What can you learn f rom the techniques used to train killer whales that will help you
teach and motivate other people — from employees to co-workers to your kids? That’s
the question Wes Kingsley — the main character and a stand-in for the author — asks
when he visits Orlando, Florida, for a business conference and goes to SeaWorld for the
killer whale show.
He wonders how the trainers get these huge, potentially dangerous animals to perform
so well? Wes is having trouble getting people to perform well at work, and wants to
know how he can use whale training techniques to improve their performance. Chuck
Tompkins, head trainer at SeaWorld, and his boss, Thad Lacinak, provide some of the
answers. The whale trainers teach Wes how to coach his employees to be as responsive to his instructions as Shamu is to theirs
Some Impressionistic takes from the book
“ Whale Done”
The power of positive Relationship
Ken Blanchard is the “Chief Spiritual Officer” and Chairman of
the Board of the Blanchard Companies, and the author of a
dozen bestselling books, including The One Minute Manager,
Raving Fans and Gung Ho!
His books have sold more than 12 million copies in more than
Thad Lacinak is VP and nationwide director of Animal Training
for Busch Entertainment Corporation, and has trained marine
mammals for more than 28 years.
Chuck Tompkins is VP and curator of Animal Training at
SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, and has worked with killer whales
for more than 25 years.
Jim Ballard is an educator, corporate trainer and writer who
worked with Ken Blanchard on Mission Possible, Everyone’s a
Coach and Managing By Values
About the Author
Manager Wes Kingsley is married with two daughters. He visits Orlando to
attend a business conference, but the real reason is to escape from family and
the office, since he’s having trouble balancing the two.
With a view to relaxing he decides to visit the famed Killer Whales show at the
Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld. Here 11000-pound killer whales play in
harmony with their trusted trainers who weigh less than 200 pounds.
Wes starts to think about the interaction between the two and about what
might motivate the whales to put on such a mesmerizing show. His meeting
with the trainer of these whales gives him a surprising insight in this regard:
while it is natural to see man -- the most intelligent animal -- training other
animals like dogs, parrots, etc, what Wes sees here is a role reversal.
Obviously, as the trainer says, “When you are dealing with an eleven-
thousand-pound animal who does not speak English, you do a lot of learning.”
The patience required for convincing the whales to consistently co-operate,
trust and befriend their trainer involves a formula, which the authors term
as “accentuating the positive”.
In different situations of our life, while dealing with people, we are always
eager to discover mistakes, errors and shortcomings. Maybe that’s why they
say “Love is blind” – after all it’s only when a person is in love that he sees or
looks for only his partner’s positive qualities. This is also because the goal
then is to keep the partner motivated to sustain the relationship and because
when you are in love, you watch over rather than be watchful of your partner.
But after some time greater attention is paid to the negative qualities of the
individual. Obviously that negativity gets repeated. This holds good for the
work environment as well.
But what Wes sees at SeaWorld is that the trainers pay more attention to
catching the whales doing something right and then they reward the whales.
But whenever they see some negative behavior, they either ignore it or
redirect the energy of the whales to something entirely different. Hence the
whales find their trainers always loving and adoring, and this is the
foundation for their trust in them. This poses a lot of questions to the reader
and hooking him to the book.
Today’s organizations experience…….
Increased service expectations from Customers
High service standards amongst competitors
The need to constantly increase efficiency &
Challenges in retaining the employees
Improving the employees loyalty, dedication &
engagement with the organization
The Whale Done Approach
The first part - The feeling part that indicates trust
The second part -Performance track record that
It is confidence, absence of
suspicion, confirmed by
track record & our ability to
The Whale Done Approach
Accentuate the positive &
not the negative
When mistake happens ,
Creating a playful Learning Environment
Another key to successful motivation and training is treating each
person as having “unlimited capacities for development and
accomplishment,” just as the trainers view the whales.
They try to show the animals that they are trustworthy friends, and
they then use that friendship to create a playful environment.
They turn the whole training process into a game, starting with
simple lessons the whales can learn easily. Starting slowly &
keeping the training fun and friendly works with people as well.
Having key expectations helps, too, since people, just like the
whales, will adapt to what you expect of them.
Expect more and they will do more.
Then, as you guide them & redirect employee behavior, look for a
person doing something right and offer immediate praise.
To accentuate positive behavior, the trainers give a whale a treat
as soon as it does something correctly.
Build ABC’s of good Management
Encourage the behavior you want by providing clear
input on the consequences of different behaviors,
both desirable and undesirable.
For example, try an exercise with a group of people
where you greet them as if they are not important.
For comparison, greet another group as long-lost
You will see immediate differences. When people
feel welcome, they respond warmly and with
enthusiasm, whereas people have much lower
energy and are detached if they are treated as
The ABC of Performance
Whatever gets performance going
The Performance that occurs
Your response to the performance
Build ABC’s of good Management
The activator can be a person, set of instructions,
training process or an incident or event.
But goals, if they are set properly, are the most
common and effective activators.
To produce good performance, goals have to be
clear and achievable.
Once you motivate people to perform, observe the
behavior that results.
For whales, the behavior might be a segment of a
show, such as jumping high out of the water; for
people, the behavior might be anything you want to
improve, such as sales volume
Four Types of Responses
Most popular one , People are accustomed to being ignored
The response people really pay attention to this
Which comes in the form of angry look, Verbal criticism or a penalty
Most effective way to address the undesirable behavior
Redirect their energy & attention either back to what they were
suppose to do or onto something else
Redirect to another task & observe their performance & catch them
doing something right
Best way to turn countless low-morale situations around
Least used & very powerful
The Redirection Response
Describe the error or problem as
soon as possible , clearly &
Show its negative impact
If appropriate , take the blame
for not making the task clear
Go over the task in detail &
make sure it is clearly
Express your continuing trust &
confidence in the person
Whale Done! Response
Share positive feelings.
Encourage them to keep up the
Catching people doing things wrong
Catching people doing things right
Our Emotional Bank Account with Others5
When we have positive
interactions, we are making
When we have negative
interactions, we are making
I can motivate people
Money is a good
Fear is a good motivator
Motivation is too hard
Common myths about Motivation
I know what motivates me, it should motivate others
Increased job satisfaction=increased performance
Treat employees with
Offer opportunity for
Fundamentals to raising Employee Morale
What’s in it for you
Get more done
Just plain feel better
What’s in it for the Organization
Increase retention of top performers
Increase creativity and innovation
Improve service to team members & customers
Inspire passion and boost performance!
The trainers use at Sea World to train killer whales, dolphins, sea lions, and
other animals is to "build trust" with the animals. Strange as it may seem, a
multi-ton killer whale is much like a little lap dog or a small human child in one sense-
--a killer whale "doesn't care how much you know, he wants to know how much you
care." It's true---Sea World trainers get MUCH better cooperation from their animals
during the training process if they actually LOVE these animals! The killer whales
seem to KNOW when they're loved---and respond accordingly
The second step in training killer whales and dolphins is to "reward positive
behavior." That means, if a killer whale performs the action that the trainer wants (or
even if the killer whale comes CLOSE to performing the action correctly), then the
SeaWorld trainer needs to reward the killer whale immediately.
What types of rewards can a Sea World trainer give to a killer whale? A nice
bucket of fish makes a good reward!
Surprisingly, a back rub is another reward
that killer whales at Sea World like! Of
course, their backs aren't the only thing
that killer whales like rubbed---they like
their heads rubbed, their fins rubbed...and
even their tummies scratched. Don't they
sound just like the family dog! No wonder
so many people think the Sea World killer
whales are so adorable---not only are they
cute to look at, but they also act just like
the family pet, at times!
The third step in training a killer whale
is to "re-direct" his behavior when he
makes a mistake. Perhaps the killer
whale has done the trick wrong. Or,
perhaps the killer whale has ignored the
trainer's instruction. Whatever the problem
has been, the trainer must try to get the
killer whale back on-track.
First, the Sea World trainer will NOT
reward the killer whale. Instead, the
trainer does a "three second pause."
That is, the trainer doesn't move or make
a sound for 3 seconds. The killer whale
knows he usually gets a bucket of
fish...and notices that he isn't being
rewarded this time.
The Sea World trainers never punish a killer whale. For one thing, the trainers will
eventually have to get back into the pool with the killer whales---and it isn't very wise
to get an animal who weighs several tons mad at you!
Another reason that the SeaWorld trainers don't punish the whales is that they don't
want to damage their relationships with the whales. Since whales are sensitive and
will only perform when they feel loved and content, it doesn't make any sense to
make them feel angry!
To get a whale back on track, the trainer might next ask the whale to perform an
older trick...one that the whale DOES do well. Afterwards, the trainer can praise
and reward the killer whale, and everybody's happy again!
How would a SeaWorld trainer teach a new animal---for example, young
grandbaby Shamu---how to do a trick?
Let's say that a trainer wants to teach a young killer whale how to jump over a
rope. First, the SeaWorld trainers would place the rope down in the water where
the killer whale could swim either under it or over it.
After every time that the killer whale swims over the rope, the Sea World trainers
would reward him with a bucket of fish---and soon, the young whale will come to
understand the connection that, "hey, if I swim OVER this rope, I'll get a treat!"
Next, the SeaWorld trainers RAISE the rope a little bit at a time. They keep
rewarding the killer whale for swimming over the rope...but, in time, that means
that he'll have to JUMP into the air and over the rope to get his reward.
Of course, this is easy for a killer whale---killer whales jump naturally while
they're "in the wild." So, actually, a killer whale doesn't really need to be trained
in HOW to jump...just trained to jump when the Sea World trainers want him to
Finally, the Sea World trainers raise the rope so high that the killer whale is
making spectacular leaps in the training pool. Trick accomplished! Even so, the
killer whale will still get a nice reward EVERY time he performs the trick.
Training to improve performance
Some of the techniques used to train Shamu and other killer whales at
SeaWorld can be used to train and motivate people.
Pay attention and praise people when they do something right.
If someone makes a mistake, redirect his or her energy to do it right or to do
Accentuate the positive, rather than offering no response or a negative
Use the ABC’s of Performance, by starting with an Activator, observing the
Behavior that occurs and noticing the Consequences of that behavior.
The least common responses, the Redirection Response and the Positive
Response, are the most powerful.
Offer a positive response to any good performance, even if it is only partial.
The Whale Done response is to praise people right away, clearly tell them
what they did right or almost right, and show you feel positive about their
Use this response to praise someone strongly and clearly, with sincerity.
Learn what motivates people by observing them or by asking what reward
matters to them.
Key Learning's/Take Away