The one minute manager

Since you are reading this post, you might be wondering: how can I take my people management skills to the next level?

Or you might be interested in knowing more about  The One Minute Manager, a people management book from Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson.

I got to know about The One Minute Manager book when I had no clue about what to expect from this book.

In 2007, I started working with a mid-sized Software Development and Internet Marketing Company led by an American CEO.  He was a great coach and very good with training people.

Since I was hired to head their Product Development Division, soon after my joining, I was “given” the One Minute Manager Book to learn people management from and take my people management skill to the next level.

I received The One Minute Manager Book with the following handwritten remarks from the CEO:


It is great to have you on the team!

I look forward to many productive years of working together.

Enjoy the book and even more important, be the best manager your team can ever have!

Ok, we did not work together for many years, just one – but that’s another story. For now, here is what I did with the book:

I read it. I understood it a little and started acting according to the guidelines and principles offered in the book. It helped. In the last 5 years, almost everyone with whom I worked conveyed that working with me was an enjoyable ride for them.

So, here’s to the ones who want to take their people management skills to the next level.

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Years changed and my thinking got transformed from managing people to leading people. However, this book still is relevant and offers a good foundation when you need to get things done by putting in management principles in action.

In a purely results-oriented work environment, this books helps to produce relevant results in less time. Here is a quick perspective:

  1. Set goals: praise and reprimand behaviors; encourage people.
  2. Speak the truth: laugh; work; enjoy…
  3. and encourage the people you work with to do the same as you do!

Have you read this book? How did you find it? Were you able to leverage the principles outlined in the book? Share it in the comments.

Or you think you should read this book? Here’s the link from where you can buy the One Minute Manager book.

Note: This post was originally published on 9th Oct 2008. This is refined to provide better context and to include the One Minute Manager presentation that I use to make the managers working in my team better people managers.

Be specific

Observe the conversation below:

“When I say that Jack is the Module Lead and anything that goes right or wrong in the module, Jack is responsible, I’d like to know how you acknowledge it, Jack?”

Jack replied: “It means that I’m the Module Lead and anything that I code or test is my responsibility. For the items I couldn’t have a look, the person who has written the code, is responsible.”

“Vikram?” I asked Jack’s peer.

“It means that Jack should do most of the coding and testing within the module.”

“Peter?”  Finally, I asked Jack’s reporting manager.

“It means that we should tell Jack about anything that happens inside that module. After all he is the module lead. ”

I hear what you guys say. Now, let me ask you this: How should I communicate if I mean that Jack owns the module. That’s why he’s the lead. He owns good and bad things that happen inside the module. If it succeeds, all credit goes to him and if it fails, he bears all the consequences of the failure. How?

“You might say that Jack is the Module lead and anything that goes right or wrong in the module, Jack is responsible.” said Peter and Jack together.

“I hear what you say…” I said.

People respond to their own images of the past rather than the facts represented by the words. Recognize that “Not being specific” is a bigger problem than having mere skills to write the software code.

Reward whom who are able to be specific and reprimand who are not.

Mini Saga – Reward

Effective leaders believe in developing their team members.

First, they recognize potential in a team member and then do everything possible to make sure that the selected team member play to his/her own limits and reward him/her self, the project and the organization at large.

Often team members guess that their boss uses their skills just for the sake of squeezing more juice from him/her. Many times, that’s not the case, for example, read below mini-saga:


Sure-handed Peter was disappointed playing different roles in a big software project. Analyst, Tester, Architect, ScrumMaster…Multiple. Every few months his boss would move him to take over another role. One day, he decided to resign but: A promotion letter was awaiting him saying “Congratulation, you’re ready for the next gig!”

Evaluate from this lens as well when you feel like being squeezed.

Are You Limited by Your Own Creativity (Which used to work earlier but now not)?

Though it brings rewards in the end, most of us are afraid of challenging our own thought-patterns as if it were an invasive brain surgery.

We’re designed this way, right?


But yes, we’re conditioned this way.

A few weeks ago I had a discussion with one of my friends who shares a rare frequency and runs a successful design firm.

We talked about building the business, creating A-list teams and providing A-class customer service.

He was discussing with me about customer feedback: designers working with his firm were otherwise very good but lacked innovation. He said that it was true for even their Chief Designer who had experience as little as 18 years in the design industry.

The conclusion was to hire a fresh (but brilliant) design graduate whose job would be to passionately challenge each one of the designs that the design team comes up with.

Last week, I met my friend again to hear the good news that his customer is very happy with the recent design innovations that his team produced.

It worked like a charm. Why?

Because the beginning of the end of any great endowment is: “Falling in love with your own creation”.

Sure, you’ve to believe in yourself, your vision and your abilities. But, at the same time, following the same way of thinking just because that’s the way you’ve always done it, is the sure-fire way to attract devolution at the lightning speed.

The decision of bringing in fresh talent to challenge generated healthy conflict. The conflict was to challenge their designers’ fixed way of being and to ensure that the best comes out in the end.

Sometimes, it’s better to have someone in your team who has eyes to look at the things from a fresh lens.  Maybe it’s good to have ‘No, but, can we not…?’ kind of people rather than yes-men.

Assured Results 7

  1. Decide to do something;
  2. Then take a pen and paper, even paper-napkin will work and doesn’t matter if the pen is a borrowed one;
  3. Write a Goal to work on – make sure it is SMART;
  4. Write down the steps you will take to achieve that goal;
  5. Assign the deadline to the goal;
  6. Follow up with the self everyday morning to consciously be aware of its progress;
  7. Inspect and adapt. If what you’re doing is moving you forward to the upward direction, repeat it. If not then try something else.

Profit from conflicts!

A zero-conflict workplace doesn’t exist, does it?

So, wise is the one who is able to make profits even from the conflicts, isn’t it?

To do that, your primary focus should be on how to prevent the conflict. Once, Max Lucade wrote:

“Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.”

So prevent the conflicts. Here are some tips to do so:

  1. Have people with integrity on board: Make sure your people have integrity and character.  The team is not a team but just a group of people if team members cannot trust one another. Remember, trust without integrity is just not possible.
  2. Invest in developing a listening skill: Make sure they possess good listening skills. If you recognize that some people lack such a skill, work on it. State clearly what specific steps they need to take in order to develop listening skills. For example, encouraging them to attend Landmark Forum could be a good option.
  3. Have them read the One Minute Manager: Make sure that they have not only read The One Minute Manager, they really understand it from its deepest insights. Remember, we are just not an individual but an individual managing our own behavior – and this book focuses on some of the most powerful management principles.
  4. Don’t accept anything but solution-focused approach: Many people have a habit to complain or criticize about something. That’s okay when they also come with the possible solutions. In fact, a problem presented with a possible solution is a key weapon in grinding success faster. Encourage people to look at problems as opportunities to go to the next level.
  5. Encourage Life-long relationships: Make sure your team members have nurtured internal relationships which are going to stay alive for their remaining life. Situational leadership is good, not situational relationships.
  6. Develop tools to pre-handle conflicts: Invest in developing tools and techniques which handle conflicts even before that happen. For example, you can have a list of the causes of conflicts or invest in team-training where team members are taught how to self-handle conflicts etc.
  7. Choose leadership over bossism: Choose to be a leader over just being a boss. Reflect on what E.m Kelly said, “The difference between a boss and a leader: a boss says, ‘Go!’ while a leader says, ‘Let’s go!’.” A leader leads regardless of a title and takes accountability for what his people are doing. He leads from the front and makes optimum use of techniques like Responsibility assignment (RACI) metrics to prevent conflicts.

If prevention doesn’t work and still you find yourself in the middle of a conflict, next best thing is to systematically attack the problem, resolve it, record the lessons learned and prevent it the next time. Here’s how:

  1. Develop Problem Charter: Understand the problem very precisely. Go to the maximum possible detail level and get the clarity. Develop a problem charter which clearly states Who, What, Why, When Where and How of a problem.
  2. Develop a plan: Develop a plan which clearly states how you will perform steps to overcome a problem.  Meet the entities identified in the first step, collect other relevant information, keep alternatives ready and be ready to attack the problem.
  3. Execute: Now you have two good things. Necessary clarity about what the problem is and one or more ways about how you will act on it. So execute. Call meetings, exhibit different situational leadership styles and management practices.
  4. Evaluate the outcomes: Captivation of execution is such that the executor forgets to pause and think about how he is executing. So monitor and control your execution. If you feel that your execution needs to be altered, do that. Nothing is permanent and ‘execution’ should also not be an exception. If needs be, restart from step 2 and refine the plan.
  5. Close the problem: Once the planned outcome has come, close the problem. Make all the required people aware of the updated status of the problem and record the lessons learned.

You don’t need to always formally develop problem charter or a plan but you need to do that process mentally in order to execute effectively.

So profit from conflicts. In closing you might want to read what a Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung said:

“The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed. It is just these intense conflicts and their conflagration which are needed to produce valuable and lasting results.”