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Insightful conversations with leaders in the Arts & Crafts Retail industry

Dec 6, 2022

Garry Ridge, retired CEO of WD-40, is this amazing combination of a confident leader and a very humble servant who has led his tribe very well. Although he was in the oil products business, in this episode we talk about a lot of things that have nothing to do with oil but everything to do with how to grow your business and grow your people. [Podcast first published May 2021]


  • 70% of people who go to work everyday are disengaged

  • Aristotle - “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”

  • From Ken Blanchard’s class at University of San Diego in the Masters of Leadership program, Garry learned that a leaders role is to create a place where people go to work everyday where:

    • They make a contribution to something bigger than themselves

    • They learn something new

    • They are protected

    • They are set free by a compelling set of values

    • And therefore they go home happy

      • Happy people create happy families
      • Happy families create happy communities
      • Happy communities create a happy world

    • You need to love and involve your people in everything you do!

  • Comparison of Al the Soul Sucking CEO with the Servant Leader

    • 𝘼𝙡 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙎𝙤𝙪𝙡 𝙎𝙪𝙘𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝘾𝙀𝙊/𝙇𝙚𝙖𝙙𝙚𝙧

      • Has the biggest office in the building
      • Always has to be right
      • Always has all the answers
      • Leads by fear
      • Doesn’t think learning is important at all
      • Is corporate royalty
      • Doesn’t follow through with commitments
      • If things go wrong it’s never him/her - blames someone else
      • Isn’t clear about what he/she wants to achieve with the team
      • Goals are sketchy
      • Praise isn’t part of his world
      • His/her ego eats his/her empathy instead of his/her empathy eating his/her ego
      • All about them and greed and what’s in it for them

    • 𝙎𝙚𝙧𝙫𝙖𝙣𝙩 𝙇𝙚𝙖𝙙𝙚𝙧

      • Loves and involves their people
      • Always in servant leadership mode
      • Expect their people to be competent
      • Thrives on learning
      • Connected with emotional intelligence
      • Their empathy eats their ego, instead of their ego eating their empathy
      • They don’t make mistakes - they have learning moments
      • They reduce fear
      • Have a heart of gold and a backbone of steel
      • Champions of hope
      • Know micromanagement is not scalable
      • Do what they say they’re going to do
      • They love feedback

  • As part of this culture, Garry uses a new kind of talent review system for members of his tribe to “help them get an A” and have greater success:

    • At the beginning of the year, you sit down with your coach and identify the top 3-5 essential functions of your job description

    • Then, the coach (manager) describes what an “A” looks like

    • Everyone agrees to go for the “A”

    • Then, you set short term goals together

    • Finally values are reviewed and discussed

    • Then every 90 days the coach sits down with the tribe member (employee) for him/her to do a self review to grade themselves.

    • The coach asks the following questions:

      • How are you doing?
      • What is getting in your way?
      • What can I move out of the way to help you be successful?
      • How do we help you get to the next stage so at the end of the year you get an A?
      • How have you lived out our values in the past 90 days?

  • This culture has helped WD-40 achieve the following:

    • Increased employee engagement from 40% to 93%

    • 98% of employees globally say they love to tell people they work for WD-40

    • 97% of employees say they know what is expected of them

    • 98% are excited about the company’s future - a sign of trust!

  • Garry uses the word “tribe” instead of team because of what the idea of a tribe means - a group of people that come together to protect and feed each other

  • On Gratitude…

    • Book Leading with Gratitude by Chester Elton

    • Research has shown how healthy gratitude is

    • Taking time to reflect and to be in a positive, pragmatic mindset is important

    • From the Dalai Lama - “Our purpose in life is to make people happy.  If you can’t make them happy, at least don’t hurt them.”

      • Spreading gratitude helps make people happy

    • It’s important to show that you are grateful for life as a gift - don’t send it back unwrapped.

  • Garry’s 5 personal Core Values for Leadership

    • Caring - helping people step into the best version of themselves

    • Candor - no lying, no faking, no hiding

    • Mutual Trust and Respect - treating people with respect and dignity

    • Learning and Teaching - be continually curious

    • Persistence - never, ever, ever give up!

  • “Learning Moments”

    • 70% of what we try fails, and failure can paralyze us

    • Take the word failure out and focus on learning

    • The definition of a Learning Moment

      • A positive or negative outcome of any situation that needs to be openly and freely shared, to benefit all people.

    • It’s about getting people in a situation where they’re comfortable with vulnerability so they can bring out the best of themselves.

  • On quarterly pressure of a public company…

    • Playing the infinite game, not the finite game

    • Planning and executing to a 5-6 year goal

    • Must win battles are identified

    • But all in the context of doing the right thing with little focus on quarterly results

    • The long term results have been phenomenal

      • Revenue up 5x
      • Market cap up from $300 million to $3.54 billion

  • On having Ken Blanchard as a mentor…

    • Taught Garry about being there to serve his people

    • An absolute champion of servant leadership

    • Leadership is not about being in charge, it’s about taking care of the people in your charge

  • Garry’s lessons for emerging leaders

    • 3 most powerful words you’ll ever say - “I don’t know.”

    • It’s not about you, it’s about those who you lead.

    • Leadership is a sacrifice, but it’s a wonderful sacrifice.



  • If you are a leader of a company or a team, study the principles that Garry shares on leadership to build a culture where your team is engaged and goes home happy.

  • Don’t be Al, the Soul Sucking CEO that creates a toxic environment - instead learn how to be a Servant Leader to help people succeed.  As the leader it’s not about you so lead based on empathy and gratitude.  

  • Think about implementing Garry’s talent review system to help people get an A through coaching and self-assessment.

  • Spread gratitude!

  • For yourself and your team, don’t focus on failure - turn those situations into learning moments to remove fear and build trust.

  • Keep your focus on where you want to be in 5-6 years out and do the right thing each day instead of focusing on quarterly financials.  

You can reach Garry Ridge at The Learning Moment (Welcome), find him on LinkedIn at Garry Ridge or follow him on Twitter at @learningmoment.

Garry Ridge Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the WD-40 Company

𝗚𝗔𝗥𝗥𝗬 𝗢. 𝗥𝗜𝗗𝗚𝗘, The Culture Coach and Chairman Emeritus of the WD-40 Company, is passionate about learning and empowering the organizational culture he helped establish at the WD-40 Company. His vision and leadership positively impacted the WD-40 Company in both measurable and immeasurable ways. Garry joined WD-40 Company in 1987 and rose through the company in various management positions in the company. Garry retired as the CEO in 2022.

Garry is an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego where he teaches the principles and practices of corporate culture in the Master of Science in Executive Leadership program. In 2009, he co-authored a book with Ken Blanchard outlining his effective leadership techniques, titled Helping People Win at Work: A Business Philosophy called “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A.”

A native of Australia, Garry holds a certificate in Modern Retailing and wholesale distribution and a Master of Science in Executive Leadership from the University of San Diego.


𝗖𝗟𝗜𝗡𝗧 𝗢’𝗥𝗘𝗔𝗥, president and owner of Creative Sales Consulting, has worked in the Retail industry since 2000. Clint and his team connect suppliers & retailers in the creative arts industries for stronger relationships and strategic sales growth, in order to bring joy to consumers through artistic creative and decorative products. 

For more insightful conversations with leaders in the Arts & Crafts Retail industry visit

If you'd like to be a guest on the podcast, reach out to Clint O’Rear at



"Carpe Diem" Kevin MacLeod (
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