Whale Watching

If you have an employee named Shamu, you may already know this stuff. Otherwise, read on.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the June 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Ken Blanchard, co-author of the classic The One Minute Manager (Berkley Publishing Group), knows something about building teams. He wrote his most recent book, Whale Done! The Power of Positive Relationships (Simon & Schuster), with three people, Thad Lacinak, Chuck Tompkins and Jim Ballard. Whale Done! tells the story of a fictional business manager who discovers that if he treats employees as trainers do a whale-with positive reinforcement-he gets positive results. We asked Ken for insight about positive relationships. Fortunately, he gave us more than a minute.

What's the one thing you hope entrepreneurs get out of this book?

Ken Blanchard: Catching employees doing things right and accenting the positive. When I ask people "How do you know you're doing a good job?" the top response is: "Because nobody's yelled at me lately." Most managers are still seagull managers. They're not around until there's a mistake, when they fly in and make noise, then dump on everybody and fly out.

In San Diego, I was enthralled by this killer whale show. During the show, there's no negative interaction. If the whales do something right, the trainers give them fish, rub their tongue, play with them. Everybody thinks the motivator is food, but it's really the relationship with the trainers. Many people think money is the key motivator for employees, but researchers show employees leave a company because of how they're treated by their boss.

Should entrepreneurs be upfront when using this method, or can they give positive feedback without explaining why?

Blanchard: You don't do this to people-you do it with them. You say "You know, I just realized I've been a seagull manager. I'd like to create an environment where we can catch people doing things right and accent the positive." If you suddenly start praising people, they'll think "I wonder what he wants."

Entrepreneurs seem pretty positive. Do they really fall into patterns of being negative?

Blanchard: I think so. They're running around and often don't take the time to accent the positive. The big problem with entrepreneurs is, they burn people out. Because it's their idea, they get excited. But they've got to create an environment where people want to hustle their tails off.

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