Ken Blanchard


The Secret allocate our resourcesToday’s post is from our guest author, Mark Miller.

Ten years ago Mark and Ken Blanchard wrote a classic business fable titled The Secret. Today they are releasing a new 10th anniversary edition which includes a leadership self-assessment so readers can measure to what extent they lead by serving and where they can improve. The authors also have added answers to the most frequently asked questions about how to apply the SERVE model in the real world.

As practical as it is uplifting, The Secret shares Blanchard’s and Miller’s wisdom about leadership in a form that anyone can easily understand and implement.  This book will benefit not only those who read it but also the people who look to them for guidance and the organizations they serve.

The forward is written by my friend and mentor John C. Maxwell who said, “My challenge to you is simple: learn The Secret—then apply The Secret. If you do, your leadership and your life will be transformed forever. “


In challenging economic times, one of the easiest items to cut from the budget is training and development. The rationale is understandable. Rarely will any organization see immediate negative consequences when training is discontinued. It looks like found money in the budgeting process.

Unfortunately, this logic is flawed. Learning and development is like time-released medication: the benefits are derived over time.

Imagine someone who believes they don’t need to save for retirement. This month, even this year, they see no ill effects from their decision. However, if you play the movie forward, many of these same people live their final years in poverty. The decision not to save was painless in the moment – the pain arrives later.

Today I want to respond to a question I received just last week from a business leader: “Why should we invest in learning and development for our staff?” There are many reasons. Here are some of mine…

  • Improve performance – Learning and development may not have immediate impact on the Profit and Loss statement, but it better have long-term impact. We help people grow so we can help the business grow.
  • Ensure an adequate supply of prepared leadership for the future – We’re trying to build a leadership pipeline. This will not happen without thoughtful design and construction. Pipelines don’t build themselves.
  • Increase individual and organizational capacity – Growth should generate capacity. Every organization I know of is asking their people to do more with less. Without new thinking and methods, this mandate is a prescription for disaster.
  • Establish common language and models – When people align their thinking, it’s much easier to align their actions. My favorite example of this is around the topic of leadership. Does your organization have a common definition of leadership? If not, you’ll always struggle to create a leadership culture.
  • Build cultural cohesiveness – Shared learning experiences create common bonds. These experiences also help us grow a small company. Doing life together, including learning, fosters a unified culture.
  • Help staff increase their level of contribution – If you’ve created a healthy organization, people want to contribute at a higher level. People want to add more value. Learning and development facilitates this.
  • Introduce new best practices – Left to their own, organizations can easily become insulated from the outside world. They settle into patterns of behavior that often do not represent global best practices. Investments in learning and development can mitigate this tendency.
  • Combat complacency and stagnation – Living things grow. Growth creates energy and movement. Investments in learning and development are like water on a plant. Without it, growth is stunted and death is not far behind.
  • Maintain people as a competitive advantage – Are your people a competitive advantage for your organization? If so, an on-going investment will be required to maintain that edge. If they’re not, you’ll never enjoy that advantage without investing in them.
  • For me, there’s one more reason to invest in learning and development. I don’t see our people as an asset… I see them as a gift. I want to steward that gift well.
  • Mark Miller believes that leadership is not something that’s exclusive; within the grasp of an elite few, but beyond the reach of everyone else.  In the tenth anniversary edition of The Secret, Miller reminds readers of a seemingly contradictory concept: to lead is to serve. With more than 600,000 books in print, Mark has been surprised by the response and delighted to serve leaders through his writing.



How many managers does a company really need?

too many managers not enough workersIs there an ideal percentage of managers in a company? Yes, but it depends on the situation.

“The organization chart will initially reflect the first system design, which is almost surely not the right one.  As one learns, the design changes.  Management structure also needs to be changed as the system changes.” – Fred Brooks

So how many managers does a company really need?  In the Human Resource arena this is called analyzing the Span of Control; this means the number of employees that directly report to a single manager.  On one end you can have a narrow span where each manager has few employees – this results in very close supervision and allows for greater coaching and mentoring one on one.  This is useful in situations where either the employees or the team is new, or where the tasks are highly specialized and require frequent interactions.  On the opposite end is a broad span where each manager has many employees – this model has less direct oversight from the manager and is usually used when managing simple repetitive tasks and/or an experienced team.

The trick to picking the right span of control model, is to fit the model to the task and the people performing the task. Which means there is no one right answer. 

Situational Leadership

In the 1970’s Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey developed what they called the Situational Leadership Model.   This is a four box model that matches the leadership style and span of control needs with the task and competence level of the people performing the task.

“Effective leaders need to be flexible, and must adapt themselves according to the situation.” – Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey

situational leadership chart 1Leadership Style

S1: Telling – Is the most basic of leadership styles. It is used when managing a new and often repetitive task where the employees are likely to be novices.  In this quadrant the manager can handle many employees as their role is simply telling the team what, how, when to perform the tasks.  The manager can oversee the entire group at once.

S2: Selling – In this quadrant, the manager is still working with employees that are on the more junior experience side.  But now, the role has changed from just getting the work done, to training the employees to become more proficient, learning why the work is done the way it is, and gaining their buy-in to the process.  The manager will have a smaller team so they can invest time coaching, mentoring and selling the process.

S3: Participating – The manager now moves from directing how the work is done as in the prior two quadrants, to partnering with the employees to develop the best methods.  These managers will have smaller teams as they invest significant time discussing methods and drawing out ideas from their employees.

S4: Delegating – In this final quadrant, the manager can once again can handle a larger team as the highly experienced team has been delegated responsibility and authority to perform the tasks and make decisions about the best methods to accomplish the tasks.  The manager’s role is once again to monitor the entire team’s results.

Keep in mind that employees can move amongst the quadrants as they take on new opportunities where they have less experience.  That is why this is called situational leadership – the right style and right span of control depends on the situation.


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