How to Manage a Team Like a One Minute Manager

In the book the one minute manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, a young man (for this article, we’ll call John) aspired to manage a team one day. He set out to ask other managers what it took to manage a team effectively. Here’s what John found.

The Autocratic Manager

He identified that some managers whom he interviewed, seemed to be very results driven. They often succeeded in the business and were heralded by their senior leaders.

With those same managers, he identified that they were often derided by their employees underneath them. These employees seemed disengaged and unhappy in their work.

When he asked what made them successful in their own eyes, these managers replied with similar answers. He was often told that they “had a finger on the pulse.” and that they were “extremely driven.”

But if they were that good, he thought, why were their employees often disengaged and unhappy with their management Style?

The Democratic Manager

He continued to search, and found some managers that sat on the other end of the spectrum. These managers were loved by their team members. Their employees showed more enthusiasm and engagement in their work.

However, they resided over lower results. This culminated in them being held in a lower esteem by their superiors.

When these managers were asked what made them successful, they often replied with the same answer: they were people oriented leaders, who ensured their employees were looked after and were engaged and happy.

John had a conundrum.

One type of manager was good at achieving targets; they were very demanding and autocratic by their nature, but their employees were disengaged and unhappy.

The other type of manager had a happy and engaged team, were democratic in their approach, but often suffered in achieving the targets that their autocratic counterparts could achieve.

He asked, Is there someone that can manage the team and get both happy team members, and high performing results?

John eventually found a manager that seemed to be able to achieve both. He hit his targets and kept his team engaged and happy.

Extremely interested to know more, he proceeded to interview this manager and his team.

The One Minute Manager Approach to Managing a Team Effectively

After extensive interviewing this manager and his team, John found the secrets to his success.

They consist of 3 guiding principles to manage a team effectively and are the foundational elements of what Blanchard and Johnson call the One Minute Manager.

They are:

  • One minute goal setting;
  • One minute praise;
  • One minute reprimands.

Lesson 1:1-minute Goal Setting

Most managers never really provide clear cut information. If you ask the people in your business, whether they are totally clear on what they have to do and why, how many would say that they know 100%?

Do they know who they report to, formally?

Do they know what success looks like in their roles?

Do they have clear goals to work towards?

Are they being steered in the right direction?

They may sound silly questions, but too many employees cannot answer with a resounding yes to any or indeed, all of them.

In the 1 minute manager, goal setting is about setting clear concise and quantifiable goals upfront, together, so both the manager and employee agrees and signs up to them.

Learning point: The One Minute Manager highlights that, in order to be effective, and for your team to be productive, achieve its goals and stay engaged, you have to define and agree objectives in a simple and effective way.

These goals are one minute goals, because they can be portrayed in literally a minute – no matter what type of goal you’re talking about.

So, if it’s providing daily direction or defining longer term goals, the principle is the same. Be extremely effective and clear in your communication and do it up front, so there is no ambiguity.

Enhancing team performance can often require integrating specialized training available through online platforms.

By leveraging Upskilling platforms, your workforce gains access to crucial assets that help them fulfill their roles more effectively.

These platforms are equipped with cutting-edge educational content and interactive settings, all tailor-made to align with the distinct needs of your business.

This approach not only streamlines skill development but also ensures that your team’s competencies are continuously updated.

One Minute Goals In a Little More Detail

One minute goals are expressed and written in a couple of hundred words, maximum – just big enough to be read and fully understood within a minute.

This means that on one A4 bit of paper, you can clearly and precisely write down in no more than 250 words, a specific goal for a certain task or project being worked on. Simply repeat this for all the other goals you set with each employee.

This concept works because it provides clear and concise feedback right from the start.

There is no ambiguity.

It’s straight forward, no fluff goal setting.

The same is true for a task that you give a new team member, for instance. Let’s suppose that you wanted them to organise the team’s electronic filing system.

You could tell them to simply clean up the filing system. This isn’t concise enough and is left open for too much interpretation. 

  • What does ‘clean up’ the filing system look like for that person? 
  • What does success look like at the end of the task? 
  • When should it be done by? 
  • What particular files should they focus on / is there a specific way of doing it?

By giving more definition, you’ll end up with a better outcome. It all starts with clarity upfront.

Here’s how we could word the task better:

“Tidy the electronic filing system by removing all archive folders, deleting random documents that are not stored in a specific file and sorting all files in the right sequence, in accordance to the company’s filing policy. Please complete this project by the end of the week.” 

Now, your employee will know exactly what is expected of them and how to do the task. Just as important is the fact that you both have a gauge to measure success against.

This allows for your employee to self correct and make improvements as they go along, as well as you helping to coach any gaps in output they may have. This is often referred to as redirecting them, which we’ll discuss later in the article..

For instance:

  • Have they deleted all random files with no destination folders?
  • Have all duplicate files been removed
  • Are all older files archived?
  • Does the filing follow the company’s format?
  • Are they on course for completing by the end of the week? 

Here’s a short video on the importance of clarity and one minute goals from Blanchard himself:

Key Components of the One Minute Goal

In order to be effective, one minute goals must focus on the following key elements:

  • They must demonstrate what success looks like at the end of the project or task;
  • They are time bound, so clearly define when this should happen;
  • They are quantifiable – In other words, they are measurable and can link correct behaviour to the outcome;
  • In other words, the goals are SMART;
  • They must be within around 250 words – for clarity;
  • Each goal should be reviewed daily and worked on to ensure the actionable objectives are being met.

Blanchard himself states, “The secret of setting One Minute Goals is for the leader to work side by side with each direct report to write goal statements that include performance standards, so that both people agree on what needs to be done by what date. In other words, they work together to determine exactly what good performance looks like.”Ken Blanchard

Examples of 1 Minute Goals:

Here are some examples to help clarify the one minute goal framework.

  • Achieve 90% customer satisfaction on all help-desk enquiries by the end of September;
  • Run the entire recruitment process, including working with recruitment agencies, conducting telephone interviews, running assessment days and hiring 3 new process engineers in the 1 quarter of the year, that fit with our values, whom last beyond the 3 month probation period;
  • Project manage the new customer onboarding process for Dexter Inc, from start to finish, including creating all branding, developing a new website and linking order fulfilment to the site within the next 3 months;
  • Lead your team in reducing customer complaints from the current score of 20% to 5% within the next 12 months. This should incorporate a reduction in returns and rework, as well as improving supporting processes of enquiry, design, operations, manufacturing and delivery across the business.

Lessons From the One Minute Goal Setting Process

  • Focus on the 20% tasks and projects that will achieve 80% of your team’s goals. This should give you around 5 to 6 goals for each team member. Never over burden them with too many objectives;
  • This is not a dictatorial process. In order to manage a team, you need to create goals together. For each goal, discuss the project or task with that team member and agree clearly what they should do, however they should do it and when it should be done by. Think of smart goals to help you create good objectives;
  • Take a piece of paper, and for each goal, write a 250 words description of that goal as a summary of what you’ve both agreed;
  • Get each employee to take their goals away with them and check into them daily to see how they are doing. Remember, this should only take a minute to do;
  • Encourage them to change things and try new ideas if the performance is falling behind the goal or they don’t seem to be in sync with them.

Lesson 2: 1 Minute Praise

The second learning point to manage a team like a one minute manager, is to actively look for opportunities to praise your employees. The philosophy here is different to most businesses.

Whereas traditionally, managers tend to catch their employees doing the wrong things and reprimanding them for it, the one minute manager looks out for positive opportunities – situations where they are demonstrating the right behaviours and doing the right things in achieving their goal(s).

We all like some good feedback, so the one minute praising helps develop a happier and positive culture of reflection and feedback, rather than waiting for people to fail and then pointing the blame.

Blanchard and Johnson highlight that,“The more consistently successful your employees are, the higher you (as a leader) rise in the organisation.“

This philosophy means that in order to manage a team, you have to build a high performing one.

This involves setting quick and concise goals (step 1), and then actively looking to see where people are doing the right things and praising them on the spot for it. You want more of the same! So show them what they are doing right and encourage more of it.

There’s No Room For “Thanks”

The one minute praise, doesn’t mean a thinly veiled, “thanks“.

It consists of warmhearted and open praise, reflecting on what they did and how it was right. In other words, it describes with unambiguity, how they performed so well in that circumstance.

As in the one minute manager framework, each element of praise should be effective, quick and concise – no more than a minute to do.

Here’s how to do it:

Tell the employee exactly what they did right, pausing for a second so they can take it in, and then confirm how it made you feel, and how it helps them and the business, finishing with encouragement to do more of it.

Ensure to provide praise at the right time. Don’t leave it for when you can get around to it. The effectiveness comes from doing it there and then.

Strike while the iron is hot, as they say.

Examples of One Minute Praising

  • “Excellent job with closing the sale at the customer meeting. I particularly love the way you managed their rejection and turned it into a positive for us. This type of work helps you get recognised as the leading sales person of the team. Excellent work, keep it up.”
  • “As you know, I attended your morning meeting discussion and was very impressed with how you led the team and identified what challenges are needed to work on today. This is the exact method others must follow. Demonstrating this leadership style and eye for detail helps us as a business develop our capabilities and future leaders like you.”
  • “I saw you’ve reduced our customer complaints from 20% to 10%, so far. You are well on course to achieving your 5% target. The way you’ve encouraged others to identify and implement their ideas quickly and effectively, is what will get you to the 5% target. This type of leadership is what will make us the world leader in our field. Thank you for some great work.”

Tips to Get it Right

Break praise into the following process of identifying:

  • The behaviour or achievement that you spotted;
  • Why you liked it;
  • How it had an impact;
  • Encouragement to do more of the same.

Always look for opportunities to praise. It’s your role as a great manager to serve your team and to actively promote the right behaviours.

Different Praising for Different Skill Sets

Praising your employees is easier to do when someone is new to a task and demonstrates inexperience. You can praise many small elements of good work, whilst you build their skills and understanding.

This can be a highly frequent activity. However, the frequency slows down a little as people become more competent.

This is because it becomes increasingly harder to do. You don’t want to praise a highly competent person for simple tasks when they are ‘past’ that level of competency.

This approach means you would need to step back and allow them to get on with the role.

When you do see examples of excellent practice, then still resort to praising them.

This could be things like:

  • Praising them on completion of the project;
  • How you noticed they handled a specific situation;
  • How they worked with others despite working in a tricky environment;
  • How they overcame adversity;
  • How they turned around the project and achieved the result needed.

Manage a Team: Manage the Praising Process Effectively

Here are the steps to take when you see some good practice and behaviours:

  • Tell your employees upfront that you are going to let them know how they are doing, even before their task starts;
  • Look for good behaviour and examples of what you want to see;
  • When you see that behaviour, instantly tell them what you saw and why it was so good, as well as how it made you feel;
  • Pause, so they can take it in;
  • Encourage them to keep going.

All within one minute. Not bad for managing a team effectively.

Lesson 3: 1 Minute Reprimands

When you manage a team, there will be times when you have to show people that they made a mistake and to reprimand them.

Much like the 1 minute praise, a 1 minute reprimand is quick, to the point and addresses the poor behaviour as it happens.

Admittedly, this can be awkward. Most people don’t like to give people negative feedback, but the one minute reprimand is designed to highlight the problem, and the behaviour issues, and then move on quickly.

It consists of telling that person, what went wrong, how it made you feel and what to expect next time.

Here’s What Typically Happens in a One Minute Reprimand:

  1. Explain exactly what they did wrong and how it made you feel;
  2. Remind them of how capable they are and how you trust them;
  3. Close out by confirming that you trust them to make the right improvements so it doesn’t happen again. This is important, as you want the person to go away thinking about how they can rectify things, not how unfairly they were treated.

The One Minute Reprimand Examples:

Here are some examples to get you started:

  • “You’re a very capable employee and I value your participation, however, I noticed that you didn’t file the paperwork last week. This is an extremely important function and by not doing it, we can’t see accurate transactions, and therefore may be under-budgeting. This has really disappointed me. You are normally attentive to details, and so i am confident you’ll ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
  • “You didn’t conduct your daily team meeting today. When we don’t do this, we fail to solicit good communication across the team and don’t identify issues and concerns. This upsets me because it’s so unlike you. You’re one of my best leaders and you usually get your teams engaged every day. Let’s learn from this and ensure this doesn’t happen again.” 

STOP! First Look for Redirection

In Banchard’s own words, you don’t reprimand everyone for making mistakes. Your first point of call is to manage a team with constructive feedback.

People are more than likely learning in their roles, and so a one minute reprimand would only cause distrust and a fear of trying new things.

Reprimands are for experienced people whose performance has slipped or they have deliberately changed their behaviour, despite knowing what’s acceptable or not.

In the case of mistakes while your employees are learning, Blanchard advises to redirect them and not reprimand.

In this instance, redirection focuses on the following format:

  • Identify the error as soon as possible;
  • Tell them exactly what went wrong;
  • Clarify that it must have been an error on your part and that you didn’t explain things clearly enough to them;
  • Tell them what they should do next;
  • Confirm you have faith in them and to go again.

Single Out Reprimands

In order to know if it is a reprimand you have to give, instead of a redirection, ask the following questions:

“Should this person have known better?”

If yes, ask yourself, “is this behaviour deliberate or through a lack of confidence?” 

If they lack confidence, you need to coach them and redirect their behaviour, not reprimand them. After all, they are still learning.

Your job is to give them the confidence they need to excel.

If their performance is slipping and they do know better, and don’t lack confidence, then you need to reinforce the standards through reprimanding them.

Blanchard identifies that, “only reprimand deliberate behaviour or unusual regressive performance of a normally strong performer.”

8 steps to One Minute Reprimands

When you do find an unfortunate opportunity to reprimand, follow these 8 steps.

  1. Tell people beforehand that you are going to let them know how they’re doing and in no uncertain terms. (This should be told at the goal setting stage);
  2. Spot poor performance and poor behaviour immediately;
  3. Tell that person what they did wrong and be specific;
  4. Tell them how it made you feel when they did it wrong;
  5. Stop for a few seconds so they can take it in and understand;
  6. Remind them of how much you value and believe in them;
  7. Reaffirm that you think Well of them, but just not in this recent situation;
  8. Realise that when the reprimand is over it’s over.


By using the 3 lessons from the One Minute Manager, when managing a team, you’ll be well on track to drive transparency, standards and lead in a fair and objective way.

To help drive clarity, process thinking and empower your team members to work effectively, show them that you are supporting them as a manager to develop their skills and abilities.

Tell them that you’ll maintain communication with them and will always give them feedback on their work, whether it is good, bad or indifferent.

Just as you set clear goals and objectives, you need to be clear and concise in how you manage your team. This means praising them when you catch them doing the right things.

And when they aren’t, you’ll either redirect them or in the minority of cases, reprimand them.

It’s important to be clear and concise in your goal setting, and feedback.

Make things unambiguous.

Your staff will soon know how you manage, what to expect from you and what standards to follow in the workplace. They’ll even be more engaged and empowered to grow and apply what they’ve learned.