Ken Blanchard: The “One Minute Manager” Remains Timeless

Off the Cuff

Thirty years ago the “One Minute Manager” hit the book shelves. It was one of those “once in a lifetime books” a book that created its own category and became the bible for managers around the world.

The “One Minute Manager,” co-authored by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson is a parable; it reads more as a story than a textbook, or as Blanchard has called it, “a kids’ book for big people.”

It is an easy to read book that reveals three very practical secrets of managing people: one minute goals, one minute praising and one minute reprimands. The theory was to keep it simple so that the complex information would be easy to digest and to put into practice.

“I think people make things too complicated, said Ken Blanchard. “If you really want to be a good manager, a good parent and all, the first secret is one minute goal setting. All good performance starts with clear goals. And then once goals are clear, you ought to wander around and see if you can catch anybody doing anything right, and give them a one minute praising. People love to be appreciated. And if people make a mistake, you don't praise them, but you redirect their energy.”

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For those who have read “One Minute Manager” they’ll notice an update. The word redirect has taken the place of “reprimand.” Blanchard explained why, “A reprimand is when somebody knows better. Redirection is when you share with somebody what went wrong, tell them what happened, what the consequences are, and sometimes you (the manager) have to take on the responsibility.”

It remains one of the best-selling management books of all time. “We just celebrated the 30th anniversary of “One Minute Manager,” and it still sells widely all over the world. In fact, I had a young man come up to me recently, he said, ‘My grandfather gave it to my father, and my father gave it to me.’ And I think the key is that it's all about simple truths,” Blanchard said.

The American author and management expert has co-authored more than 30 other books, his latest, “Trust Works! Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships” addresses in part how to boost morale, fix miscommunication and dysfunctional leadership.

“Everybody knows that we are in desperate need of a different leadership role model. We have seen what self-serving leaders have done in every segment of society in every part of the world, Blanchard said adding, “I think a great leader is somebody who realizes it's not about them, it's about the people that they're serving, that they're really other-directed rather than self- directed.”

One of the biggest complaints Blanchard has with today’s leaders, is the “human ego.”

He believes in more collaboration between leaders and those they manage. He says he “always get upset when I hear about organizations and top managers get behind closed doors and decide how many people they're going lay off to cut costs.” He thinks there’s a better way. “If they said to their people, you know, "We're really in trouble, our margins aren't that good, I need your help.”

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Blanchard also wants to see executives out on the floor, meeting with the employees, “I see some managers who are so proud, they have their own bathroom in their office. And I say, "put a lock on it, you know, because at least you'll get out and walk around once in a while."

Blanchard and his wife, Marjorie founded in 1979 the Ken Blanchard Companies where they work with some of the nation’s top leaders and conduct management training. For a man who, for more than 30 years has been dispensing advice, he admits he doesn’t always follow what he’s been counseled. ”I think the best advice I've ever received is keep your mouth shut more. If God wanted you to speak more than listen, he would have given you two mouths. And that's what I have to constantly work on, is talking too much and listening not enough.”

Born in 1939, Blanchard says he’s not even thinking about calling it a day, “I am ‘refiring.’ Imagine if we had ’refirement’ homes rather than retirement homes, people sitting around ready to die. I tell you, I'm not ready to go until they call me. And until then, I'm going have fun, and I hope in having fun, I'm going make a difference in people's lives.”

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