The “minute” Manager

Concept of One-Minute Manager
The One Minute Manager is a leader who gets things done successfully with real and lasting benefits by expending the least amount of time and effort. One minute managers can enjoy their jobs and life more by assisting their team members to get what they want by guiding and encouraging them on the path of self-management. One-minute management implies that all participants engaged in achieving some common goal become aware and well apprised of their individual roles in just one minute (in literal terms) implying a very short time.

The attributes of a One Minute Manager are woven around three basic and fundamental functions of management viewed from a different angle. The one-minute management techniques may differ on principle from the norms that are often practiced and enforced in efficiently run conventional management system. The phrase “One Minute Manager” has its roots to a fairly recent bestseller by the same name co-authored by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson.

Out of several managerial functions concerned with the processes of an organization, Blanchard and Johnson identify a leader’s skills in formulating and implementing the following functions as key to the success of the manager/leader responsible for achieving the goals of the organization. The three basic skills that go to illustrate the rather new concept of the one-minute manager are (1) one minute goal setting, (2) one minute praising, and (3) one minute reprimand.

Goal setting, praising and reprimanding in their usual interpretation are not new management techniques; but what is new and intriguing in this new concept is the allocation of only one minute (in a literal sense only, and not in actual terms) for each of the above functions is definitely something radical and challenging. It makes a high demand on the leadership qualities and managerial skills of an executive / team leader. It is a commitment to radical change in thinking in making people accountable to reach goals for their own sakes as well for their teams/organizations.

What the two co-authors portray as three secrets to the success of a leader in a business environment as already stated is actually nothing new; and is so simple that it can be easily understood . The actual secret of the success of the 3 “secrets” lies in their simplicity and the fact that each step takes only around one minute to implement for a versatile leader.

One Minute Goal Setting
Setting targets is one of the most common, yet most important requirements to set purpose and direction for any organization. Various organizations adopt different methods for keeping their employees informed and conscious of the targets to be achieved.  Then what is the special role that the one-minute manager plays in such a set-up? The one-minute manager simply sends a document to each person spelling out clearly that person’s role and targets in achieving the overall goals for the team or the organization. It should be a document that is written in layman terms within the proverbial one-minute period. Alternatively, the one-minute leader talks to each person individually in an informal manner taking the least possible time over it, but just enough to boost the morale of the individual. Whether the conveyance of instructions is verbal or written, the one-minute manager would strive to impart to every participant a sense of “belonging”; and a feeling that every individual is recognized as a unique person and not as just another number or a name among many. The one-minute leader’s behavior and actions should convince the subordinates of sincerity of purpose and the leader’s personal commitment to their success in the organization. Such a manager will make special emphasis on the need for every individual to keep a perpetual track of actual progress against the set targets, and re-visit their goals weekly or periodically as specified. After having made the leader’s expectations crisp and clear, the leader may even assign them the task of making individual written submissions of their respective tasks in less than 250 words to ensure that they have well understood their individual commitments and responsibilities. A clear understanding among all participants is an essential ingredient for the success of any team effort.

One Minute Praising
It is customary for most organizations to reward good and exceptional performances in special ways. They usually take the form of verbal praising in front of others in the group. Whatever the company policy may be, and depending on the circumstances surrounding each case, the one minute manager should move in to congratulate the individual promptly and without delay, not forgetting to shake hands and even give a friendly tap on the shoulder to convey an additional dose of appreciation with sincerity and closeness. A dynamic one minute manager may not wait until some progress analysis reports are available to go through all this; but continually observe people at their tasks and the praising spontaneously and sincerely as and when an employee is observed doing something accurately and diligently. Therefore, he may even praise often, if necessary. The one-minute manager will waste no time in telling the particular individual exactly what he feels about it and connecting him to the bigger picture for the organization in spontaneous appreciation as well as in encouragement for continued good work in the future too. Such action always has the effect of immediately boosting the ego and morale of the workers, reinforcing their positive approach towards work and cultivating a sense of commitment and loyalty to the organization. Such leaders/managers achieve in one minute what conventional managers may not accomplish in years. That said, doing this consistently is what matters – not just during performance reviews.

One Minute Reprimands
On the flip side of one minute praising, we have the one-minute reprimands. Nobody likes to get reprimanded, and especially in public or even in front of their immediate colleagues. A reprimand too has to be done when necessary, but a smart one-minute manager knows not to do so in a manner that could ridicule or damage the self-esteem of the individual. The one-minute manager will not hesitate to move swiftly to a person doing something wrong just as swiftly as he/she would to a person doing something exceptionally well. But here, the one-minute leader exercises caution in making it very clear to the person concerned that as the leader, he is only focusing on the action and not with its doer personally! Such leaders reprimand a wrongdoer specifically for the purpose of correcting and guiding that person back to doing it correctly the next time, and not with any other bad motives. The one-minute leader takes pains to reassure the wrongdoers and instill a sense of confidence and commitment in them to be able to do it correctly the next time if they only gave sufficient thought to it. The reprimand should also end with shaking hands and an appropriate conciliatory remark. Leaving this important aspect out could breed distrust and enmity between the two parties. When reprimanding an offender, good leaders keep the focus on the bigger picture that comprise of incorrect actions, and not their accidental or careless perpetrators. In my management style, I  instill pride and confidence in work, during this session.

The secrets of the success of one-minute management methodologies may be clear now. The very simple timeless truths that go to form such important success secrets have revolutionized current management techniques and set new trends in motion for increasing performance, productivity and profitability. Unfortunately every leader or manager brought up in more conventional environments of leadership development may feel some inhibitions in putting them into practice. For the more conventional leaders, sound one-minute management skills cannot be acquired overnight. Some time, patience and repetition are required until it comes naturally. One-minute managers build long lasting bridges of understanding and comradeship with their teammates; and make winners out of misfits by being effectively communicative, motivating and consistent. All these actions ultimately translate to significant gains to an organization; and such leaders are a great asset to the teams and organizations they work for.

I have always said that a good leader simplifies business. It doesn’t matter what business he or she runs. So, I would suggest that we use simple business rules, not complex or compound ones. The good thing about simple business rules is that it is easy to understand, easy to practice, easy to communicate, and you cannot cheat anybody with simple business rules. And you can enthuse every one of your colleagues with simple business rules because there is transparency, there is fairness, and there is accountability.” Shri N. R. Narayana Murthy – famous Indian IT Guru


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