I had occasion this week to refer to Ken Blanchard’s bestselling book, The One-Minute Manager, which is an excellent book on leading teams disguised as a corny parable. (There are a lot of good business books I’d love to rewrite for people with a sense of irony, but I digress.)

As I was Googling Mr. Blanchard, I happened upon a six-minute video of him speaking at a conference in London, where he asks everyone to stand up and move about the room, greeting each other as though there were someone more important they were looking for. Once that exercise is complete, he instructs them to begin greeting one another as though they were a long-lost friend.

As you can imagine, the second exercise results in laughter, hugs, warmth, and eye contact. The energy in the room lifts visibly – and audibly – enough you can pick that up just watching the video.

“What we put in our mind is so important,” he concludes. “Today is really about belief systems… What do you believe about people?”

What do you believe about people?

Are those beliefs creating a creative, productive environment for you and others to work in?

These are, in fact, some seriously profound questions for leaders – for anyone, really – to ask themselves. It strikes me, upon reflection, that Mr. Blanchard is teaching something very subtle – and dare I say, spiritual: That the energy we carry into situations has a direct impact on how they play out. 

I mean, I expect that kind of thing from Buddhists, yogis, and spiritually out-of-the-closet people, but I wasn’t expecting it from Ken Blanchard. (Though upon doing my homework, I’ve discovered that his current title is Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies, so obviously he knows exactly what he’s up to.)

I definitely wasn’t expecting it from a keynote speaker at the London Business Forum.


And of course, he doesn’t go into it saying that he’s about to teach them a spiritual lesson. He comes at it sideways, via a pragmatic lesson in business skills. I love that – because in the West, anyway, we so often separate not only church and state, but spirit and work life, and that’s bunk.

My yogi sister talks often about bringing her yoga off the mat, of how critical it is for her to practice, practice, practice throughout her days and in every context. Our spiritual practices, whatever they are – mindfulness, kindness, compassion, and so on – weren’t designed to be hived off into a church pew or onto a meditation cushion.

Holding your new employee creative, resourceful and whole as they fumble their way through their first weeks… that’s your practice.

Deep listening when your friend shares a scary medical diagnosis… that’s your practice.

Taking a deep breath and working to stay in the present moment as you review your cash flow projections and realize you aren’t sure  you’re going to meet your targets… that’s your practice.

Welcoming a client who’s suffering deeply and turning to you for pain relief, and reminding them they have the strength to heal themselves… that’s your practice.

Sitting with the disappointment of a lost sale, and allowing the emotion to move through your body… that’s your practice.

Whatever we choose to call it – spirituality or good business, energy work or people skills, universal compassion or bringing out the best in people – it’s a high calling.  The energy we set as we connect with others makes all the difference in the world.