Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Ken Blanchard, one of the most influential business leadership experts and author of the iconic One Minute Manager. His newest book, Fit at Last, demonstrates how his leadership techniques can be applied to achieving success and strengthening commitment by chronicling his journey to better health. We discussed his inspiration, the most important step to take for a healthier life, and how being healthier can translate to a more successful career.
What do you define as your personal brand?
I think it’s in my mission statement: “To be a loving teacher and example of simple truths who helps myself and others to awaken to the presence of God in our lives.” I mention God because I think the biggest addiction in the world is the human ego — where we start to think we’re the center of the universe and forget we’re here to serve, not to be served. We’re here to give, not to get. My mother always used to say, “Don’t do something for someone else with the desire to get something back, do it because it’s the right thing to do. But watch out — you’ll be amazed at what will come back.”
Why were you inspired to lead a healthier life?
For a number of reasons. It starts with my family, particularly my desire to see my grandkids graduate from college and set their lives on a significant path. I’d also like to see my son and daughter get their AARP cards. Ha!
Then there’s Joy, my wonderful little dog, who runs down the hall to greet me even before I turn in the driveway. When I started my fitness journey she was two years old. I realized a small dog like Joy could probably live 14 to 15 years and I can’t stand the thought of her running down the hall to greet me and have me not be there. I know it’s a little odd — most people are concerned about losing their dog instead of their dog losing them!
Another reason is that I think a lot of things need to be done down here before I go. I think the world is in desperate need of a different leadership role model. Everyone has seen the negative effects of self-serving leaders in every segment of our society. I’m at the point now where I can be a supporter of a new image of leadership as an act of service. My best and most influential years probably are ahead of me rather than behind me.
Finally, a big inspiration to me was my relationship with Norman Vincent Peale, the famous author of The Power of Positive Thinking. I met him when he was 86 years old and we coauthored The Power of Ethical Management. He was so excited about every day and was still making a real difference out there, right up until he “graduated” at 95.
What challenges did you face along the way?
The biggest challenge is usually changing your past habits. I had started fitness programs many times over the years and then would get too busy and stop. I realized that the reason New Year’s resolutions don’t work is because after you announce one, everyone who is important in your life laughs, says, “We’ll believe it when we see it,” and goes to a delegating leadership style where they leave you alone to accomplish your goal. I realized from my own work with Situational Leadership® II (SLII®) that if I could handle a delegating leadership style in the area of health and fitness, it wouldn’t be a New Year’s resolution — I would just do it. So I knew I needed a different leadership style. That’s when I partnered with Tim Kearin, who had once played a major role in the fitness program at West Point and started his own health club called Personally Fit. The hook for Tim was that he had always wanted to write a book on fitness for people in our age group. If Tim didn’t help me be successful, we wouldn’t have much of a book.
Along my journey I had some interesting challenges — a bout of pneumonia, a diagnosis of prostate cancer and a ruptured bicep muscle — any of which would have discouraged me from going further if I hadn’t been committed. That’s why it’s important to have a fitness partner like Tim or a friend or relative that will keep after you to keep on keeping on.
What is the most important step people can take to lead a healthier lifestyle?
Analyze where you are on the six key aspects of fitness: aerobic exercise, strength training, flexibility, balance, weight control/nutrition and rest/sleep. Using SLII®, determine your competence and commitment to achieve your optimum fitness level in each of those areas without help. If you’re like me, you might have one or two areas where you are doing well but all six are key.
How does a healthy lifestyle translate into career success?
It’s simple: healthy people produce good results. How many people are at the top of their game when they’re not feeling good? If you are at an optimum level of health and fitness, you will have more energy and be able to present your best self at work every day. That logically translates into good results for yourself and your organization.
Thanks to Ken for taking the time to speak with me.