The Bregman Leadership Podcast
Episode 85

Ken Blanchard

One Minute Mentoring

What makes a successful mentorship? It’s not about having a mentee who listens and a mentor who teaches well–it’s all about values compatibility. Ken Blanchard is the co-author of over 60 books on leadership, so he knows a thing or two about collaboration himself. One Minute Mentoring: How to Find and Work With a Mentor–And Why You’ll Benefit from Being One, co-written with Claire Diaz-Ortiz, explores how you can grow your career by creating powerful mentorship relationships. Discover why logistics are irrelevant, the wisdom behind the mentor model, and the difference between essence and form.


Book: One Minute Mentoring
Bio: Ken Blanchard, PhD, is one of the most influential leadership experts in the world. He has co-authored 60 books, including Raving Fans and Gung Ho! (with Sheldon Bowles). His groundbreaking works have been translated into over 40 languages and their combined sales total more than 21 million copies. In 2005 he was inducted into Amazon’s Hall of Fame as one of the top 25 bestselling authors of all time. The recipient of numerous leadership awards and honors, he is cofounder with his wife, Margie, of The Ken Blanchard Companies®, a leading international training and consulting firm.



Peter: Welcome to the Bregman Leadership Podcast. I’m Peter Bregman, your host and CEO of Bregman Partners. This podcast is part of my mission to help you get massive traction on the things that matter most.

We are very fortunate today. We have with us, as our guest on the podcast, Ken Blanchard. You know him. If you don’t know him, you should know him. I read the One Minute Manager, I don’t know exactly when it came out, but at least 25 years ago when I first read it. I have to admit that I was predisposed not to like it. The idea of a parable book, I don’t know, it bothered me somehow. I loved it in spite of myself. I think it was such a great primer. It was so succinct, so clear, so effectively focused and written in a way where when people were moving into management roles and they’d say, “What book should I read?” And they were expecting me to give them some sort of tome or David McCullin Social Motivation, 680 pages, which is also a great book, but nowhere near as immediately practical and usable as the One Minute Manager was.

I always suggest that book. If you’re listening to this and you are gumming into management, and even if you’re an experienced manager, I recommend reading the One Minute Manager, because it’s both a quick read and the stories stick with you. Today we’re here with Ken to talk about his new book, One Minute Mentoring: How to Find and Work With a Mentor and Why You’ll Benefit From Being With One. He wrote it with Claire Diaz Ortiz. This is, I don’t know if it’s his 60th book or somewhere around there, because he’s written at least 60 books. He has sold 21 million copies of his books. He’s one of the top 25 most prolific or bestselling authors of all time, according to Amazon, and all of that while being an actually incredibly nice guy. He’s the chief spiritual officer of the Ken Blanchard Companies. It tells you a little bit about who he is both at a practical level and at a soul level. Without further ado, I could go on, Ken, welcome to the Bregman Leadership Podcast.

Ken: Well, Peter, it’s great to be with you. Just a quick comment about the One Minute Manager, because life is what happens to you when you’re planning on doing something else, you know? I got invited to a party when we came out of sabbatical leave to California from University of Massachusetts by a woman who wanted to have authors come together, and I had written a textbook with Paul Hearse, and so I had somehow qualified. We’re at the party and Margie meets Spencer Johnson, my wife, and Spencer wrote children’s books, this whole series of value tales, The Value of a Sense of Humor: The Story of Will Rogers. The Value of Honesty: The Story of Abe Lincoln. She hand-carries him over to me and she says, “You guys ought to write a children’s book for managers. They won’t read anything else.”

He was working on a one minute scolding with his psychiatrist, and I invited him to a seminar that I was doing. He sat in the back and laughed [inaudible 00:03:26] he came up running at the end. He said, “Forget parenting, let’s do the One Minute Manager.” He’s a children’s book writer and I’m a storyteller, so we decided to write a parable about this young man searching for an effective manager. Nobody knew us, and who would have ever thunk it, you know? We were on the Today show and Labor Day 1982 and it went on the best seller list the next week. It never left for two to three years. It was just kind of ridiculous. We now have the new One Minute Manager that came out because we hadn’t rewritten it and they needed an ebook.

They said, “Read it, see if you want to make any changes.” I read it, Peter, I laughed because he’s on his intercom system. Are you using your intercom system today? Everybody he was supervising was gathered right around him. We changed the One Minute Reprimand to One Minute Redirects, which is much more consistent with the philosophy today of side-by-side leadership. Life is kind of fun to look at the absurdities that get you going, you know?

Peter: I was interviewed recently and someone was asking me about the sort of strategy of my career. My answer was, “My career has been deeply unstrategic. You look for opportunities that see, and I constantly try to move closer towards what brings me joy and what brings value into the world. You can’t fully strategize that. You have to try something out and say, “Huh, this is kind of interesting, and if I tweak it here a little bit I bet it will be more fun or I bet it will add more value.” It’s very opportunistic.

Ken: That gets to why I wrote this book with Claire on mentoring, you know? I hadn’t thought about writing on mentoring, but Claire is in her early 30s and she came to me. She said, “Ken, in the past mentors have always been older, and I think us young folks could learn a lot from you older folks.” I’m 78, “But I think you older folks could learn a lot from us youngsters, particularly around technology.” It was, what can we write about cross-generational mentoring with the belief, which I hadn’t thought about, but after I thought about all the co-authors I had, every time you’re in a mentor or mentee relationship, both parties learn. That’s the exciting thing about it is that if you stop learning I think you oughta lie down and let them throw the dirt on you because you’re already dead.

Peter: I found that to be something so interesting in the book. I want to share a brief experience, which is that when I first came out of college I worked with Outward Bound. I did paired courses. I ran and course directed paired courses, which were when you took six corporate executives and six urban youth and you put them together. At the beginning the … And the corporate executives paid for the urban youth. They were paying sort of covering their costs. There was a sense of, “Okay, I’m coming in and I’m going to mentor.” Man, I’ll never forget these moments where the corporate executive is 80 feet up on a ropes course, hanging over the ground, terrified, shaking, and the 16 year old kid is looking at him going, “I believe in you! You got this! I bet you could do this!”

It was this complete reversal where they really kind of understand. What I loved about this is that it wasn’t just the reverse mentoring, the cross-generational mentoring the way you described it in the book, it’s not just Josh who’s the mentee and Diane who is the mentor. It’s not just Josh as the mentee teaching Diane about technology, which is the obvious thing, but actually asking deeper questions and helping her think through her life in way that I found I wanted you to talk a little bit about. You depicted in a way that went beyond what we traditionally would expect the younger to teach the older.

Ken: Yeah. Some people said, “He acted a little bit too smart.” You know, I think that a great mentoring partnership is somebody who is inquisitive, wants to learn, is a good listener, and knows how to ask questions. No matter what your age is. Josh was really good, and Diane had been warned by her mentor that if you try to mentor somebody, if you go mentor somebody else you’re going to learn a lot too and put things into perspective. That’s really what happened too. It was really kind of interesting. My 11 year old grandson, he mentors me periodically. He’ll say, “Gramps.” You know? Then he’ll give me some insights, you know, that he’s had. It’s just marvelous to see.

Peter: Talk to us a little bit more about the, you know, maybe just give us a quick rundown for people who want to get a sense of the book and are thinking about kind of wanting to learn about mentoring and mentee relationships. You have a step-wise process that fits the term mentor, you know, it’s sort of a pneumonic around mentor, starting with mission, and engagement, and network, trust, opportunity, review, and renewal. Do you want to give like just a sentence of each to give the listener a little bit of context.

Ken: Let me say one other thing first because we were talking offline about whether I might mentor you or you could mentor me or whatever. The key thing is when you’re looking for a mentor or mentee, before you get to the mentoring steps, which is, “What are we going to do now that we’ve decided to work together.” Is there’s two aspects of working with somebody. One is essence and the other is form. Essence is heart to heart and values to values.

Form is, “What are we going to do.” The mentor acronym is about form. The first thing is in the book Josh meets a couple of people that they think he would be a good mentor, and there’s just no clicking with them in terms of values and all, so he passes. I have found that advice was so powerful to me because whenever you jump into form with somebody before you’ve gotten essence, the essence will bite you in the tail eventually. You want to first know, “Is this somebody you would be interested in spending some time with. Do you think that you share some values alike?” Then you can get into the form. I think that’s a good thing to talk about first.

Peter: I love that. How do you engage in the essence question? Is it you have a meal with someone or you take a walk with them or you engage in conversations that’s outside the realm of necessarily what you want to be mentored about? Meaning you move away from the do and you move towards the being and say, “Are we connecting on that level?”

Ken: Yes. Well, that’s really important. To give you an example of that, I had an idea a number of years ago to write a book called, On the Power of Positive Management. I went to a guy who was really well-known as positive thinking and all. All he wanted to talk about was form. Who was going to do what, how are we going to break up the royalties and all, so I passed. My publisher called me and said, “Ken, I heard you were disappointed with your meeting. Have you ever thought about writing a book with Norman Vincent Peale?” I said, “Is he still alive?” You know? He said, “Not only is he still [inaudible 00:10:58].” He was 86 years old at the time.

I flew to New York, had a lunch, three hour lunch, with Norman and his wife Ruth and our publisher. In three hours of meeting with Norman and Ruth, there was not one form question. It was all essence. “Tell us about yourself. Tell us about Margie. We’ve heard about your wife Margie. Let us tell you about us.” At the end of the lunch, Norman turns to Ruth and asks the ultimate essence question, he said, “Ruth, do you think we should do a book with this young man?” We hadn’t even talked about what the title would be. She said, “Yes, under one condition.” He said, “What’s that?” “From now on when we meet, he will bring his wife Margie. The four of us will work on this together.” [inaudible 00:11:45] but it was just so sweet, because they could have cared less about the form. They wanted to know if we were going to be able to click in there. That’s such a powerful concept.

Peter: I love it. There’s wisdom of age in that, which says, at a certain point I’ve got X number of years left. I want to make sure that I’m, you know, what I was saying before, which is to have joy and add value. That’s so no matter your age, that is the question to be asking, right?

Ken: [inaudible 00:12:21] yeah.

Peter: No matter your age, in the scheme of things it’s all really short. The question is, “Where do you want to invest your life’s energy and who do you want to invest it with?”

Ken: And once you decide, “I’d like to invest that with you.” Or somebody, then you get to the mentor model, which is a wonderful way to say, “Let’s get the form straight.” Because M stands for mission, which is what do we want to accomplish in working together. You know all good [inaudible 00:12:51] starts with clear goals. You know, if people don’t know what you want to accomplish they can’t get there. It’s just kind of agreeing on expectations. The E stands for engagement, which is, “Okay, now we know what we want to accomplish, how do we want to meet? Is it always going to be face-to-face over a meal, or can we do so on Skype? Can we email? How do we want to engage each other?” Then, N stands for network. One of the important things about mentoring, no matter what the age spread is both of you have a network of people that might be useful to the person you’re interacting with to say, “You know, I have somebody maybe it’d be interesting for you to talk to and all.”

Like I met Truett Cathy, the chairman of Chick-Fil-A through Norman Vincent Peale. He said, “Here’s somebody I think you’d really enjoy because he’s running a company, you know, very different than our center for positive thinking.” T is trust, because if you’re going to have a good, powerful relationship, you’ve got to learn to trust each other. In fact, I wrote a book on trust with a colleague by the name of Cindy Homestead, who had been studying it for 20 years. Everybody has different definitions of trust. She said, “When you’re in a mentoring relationship or any, there’s A, B, C, D of trust.”

A is does the person have the ability of skills that’s necessary for what you want to work on together. B is are they believable. If they tell you one thing, do they walk their talk? They say my door is always open and you can never get them. They got three secretaries you’ve got to go through. C is that essence, connectedness. How do you feel about them? D stands for dependable. They say they’re going to meet you a certain time. Do they meet then, or they keep on changing it and you can never count on it, and also trust is really important. Then you get to O, which is opportunities, which is different than network, which is, “Here’s an interesting opportunity that you might want to take a look at. It might be something that might help you on your journey and all.”

Then, finally, R is to review and renew, which is have a period of time where you say, “How have we done to this point? Do we want to renew or do we want to say we’ve really done that?” So like I’ve written a number of books with a lot of people, but some people I’ve written more than one book because, well we finished one, we had such a connection [inaudible 00:15:32] we said, “Well what could we do next.” With Sheldon Boles, I wrote Raving Fans, and then we wrote Gung Ho, you know, and things like that. It’s a nice little acronym for form.

Peter: That’s great. You know, you check out on essence. That’s the bar that you move through. That’s the door that you walk through where you say, “Okay, now we think about form.” What are some of the challenges as people engage in the mentor-mentee relationship that people should look out for? I know a lot of people who, and a lot of organizations, that try to set up mentor-mentee programs. Some of the challenges that they face is people meet once or twice and then everybody gets busy and they stop. What are some of the challenges you’ve found when you look at these relationships, and also what are some ways around them?

Ken: Well, I think that one of the big ones is that you get busy. That’s why it’s so important, the engagement step, which is, you know, we’re going to get busy, but we oughta at least email each other once a week so we stay up-to-date even though we might not, because of schedule, face-to-face for about a month. Some way that could keep the thing going. Where they break down is you don’t have the rules of engagement set up, and then all of a sudden it just kind of drifts away. Peter Drucker said to me years ago, “Ken, nothing good happens by accident. Put some structure on it.” I think that’s what’s important, is to put some structure on the thing.

A lot of times at companies where they set up mentor programs they assign you a mentor, which is a problem because you might not have essence with that person, whereas if they said, “I think we’d love to have you get in a mentoring relationship, and here’s two or three people we’d love for you to sit with.” If you kind of find out if you’ve got a really kind of a nice match mutually, then let that be your mentor rather than, “You know, here’s a new person, doesn’t want to say, ‘god this person is just not my cup of tea’.”

Peter: And you have some advice at the end of the book for organizations about setting up mentor programs, which I think is really important for leaders who are listening to this who are thinking about, you know, “How do we bring this into an organization in a reasonably codified way?” One question that I have is, how important is it for there to be organizational structure around a mentoring program versus to say to the organization, “We value mentoring. We want you to look for people that you can learn from. We want you to ask people, whether we want you to approach people.” But to leave it to an entrepreneurial energy versus creating some structure around it that supports the process. Before you answer, I just want to say to people, we’re talking with Ken Blanchard, the book, his most recent book, is One Minute Mentoring: How to Find and Work With a Mentor and Why You’ll Benefit From Being One.

Ken: Well, I think that people need to realize, and we’ve done that with our work in the whole area of leadership is that you have to have different strokes for different folks. Some people have an entrepreneurial spirit about them and that’s great to say, “We believe in mentors and suggest you try to find one.” But you might get somebody else who doesn’t have that kind of outward personality and all that maybe some structure would be. I think it would be really good to talk with people to say, “We think that this is an important thing. Would you rather kind of take the ball yourself and run with it, or do you want some structure that we could set up in all?” So you’re really helping diagnose with them what might be helpful to them.

It’s really interesting, I don’t know what your experience is, mine as I’ve looked at this, Peter, I don’t think there’s ever been anybody who’s really been successful who hasn’t had mentors, you know? We’re doing work with the Football Hall of Fame now, and I’ve gone to a couple of times to the hall of fame thing. I went when Don Schueller, who I wrote a book with, was inducted. All of the people who get inducted don’t talk about all of their successes. They talk about the people who mentored them, and who were important that got them to where they were that they are receiving this induction into the hall of fame.

It really is interesting, we were out there last year, you know, with Tony Dungy was put in, and they all talked about people who had impacted their lives. I think when you think back at that is I don’t know anybody who is successful who hasn’t had and be able to name a couple of people that made a difference in their lives and their careers.

Peter: I want to speak to something that I have felt in myself that I’ve felt recently a huge turnaround in, that feels important around getting mentors, which is I think that there’s a sense that I know I have felt, and that I know other people feel, of competitiveness, that you know, you look at people who have gone before you and you want to do better, and you want to, you know, you’re kind of competing, and you’re a little jealous. I have felt that with people. I recently had this big shift, and I actually have Marshall, who we talked about before, I have Marshall Goldsmith to thank for this a little bit, who I felt a little kind of competitive with. Then, I stop and I go, “I’m crazy, like why am I … I have so much to learn. I have so much to learn.”

It is such hubris, such ego, such a waste of energy to approach relationships with competitiveness as opposed to approach relationships with a sense of learning and appreciation of what’s been created. I think that feels important in this conversation around mentoring, because there’s a generosity on the side of the mentor and an appreciation and an openness and a learning on the side of the mentee that’s necessary, I think, for these relationships to really have their power.

Ken: Yes, and what I love about the whole movement around mentoring is to maybe do something about this competitive thing. I’ve always felt one of the sad things about organizations is you go out and hire people who are either winners you steal from other companies or potential winners, and then you put them into this performance review system where you have to screw a certain percentage of them if you’re going to be a good manager. You have to have a normal distribution curve. Now, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Why would you want everybody to win if you set really good, observable, measurable goals that will help the organization as well as that person’s department.

I think if we can get people off of this thing that what you need is not people competing against each other, but how can we help each other, because if everybody in my department wins, then we all win. Why am I trying to say, “Boy, I want to outrun him.” There was some of that in the book with Josh, because this young guy came in, was outperforming him, you know, in sales, which was making hiM, “Oh god, this guy, you know, he’s not even wet behind the ears at all.” Rather than Diane convincing him to say, “I bet you could learn something from him, you know, rather than think about competing.”

Peter: That’s a huge shift for people. There’s a big kind of, you have to confront your own fears and you have to confront your own ego. You have to confront a number of things that allow you to grow, but I think that’s what’s necessary for growth in general. It’s probably why you have the title of chief spiritual officer.

Ken: Well, you know, what’s interesting too is that one of the reasons I’ve been able to write a lot of co-authored books is that I’m not a competitive person in the sense that I really want to help other people win as much as I want to win. I’m not in there … You know, so I’ve become good buddies and have mentored in some ways Patrick [Lynchioni 00:24:08] and Tony Robins and some of these guys who [inaudible 00:24:10] and Renee Brown who I think are such great up and comers, and why wouldn’t I want to do anything I could do to help them. You know what? I’m just learning tons from them. I just need, we just need to get that mind shift from life is all about this competitive game rather than life is about how you create an environment where everybody can win.

Peter: I love that. I love that, Ken. I want to really appreciate you for the wealth that you have shared with the leadership community and the way you’ve shown up in a way, I mean talk about hall of fame, that has inspired so many of us. I’ve loved this conversation. It’s coming to the end, but I wanted to really both appreciate you and say thank you. The book is One Minute Mentoring: How to Find and Work With a Mentor and Why You’ll Benefit From Being One. I know I speak for all of our listeners when I say, thank you so much for being on the Bregman Leadership Podcast.

Ken: Well, it was really a joy. Working with Claire was such a joy [inaudible 00:25:23] she lives in Argentina. We did a lot of the stuff on Skype and other kinds of stuff. Life is really fun. I’m re-firing, not retiring.

Peter: I love it. I love it. Thank you, Ken. I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Bregman Leadership Podcast. If you did, it would really help us if you subscribe on iTunes and leave a review. A common problem that I see in companies is a lot of busyness, a lot of hard work that fails to move the organization as a whole forward. That’s the problem that we solve with our big arrow process. For more information about that, or to access all of my articles, videos, and podcasts, visit Thank you Claire Marshall for producing this episode, and thank you for listening.


  1. Wayne Cameron says:

    This one is interesting. If you can admit to hubris, etc, then we all should look at this driver of competiveness. Outcome: We should create an environment where everyone wins.

Comments are closed.