The new One Minute Manager with Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard conceived "The One Minute Manager" as a children's book for managers. This was a brand new approach when it was first published in 1982, and since then the genre of the parable-based business book has grown into a hugely popular one.

Written by Rachel Salaman
Published 30 October 2019
The new One Minute Manager with Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard conceived “The One Minute Manager” as a children’s book for managers. This was a brand new approach when it was first published in 1982, and since then the genre of the parable-based business book has grown into a hugely popular one.

The simplicity of the format matches this classic book’s simple story: a young man sets out in search of the secret of great management. He finds three: “one minute goals,” “one minute praisings,” and “one minute reprimands.”

In “The New One Minute Manager,” which was published in May 2015, the third secret has become “one minute redirects,” reflecting how management styles have evolved over the years.

In this podcast, Ken tells us about other changes to the story he made in the 2015 edition, and shares his thoughts on motivation, trust, customer service, and the future of management development.

Listen to or read the full 30-minute interview, below, then share your thoughts in the comment section, below. What impact has the original “One Minute Manager” had on your life? How do you view Ken’s current approach to goals, motivation and leadership? Join in the discussion below!

Listen now: Click here to download the podcast

Interview transcript

Rachel Salaman: Welcome to this edition of L&D Insights from Mind Tools with me, Rachel Salaman. Today, I have the great pleasure of talking to a legendary leader in the field of leadership and management development, Ken Blanchard. He’s perhaps best known as the author of the classic business book “The One Minute Manager,” which has sold 15 million copies in 40 languages worldwide. He and co-author Spencer Johnson have recently revamped and re-released this book for a new generation of managers. The new version is aptly titled “The new One Minute Manager.”

Ken Blanchard joins me on the line from California. Hello Ken!

Ken Blanchard: Good, Rachel, great to be with you.

Rachel Salaman: Thank you so much for joining us today. Let’s start by talking about the original “One Minute Manager,” which is a classic that’s been on the bestseller list for years. It was first published over 30 years ago. What’s its enduring appeal, do you think?

Ken Blanchard: I think one of the things, Rachel, is it was one of the first business parables ever written. And it was interesting. Spencer Johnson was a children’s book writer. He wrote a whole series of children’s books called “Value Tales,” of the value of courage, the story of Jackie Robinson the great baseball player, the value of honesty, the story of Abe Lincoln… and it was wonderful. And I’m a storyteller, and my wife met him at a cocktail party and she carried him over and she said, “You guys ought to write a children’s book for managers; they won’t read anything else.”

So the original motivation was kind of a kids’ book. And he was working on a “one minute scolding” for disciplining kids, with a psychiatrist. And I invited him to a seminar that I was doing the next week, and he laughed at the back. And he came running up and he said, “Let’s forget parodying this – do the one minute manager!” And so we decided to do a story, and I think that’s unique. It’s a short little book and it’s about a young man searching for an effective manager. He wants to work for one, he wants to become one, and he learns the three secrets.

So I think that’s what’s unusual: that there’s three main points in the book, and it’s told in a wonderful, fun story.

Rachel Salaman: What’s different in the new version of the book, then?

Ken Blanchard: Well, I tell you, Rachel, I was working on another book at the time called “Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life,” and I thought, “Gee, maybe ‘The One Minute Manager’ needs to be refired!” And also we had never had an e-book, and they said maybe you might want to read it to see if there’s any changes.

And I hadn’t read it in years and I kind of laughed, to be honest with you, Rachel, when I read it, because so many things had changed. Like, one is technology, and he was on his intercom system and I asked the young people in our company, “Have you been using your intercom lately?!” And all the people working for him were gathered right around him, and he wasn’t managing anybody online… and also the technology has really changed, and we updated that.

Then the other thing was that in many ways the secrets are wonderful, but it was presented in kind of a command and control strategy, which is really what the 80s were in terms of leadership. He set the goals, he decided who to praise, he decided who to reprimand. So, today, we think that leadership is much more of a side-by-side relationship, a partnership relationship, so we really made some major changes in the tone of the book.

And then one of the biggest changes, we changed the one minute reprimand to one minute redirect, because reprimand is kind of parental, and redirect is the same thing but it’s a better term and a better style. So those are really the changes that I think people really get into, and I think the young people today will really be able to relate to it.

Rachel Salaman: Let’s talk about the content in a little bit more detail now. The first of the three secrets that the book is built around is “one minute goals” and it’s still there in the new edition. How have you seen approaches to this change over the decades?

Ken Blanchard: I think the biggest change is that, with goal-setting, it’s much more collaborative. In the past, I think managers used to give people their goals, and now they reach them together. And one of the things that we’ve found in our work about motivation is that, if somebody is given a goal that’s not very motivating to them, it’s probably not a good goal, that you might want to see what could be done to motivate them, or maybe that goal ought to be given to someone else.

But the fact that goals are still there is so important because all good performance starts with clear goals. If people aren’t clear of what they’re being asked to do, there’s very little chance that they’ll get to do it. And all the goals have to be observable and measurable. We’ve said for years, Rachel, that if you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it, so you want to make sure that your goals are observable and measurable, so you and the people working for you both can observe and see where they’re making progress.

Rachel Salaman: And the “one minute praisings,” which is the second of the three secrets, they’ve also stood the test of time; they’re in the latest edition. How important are these as a development tool?

Ken Blanchard: Well I’ll tell you, Rachel, people have said to me, “Ken, if we took everything away that you’ve taught over the years, what’s the one thing, what would you hold onto?” and I think it’s this second secret. I think if you want to have a great relationship at home, at work and in the community, you need to accent the positive and catch people doing things right.

And I think it’s all about creating an environment where you really care about people. And if their goals are observable and measurable, and you don’t have to wait until the goal is completed before you can give any praising, you can praise progress. It’s really important to catch people doing things right, approximately right, in the beginning, as they’re journeying towards completely right.

Take marriage: when people fall in love, everything is great and you’re catching each other doing things right. And then you move in with somebody and you say, “What is that? You’ve got to be kidding!” and then all of a sudden you start catching each other doing things wrong. People ask me, “How do I turn around a bad relationship at home or at work?” Well, you need to start accenting the positive and see if you can catch the people doing something right, and give them an “at a boy!” or an “at a girl!”

Rachel Salaman: So thinking in terms of what L&D professionals can do with all this advice, what’s the best way for L&D professionals to use this particular secret?

Ken Blanchard: I think L&D folks need to first make sure that when they’re training people and all that, that there’s ways for they and the people they’re training to know whether they’re doing what they’ve been trained to. How can you catch them doing things right? So make sure it’s observable and measurable.

One of the things that needs to be done… so often after training, we end up going to a delegated leadership style and get onto the next program, then we forget about the people who just went through it. I think one of the most powerful things is what are you doing to follow up training with people.

And part of that following up is to observe how they’re doing, catch them doing something right, cheering them on. Because what often happens with people, they go through training and they get back to work and nobody seems to care about what they’ve been through or even want to know about it, and after a while they go back to their old behavior

So if you want people to implement what you’re training them to do, the follow up is just as important as the training, if not more important. And a key part of follow up is cheering people on as they’re implementing and trying new things that you’ve been training them in.

Rachel Salaman: And it’s a nice simple way of remembering, isn’t it, just to think of the one minute praising? It’s not too complicated, most people can remember that.

Ken Blanchard: Yes, and you know it doesn’t take a long period of time to say to somebody, “Hey, I’ve heard about what you’ve been doing and, boy!, your people are so pleased how clear you are now on setting goals with them, and they just really appreciate that.” It doesn’t take very long just to say “I noticed.”

Rachel Salaman: As you mentioned, one of the biggest differences between the original “One Minute Manager” and the new edition is the third of the three secrets, “one minute redirects” which replaces the original “one minute reprimands.” And as you mentioned, it reflects a trend away from reprimanding people – can you talk a little bit about that trend?

Redirection is very important because if you have observable, measurable goals, and if they’re progressing you can praise them and cheer them on. If they don’t seem to be progressing then what you need to do is go to them and say to them, “Let me tell you what I’ve been noticing about your performance, I wonder if you’re noticing the same thing?” So you don’t come in and slam them, you say “Here’s what I’m noticing.”

And people will know when they’re performing well and when they’re not performing well, and they say, “No, I’m having a bit of trouble with this.” Then the next question is, “How can we get you back on track, what can I do to help?” And so redirection is not a punishing thing, it’s just saying, “I noticed that performances are not going in the direction that we’d agreed upon: what can we do to get you back on track so you can accomplish that particular goal?”

Rachel Salaman: Do you think that, over the years, reprimanding people has become unacceptable?

Ken Blanchard: Well I think people don’t like that kind of term, and they don’t like that you’re the one that’s saying I observed this and here’s how I feel and you go through the whole steps, rather than it being a participative kind of thing. But the same thing is happening, that you’re getting them back on track, but you’re doing it in much more of a collaborative partnership role than a superior:subordinate.

These younger people say to me, “You’ve got to be kidding, Ken! You used to call people superiors, and the people that worked for them subordinates? The head of the department and the hired hands – we didn’t even give them a head!?” When you really think of some of that language you can see where they would really laugh and say you guys have got to be kidding.

Rachel Salaman: A kind of connected idea here: how important do you think trust is in leadership and management development?

Ken Blanchard: Trust is really a very important thing. In fact we wrote a book called “Trust Works.” One of our people developed a whole model around trust. She studied and asked people what does it mean to trust people, and people had a lot of different definitions, and she came up with what she called the A, B, C, D concept of trust. Her name is Cindy Olmstead, and I wrote the book with her.

And so the four ways that you talk to people about trust… A is Ability, which is, do you trust that they have the skills to do the job that they’ve been assigned, and if they don’t, in terms of situational leadership, well you’ve got to change your leadership style.

Another area of trust is Believability: do you say one thing and do something else? “My door is always open, come and see me!”and you’ve got to go through three secretaries and all that kind of thing to get a meeting with you. Then C stands for Connectedness, which is, do you feel an emotional connectedness with a person? We tend to trust people that we feel positive and good emotions towards.

Then finally D is Dependable. If the person says they’re going to do something, do they follow it through? And we have an instrument that people can fill out and say where are you on the scale, so I had the people that work with me fill it out and the one that I had the lowest scores, that they’re all working with me on, is dependability, because I don’t say “no” very well. I’m a high “I” on the DISC model and I want everybody to be pleased, and so sometimes I say “yes” too much.

And so now, when people ask me for my card, I give them my card, but it’s my executive secretary’s card – haha! – so they have to call her first, to know what I might have promised. So what’s interesting is that, if you can see where you might be falling down, then you can get a strategy to improve that. And so I think trust is very important.

Rachel Salaman: And one of the messages of the new book is that people can develop themselves to a large extent, and you touched on that a bit earlier. Could you talk about what you’ve observed in this respect?

Ken Blanchard: I think people… We’ve been doing a lot of work on employee work passion, engagement and optimal performance, and what we find is (we’ve actually developed a little model called ARC), is that people want a sense of Autonomy now.

I think people in the past have had the capabilities to develop themselves, but weren’t given that opportunity. And now since people have that as an important part, they want to work with a boss who will help them, over time, get to the point where they can be delegated to in most of their tasks.

So that’s autonomy, they still want to have a Relationship with their boss and their co-workers, so they don’t want you just to disappear per se – they’d love for you to wander around once in a while, maybe catching you doing something right even though they’re developing themselves.

Then C stands for Confidence which ties in, I think, with autonomy because they want to grow in their confidence. I think that this is really great, to see people who really do want to be able to run with the ball. But that’s where I think our work in situational leadership comes along because you don’t want to delegate too quickly to somebody if they’re not ready, if they don’t have the confidence or the commitment to operate on their own.

So you’re gradually over time moving from a directive, to a coaching, to a supporting style on each of their goals, as you try to turn over more responsibility for their own development. I think it’s exciting to see it happen.

Rachel Salaman: For people who aren’t familiar with your theory of situational leadership, could you just explain the basics of it?

Ken Blanchard: It basically says that there is no one best leadership style. But we say you not only need “different strokes for different folks,” you need different strokes for the same folks at different parts of the job.

So if you were working with me, Rachel, and say you had four or five goals, you might have one goal, (but you’re an enthusiastic beginner,) you’ve never had that goal before, but you’re excited about it. Well you need initially some direction and some close supervision. You might have another goal, that you know more about it than I do, and you’re a self-directed achiever, and I could just leave you alone. Then you might have a couple of goals that are in between.

After enthusiastic beginner, we call them a disillusioned learner, which is sometimes you get excited about a goal and after a while you realize this is a lot tougher than I thought and now you not only need direction, you need support, so you need a coaching leadership style. Then sometimes you have the skills to do something, but you lack the confidence about doing it on your own, so you just need basically a supportive leadership style.

So what you’re doing is looking at goals and, together with your people, you’re analyzing what is their development level on each of their goals and what is the initial leadership style that would be good to start with. And then you hope, over time you can move your style so eventually you can delegate as many of the responsibilities as possible.

Rachel Salaman: Do you see “The New One Minute Manager,” your revamped book, fitting into someone using situational leadership?

Ken Blanchard: Yes, because what you’re doing is, suppose you have a goal that you’re an enthusiastic beginner and I’m working with you very closely, and I say, “Okay, let me see you do this,” and I observe you and I praise your progress. But if I observe you and you don’t make the progress, then I go to a redirection.

So we have a curve going through the four styles, because the two dimensions are the vertical dimension is supportive behavior and the horizontal is directive behavior, and there’s a curve that goes through those four styles. And as you’re moving from directing, up to coaching, you’re delegating and observing and praising progress as over time you’re moving up there.

Then eventually as you move over towards a supporting style three, the curve starts moving down because now you’re not only cutting back on the amount of direction you provide, you’re cutting back on the amount of support you provide, because when you get the delegation you hope that people are providing their own direction and their own support. The directing and supporting really drives the whole developmental process.

Rachel Salaman: So in what practical ways do you envisage L&D professionals using your new book?

Ken Blanchard: I think it’s just a wonderful book to share with people on the basics of leadership. We’re developing a first-time managers’ program around the new book because… in the beginning, if people just understood that… we think that the three secrets, goal setting, praising and redirections, is the 20 percent that would give you the 80 percent as a manager. And so if they’re training managers to be good managers, then it’s a good foundation.

And one of the things that we believe in training is that you don’t want to do things to people, you want to do with them. And so what we encourage people is, if they’ve been trained on the three secrets of “The One Minute Manager,” is that they actually then go back with their people and share the three secrets with them. And so one of the reasons why the book sold 15 million copies is that managers would get it and they’d say wow, this is really powerful and then they’d share it with their people, because they’d say, “I just want you to know how I’d like to operate, does this make sense to you?”

I had a young man come up to me the other day. He said, “My father gave me ‘The One Minute Manager’ in my first job, and his father gave it him on his first job,” so I’m working on the third and fourth generation now of that. So it’s a wonderful pass along through people, but it’s a foundational piece to build a lot of other kinds of training, around listening and around performance management, and all kinds of other things.

Rachel Salaman: You mentioned a bit earlier that you’ve done a lot of work on employee motivation and that includes your 2011 book “Gung Ho.” More recently your company published research on optimal motivation, what were the key findings of that?

Ken Blanchard: One of the key findings that Susan Fowler who has written and done most of the research with Dreyer Zagami, is that you really can’t motivate people: people are motivated! But what you can do is create an environment that their motivation can come out of them, so that they get excited about working on organizational goals and all that kind of thing. But you can’t say, “I’m just going to motivate this person.” A lot of times we think that it’s up to us to motivate people – people are motivated, it’s up to you to create an environment that unleashes that motivation for positive results, and I think that’s a big learning.

So the skill that we’re trying to train managers, is to look at what are you doing with the culture, what are you doing in the environment to create a place where people are really excited to learn And one of them could be, when you start to sit down and you set goals, you want to do it with them.

If somebody says, “I’m not really too excited about this goal,” then the question is, “What can we do to make that an exciting goal, is there anything I could do?” And maybe, if there’s not, well then maybe you might want to give that goal to someone else.

But it’s that whole concept of much more collaboration and side-by-side leadership that says it’s our job to create the environment. People are motivated, we just need to bring that motivation. I’ve never seen a person for example unmotivated after work – hahaha! – a lot of people are unmotivated at work, but after work a lot of people say, “Thank God it’s Friday!” And why? Because now they can do things that they’re excited about. So how do you create an environment that they’re excited about Monday, and coming to work, and working on an organizational goal?

Rachel Salaman: Thinking about ways that leaders can tap into that motivation, (you’ve already mentioned one way, identifying goals that people are excited about,) are there other ways that they can do it?

Ken Blanchard: I think just by talking to people and getting to know your people, it’s really interesting that… I wrote a book with the President of South West Airlines, they’re such an amazing organization, but one of the big things about them is they want people to relate to other people. The Head of HRD for example, a lot of times when he’ll sit down and interview somebody, he will say to them, “Tell me what’s the biggest span of control you ever had.” And so people will think, “Ah, I’m going to impress him, I had 10 or 15 people,” or whatever, and he’ll say, “Tell me the names of all of them,” and that gets to them! “Take Alice, who you mentioned – what was really important about her life when she was working for you?”

I think that’s what really creates a motivating environment, it’s that people want to be known, that is really important, Patrick Lencioni wrote a book about miserable jobs, and one of the big problems in having a miserable job is that you’re not known. Nobody cares much about who you are, or your family, or anything that’s happening in your life. And people want to be known, and I think if they get to be known then they get excited: “People care about me here, so I’m going to care about them and I’m going to care about the organization.”

Rachel Salaman: Another topic that you’ve researched in depth is treating customers right, your book “Raving Fans” offers some advice for this. Why did you choose to focus on that?

Ken Blanchard: Because people were telling us what lousy service they were getting. You’d go in the stores and you had to have a minor heart attack before anybody would show any interest in you! And yet the organizations that really took care of customers were beating the competition. You just look at the leaders in different fields, whether you’re talking about Nordstrom’s in retail, or Disney in entertainment, or Wegmans in grocery, or South West in the airlines.

So Sheldon Bowles was in Canada… he was a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization and he had an interesting experience in the 1970s, when everybody was going to self-service gasoline. And he thought, “What a great time to create a full-service gasoline because there will be no competition!” And he asked people, “If you didn’t have to go to a gas station would you?” And of course not, “Well what would you like there?” “We’d like to get our gas quickly and the cheapest price possible within a friendly environment.”

So he created a series of gas stations where he’d dress people up in red jumpsuits and they acted like a pit stop in the Indianapolis 500. So you’d drive in and three people would race towards your car, one under the hood, somebody pumping gas, somebody giving you a newspaper and a cup of coffee and ask you to step outside so they could dust bust your car – and they just killed the competition.

And so “Raving Fans” is all about how can you treat your customers so they want to brag about you, so they become part of your salesforce. And that book has just soared over the years and people are slowly starting to get it.

Rachel Salaman: So how can L&D professionals play their part in improving customer relationships?

Ken Blanchard: I think it needs to be part of the vision of the organization. And I think they can be really important cheerleaders for developing a customer service culture that creates raving fans – and we have a new book out called “Legendary Service” and it’s all about caring. It’s showing your customers that you really care about them.

And the L&D people ought to be key cheerleaders of that, and actually training people in customer service, teaching them to listen to the customers. And if the customer wants something how do you say, “No problem! I’ll get back to you,” rather than quacking like a duck. “Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack, it’s our policy, quack, quack, I just work here, quack, quack, I didn’t make the rules, quack, quack…” and how do you get your people to be eagles when they’re dealing with customers?

You have to remember that customer service isn’t just external, it’s internal. Some of the worst customer service is internally. You call the accounting department and try to get a report – man, you got the ducks quacking like crazy about all the reasons why you can’t have that report. And so how do you serve each other internally as well as externally?

Rachel Salaman: Stepping back a bit now, where do you see leadership and management development going in the future?

Ken Blanchard: I’m really convinced that the number one way to train people, and to have people be as leaders, is servant leaders. And when I mention that, a lot of times people think I’m talking about the inmates running the prison or trying to please everybody, but there’s two parts of servant leadership.

One is the leadership part of servant leadership, which has to do with vision and direction and goals, because leadership is about going somewheres. And that is the responsibility of the hierarchy to make sure that everybody is clear what business you’re in, what you’re trying to accomplish, what are your values that should guide your journey, what the initiatives and what the goals are. Then once those are set, now you go to the servant part of the servant leadership and you turn the pyramid upside down and now your job is to work for them. And that’s where you can praise progress and cheer them on and redirect them, because you’re working for them.

Rachel Salaman: Do you see servant leadership as perhaps fitting into situational leadership? Can it be one of those types of leadership that people turn to?

Ken Blanchard: Yes, situational leadership is a servant leadership model, because if you don’t start off with clear goals, (which is the leadership part of servant leadership,) you can’t be a situational leader. But once the goals are set and you’ve analyzed development level and determined the leadership style, that all happens in performance planning, now your job is to deliver the leadership style that you’ve promised.

You know one of the questions that I always get (and since your audience is so broad,) is that, “Do these concepts really apply around the world?” and what we’ve found is that they do. Obviously you have to adapt them into your cultural way of doing things, and praising in one culture might be a little different in the other, but the concept of catching people doing things right applies no matter what the culture is.

And redirecting people might change with different styles and different cultures, but again the idea of observing people’s performance and when it’s not heading in the direction you want, how do you get them back on line. We found the same way with situational leadership, that people all over the world use it, and they obviously use it and tie it into their particular cultural way of doing things.

Rachel Salaman: Ken Blanchard, thank you very much for joining us today.

Ken Blanchard: It’s great to be with you, and all the best to you. And I’m excited about “The New One Minute Manager.” I think it’s just going to help a whole new generation of people to just get the basics of managing people, so that they can create great results and great human satisfaction – because that’s what it’s all about.

About the author

Rachel Salaman

Rachel Salaman

Freelance Podcast Producer
Rachel has been producing Book Insights and Expert Interviews, the latter of which she also hosts, for the past 14 years. She is also the Founder and Creative Director of a media production company, advising on all forms of online audio and video content, and offering full production and post-production services, as well as training and consultation.

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