Why Praising Progress Works

The main idea of The New One Minute Manager is to help people reach their full potential. In the book, Spencer Johnson and I describe the Three Secrets: One Minute Goals, One Minute Praisings, and One Minute Re-Directs. I believe the most powerful of the three is One Minute Praisings.

For a One Minute Praising to be effective, you must praise the person as soon as you can and tell them in specific terms what they did right. Let them know how good you feel about what they did and encourage them to do more of the same.

As a manager, the most important thing you can do is to catch people doing something right. And when someone is just beginning to learn a task, it’s important to catch them doing something approximately right so you can help them move to the desired result.

One of my favorite examples of this is a parent teaching a child to speak. Suppose you want to teach your toddler son how to ask for a drink of water. Of course his first attempt isn’t going to be a full sentence. If you waited for him to say “Give me a glass of water, please” before you gave him a drink, that wouldn’t turn out too well. So you start by pointing to a glass of water and saying, “water, water.” After several weeks or months, all of a sudden one day your son says, “waller.” You are so excited you hug and kiss him, give him a drink of water, and get Grandma on the phone so the child can say, “waller, waller.” It wasn’t the exact way to say water—but it was close, so you praised his progress. Eventually, you only accept the word water and then you start working on please. By setting up achievable targets along the way and praising progress, you help the learner move toward the end goal.

In the workplace, unfortunately, many managers wait until people do something exactly right before praising them. The problem with this is that some people never become high performers because their managers concentrate on catching them doing things wrong, keeping an eye only on the desired performance instead of praising progress along the way.

This happens with new employees all the time. Their manager welcomes them aboard, takes them around to meet everybody, and then leaves them alone. Not only does the manager not catch the new person doing something approximately right, they periodically zap them just to keep them moving. I call this the leave-alone-zap management style. You leave a person alone, expecting good performance from them. When you don’t get it, you zap them. What do you think that does to a person’s performance and engagement?

If you set clear goals and catch your people doing things right, you’ll create a work environment where people are engaged and fully committed to doing a good job. It only takes a few minutes to praise someone for a job well done. It will be the most important minute of your day.

One Minute Goals: Are You Keeping Score?

In The New One Minute Manager, Spencer Johnson and I share that setting One Minute Goals begins with the belief that everyone is a potential winner. They just need to understand what they are being asked to do and what good performance looks like.

When setting goals, managers work side by side with each direct report to write a goal statement for each of their areas of responsibility, including the standards that will be used to evaluate their performance. This provides clear direction on what the direct report needs to accomplish and how they will know they have done a good job.

Ensuring that direct reports have a way to monitor their own performance and measure progress is an important component of motivation. To explain the motivating nature of creating clear goals, in the book we share a story we heard from Scott Meyers, a longtime consultant in the field of motivation.

One night when Scott was bowling, he saw some people from an organization he previously had worked with. Everyone in this group had been described as disinterested and unmotivated. Meyers watched as one of the men who had been identified as unmotivated approached the line and rolled the bowling ball. Soon he started to clap and jump around with delight. Meyers had never seen the man so animated. Why do you think he was so happy? Because he got a strike and he knew he had performed well.

Meyers contends that the reason people in organizations are not clapping and jumping around at work is, in part, because they aren’t always clear about what is expected of them. In bowling, this would be like rolling the ball down an empty lane without any pins at the end. With no pins to knock down, there is no goal and no performance to measure. That wouldn’t be much of a game, would it?

Yet, every day in the working world, people are bowling without pins. As a result, they can’t tell their manager how they’re doing. When managers assume wrongly that the people on their team know what the goals are, no one is set up for success.

Never assume anything when it comes to goal setting. Set your people up for success by working with them to write clear One Minute Goals. Then check in occasionally and see how they are scoring. Keeping goals top of mind will help people focus on the important work and achieve higher levels of performance.

A Positive Approach to Re-Direction

\One of the things people seem to be most interested in about The New One Minute Manager® is the modern version of the Third Secret: One Minute Re-Directs. Spencer Johnson and I realized that One Minute Reprimands worked years ago when you needed to change behavior in a command-and-control management environment, but today working side by side with people gets better results. When everyone is constantly learning and re-learning new skills The One Minute Re-Direct is more gentle and caring than a reprimand, and that’s what makes it so powerful.

My friend Erwin McManus has a wonderful saying: “Don’t let the truth run faster than love.” This applies so well when re-directing behavior. When someone makes a mistake you need to tell the truth so you can change the behavior—but make sure you do it in a caring way. Also assume the best intentions. The best way to do this is to talk to your direct report about what you observed to make sure their goals were clear to them at the time. If you both determine that the goals were clear, next check out the facts leading up to the re-direction to make sure you both agree on what happened. Discuss the impact of the behavior, and then reaffirm the person in a way that is meaningful. Let the person know they are better than their mistake and you have confidence and trust in them.

Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company, states it this way: “It’s important to maintain the balance between being tenderhearted and task oriented.” As a leader you must be able to re-direct behavior to keep people on the right track while also respecting their dignity. Remember—when you share feedback it is never about you or the other person; it is about the behavior. A leader’s job is to constantly help people be the best they can be.

I hope you find this information helpful the next time you need to re-direct someone’s behavior. You’ll encourage them to improve performance while letting them know how much you support their success.

NOMM-book-featureTo learn more about The New One Minute Manager, visit the book homepage where you can download the first chapter.

Praising Performance to Build Confidence, Productivity, and Morale

Business People Talking On Business MeetingI ask people all the time, “How many of you are sick and tired of all the praisings you get at work?” I always get the same response—laughter. It’s sad how many managers spend their time pointing out things that are wrong with performance instead of catching people doing things right. That’s why Spencer Johnson and I encourage you to focus on the Second Secret of The New One Minute Manager®, One Minute Praisings.

After you have set clear goals with someone, it’s important to spend a good amount of time with that person to make sure they are set up for success. In fact, let people know you’re going to give them lots of feedback on their performance because you believe in their talent and you want them to be high performers. If they aren’t used to receiving much feedback it might seem confusing, but soon they’ll realize what a valuable tool it can be.

When you praise performance, remember to do it promptly and be specific about the behavior. Let the person know how you feel about their achievement and encourage them to keep up the good work. This is especially true when someone is working on a new skill or task, because praising will help build confidence. As people become more proficient, they will actually learn to praise themselves for a job well done.

Something to keep in mind: a One Minute Praising is not the same as flattery. It’s a statement that builds trust and improves communication because it’s based on facts and data. Saying “nice job” isn’t specific enough to build rapport. But if you say, “Sally, thank you for getting your monthly report to me on time. It provided accurate information and allowed me to meet my deadlines. Keep up the great work,” it clearly states your appreciation and will boost Sally’s morale. It will also help her realize she is an important member of the team and improve her productivity overall.

So spend a few minutes every day catching your people doing something right. It doesn’t take much time. Remember: the best minute of the day is the one you invest in your people.

NOMM-book-featureTo learn more about The New One Minute Manager, visit the book homepage where you can download the first chapter.

A One Minute Tip for Changing the Way You Set Goals

Business People Shaking Hands At DeskAll good performance starts with clear goals. That’s why Spencer Johnson and I made sure that the First Secret of The New One Minute Manager® is One Minute Goals. This is illustrated perfectly in the children’s story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when Alice asks the Cheshire Cat which path she should take. The Cheshire Cat responds, “That depends on where you want to go.” When Alice says she doesn’t know, the smiling cat says, “Then it doesn’t matter.” The same is true in the work environment. If people don’t have a clear understanding of where they are going and what they need to focus on, they can’t perform at their highest level.

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. I think the best practice is to have each goal on a separate page. Keep the goal statement short so that every day it will take less than a minute for the person to review it to make sure they are staying on track.

Yes—I’m suggesting that everyone look at their goals every day. Why? Because too often, goals are written and filed away in a drawer, not to be referenced again until it’s time for a performance review. Creating goals and hiding them from sight for a year is a surefire way to ensure that people won’t work on the most important projects in an organized way. What kind of message would it send if goals were set and never reviewed? Reading over goals every day ensures that people’s behaviors are matching their goals, allows them to adjust their behaviors if their goals are not being met, and reminds them how their work contributes to larger department or organization initiatives. This method actually lets people manage their own performance—which in turn helps them enjoy their work more and be more productive.

So where are you and your people going? When was the last time you checked? Start working with your direct reports today to write clear One Minute Goals, and encourage them to spend one minute each day to read them. I’m sure you’ll start seeing higher levels of goal achievement—along with higher morale.

NOMM-book-featureTo learn more about The New One Minute Manager, visit the book homepage where you can download the first chapter.