Last month I had the privilege of having Ken Blanchard join me for a webinar in support of my latest book. Ken is a leadership luminary whom I’ve long admired. He is the author or co-author of over sixty books, including the classic, The One Minute Manager, co-authored with Spencer Johnson. Dr. Blanchard and I are both members of ISA, an association of organizational development and instructional design companies. Each year members of ISA gather for a business retreat to continue to grow and develop ourselves so that we can all better serve our clients.
While at the retreat one evening, I arrived late for dinner and sat down by myself at a table in the far back of the conference room. All the other tables had been taken up, which turned out to be my good fortune. Soon after I sat down, Ken and his wife Margie walked in and sat down at my table. I was kind of nervous because, as a leadership development practitioner, I was very familiar with Dr. Blanchard’s books and research on leadership. I had been introduced to his Situational Leadership Model, developed with Dr. Paul Hersey, in graduate school over thirty years ago. His influence in the field spanned decades before that. Yet here he was in the flesh, a giant in the field of leadership development, sitting right next to me.
Dr. Blanchards Advice on Building Trust
Figuring I’d better take advantage of the opportunity, I asked Dr. Blanchard if he could sum up much of his work with one key leadership lesson, what would it be? He smiled and said, “Great leaders take the time to build trust with the people they lead. Investing the time to build trust with people is what separates average leaders from great ones. The amazing thing is how little time it takes to build that trust.”
Great leaders take the time to build trust with the people they lead.
Dr. Blanchard went on to explain that if a leader simply invests fifteen minutes of quality time every week or two by building trust with direct reports, everything is transformed. The key is what happens in those fifteen minutes. It can’t be about having the person report their status on assignments or what the person is doing to advance the leader’s agenda. No, those fifteen minutes must be solely focused on the human being— not the “worker”—in front of them. How are they doing? How’s life? What is important to them right now? How are things going in their career? Is there any support they need from me or anything they feel I should know so I can be a better leader for them? Fifteen minutes devoted just to them.
The Leader Serves the Team
Dr. Blanchard has written a lot about Servant Leadership. The idea that leaders serve those they lead, not the other way around. The leader is there to provide access to resources, remove roadblocks, and provide an environment where everyone can do great work. The leader serves the team. That means dedicating time to each individual team member. The fifteen minutes Dr. Blanchard suggests is about getting to know each individual team member and building trust with them. Doing so gives you a keen understanding of what they hope to achieve with their career. What their priorities and goals are. And what drives and motivates them. Knowing these things will help you be a better leader for them because you’ll have a much clearer picture of how to best serve them.
Investing the time to build trust with people is what separates average leaders from great ones.
As if to punctuate the point, Dr. Blanchard added, “Any leader who says they can’t find fifteen minutes a week for a direct report is full of baloney!”
If you want to take action building trust with your team, and you’re not full of baloney, start today. Schedule individual fifteen-minute check-in meetings with each direct report. Decide with them how frequently you’ll meet for future check-ins. I recommend at least once every two weeks. If this seems overwhelming, begin by choosing one direct report to spend fifteen minutes with each week. A small investment of time, when executed with consistency can have exponential returns.
What is your key leadership advice? Bonus points if you can put it in two words!
This post is based on an excerpt from Leadership Two Words at a Time.