Secrets of the One Minute Manager

Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson have written the best seller, The One Minute manager. This book has sold over a million copies. It deals with the search for the best management techniques by a young man, who finally discovers a One Minute manager. The One Minute Manager tells him about the three secrets and more. You can read my summary of the book here.

The three secrets revealed in the One Minute Manager can be used in our professional life. Here is my interpretation of the same.

One Minute Goal Setting

This is the first secret revealed in the book, The One Minute Manager. This deals with setting clear expectations between the manager and his team member. Often the team member is clueless of what is expected from him. The manager does not specify what exactly a win is. The team member does not know what good behavior in his specific context is. He does not have a goal. So, the One minute manager recommends the following steps:

  • ·         Agree on your goals.
  • ·         See what good behavior looks like.
  • ·         Write each of your goals on a paper using less than 250 words.
  • ·         Read and re-read each goal, which takes only a minute to read.
  • ·         Take a minute every once in a while to look at your performance, and
  • ·         See whether or not your behavior matches your goal

The Goal setting helps establish a contract. From what I have read, a written goal, as opposed to just having it in mind, is one of the most effective ways to imprint the goal in our mind. It enhances certain neural pathways that help us in the longer term to achieve the goal. Then reading and re-reading the goal helps one remain focused. Often, due to various distractions in our daily life, we loose track of our goals. This is where reading and re-reading helps us. Now, it has to be within 250 words so that you can read it faster. Had it been a 2500 words goal, one will not be willing to read it at all! Then it helps to check if our actions and behavior are leading us towards the written goals or not.
This is all about 1 minute goal. The idea is not to set goals in 1 minute. But that the goals can be reviewed in 1 minute. Also, one can use the Pareto principle for goal setting. Since 20% of our actions produce 80% of results, the goals should be focused on those 20% of actions only.

One Minute Praises

The second secret of the One Minute manager is the One Minute Praise. This is based on the belief that everyone is a potential winner. The manager should help them reach their full potential. This can be done by catching the team members early doing something right. Below are the steps that can be taken for the same.
  • ·         Tell people from the beginning that you are going to give feedback to them.
  • ·         Praise them as soon as they do something right.
  • ·         Tell them exactly what they did right.
  • ·         Tell them how good you feel about what they did right and how it helps everyone
  • ·         Stop for a moment of silence to let the good feeling  sink in.
  • ·         Encourage them to do more of the same behavior.
  • ·         Shake hands or touch people in a way that makes it clear that you support their success

Please note that one of the step is to have a moment of silence, after you praise. This lets the feeling sink in. This is a psychological technique to win people over. The other one is a light touch on the hand or shoulder. It is incredibly effective and I have seen one of my supervisor use this technique to win over the team members. But if you are going to use it, be sure that you are authentic and it should not be construed as acting.

Praising someone reinforces the right behavior. This is the method that Pavlov used on his dog in his famous experiment. This is the technique used by parents to encourage their child to walk or learn new words. We do it instinctively in social and family setup. But how this technique is to be used in a professional setup is something many are not aware of. If used correctly, this technique will reap rich dividends in terms of developing your team.

One Minute Reprimand

The third secret is One Minute Reprimand. This is needed in order to rectify incorrect or improper behavior. There are 2 parts to it. As soon as you catch someone doing something wrong, you have to give the feedback on the behavior. That is the first part. After that, you should also support the person so that he understands that the behavior is  undesired, but not the person. The basic steps are listed below.
     Set the expectation with your people that you are going to give them direct feedback

    The first part – Reprimand:
  • ·         Reprimand people immediately when they do a mistake.
  • ·         Tell them specifically what they did wrong.
  • ·         Tell them how you feel about what they did wrong.
  • ·         Stop for a moment of uncomfortable silence to let the feeling sink in
  • The second part – The support:
  • ·         Shake hands, or touch them in a way that lets them know you are with them.
  • ·         Remind them how much you value them as a person.
  • ·         Reaffirm that you think well of them but not of their performance in this situation.
  • ·         Realize that when the reprimand is over, it’s over

Most of the time, the feedback is not given immediately. It is given at the time of appraisal. At that time, it is too late for the team member to change. Also, we forget that we should hate the sin, not the sinner. Too often, it is the sinner who is punished!

These are the 3 secrets of the One minute manager. Easy to say, easy to remember but difficult to practice! 

Talk by Anu Vaidyanathan - Hyderabad Runners

Sunday, June 26th 2016, I went to St Mary's College at Yousufguda. There was supposed to be a talk by Anu Vaidyanathan, India's first  Ultraman. Now, I didn't know what Ultraman means.

Anu is a triathlete. She runs, rides bike and swims. She has finished several marathons, iron mans (2.4 mile swim, 112 miles bike ride and 26.2 miles running). In 2009, she completed the Ultraman, which is swimming for 10k, bile riding for 425.6k and running for 84.4k. Now, you may be thinking that she is an adventure sports junkie.

Well, she has a graduation and post graduation in computer science, a PhD in electrical engineering, and she has been a professor at IIT Ropar and IIM Ahmedabad. She has her own consulting firm operating in the patents field. Also, she is a daughter, wife and a mother!

Now, that's some list of achievements that can make any one proud. But she is all about humility.

I had read about Anu earlier and knew about her achievements. So, when HR Runners decided to host her talk in the occasion of the 10 years celebrations, I registered a slot for myself.

Though I had been to St Mary's College at Yousufguda earlier, I was and still am not familiar with the way. Google maps have become my best friend and they guided me to the destination. There were few cars and bikes parked outside the college compound. As I entered the gate, the security staff told me to go to the 4th floor.

Near the lift, I met Amulu, a Toastmasters friend who was also there for the talk. There was a small auditorium, with capacity of around 150 people on the 4th floor. Rajesh Vetcha, founder of Hyderabad Runners, along with Shiv Kosgi, the operations manager, were there at the door of the auditorium, welcoming people as they walked in.

The auditorium was dimly lit. There were about 50 odd people inside the auditorium. Some were seated and some were milling around the stage. On the stage, there was a small table to the right with a pile of books neatly stacked. There were 2 standees on the stage, one announcing Hyderabad Runners 10 years celebrations and another for Anu Vaidyanathan' book, Anywhere but home. Anu was standing there talking to anyone who wanted to, signing the books for anyone who bought it.

After some time the talk started. Rajesh gave a welcome speech and invited Anu to take over. Anu passed on a feedback from and a post card with a lucky draw instructions before starting the talk. She was very calm and composed. She spoke in a natural style, spoke very fast and had lots of humor baked into her talk. She started with her connection with Hyderabad and especially Rajesh. Then how there were many Telugus who were part of her life and the contribution by them in her journey. She told about her childhood, school days and college days at USA. She apparently used to be a chubby kid during school. Is was the college that one of her friend introduced her to running.

Post her engineering in the US , she started pursuing a PhD there. Somewhere in between, she got frustrated and decided to come back to India. She came to Bangalore and started a start up. Running was her anchor during that time. She felt most comfortable while running.

Then one after the other, she started taking up bigger challenges, culminating with the Ultraman in 2009. Later she got married to a person who also supported her ambitions. Then, she became pregnant and continued long distance walking till almost the end of her pregnancy. It was during that time, someone asked her to write a book. The book project took about 2-3 years to complete. Now, it was being released.

If you look at her now, it will be difficult to believe that she was once a triathlete. She has gained weight. But there is one thing that she said which I liked. Her overall message was to keep passionate goals and achieve them. She said, people like to brand themselves as something. Like you may say you are a runner. Then you become imprisoned with your own definition of yourself. You have to prove to yourself and to others that you are a runner. You have to beat a certain time. That is dangerous. She said, do not cubby hole yourself. Do whatever you are passionate about. Reinvent yourself based on the time and circumstances. You define yourself. Others definition of you doesn't define you!!

Finally, there was a question and answer session and a prize distribution ceremony of HR Relay Run.

Influence of 7 Habits

Books are like people that you meet and you know. You like some people and some people, you dislike very much. Then there are others that you neither like nor dislike! Then there may be one person whom you like very much, but your friend may not like that person. Similarly, books that are important and that you like may not be important for others. Some books speak to you directly. Some do not. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is one such book that had a huge impact to shape my thinking and world view.

Covey’s book, 7 Habits, is one of those books that I give credit for having had a deep influence on me and my thought process. It provided me with a paradigm to look at myself, to look at my relationship with others, and to look at the world in a pair of new eyes. It gave me ideas and links to discover more. I read up Vicktor Frankl and his works, I learnt about the stimuli, the response and freedom of choice in between. It taught the concept of inside out change and the concept of dependence, independence and interdependence! The 7 Habits book gave me a completely new way of thinking. Over a period of 6–7 years of trying to read, re-read, listen to the audio book, and incorporate his ideas in life, I found myself improving in many ways. My relationship with myself and with others has improved. I have become a better person. This book has done wonders for me. Hence, it is very important in my life.

I am a fan of Stephen Covey. I have read most of his books as well. Two other books that I liked were First Things First and The Principle Centered Leadership.

Book Review - The One Minute Manager

Between 2009 to 2011, I was working at a client location in Bangalore, the IT hub of India. Our client was ANZ Bank, which had its captive IT operations running out from Bangalore. I used to stay in a village called Kagadasapura. ANZ office was at Embassy Golf Links Business Park, a modern IT factory, about 10km away from my residence. I used to travel to office by bus from the CV Raman nagar bus stop. This ensured that I got a seat and it also gave me ample of time, almost 1 hour daily, to read books.

ANZ was, and I believe still is a progressive organization. It used to organize several events to promote different type of awareness among its employees. In one such quality awareness drives, the Quality team had come to our work bay and they conducted a mini quiz. They said, anyone who could answer 3 questions would get a spot prize. I do not remember the questions now, but I eventually won the prize. It was a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate and a small red book titled “The One Minute Manager”. Being a book lover and also a chocolate chaser, I could not have asked for anything more. So, I devoured the Diary Milk Chocolate as soon as the event was over. Then, I took a hard look at the book and read the synopsis on the back cover. It was interesting. It talked about 3 secrets of a One Minute Manager. This piqued my interest to glance at the contents. From the contents, the book seemed very funny. I decided to read it cover to cover once I board the bus, I thought to myself.

The One Minute Manager is a very small book, about 110 pages, written by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. A small book, published first in 1981, you can literally breeze through it quickly and understand the core concepts easily. Before I go to the core concept of the One Minute Manager, let me tell you about the characters in the book.
In this book, there are 2 main characters – The young man & the Old man and 3 supporting characters – the 3 folks who report to the old man.

The scene opens with the following context. A young man is searching for the most effective manager. His search has taken him many places. He interacted with different types of managers. Some of them were ones who got results, but the people under them were not happy. Some were such that the people working with them were very happy, but they did not get results. Finally, he comes to a manager of whom he has heard a lot of good things. He thinks it will be difficult to get an appointment. But he is surprised with the ease with which he is able to meet him.

The Young man spends some time the Old Man, discussing about his management style. He learns various quirks of the old man. The old man commends him for his sincerity to learn the method of management and also rebukes him when the young man asks the old man to repeat something. When the young man asks him what is his management style, the old man says he is the One Minute Manager. Our young man is not able to understand, let alone believe what the old man said. So, the old man asks the Young man to talk to his staff to understand his management style.

Our young man goes and meets the staff members and each one tells him one secret. So, here are the 3 secrets of the One Minute Manager.

  1. One Minute Goal Setting – Set written goals that can be read in 1 minute
  2. One Minute Praise – Praise people doing right thing to encourage that behavior
  3. One Minute reprimands – Reprimand the wrong behavior, not the person

These are 3 simple but effective techniques that the young man learns. The young man also discovers that the operations run by the old man was the best in the organization and the old man was known to be a manager-maker in the organization. After learning these, the young man comes to the one minute manager and has a long discussion with him. He has some doubts in his mind. He asks the following questions:

  •         Why does One minute Goal Setting work?
  •          Why does One minute praise work?
  •          Why does One minute reprimand work?

The old man patiently explains why each of these techniques work. He tells that these are based on psychological principles and concepts. He gives examples from animal world as well as social real world context on how these principles are applied. At the end, the young man is convinced of the effectiveness of these techniques.

Finally, the old man offers a job to the young man. He gladly takes it up and starts practicing the one minute management concepts. He keeps sharing these concepts with others

My observations

This book gives simple, effective and easy to remember management techniques for managers. I loved the simplicity and the reasoning that is given in the book on why these techniques are effective. These techniques can be easily implemented, provided you learn them properly, practice them and get a conducive environment. Being in toastmasters, I could relate how effective these are while providing evaluations. In fact, as an evaluator in one of the toastmaster meeting, I had once used this technique to provide my evaluation to the speaker.

I have few qualms with this technique as well. The first one is, this principle is quite good for managing team members. But, it cannot be used while working with peers or with your supervisors. The second one is that the scenarios described in the books are idealistic. Real world is much more complex. It has various nuances and shades and a direct application of these techniques may not be possible.

Having said that, my verdict is this is a good book. I would advise you to read it, re-read it, understand it and apply it in your professional and personal life.