The One Minute Manager and Marcus Buckingham tells to go to our strengths.


One Minute Manager was one of the two books I read last night.

Dunreith and I hung out for a few hours last night at Border’s in downtown Evanston.

I love it there for many reasons, one of my favorite of which is that I get to wander around and see which books call me.

I’m never quite sure what I’m going to end up sitting down with, although I did know that I wanted to read Pulitzer Prize winner and Dart Fellow Amy Dockser Marcus’ book about 1913 and the start of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Although I did pull that one down from the shelf and have since taken it out from the library, I did not get to it last night.

Instead, I made my way two business books: The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson and Marcus Buckingham’s Go Put Your Strengths to Work.

I initially got into business books as a way to connect with my brother-in-law Josh; however, I’ve since found that I very much enjoy the genre and often find elements that I can apply to my work and home life.

The One Minute Manager is told as a parable.

The protagonist talks about meeting the one-minute manager, who briskly explains both that he does not like unnecessary repetition and that the author should talk with his employees to find out what type of manager he is.

The protagonist does, learning that the one-minute manager believes in three essential elements: a one-minute goal, one-minute praise, and one-minute reprimand.

The emphasis in each aspect of the approach is that goals should be specific and able to be conveyed in no more than 250 words and 60 seconds.

The praise and reprimands both come within a context of rapid, if not instantaneous feedback, and emphasize letting the feedback settle in for a little while before affirming the person’s value to the organization.

If the method sounds straightforward, well, that is because it is.  Blanchard and Johnson both talk about the goal of management being to have employees who are excited about the work and who themselves go on to extend the method.

Which, unsurprisingly, is what the narrator ends up doing.

Behavior change is also the goal of Buckingham’s book.

I have not read his earlier book about discovering your strengths, and get the sense that this book is a call to apply the strengths identified through reading the previous work.

A former Gallup pollster, Buckingham takes square aim at the ideas-he calls them myths-that we should work to shore up our weaknesses, that our personalities change significantly over the course of our lifetimes, and that being a team player means doing whatever the team needs at all times.

Instead, he advocates identifying, and then figuring out how to spend more time doing, the activities we do well and that give us pleasure.

These are our strengths.

Buckingham’s book includes an online survey through which readers can identify how often they are currently applying their skills in their work. From that assessment, he supplies a six-week program to help raise that percentage.

The book also includes tips on how to talk with peers, friends and eventually managers about how to make these shifts without appearing overly self-promotional or unwilling to do necessary hard work.

Buckingham unfolds his method through talking about Heidi, a woman working for a hotel chain who has, over the course of eight years, lost her zest for her work.  By tracking the amount of time she does activities that either energize or drain her, she is able to start to increase the former and decrease the latter.

Buckingham states clearly that, while we may dream of a job in which we telecommute, hit the beach and make millions, few, if any, such jobs actually exist.

In a similarly unsurprising ending to the book, Heidi gets her work groove back through participating in the six-week program.

The book has some parts that don’t make much sense.

Buckingham cites Dennis Rodman, whose rebounding and defensive prowess were all out of proportion to the rest of his skills, as evidence of how one can parlay playing to one’s strengths.  Yet no serious fan of basketball would consider Rodman an all-time great at the level of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan, all of whom continued to refine and improve their games throughout their careers.

His statement that parents who do not harm their children have very little influence on them is also highly likely to raise eyebrows.

That said, both The One-Minute Manager and Buckingham’s book are worth picking up for a quick read. Accessibly written, both offer useful tips for one’s personal and professional development.



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