Whale Done!*

*Disclaimer: the tile of this post is copyrighted by the author Ken Blanchard. This post is a book review and the author of this post does not claim copyright or creative rights in the phrase “Whale Done!” 

copyright Ken Blanchard
copyright Ken Blanchard

My husband checked out a book at the library and I did not think much about it until he told me some of the concepts in it.  So, as an example, I would say “ugh, what are we going to do, our daughter is being very difficult.”  His reply, “well, we need accentuate the positive and redirect her energy. That is what I read in this book….”  Needless to say, after several more conversations about different scenarios like this, I felt I needed to read Whale Done!  This book is not just about positive relationships at work and home but daily life.  It can help improve just about all relationships.

This book by Ken Blanchard is a quick read and explores “the power of positive relationships.”  What does this mean?  What exactly is a positive relationship and how do you go about implementing it?  The key concepts of this book are to focus on the positive in all you do and in everyone you encounter.  This really struck a chord with me because that is my resolution for this year- being more positive, and trying to stay on a more positive track- at home, in my career (all the jobs I have), and with life in general.  This book is written based on the concept of management in line with the style of training the whales at Sea World.  It addresses the basic concepts those trainers employ, and applying them to human interaction. The biggest difference between whales and people: We have the advantage because we can talk to one another.  The basic concepts are the same: “Build trust, accentuate the positive, and when mistakes occur, redirect the energy.”  (Blanchard, p.19)

One of the concepts in the book is accentuating the positive and redirecting when someone is on the wrong track.  For example, every day at home if I yelled at my husband about the dishes, or making the kids’ lunches, or dinner, or picking up his clothes off his home, will he want to be home with me?  There is a good chance that he will want to come home late, stay at work late longer, or just not want to be at home at all.  Who could blame him?  I would not want constantly want to be berated after a long day at work either.  Anyway, it is about expressing positive things about each other, in front of the kids, and to one another.  Instead of saying “this is the wrong bread- you always buy the wrong bread,”  you might try, “wow, hon, thanks for getting the groceries again- you are so kind to do so but remember, this bread is too thick for me so I generally buy X brand.  I am not clear on which brand it is and I know I never told you so I will get it tomorrow and show you the labeling for next time.”  There are essentially four kinds of responses to almost all actions:  “No response, negative response, redirection, and positive response.” (Blanchard, p.30).  Sometimes, sharing in the responsibility on why someone did something “wrong” or incorrectly helps the situation.  Also, don’t accuse, put down, or blame the person.  This would also not be a good time to bring up past issues.  Focus on the thing that was done incorrectly and move on.  The no response one is interesting- it is just ignoring the action you wish to not be repeated and a response is not really warranted.  So, when the 6 year-old throws a fit, promptly moving her to her room without a word and ignoring her whining would be one example.

Some of the examples in the book are with teenage kids, but you can apply almost all the lessons to any age.  For younger kids, you want to catch them doing something right and recognize right away.  So, when they are being quiet and reading, doing puzzles, join in and hug them and say “wow, you guys are really doing great… can mommy play too?” My 4 year-old for example does not need much to know I am accentuating the positive.  When she puts her toys away, I give her a huge hug, high five and say “OH MY look at this great job – you put your toys away!  Wow!  High five and good job!” This and a hug will make them realize that they get attention for doing the right thing.  Now, conversely when she does not put her toys away, then what?  Well, perhaps the approach would be to redirect her to the time when she did it right, instead of yelling at her which is negative.  Constantly picking on the negative and only criticizing her when she is doing something wrong accentuates that behavior and after awhile, you are just a mouth piece and no one listens anymore.  Trust is lost and the relationship suffers.

Obviously with my daughter, I do need to talk with her and address the behaviors that I want corrected, so the better approach may be to say, “hey, let’s put these toys away together so we can find them when we want them again… yeah I will help you and show you where they go, so next time, you can do it all by yourself and earn a high five and a hug.”   This response also takes responsibility for showing her in case she did not know where to put the toys back.  All of these same principles apply at work too.

Here is an example.  My boss in one of my jobs this past weekend gave me my mid-term feedback, and it was super positive, and uplifting.  He followed the book without even knowing it by providing words of encouragement, words accentuating specific examples of all the things I am doing right in the job.  With that, he also gave me some things I needed to improve on but did it in a manner to say, “maybe we can both learn together because this is a new system.”  I got it.  The next day at the job, I learned that new system inside and out.   He had motivated me and energized me so much this past weekend, it spilled over into my life, and other job too.  And, he does it every weekend I work with him- he accentuates and points out positives right when he sees them instead of waiting for a feedback.  Until I read this book I did not even realize it.  I just know that despite it being work, and being away from family, this job energizes me.  As a result, I feel needed, and indispensable to the organization.  And it’s not just me, he does it for every person in our organization.  I am not even sure he has read this book but, wow!  What an attentive boss who catches his people doing things right and saying something about it.  Now, keep in mind that one method to accentuate the positive will not always work with everyone.  Each person speaks a different language, so Whale Done! talks about finding out what motivates each individual.  What motivates employee X to do better will not be the same factor that motivates employee Y.  One employee will react better to words of affirmation, while another may need monetary recognition, while another may need you to “show them” through your actions.  Also, remember to give people specific examples of what they are doing right so it does not appear you are just being manipulative.  So, say to your teenage daughter, “when you cleaned up your room and the loft without being asked to the other day… wow, thanks so much – you saved me time and really helped me out a lot- I REALLY appreciate that – why don’t I go ahead and take your chores for Friday so you can go out with your friends that evening.”

This book goes on to to state that the traditional work environment is one in which a boss generally says nothing when things are going right [ignores you] and only talks with you when something is wrong- i.e. criticizing you, or stating the negative.  How nice would it be to get feedback early and often – at the moment you are doing something RIGHT.   How nice would it be to hear from your boss on more than the occasions in which you are doing something he or she perceives to be “wrong.”  Anyway, this book calls that system the “GOTcha” system.  In this system, all people want to do is do their jobs and not be bothered because they are afraid every time their boss speaks to them they are doing something wrong.  Wow!  Tragic.  I am so lucky to not work (in any of my jobs) in an environment like that.  That would not be fun at all.

Is all this a bit touchy feely for you?  Well, yeah, this book was a bit of that too.  But, great especially as far as my personal life is concerned because it is so important to build a healthy relationship with your spouse, a partnership rooted in love and respect, rather than one rooted in fear, anger, and discord.  The chain reaction is that when kids see a healthy, positive relationship between the parents, they themselves feel more loved, respected, and model the same respect for others and each other.  Whether you want to apply this all aspects of your life or not, I think there is a lot of value in recognizing the positives all around you and in the people in your life.  Simple concepts of accentuating the positives, recognizing that progress is a moving target, and just recalling the principles from this book when you are about to fly off the deep end with your kids and spouse can really help your relationships.  That is what the power of positive relationships is all about.

Whale Done! is a quick, good read.  Along with The Fred Factor, Lincoln on Leadership, and other self-improvement motivational books, I definitely recommend this one for all facets of your life to create positive relationships.

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