Apr 7, 2020 | Leadership

During the financial crisis of 2008, I was completing my MBA at the Ken Blanchard College of Business at Grand Canyon University. The program was a blend of online classes punctuated by 3-day residencies at Blanchard’s headquarters in San Diego. It was a magical time of learning and growth for me, but a time when Ken and his wife, Margie, experienced some of their darkest years both personally and professionally.

Between the back-to-back Zoom meetings and constant before-and-after hand washings that have become part of my new normal, I find myself thinking about some of the lessons that Ken and Margie shared with our class during those years.

The 2007 wildfires began in the early morning hours of October 21, 2007, near the U.S.-Mexico border. In the end, the fires left 10 people dead and destroyed over 1,600 homes in San Diego County, including the one that the Blanchards had shared for 25 years. Luckily, they were out of town when it happened and no one in their family was injured.

But, all of the possessions they’d left behind – like the family photo albums that Margie had carefully and lovingly assembled through the years – were incinerated. Months later, Margie recalled that she and Ken started receiving what were some of the most precious gifts they could imagine. Not only had Margie made albums to keep at home, she had given away several copies of albums throughout the years for her children to keep in their own homes. One by one, the Blanchard children gifted Ken and Margie with copies of their family photo albums to rebuild their collection.

“In the end,” Margie reflected, “it was the things that we had given away, not the things that we had kept, that came back to us.” What a powerful life lesson in what Ken refers to as “holding loosely and clinging tightly.”

The next year, the 2008 financial crisis hit. The Ken Blanchard Companies was a global leader in management training with programs offered in more than 12 languages and clients across six continents. With the recession looming, the Blanchards treated their employees, not as overhead, but as business partners. They opened their financials and brought in a company called Wild Works to deliver balance sheet training to their employees. Together, the company found ways to cut costs and save jobs. As Ken writes in Leading At A Higher Level, “people without accurate information cannot act responsibly; people with accurate information feel compelled to act responsibly.”

Ken and Margie Blanchard are living proof that the best investments are the ones we make in others, both personally and professionally.

Question: What are you holding loose and clinging tightly to during this season?


Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!



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