Much time is wasted by managers, but strategic one minute interventions can make for a better team and a better business outcomes – writes marketer, author and associate professor Ken Ip.
Managing a team can often be extremely stressful and difficult, especially when your team is sizable and diverse. If you want to become a great manager, you must have the right skills to lead them.
The One Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, is one of my favourite books on management. The book depicts a story about a young man looking to identify an effective management style.
During his quest, he met several ‘authoritarian’ managers who were focused purely on results. These companies benefited, but their employees suffered. He also met with a number of ‘democratic’ managers primarily concerned with people’s welfare. Their employees were extremely happy, but at the same time these businesses have suffered. Ultimately, he wanted to meet an effective manager who was interested in both staff and performance, so that people and organisations could benefit from his management.
At the end, the young man met a manager who labelled himself a ‘one minute manager’ because he could get effective results from people in a very short space of time. The one minute manager shared the secrets of his success with the young man. These secrets were as follows:
One minute goals
The idea of one minute goals is to ensure expectations are set and understood from the beginning. When determining the required goals and performance standards, record them on a piece of paper. It is named this way because each item only needs one minute to read.
Why does it work? It is a useful process because it can provide immediate feedback to staff. This feedback becomes the goals that one works toward. For example, if you are playing a game without knowing the rules, you will lose interest in the game at some point. However, if you know that you are only 50 metres away from the winning, you will push yourself to get over the line.
In other words, if you don't know what the expectations are, then you are unlikely to produce desirable outcomes.
One minute praising
After setting one minute goals, the second step involves getting people to do the right things. This requires one minute praising, which is simply letting someone know that he or she did a good job.
The praising should be done immediately, highlighting the right things they did. Explain why it was desirable and encourage more of the same in the future.
Why does it work? Well, for example, a child will not learn to walk right away. He or she will stagger at first, then try again to stand up but fall. As he or she continues to fall, you are there to provide guidance and make them feel comfortable. Then he or she will try to do more of the same things and finally learn to walk. Similarly, one minute praising is used as a way to encourage your employees.
One minute reprimands
When an individual does something undesirable, he or she will be condemned in one minute. The one-minute reprimands consisted of two stages.
The first stage involves telling the individual what and why they did wrong, and letting them digest the information. Shortly after, ensure that you express how much you believe in the individual and that they are valued by the company. An important aspect of a one minute reprimand is to criticise the undesirable behaviour, rather than the individual.
Why does it work? It is highly effective because the feedback is immediate. Unlike annual appraisals, in which you are criticised for mistakes you made long ago, it will hardly affect you in any way. In contrast, if you are scolded for your mistake yesterday, it will definitely affect your behaviour today. If an error is pointed out as soon as it is discovered, it can be more readily rectified.
To summarise, set one minute goals to make sure expectations are aligned and understood; give one minute of praise, not just criticism. But provide timely feedback on undesirable behaviour, not when it is long expired.
Unfortunately the majority of people that move up to the title of manager have little to no training and managing people. My personal experience is that anyone without management training decides that managing = "cracking the whip" and then doesn't understand when he not only doesn't get the results he expected but that his entire team wishes he would die in a fire.
This book should be required reading for anyone promoted to manager.
P.S. The book is almost 50 years old and, because it's more principle centered rather than practical, I would say it has stood the test of time quite well. Given today's complex work environment, where often times responsibilities are diffuse and not clearly defined, things like "one minute" goal settings should be taken in a more aspirational than in a literal way, and as long as you see it that way you can get much value out of this book. In fact many performance management systems today are already based on these ideas, so it's useful to understand them.