One Minute Manager

by Ken Blanchard

Lessons From a Consultant

Here are a few lessons I've learned from my journeys as a corporate consultant:

One Alabama manufacturing company brought me in to try to resolve a persistent problem-more than 200-percent turnover. I asked if I could talk with some of the employees who had been leaving. They responded, "Why do you want to talk with them?" I indicated that I had a hunch I wanted to check out.

As I suspected, it was very clear why employees were leaving: The manufacturing floor was not air-conditioned, and at times during the summer, the temperature rose well over 100 degrees. People indicated that if they could get any other possible job, they would jump at it.

I reported back to management: "You need to get some air conditioning; it's hot as heck down there." The company complied, and the problem improved.

Lesson: Sometimes you need an outside expert to confirm what everyone already knows is true.

In another instance, a corporate vice president asked me to work with an employee that he was having trouble with. I asked the vice president to make a list of the expectations he had of the employee in priority order. I then arranged to meet with the employee. I told the employee his manager was concerned about him and asked him what his most important job responsibilities were.

After the employee spoke for 15 to 20 minutes, I said, "That's interesting; here's what your manager thinks you should be doing." I presented him with the list. He said, "This explains quite a lot."

Several months later, I asked the vice president how his problem employee was doing, and he responded, "Incredibly well-you really know how to work miracles." Not being one to keep someone in the dark, I confessed that I had shared the vice president's list of expectations with the employee. The vice president responded, "I thought something fishy was going on."

Lesson: Communication is fickle-you can never be too clear about what you expect from others. Most comparisons of job responsibilities and priorities between managers and their employees have a 40-percent overlap, at best!

We were once hired by a bank who wanted their tellers to be friendlier but felt it was an impossible task because "everyone knows friendliness is subjective." We accepted the challenge and surveyed their customers in the bank's lobby about what made for a friendly teller, even showing customers different pictures of tellers and having them rank the photos in degree of friendliness.
We soon ascertained that friendly tellers (as perceived by the bank's customers) were ones who smiled when they greeted a customer, used a customer's name as soon as they knew it and engaged in some conversation not related to the transaction at hand, such as "How's the weather outside this afternoon?" or "That was a close game last night, wasn't it?"

Lesson: If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. If you ever doubt this, eliminate the job or activity and see if anyone notices!

Finally, I was once asked to resolve a personality conflict between a company president and his girlfriend, who also happened to be one of his company's top salespeople. In a similar case, I was asked to resolve a work dispute between a woman and her daughter. I politely declined both assignments.

Lesson: Know when problems are better resolved by those already in the middle of the situation!

None of these lessons may seem like rocket science, but you can never underestimate the value of well-placed common sense-especially when it appears not to be common practice.

About the author . . .

Ken Blanchard is co-author of the best-selling One Minute Manager series of books. He has written and co-authored 11 other books. His latest book is Everyone's a Coach, co-authored with Don Shula.
© 1996 by Blanchard Management Report, Blanchard Training and Development Inc., Attn.: Bob Nelson, Publisher, 125 State Place, Escondido, CA 92029. Past articles, interviews and subscriptions are available. Telephone (800) 728-6000, ext. 528, fax (619) 489-8407.