Passion, purpose and excitement fill ‘One Minute Manager’s’ life

Ken Blanchard’s new book on entrepreneurship has leadership lessons for the church as it does for business.

By Ronald E. Keener

On one level Ken Blanchard is an academic, entrepreneur, management guru and author whose books have sold 18 million copies in 30 languages, including his first, The One Minute Manager (1982). His name is on the College of Business at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix where the Ken Blanchard Executive MBA is housed.

Recently he was at the university to participate in the business college’s commencement and to sign his newest book, The One Minute Entrepreneur (Currency/Doubleday, 2008).

At another level, Ken Blanchard is a teddy bear of a guy full of stories, life experiences and business wisdom, just as likely to talk about his grandchildren as about his faith in God, that really began in earnest at age 48. He operates from The Ken Blanchard Companies near San Diego, CA, and other cities in the world, and his wife Margie is CEO of a unit of the company called the Office of the Future. Margie Blanchard is a board member of Leadership Network.

The words passion, purpose and excitement punctuate his conversation just like he has lived his life. “You’ll never be successful if you’re not excited about what you’re doing,” he says, believing that “we’re not put here to grind our teeth.” At age 69, he says “retirement is a good chance to die,” and notes that “there’s no mention of retirement in the Bible.”

Purpose is evident in his founding of the Lead Like Jesus organization headquartered in Atlanta [], whose mission is “the 6.8 billion souls served by the impact on a daily basis of people leading like Jesus,” he says. A new office has been opened in Singapore, where he notes that 80 percent of the world’s population is a six-hour flight away.

“I find that most ministers never thought of Jesus as a leader, but if they would lead their churches like Jesus, they wouldn’t have as much trouble,” he says. There is no better a servant leader than Jesus, and he observes that “kings sent people out to die for them; there was only one king who died for His people.”

He says he went to a Presbyterian Sunday school as a youth “and was even named after a Presbyterian minister,” but the Presbyterians never excited him. “I switched to the Methodist church in junior high because they had a better basketball team.”

Mentioning John Ortberg’s book, When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box, Blanchard says that what’s important in life is “who you love and who loves you.” He learned the wisdom of this when last November his house of 30 years burned to the ground in the fires that raged in California last fall. Luckily, he and his wife were at a conference in Florida at the time.

When Blanchard tells pastors and business people to find a mentor and coach, he models the behavior, having worked with a telephone coach in North Dakota over the years. (One of his companies is, which has 80 telephone coaches and is directed by his son, Scott.)

“One of the problems with most pastors is they’re afraid to be vulnerable in front of their congregations,” and he suggests that a coach on the phone can help a pastor work through his or her anxieties and fears. “I’ve been lucky, you know, in my Christian walk to have so many great mentors.” Among those he mentions are Bill Hybels, Bob Buford, Rick Warren and the late Norman Vincent Peale, with whom he wrote a book when Peale was 86 years old.

Church Executive spent a few minutes with Blanchard at GCU in May:

Is there a context of The One Minute Entrepreneur for larger churches?

I would recommend that large church leaders take the strengths questionnaire in the back of the book to find out where their strengths are; because I think what pastors need to do is find out what their passion is. If their passion is behind the pulpit that’s fine, but then they’ve got to find an executive pastor who doesn’t want to be a preacher.

What often happens is a church gets an executive pastor whose real goal is to be the senior pastor. So he wants to get in the pulpit too. What a pastor needs to do is build a team that complements him, that doesn’t replicate him, and provides the functions that he needs.

Ichak Adizes is an interesting guy [a corporate performance expert,]. He says there are four skills you need to run an organization. One is producers, people who know how to get jobs done. Second is administrators, people who know how to plan and organize. Third is entrepreneurs, people with the vision, and fourth are integrators, who are people oriented, who can get groups to buy into a big picture.

He says that anytime that you begin a church it starts with an entrepreneurial idea, somebody who says we need one here. The first thing you need is producers because birth is when you create it, then you go to infancy and you need producers to get the word out.

Now the problem with most entrepreneurs is that once people get an idea, they move to what they call go-go, which is everyone is running this way and that way and they are trying to do too many ministries. Adizes says what you’ve got to do is move to adolescence and the adolescent tells the entrepreneur there’s going to be no more new ideas. You bring in an administrator who can help you plan and organize what you already have.

Adizes says that eventually you want to move to prime — or PAEI — which is where you have good producers, administrators, entrepreneurs and integrators.

How do you apply prime or PAEI?

What you need in a church is all four functions. Adizes wrote a book called  Managing Corporate Lifecycles. So, for example, if two brothers are fighting over a toy, the producer will grab the toy and say neither of you get it.

The administrator says, John, you have it from 4 to 5 and Alex you get it from 5 to 6. They set up a system. The entrepreneur will say let’s go to the movies; they’ll go to another idea. Then the integrator will say, brothers shouldn’t fight, let’s talk.

You see tremendous burnout in churches because pastors try to do everything and they really have to realize that all things can be done through Him who strengthens me, but you’ve got to get a team to do it.

What stands in the way of churches being entrepreneurial?

The problem with most churches is their philosophy: “We can do it and you can  help.” It really should be, “You can do it and we can help.” What churches ought to do to be entrepreneurial is find out the interests of their congregants and how they can help them take their interest and make a ministry out of it — rather than the church deciding ministries and then trying to convince the people to serve them.

Get people involved in what they are excited about, because they can pass the passion to others. But what they don’t have are the organization skills that can take their passion and make a ministry out of it.

Are there certain principles that transfer from the business and corporate world to churches who want to engage in entrepreneurial enterprises?

There are two things that put churches out of business as entrepreneurs. They are lousy at financial management, so one of the things they need to do is learn that their expenses can’t exceed their intake and they’ve got to know how to manage a budget and stop going around with their hat in their hand.

The second thing is they’ve got to know how to manage people. Those are the two big areas. One of the hardest things for ministers is to deal with successful businessmen. They don’t know what to do with them. They want to put them out in the parking lot with traffic.

And what you ought to do is say, is there anything that would really excite you about what we’re doing in the church that you could help us, because we could really use your skills? Rather than getting threatened by them, you need to invite them in. That’s why I love the whole philosophy: You can do it, we can help. Where’s your passion?

You don’t see a lot of top managers who are active in churches because they seem to threaten the minister. The minister thinks they want to take over the place. Well, if they want to help you run the place, boy, you’re a fool not to bring them in.

Churches aren’t known for stepping outside the box, taking risks, coming up with new ideas. What area of start-ups might they be best at?

One of the things that might be interesting is the concept of having an office of the future for a church, like Margie is doing. Have a group of people whose main job is to study new markets, new opportunities for the church, what really successful churches are doing? These are your people who are out there trying to help you move towards the future and get them out there.

Then get a group of people, who will help you manage the present. You have to manage the present because you see a lot of churches who have done all right and all of a sudden they become obsolete. Well, why do they become obsolete? They keep doing over and over what they did, and they don’t realize that the population and conditions have changed. Nobody’s looking at the future. You have to manage the present and create the future at the same time.

There’s a saying that goes, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve got.”

Yeah, but it’s true. Absolutely.

What was your conversion experience at age 48?

Margie and I got married. She said we ought to get involved in the church. We did and we helped in the junior high school program.

But our first teaching job took us to Iowa and it was right in the middle of all the protests around the Viet Nam War. We had a wonderful Methodist minister who was leading a lot of the synods and he got fired by his congregation in a most unChristian-like way — blew Margie’s and my minds. We were 26 or 27 years old and idealists.

We said if that is what Christianity is all about, we’d turn our backs on it. We just walked away and never got back in the game about our faith until One Minute Manager came out. It was so ridiculously successful that we had trouble denying that God somehow must have been involved.

Then I met Bob Buford through Young Presidents’ Organization, and he introduces me to Bill Hybels. Hybels introduces me to Rick Warren and so we had quite a tag team working on our spiritual journey until we finally gave in.

Bob Buford really had a major impact on you?

Something I didn’t like about Christianity is the concept of sin. Because if you call someone a sinner, they really get their back up. So I hate labels. I couldn’t understand the concept of original sin — why did you have to start off bad, that baby can’t be bad, it was just born?

So Buford’s sitting with me on a plane. He says, Ken, do you think you’re as good as God, and I said obviously not. I said if there’s a God, there’s perfection. He said okay, let’s give God 100, we’ll give axe murderers 5, and — Mother Theresa was alive then — we’ll give her 95, she’s a pretty good gal.

Bob said, Blanchard you’re not bad, you’re trying to help people, I’ll give you 75. He said the neat thing about Christianity is the Lord sent Jesus down to make up the difference between you and 100. And I went, wow, what a wonderful way to talk about grace. Because if you ask anybody where are they in a 1 to 100 scale, they’re not going to say 100. But if you call them a sinner, they get their back up.

Then Bob says, now Ken, let me tell you one thing so you don’t get too excited before you know the whole truth. Some people don’t like that the axe murderer gets the same opportunity as Mother Theresa, because it’s not about deeds, it’s about faith.

Then he turned me over to Hybels. Hybels said, Blanchard, you’ve got to know the difference between religion and following Jesus. It’s how it’s spelled. Religion is spelled Do, you have all this to do, that you’re supposed to do to get the Lord’s grace. He said most people quit those religions because they never know when enough is enough. He said the neat thing about Christianity is it’s spelled Done, the Lord sent Jesus to take care of it.

And he said, Blanchard, I don’t know why you haven’t signed up sooner; you get three consultants for the price of one. You get the Father who started it, the Son who lived it, and the Holy Spirit who’s the day-to-day operational manager. They finally just bowled Margie and me over and we kind of signed up.


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