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Helping People Win at Work: A Business Philosophy Called "Don't Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A" (Leading at a Higher Level) [Kindle Edition]

Ken Blanchard , Garry Ridge
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Ken Blanchard’s Leading at a Higher Level techniques are inspiring thousands of leaders to build high-performing organizations that make life better for everyone. Now, in Helping People Win at Work, Blanchard and WD-40 Company leader Garry Ridge reveal how WD-40 has used Blanchard’s techniques of Partnering for Performance with every employee--achieving levels of engagement and commitment that have fortified the bottom line.


Ridge introduces WD-40 Company’s year-round performance review system, explaining its goals, features, and the cultural changes it requires. Next, he shares his leadership point of view: what he expects of people, what they can expect of him, and where his beliefs about leadership and motivation come from. Finally, Blanchard explains why WD-40 Company’s Partnering for Performance system works so well--and how to leverage its high-value techniques in your organization. In this book, you’ll learn how to:


·         Stop building failure into your mentoring of employees

·         Set goals using the SMART approach: specific, motivational, attainable, relevant and trackable

·         Help people move through all four stages of mastery

·         Create a culture that shares knowledge and encourages nonstop learning


 “I’m thrilled that the first book in our Leading at a Higher Level series is with Garry Ridge, president of WD-40 Company. For years I’ve been concerned about how people’s performance is evaluated. People are often forced into a normal distribution curve, or even worse, rank ordered. Not only does this not build trust, it also does not hold managers responsible for coaching people and helping them win. The manager’s responsibility is focused on sorting people out.


When I was a college professor, I always gave my students the final exam at the beginning of the course and spent the rest of the semester helping them answer the questions so that they could get an A. Life is all about getting As, not some stupid normal distribution curve. Garry Ridge got this, and wow! What a difference it has made in WD-40
Company’s performance.”

--Ken Blanchard


“When I first heard Ken talk about giving his final exam at the beginning of the course and then teaching students the answers so they could get an A, it blew me away. Why don’t we do that in business? So that’s exactly what I did at WD-40 Company when we set up our ‘Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A’ performance management system. Has it made a difference? You’d better believe it. Ever since we began the system, our company’s annual sales have more than tripled, from $100 million to more than $339 million. And we’ve accomplished this feat while making the company a great place to work.”

--Garry Ridge



Editorial Reviews

About the Author

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.


Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.



Ken Blanchard

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.

Garry Ridge

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...

Product Details

  • File Size: 654 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 5 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Pearson FT Press; 1 edition (April 21, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0027976HC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,099 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changing the focus of performance reviews May 29, 2009
In Helping People Win at Work, Ken Blanchard and Garry Ridge argue that that performance reviews should be used primarily to develop people--not evaluate them. It's a philosophy they call "Don't mark my paper--help me get an "A."

The book offers a nice combination of theory and practice describing how the concepts have been put to work at the WD-40 Company where Ridge is the President and CEO.

Ridge explains that "Don't mark my paper--help me get an "A" means having managers at WD-40 working together with their direct reports on Planning, Execution, Review and Learning.

* Planning is all about setting goals and establishing the report card for the employee's "final exam." It's making sure that every employee knows exactly what he or she is being asked to do.

* Execution is where the manager has to keep up his or her end of the partnership relationship on a day-to-day basis, helping and coaching the employee to get an "A."

* Review and Learning is a quarterly evaluation designed to answer the questions, "What did we set out to do? What actually happened? What should we do differently?"

Blanchard and Ridge also discuss the changes to corporate culture and managerial mindset that are necessary to make the concepts a reality. In chapter two for example, Ridge shares 8 ways to Build the Right Culture. In chapter 4, Blanchard shares 12 Simple Truths about Helping People Win at Work. It's a nice combination that shows how a people-focused strategy has been put to work in a real-life organization with great results.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Garry Ridge is one of a kind: yet his counsel on how to develop a thriving culture, based on his experience with global icon WD-40 Company, can be applied to any firm. The changes he undertook, outlined here, moved WD-40 beyond its historically narrow focus into a future of virtually unlimited opportunities.

He did this by simplifying, without getting caught up in ego or trying to prove his smarts. He's humble, out in front, cheering on his people, learning all the time, and never letting go of the organizational vision.

Given Garry's style, it's no surprise this book sidesteps lofty theories and niche opinions. Instead, he does what savvy business people do: frames his perspective with concrete examples, using the language he's gleaned from seminal thinkers who have influenced him ("Getting an A," Ben Zander... and frankly, anyone who has thought much about where school has gone wrong; Setting "Big Hairy Audacious Goals/BHAG" and making sure the "Right people are on the bus," Jim Collins).

From this book you'll get detail about WD-40's performance review system (including forms and specifics, "you don't want to save up feedback until somebody fails"), the difference between teams and tribes ("a tribe is a place you belong; a team is something you play on once in a while"), goal-setting and ensuring everyone excels ("we owe each other for something we've agreed upon"). And he shares one of my favorite lines from any CEO, "If our culture of candor, caring, accountability, and responsibility doesn't work for you, let's share you with a competitor."

This isn't a typical Ken Blanchard partnership book. There isn't a story of a leader or a management team in a bind.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jack Welch should read this book March 16, 2010
By Robin
At the heart of this, sometimes unnecessarily complicated book, is the idea that a manager should be working to help every single member of his or her team do outstanding work and receive an excellent performance evaluation. In other words performance should be supported, cheered and no supervisor should have to grade someone less than excellent just because the company thinks that its impossible to have a whole team of winners. What's interesting about the idea that a manager should help every person get an excellent job performance rating, is the way it very subtly undercuts what is often used to defend the idea of "Top Talent." Top talent are sometimes seen as being magically better than others and that nothing can be done to improve the situation. The top talent philosophy reflects the famous Jack Welsh approach where someone "objectively" rates everyone and the bottom 20% are soon looking for new jobs. Great idea if some people in the the top 20% were not hell bent to get rid of some other people in the top 20%. Ah, the joys of corporate life!.

Blanchard and Ridge don't buy into the idea that some people get to be "top talent" and others get to be the "dead wood," and that a good manager simply bribes the talent into staying. In their lexicon, a good manger helps everyone to become the top talent. Is this even remotely possible?

It is if you go along with that that soft sentimental institution...the United States Marines. Yep. Ask any Marine commander how he judges his squad leader. He, or she, will tell you that being a squad leader is all about training each person on the team to be the best--and that there is no sacrifice too great when a leader takes care of each and every member of his team.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good book
Published 21 days ago by ej
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
i use it daily.
Published 23 days ago by James Lovell
5.0 out of 5 stars good
It is very useful book. I learnd a lot of knowledge from this book. It is very nice. I love it.
Published 5 months ago by eric
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book on leadership
I love the philosophy of don't mark my paper, help me get an A. It really speaks to the shared journey that must exist in successful teams. The book is very uplifting. Read more
Published 5 months ago by poprocj
4.0 out of 5 stars Positive
This book looks at the positive associated with evaluating work performance. Highlights development needs and rewards for good performance. A very rewarding read.
Published 7 months ago by Willie
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opener
This book helped me see my work in a total New light, this will change my managing at my company
Published 7 months ago by Kerstin Gauntt
4.0 out of 5 stars Good way to view managements
I was very critical, going into this book. "Don't Mark My Paper, Show Me How to Get an A" sounds like a cop-out mentality that doesn't work in the classroom -- if you just... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Matthew Kleinberg
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
More leaders need to read this book, and to put into practice these concepts. Productivity would soar, and it would be a win-win for all involved.
Published 9 months ago by karwil57
4.0 out of 5 stars How to use this philosophy in a very traditional work environment
While I agree with the management philosophy it is a perfect world scenario.....let's talk about how to apply it in an environment that is only partially accepting or not accepting... Read more
Published 9 months ago by James Shepard
5.0 out of 5 stars Winner
This is a great philosophy for work. It would make the atmoshere in the work place so much more a place where people want to work.
Published 12 months ago by suzanne cisarik
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More About the Author

Few people have influenced the day-to-day management of people and companies more than Ken Blanchard. A prominent, sought-after author, speaker, and business consultant, Dr. Blanchard is universally characterized by his friends, colleagues, and clients as one of the most insightful, powerful, and compassionate individuals in business today. Ken is one of the most influential leadership experts in the world and is respected for his years of groundbreaking work in the fields of leadership and management.

Dr. Ken Blanchard is the cofounder and Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies, an international management training and consulting firm that he and his wife, Margie Blanchard, began in 1979 in San Diego, California. In addition to being a renowned speaker and consultant, Ken also spends time as a visiting lecturer at his alma mater, Cornell University, where he is a trustee emeritus of the Board of Trustees.

Ken has received many awards and honors for his contributions in the fields of management, leadership, and speaking. The National Speakers Association awarded him its highest honor, the "Council of Peers Award of Excellence." He was inducted into the HRD Hall of Fame by Training magazine and Lakewood Conferences, and he received the Golden Gavel Award from Toastmasters International. Ken also received The Thought Leadership Award for continued support of work-related learning and performance by ISA--The Association of Learning Providers. Ken has been inducted into Amazon's Hall of Fame as one of the top 25 best-selling authors of all time. The business school at Grand Canyon University bears his name. In addition, Ken teaches students in the Master of Science in Executive Leadership Program at the University of San Diego.

Born in New Jersey and raised in New York, Ken received a master's degree from Colgate University, and a bachelor's and PhD from Cornell University. An avid golfer, Ken belongs to the Loch Lomond Golf Club in Scotland.

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