The Three Secrets of the One Minute Manager—Classic Skills for a New Workplace Reality

December 18, 2020 Ken Blanchard

When Spencer Johnson and I decided to update our 1982 book The One Minute Manager®, we did so because we knew the workplace had changed dramatically. When the original book was published, top-down leadership was the norm. The One Minute Manager set the goals and handed them off to his employees as a list of directives. He decided who to praise and who to reprimand.

In 2015 we released The New One Minute Manager®, adapting The Three Secrets—One Minute Goals, One Minute Praisings, and One Minute Re-Directs—for the times. The New One Minute Manager realized that command-and-control leadership no longer worked and that side-by-side leadership—managers partnering with their people—was far more effective.

Today’s Workplace and the Three Secrets

As we all know, the year 2020 has seen widespread evolution in the world of work, brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. Like never before, organizations and entire industries have been forced to transform the way they do business in order to advance—even survive—in our new world. How do managers continue to effectively lead their people in this environment that is so different than it was even one year ago? Let’s take another look at those familiar Three Secrets—and how they can still be applied in today’s ever-changing workplace.

One Minute Goals. With our workforces spread thinner and located even farther apart, collaboration and teamwork are more important than ever. Video conferences and phone calls work well for these conversations—we can no longer count on traditional face-to-face meetings, working lunches, or daily run-ins in the hallway. But it’s still necessary for managers to work side by side with their people to set One Minute Goals—the First Secret. It’s the best way for everyone to be clear on their responsibilities. First, manager and team member agree on the most important goals. It’s up to the manager to set clear expectations and ensure the person knows what a good job looks like. Then, both parties periodically check on progress, with the team member keeping an eye on what they are doing to ensure their behavior matches their goals.

One Minute Praisings. Whether or not manager and employee work physically close to each other, it is the manager’s job to keep in mind the importance of catching people doing things right and praising them immediately. This Second Secret remains one of the most powerful tools a leader can use to encourage and motivate people. Praise the person as soon as possible after you catch them doing something right. Let people know what they did—be specific. Tell them how good you feel about it. Then pause for a moment to allow them to feel good about what they’ve done. Encourage them to do more of the same, and make it clear you have confidence in them and support their success.

One Minute Re-Directs. Spencer and I updated this Third Secret, originally One Minute Reprimands, because the pace of work has people in constant learning mode. It’s not helpful to reprimand or punish a learner. So if someone makes a significant mistake or is simply off track, you may need to deliver a One Minute Re-Direct. If the person’s goal is clear, redirect them as soon as possible after the mistake. Confirm facts and review the mistake together—be specific. Express how you feel about the mistake and its potential impact on results. Then pause for a moment to allow the person to feel concerned about what they’ve done. Let them know that you know they are better than their mistake and that you think well of them as a person. Remind them that you have confidence and trust in them and that you support their success. Then understand that when the redirect is over, it’s over.

So how are you doing in these three areas moving into 2021? Have you worked with your people on their goals for January? Can you think of different ways to catch people doing something right when they are working from home or otherwise working remotely? Do you have ideas for how to do effective One Minute Praisings or One Minute Re-Directs virtually?

The Three Secrets of the One Minute Manager are as relevant and valid as they have ever been. They still provide managers with the powerful tools they need to build relationships and achieve both personal and professional goals. And with a minor tweak here and there, they are still at your disposal whenever you need them—even in our new world of work.

About the Author

Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard is cofounder and Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies. Best known as the coauthor of The One Minute Manager, as well as 65 other books with combined sales totaling more than 21 million copies.

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