The business book club: The One Minute Manager’s three tips to get the best from employees

CEO of international safety culture consultancy RMS

Management experts Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson’s book The One Minute Manager (1982) has sold 13 million copies worldwide and been translated into 37 languages.

In less than 100 pages it tells the story of how a fictional manager motivates the people working for them. It sets out three techniques for an effective manager to use.

The first is one-minute goals. Blanchard and Johnson believe that almost all problems faced by organisations are caused by poor communication. Typically, new workers are shown around and introduced to colleagues, then taken to their work area and given some tasks. They may be given some cursory on-the-job training but rarely are they told what they are responsible for.

The one-minute manager sits down with all new starters on day one – and together they list responsibilities and goals. This includes specific targets that can be reviewed in 60 seconds or less.

The-One-Minute- Manager_Ken Blanchard_and- Spencer-JohnsonFor example: “I shall ensure I never operate any process without the required protective clothing.”

If workers know they are monitored, these goals will quickly become second-nature.

Good managers help people to reach their full potential by “catching them doing something right”.

The second technique is one-minute praising. Blanchard and Johnson assert that good managers help people to reach their full potential by “catching them doing something right”.

Good managers always make time to praise a good job and can do it in just 60 seconds.

 Praising should be done timeously, ideally directly after the behaviour has been demonstrated, so that there is a reinforcing link between the event and the acknowledgement.

The final technique is one-minute reprimands. “The number one motivator of people is feedback on results,” say the authors, and managers need to know how to address their staff for unsatisfactory behaviour.

The one-minute manager doesn’t take long to express dissatisfaction with performance and their reprimands are specific and given as soon as possible.

For example: “Claire, I know that you are focused on meeting our production targets, thanks for doing that, though you are not wearing the required PPE for this task. We value your safety here.  Please stop what you are doing and get the PPE you need to keep you safe.”

This form of feedback works well because the purpose for the reprimand is clear and contextualised, it is sweetened with a note of appreciation and it reminds the worker that they are valued.

Successful managers manage themselves and their employees so the organisation and the workforce profit from their presence.

But, as The One Minute Manager shows, this doesn’t have to be a complex process. It can be done in a few minutes each day by making sure workers are aware of their responsibilities, instilling a thorough understanding of why these things are important – and by encouraging goal-orientated behaviour.


CEO of international safety culture consultancy RMS 

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