In November 1980 my wife, Margie, and I met Spencer Johnson at a cocktail party. At that time, Spencer was a successful writer of children’s books while I was just starting out in the world of business. After meeting Spencer, Margie said to us, “You two should write a children’s book for managers. They won’t read anything else.” With that, “The One Minute Manager” was born.
I believe the book is still appealing after all this time because of its simplicity. But the world has changed since the publication of the original “The One Minute Manager.” Today’s organizations must respond faster with fewer resources to keep up with ever-changing technology and globalization. That’s why Spencer Johnson and I just released “The New One Minute Manager” — the first major update since the book’s initial launch in 1982.
When the original “The One Minute Manager” was published, top-down leadership was a way of life. But today that structure is too slow, and people recognize that brain power isn’t located exclusively in the executive wing. Everyone in an organization has talent to contribute. The new one-minute manager recognizes this and treats people as key contributors to organizational success.
In many ways, the new one-minute manager is a servant leader. That might surprise some people who remember the one-minute manager as being rather blunt with people. But a closer look will show that there’s more to this approach than just direction — that person also excels at implementation. Combined, these two behaviors are the definition of servant leadership.
Direction is the leadership aspect of servant leadership. If your people don’t know where you want them to go, there’s little likelihood they will get there. The first secret of the new one-minute manager is still one-minute goals. And while it is the management hierarchy’s responsibility to make sure goals are set, the new one-minute manager realizes that determining key goals should be a joint process between manager and direct report.
Once goals are set and direction is clear, the process moves to implementation. Now leadership becomes more of a side-by-side relationship, with managers becoming more like partners than bosses. The new one-minute manager moves from being responsible for ensuring one-minute goals are set to being responsive to people’s needs so they can become high performing self-leaders.
The new one-minute manager recognizes the importance of one-minute praisings — the second secret — and catching people doing things right. The manager also encourages people to catch themselves doing things right and share their successes. This is not about boasting; it’s about creating an environment where people become self-motivated.
What happens if someone does something wrong? In the original book “The One Minute Manager,” the third secret was one-minute reprimands, which are now more or less a thing of the past. Why? Today, technology and systems are constantly changing, so people are almost always in learning mode. Learners usually make mistakes because they are inexperienced or unaware of the right way to do something. Being reprimanded could immobilize them. So reprimands should be rare — and given only when a person knows what to do but won’t do it. That’s why the third secret has been updated and renamed “one-minute redirects.”
When someone makes a mistake, a one-minute redirect helps them get back on track and achieve their goals. One-minute redirects let people see in a nonpunitive way what they need to do differently. The new one-minute manager lets people know they are better than their mistake. Together they strategize how to refocus performance in the proper direction.
The new one-minute manager’s methods are relevant today because they allow for changes in the way people want to be led and managed — at work and between parents and children, teachers and students, coaches and players..
Be a servant leader like the new one-minute manager: Provide clear goals, catch people doing things right, and redirect their efforts if they get off-course. It’s the best way to get great performance and human satisfaction at the same time.