The One Minute Manager

There are more books on how to be a good project manager than you can wave a stick at. Our text books are riddled with references and examples, but when I read our text-it is missing a very key point. That the person running the project in the role they are running it is still a manager. A very different kind of manager, as they are not involved in the routine tasks. However a project manager is still a manager none the less. As such each manager has to have a foundation and style of management that they can rely on to guide them through the project. A book, yes I am recommending a book to you, that I have read which echos some of the tips and techniques that a good manager should have in any project or in any role is, “The One Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. Here is why I recommend this book, it provides you with tips you can use the same day of reading, the book is very light (less than 100 pages) with big print, and here is what hooked me, “Help People Reach Their Full Potential. Catch Them Doing Something Right!” is one of tenants of the book. This sentenced restructured my frame of thinking. When in a project it is always easy to measure people who did and did not meet the goal or assignment, but providing them positive reinforcement during the assignment will give you better than expected results. Here are the cliff notes versions of the tenants:

  1. People who feel good about themselves produce good results.
  2. Help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right.
  3. The best minute I spend is the one I invest in people.
  4. Everyone is a potential winner. Some people are disguised as losers, don’t let their appearances fool you.
  5. Take a minute: look at your goals, look at your performance, see if your behavior matches your goals.
  6. We are not just our behavior. We are the person managing our behavior.
  7. Goals begin behaviors, consequences maintain behaviors.


When I think about project management, I think of this approach to my team. It has helped me in many different ways and helped me to tap into the potential of those people who would be wall flowers on my project. By using these tenants to frame a person in my team I have gotten excellent results. How do these tenants strike you? Do you feel it could benefit yourself as a member of a team or as a manager or even a project manager? Do you have any examples of someone taking this approach with you as a project team member?

11 thoughts on “The One Minute Manager

  1. As managers, sometimes we forget that we are actually working with other people. People that want to belong to something meaningful and to be noticed. And without their support and participation, the goals we set out to do will not be achievable. Early on in my career, I heard someone say “It is easier to change yourself, than to change other people”. This phrase has stuck with me over the years. Whenever someone on my team is not performing to par, I always ask myself, did I do everything needed to make sure this person can succeed? It is amazing how many times I catch myself thinking that I explained everything very clearly, but in reality it isn’t so. And if you do catch someone doing something right, praise them. “Hey, nice job!” will go a long way.

  2. It has been a while since I read the book, and while I couldn’t have recited the tenants, in reviewing them I see how they have influenced my behavior as a manager. I definitely agree with the power of catching someone doing something right. It ties into people who feel good about themselves produce good results. Ensuring your team enjoys success early will help ensure long term project success.

  3. I love this book, always telling people that is a quick read that can be done “standing up”. The best thing that I took away from it was a bit on working with people who have a “problem”. As a manager it is fair to ask employees that if there is something that isn’t sitting right with you to let a manager or supervisor know about it. However, it is also fair to expect the employee to have some idea of what should be happening instead. This is something that I use frequently at the office. If you come to me with an issue, expect to be asked what you would like to see instead. If you don’t have an idea of what should be happening instead, then one might argue that you don’t really have a problem but are just complaining about the status quo.

  4. Your post brought up some great points. I think you are right that project managers can often forget the people aspect of managing since those people may not report to them directly if you are in a functional or matrix organization. The main points you listed from the book are easy to understand and I can see using them as I try to figure out my management style. The points ask for a lot of self-reflection which is a great practice, and I also appreciate the fact that it promotes positive reinforcement. I fully believe that positive reinforcement can be a great motivator and will help create a culture that team members want to be a part of. Personally, I have a manager who will take the time to thank me for my efforts on a regular basis, and I will admit that if I have competing deadlines that I will give his priority. So as a team member, I think the tips given can be very valuable. Thanks for the book recommendation; I’ll have to buy this one!

  5. Such a simple concept can lead to great results. I think it is funny to think about all the training that managers receive and all the techniques that they try that ultimately fail. Sometimes the simplest technique (being positive) is the most useful.

    I think back to my athletic days and it always seemed like when the team and coaches were both positive, the results improved. Sometimes adversity will stick its’ head out, but there is more than one way to deal with it and sometimes a little positivity does the trick.

  6. Great Post Fareed! “Catch Them Doing Something Right!” I cannot tell you how much I love the positive spin on project management. Thank you for the cliff notes too! I think these are great tips and good reminders. I’ll have to check out the book too! I love this line: “Goals begin behaviors, consequences maintain behaviors.” So true! I work with managers that embody this attitude and I know I definitely respond best to it myself.

  7. I think this post has some useful tools for managing human capital in project settings or any management scenario for that matter. I believe I have seen this in practice on the other end of the spectrum in a “managee” role. Though initially, it was very fulfilling to hear my manager or project manager take note of my positive accomplishments, after a while, it appeared to me to be forced, half-hearted, or sarcastic (likely wasn’t, but that was the appearance). I think as long as you not only take these steps, but also sincerely feel that way and appreciate the work, that would be the most effective way to use these tools. Nice post.

  8. Great notes Fareed! I will definitely try to implement the suggestions. What I have found the MOST useful is to stop by each team members desk for just couple minutes to ask how are you doing? Through this one question, I find that I get much more information about each member’s life outside of the project, information on the project, or anything else happening they would like to discuss then I would ever get through meetings. This also allows me to fix the problems as they happen rather than finding out about them during status meetings. Taking genuine interest in each team member’s development and progress goes a long way.

  9. These are all very powerful point.

    I especially like #4. “Everyone is a potential winner. Some people are disguised as losers, don’t let their appearances fool you.”

    Many times people become discouraged as they are put in situations that do not let them perform to the best of their ability on a daily basis. No one likes to fail. Each person has an inner yearning to do well especially in their job as it consumes the majority of their waking hours. As a manager, making a connection with a struggling team member and showing them how their contribution helps in the grand scheme of thing can make a huge difference in motivating an employee to perform to the best of his/her ability. One example that sticks in my mind is a story of one of the program managers I have worked with. He had mentioned that there was an employee that worked in operations whose main role was to assemble components for an LRU in one of the sensors sold by NGC. The employee had become discouraged- started showing up late, became less efficient, and was rude to his colleagues. The resentment came from the mindless repetition of the same task multiple times a day. The PM had noticed this behavior and engaged the employee by taking him on a tour of the entire manufacturing plant, giving him an opportunity to meet the other members of the team and put faces to names, and finally showing a demonstration of the final product and how it affects the lives of others. The employee made a 180 degree transformation and has progressed since then into a management role. He now uses the same technique with his employees but makes sure to do it periodically throughout the year. His team consistently meets and exceeds their metrics and have a low turn-over within the group. It is crazy to think that this one decision by a PM affected not only affected this employee from operations but the many people that have come to work for that once-disgruntled employee. While I know not all experiences end with such a dramatic outcome, it does show the type of influence that we as people have on others around us.

  10. Fareed,

    This sounds like a great book – I will have to give it a read! These concepts are fantastic in concept, but I think the difficulty people have is in applying them consistently, day in and day out. As you mention, many of us have the goal of helping other colleagues develop themselves and feel good about their work, but at times, we get swept up in our busy work and personal lives, forgetting to recognize good work when we see it – and recognize it verbally to someone else, not just for ourselves.

    Your point #2 resonates with me, because often as project managers and leaders, we are looking for what is NOT going right on the project so that we can help correct our course and help the team recover to the right path. However, we should also be looking for things that are going very right, and people who are succeeding in their roles, because the recognition can FUEL those same people to continue succeeding personally and for the team.

    Nice post!

  11. I really like the tenants, especially 1-4. Really good simple yet effective words of wisdom for a manager. A happy team member or employee is extremely important. A happy employee will give you their best effort on the project and strive to perform well for you. I have had experience with having an unhappy team member, not my doing of course :), and they will cut corners, leave early, and ultimately produce an inadequate result. Investing in your people is of utmost importance, especially in the consulting world where people and knowledge is the deliverable. You need to set aside time to work with your employees constantly to improve the work ethic, communication, training, etc. Not to mention, when you go out of your way to invest time with them, they notice that, which in turn give them the feeling you care. They will work harder for you and perform better for you.

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