companies do even worse than the normal distribution curve, and force their managers to rank-order their people. In both cases, the worst-case scenario you can have as a manager is to have a group of high performers working for you. How do you sort them out? What a sad state of affairs.
In most organizations managers are expected to rate only a few people high, a few people low, and the rest as average performers. Even when a company doesn’t have a normal distribution curve evaluation system, managers are afraid to rate all their people high, because then the managers would be rated low. They would be accused of being “too easy” or “soft ” managers. As a result, the normal distribution curve is alive and well throughout the world.
The absurdity of that reality comes through when I ask managers, “How many of you go out and hire losers so that you can fill the low slots?” Everyone laughs, because they know they hire either winners—people who already have a good track record in what they are being hired to do—or potential winners—people who they think can become winners with the proper supervision and coaching. They don’t hire losers. Th en why do a certain number of people have to lose—by getting rated low?
I don’t think they do. That’s why I often handed out the final exam at the beginning of the semester. Was that exam easy? No way. I didn’t give true/false or multiple-choice tests. My exams were tough. But the goal I had throughout the semester was to partner with my students by teaching them how to answer those tough questions. I wanted my students to win—and so did they. We were partners in helping them get an A.
After learning about this philosophy, Garry Ridge implemented “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A” as a major theme at WD-40 Company. Why? Because it is so consistent with his leadership point of view—his beliefs about leading and motivating people. He is so emphatic about this concept that he would fire a poor performer’s manager rather than the poor performer if he found out that the manager had done nothing to help that person get an A.
There aren’t enough leaders like Garry Ridge. His story is the ultimate real-world example of what Leading at a Higher Level in the area of Partnering for Performance looks like, and I’m excited about sharing it with you.
At the age of forty I decided it was time to expand my learning. Although I had long ago earned a diploma from Sydney Technical College and was serving as CEO of WD-40 Company, I wanted to confirm what I thought I knew and learn what I didn’t. So I enrolled in the Master of Science in Executive Leadership degree program at the University of San Diego. That’s where I met Ken Blanchard and heard him talk about his “give them the final exam at the beginning of the semester” philosophy. That degree program has become the most influential learning experience in my life so far. I was not asked to go to the library to expand on what I had learned in class, but rather to take my learnings back to my company to test their application in the real world. That’s when I became excited about implementing Ken’s “final exam” philosophy at WD-40 Company.
It’s been a joy for me to work with Ken on this book, which shares our WD-40 performance review philosophy. In reading it, our story might be an alarm bell for you and the other leaders in your organization. Why do I say “alarm bell”? Let me tell you a personal story that will answer that question.
In late July 2007 I was near the end of a twenty-sixday, round-the-world business trip. I had gone from San Diego to Sydney and Perth, Australia, and then to Shanghai, and finally to London.
After a ten-hour flight I landed at Heathrow around four o’clock and made my way to my hotel in Mayfair. After a quick freshen-up, I was off for dinner with some members of the European leadership team. It had been a long day by the time I got back to the hotel around eleven that night.
Morning seemed to arrive doubly fast, especially since I had a full day of meetings ahead of me. L...