The One Minute Manager Summary: Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard

The One Minute Manager Summary

The One Minute Manager Summary provides a free book summary, key takeaways, review, best quotes and author biography of Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard’s famous self-help book.

This little book The One Minute Manager from the 1980s was a spectacle of the time. More than 10 million copies were sold. It even inspired updates and spinoffs like The One Minute Entrepreneur. This little book has opened the door to a number of business tales. Creative writers Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard – who co-authored Who Moved My Cheese? – keep the writing purposeful. Their tale explores the one-minute management principles with sheer charm. Johnson and Blanchard playfully use a story to narrate their core management advice. A smart young man who wishes to become a manager seeks an effective boss. After a lot of search, he hears of an incredible manager. One who has a name for producing excellent results by working with his team. He finally gets to see the manager, who reveals his secrets. 

The authors wrote this bestseller as a simple, quick parable. They use a novelistic structure as a way of putting across their management ideas. Such an approach brings its common-sense business formulas to life. Blanchard went back to the metaphor form in 1998’s Gung Ho!, which he co-authored with Sheldon Bowles. While some of you might want to reach the lessons’ core, the metaphoric strategy is quite popular. We highly recommend this small, readable classic to all people n business. It is Management 101.

“Take a minute: look at your goals, look at your performance, see if your behavior matches your goals.” 

The One Minute Manager Summary

The Premise

A young man looking for effective managers comes across tough bosses. Managers who stress results over their people. He also meets the nice bosses who value their people more than the results. 

Understandably he gets annoyed until he finds the real “One Minute Manager”. The one who supports both results and people. This one-minute manager reveals basic concepts like “those who feel good about themselves, yield great results.”

The manager discloses three secrets to help one achieve his/her full potential. He recommends using “one-minute goal setting” to narrow down goals to one page. The manager suggests “one-minute praising” to compliment workers. He also recommends “one-minute reprimand” to inform workers about their mistakes. To help people achieve their best potential, the manager recommends catching them doing something right and offering instant praise. He asks his young disciple not to feel insecure when encouraging others. The greater your workers’ successes, the higher you will go in the firm. 

The authors suggest appreciating your workers the moment they do something good. Also, ensure that their peers know you appreciated them. While praising people, look them straight into the eyes. Tell them what they did correct. Also, express how great you feel about their feat. This will make that worker more aware about what he/she is doing correct. Then the worker will start appreciating his/her work.

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Setting and Meeting Goals

Goal-setting requires the 80/20 rule. The rule implies that 80% of the results you want come from just 20% of your goals. The writers urge prioritizing the 20% of your goals that will reap the highest returns. Pick three to five goals. Then, convey them to your workers. Make sure they understand that you see these goals as they key responsibility. Once your employees get their job responsibilities, define your expected performance standards. Recognize those who meet them. 

The authors ask to encourage your workers to find and fix their own issues. In case they need help, don’t focus on their feelings. Help them to see what’s happening in practical terms. If they are not able to explain their issue, they are merely complaining. The authors stress that an actual issue exists only when what a worker wants to happen does not happen. Your employees must be capable of finding different solutions and assess them to determine the ideal action.

Managers who set clear goals and properly guide their people should hone open communication. They should also respect their employees and invest their time to monitor new staffers. This suggestion marks where The One-Minute Manager’s actual problems start. 

“People who feel good about themselves produce good results” 

Pat Homilies

Six employees report to the mythical one-minute manager, who just monitors and guides. However, the book fails to address planning, strategy or company policies. The authors indulge in hypocritical management-speak and deploy pat homilies. This is likely to cause today’s staffers to roll their eyes. For example, the book says, “Nobody really works for others.” Or, “I don’t decide for others.” This cannot be true even in the book’s made-up company. Someone des hold veto and executive power and takes decisions for others. One-minute marvel looks best curated for established companies and quick action. In fact, even three decades ago, this would not be practical for a disrupted business. Or any industry where it takes years for the results to unfold. 


The advice that genuine and steady feedback expresses your concern for your workers has more longevity. Rightly expressed, feedback can amplify your employees’ performance and commitment. Helping your workers improve pays off economically. The most efficient minute you put in, is the one you spend on your employees. Genuine and constructive feedback is the best motivator. Getting objective feedback allows workers to adjust their attitudes. For example, when a person is bowling, they ought to focus on the pins. The bowler instantly knows the outcome of his/her efforts if the pin falls or stays. This is immediate feedback. 

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The authors warn against the common mistake of not communicating what is expected of others. It gets even worse when you tell them they are wrong when they don’t do what is expected. This is the NIHYSOB way of managing workers. The term stands for “Now I have you, you SOB!” Inept or insecure managers follow this attitude as the employee always gets defensive. NIHYSOB surfaces when insecure managers do performance appraisals.  

This attitude best presents the difference between the time the authors wrote this book and today. But, it is handy as a bona fide worst example. Try to read through this section. If you still spot the book’s core worth and timeless message, you won’t be put off by its dated style. 

“We are not just our behavior. We are the person managing our behavior” 

Conditioning Behavior

The one-minute manager recommends evaluating your goals and reviewing your achievements against them. When you reflect on your goals, check your performance and question yourself. Ask, if your attitude matches your goals. Now that you have reflected upon yourself, check your employees. If a worker’s attitude conflicts with your goals, condition their behaviour. The process is similar to training pigeons. Imagine you want to train a pigeon to walk to a pellet machine which is in a corner of a box. You would draw a line next to the entrance on the opposite corner. Every time the bird crosses the line, you give it a food pellet. Then you draw new lines further away and nearer to the pellet machine. Ultimately the pigeon will go to the far corner for the pellets. So, reward your employees whenever they come close to their goals. 

The One Minute Manager Review

The One Minute Manager is a concise, simple to read parable replete with great tips as the authors try to maximize every word in this short book. The book is short and once the fluff is removed, it could well be finished in a few pages. However, they would be some really helpful pages. It is understandable that the authors wanted to tell a tale of an individual seeking a great manager so that the readers can experience it for themselves. However, it is questionable if all that story was needed. Having said that, the recommendations in this book are practicable to a great extent. 

This book had some interesting points and some surprisingly blunt points.  The book is nearly 30 years old and because it is more principle-centric than practical, it can be said that it has stood the test of the time. Given the complicated working environment of today where responsibilities are often not clearly defined, tips like ‘one-minute goal setting’ must be seen in a more aspirational way than in a verbatim manner, as long as you can derive value out of this book. In fact, a lot of performance management systems of present times are based on these premises. So, it is helpful to understand them. 

Also, even if the book is somewhat older, it does not imply that the subject and theme are not accurate. The book is quite up-to-date and worth a read. This book is recommended to managers at all levels and to all those who wish to learn about management. 

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The One Minute Manager Quotes

“Take a minute: look at your goals, look at your performance, see if your behavior matches your goals.” 

“People who feel good about themselves produce good results” 

“We are not just our behavior. We are the person managing our behavior” 

“Help People to Reach Their Full Potential. Catch Them Doing Something Right” 

“Goals begin behaviors, consequences maintain them.” 

“The people who work with you as their manager will look to you as one of their sources of wisdom” 

“Effective managers,” he thought, “manage themselves and the people they work with so that both the organization and the people profit from their presence.”

“The best minute I spend is the one I invest in people.” 

“If you can´t tell me what you’d like to be happening, you don’t have a problem yet. You’re just complaining. A problem only exists if there is a difference between what is actually happening and what you desire to be happening.” 

“When I first came to work her I spotted a problem that needed to be solved, but I didn’t know what to do. So I called the One Minute Manager. When he answered the phone, I said, Sir, I have a problem. Before I could get another word out, he said, Good! That’s what you’ve been hired to solve.” 

About the Authors

Kenneth Blanchard, PhD, is an author, business consultant and speaker. His One Minute Manager has translations in over 20 languages and sold over 10 million copies. He also authored Raving Fan and set up the Blanchard Training and Development.

Spencer Johnson, MD, gave birth to the One Minute System. Some of his best works are The Precious Present and Yes or No: The Guide to Better Decisions. He also co-wrote the bestseller Who Moved My Cheese?

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