Goals begin behaviors. Consequences maintain behaviors.

Last month I finished reading “The One Minute Manager” by Kenneth Blanchard Ph.D. and Spencer Johnson M.D. Who knew such a thin book could contain so much wisdom!

There’s a lot of content in this tiny book. Today I wanted to focus on the section I found the most helpful – the one minute reprimand.

Do you have a hard time disciplining your direct reports? Do you hold back because you think you’re being too strict? Do you let their poor performance sneak by because you’re afraid of confronting them?

“The feedback on the one minute reprimand is immediate. That is, you get to the individual as soon as you observe the misbehavior or your data information system tips you off. It is not appropriate to gunnysack or save up negative feelings about someone’s poor performance.” – Blanchard and Johnson

I read in different business books that you’re not meant to address bad behavior the first time you witness it. I always thought you were supposed to wait for 3 instances of the bad behavior before you confronted your direct reports on the issue.

Now I see the benefits of confronting the behaviors right when you witness it. It’s more powerful because it’s still fresh and the feedback is clear because it’s so immediate.

But be careful not to act if you only hear about the bad behavior second-hand:

“Before giving a reprimand you have to see the behavior yourself – you can’t depend on what someone else saw. You never give a reprimand on hearsay.” – Blanchard and Johnson

And here’s the formula that describes how you deliver the one minute reprimand:

“These three basic ingredients: telling people what they did wrong, telling people how you feel about it, and reminding people that they are valuable and worthwhile lead to significant improvements in people’s behavior.” – Blanchard and Johnson

Keep your focus on the behavior:

“It’s very important when you are managing people to remember that behavior and worth are not the same things. What is really worthwhile is the person managing their own behavior. If you are first tough on the behavior, and then supportive of the person, it works.” – Blanchard and Johnson

Sometimes it’s easier to just let bad behavior slide. You don’t want to be too harsh right? Wrong, you need to care.

“Sometimes you have to care enough to be tough. And I am. I am very tough on poor performance – but only on the performance. I am never tough on the person. The people he worked with felt that he was honestly on their side from the very beginning. And that made all the difference.” – Blanchard and Johnson

Did this post on the one minute reprimand clarify your role as a manager? Contact me, I’d love to hear about it!

Author: David Neely

Professional Software Developer. Technology and Web Coordinator at the University of Hawaii's Manoa Career Center.