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The 5 O’Clock Club: How long is the average attention span, and how do good trainers, teachers and coaches deal with it?

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…are Redskins coaches and practices too soft?

NFL: Washington Redskins-Training Camp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

It started with D.J. Swearinger complaining repeatedly about other players joking around in practice. He said it a few times following a few losses — enough so that it became a theme. Journalists grabbed ahold of it as if Swearinger was criticizing coaching rather than players, and it began to grow legs as a theme and a story line to be pursued.

A reporter asked Greg Manusky about D.J.’s comments, and it seems that a number of people were surprised by the Defensive Coordinator’s response. I could quote directly from the press conference transcript, but I think there’s some value in looking at Manusky’s comments with the spin applied by J.P. Finlay:

Manusky explained that he played in the NFL for 12 years, and he learned during that time that it’s effective to mix in some humor during practices and walkthroughs. He also explained that it’s tough for some players to maintain their attention span.

”From an attention span, I think it is like 20 or 30 minutes from a player’s perspective being in the meeting. After that, it kind of just overwhelms you a little bit and you’re mind starts to drift,” Manusky said. “But overall, I think that attention-to-detail, giving them a little bit of a break here and there, even during practice. That’s why we go back and forth to get them a little bit of a break so they can focus on what they’re supposed to focus on.”

In a vacuum, Manusky’s comments seem at odds with Swearinger, but it’s worth pointing out that for the coach, his job is to get about 25 players paying attention throughout the course of the week. Not every player will behave like Swearinger, with a laser focus and devotion to football.

Still, it seems a bit disjointed for the defensive coordinator to suggest players can’t focus for more than 30 minutes at a time. Even though many are young men, these are still professional football players.

Early this season, the Redskins had one of the best defenses in the NFL, particularly against the run. In their last four games, however, three of them losses, Washington is giving up 135 yards-per-game on the ground and has twice given up more than 30 points.

Manusky thinks this is the time of year where young players start to lose concentration, and the team needs to be better in that area.

”it’s a grind, from the first couple of weeks, especially for young players. I mean, this is the time where we start the season really,” he said. ”Pretty much, now, we have to start rolling. For those young players, they’ve already played their 12 games and they’re done, with four preseason games and the games that we’ve already played. This is when we have to pick it up.”

People have been grabbing this theme and running all over the place with it. Imagine, they say, if Bill Belichick allowed his players to lose focus after just 20 minutes!

They scoff at this as more evidence of the softness of Manusky and the lax attitude at “Camp Jay” with its ping pong and DJ music.

Having fun while practicing football?! Outrageous.

I’d like to take a minute to review my professional background in brief:

I earned my undergraduate degree in Business Administration and Management from VCU in 1981.

I spent the next 13 years working as a manager, Training Manager, and — eventually — Director of Human Resources and Training for a nationwide retail business that was owned by a larger multinational corporation.

I moved to Australia, where I worked for the same multinational for a year before becoming the General Manager of a smallish family-owned business.

Unhappy in that job, I opened my own business in the finance industry, which I ran successfully for 9 years.

I sold the business and moved to Thailand, where I have been a teacher for 13 years. I am employed to teach English language and business skills at the nation’s oldest, largest and most prestigious university, where I typically spend around 21 hours per week teaching students in their early 20’s in 3-hours sessions.

What I learned as a Business Student, as a manager, as an entrepreneur, and as a university teacher

The degree that I earned in business management was about 25% accounting and economic theory, and about 75% low-level psychology and behavioral theory. My first year was spent studying BJ Skinner, Maslow and Herzberg — all of whom discussed why people behaved as they did, and none of whom ever seemed to talk about debits, credits or double-entry accounting.

What I’m trying to say is that studying for a business degree was mostly focused on studying human behavior.

Among the multitude of things I learned in the late 1970s and early 80s were some concepts that seemed to make some sense to me:

  • People are more productive in a workplace with ‘better’ conditions. Things like lighting, background noise and cleanliness make a difference, but the workplace environment extends to all sorts of things.
  • People are motivated by all sorts of things, but — if you listen to Abraham Maslow — there is a hierarchy of needs. People attempt to move ‘up’ that hierarchy, but circumstances can force them ‘down’ again. Once a person’s lower needs are met, they are no longer motivators; in other words, people’s motivational drivers will change with circumstances, and at the highest levels they are driven by things such as social acceptance and self-actualization.
  • An idea that I struggled with when I was a college student, but which stayed with me all of my life is Herzberg’s two-factor theory that says that there are motivators (satisfiers) that positively increase a worker’s satisfaction/motivation when they are present, while hygeine factors (dissatisfiers) don’t increase motivation, but they can — if they are inadequately dealt with — lead to dissatisfaction and lower motivation/productivity. The hardest thing for me to come to grips with as a young man was the concept that money is not a satisfier, but a hygeine factor. More money is not motivating, per se, but lack of money is de-motivating.

One concept that was presented to me as a fundamental truth back then was that people have a limited ability to focus — a concept known as ‘attention span’, and that people’s attention span was much shorter than the average person was willing to acknowledge. As a student working towards my bachelor’s degree in management, I was assured that most people found it difficult to focus on a task for more than 10 to 20 minutes at a time.

Training the trainer

Later in life, when I became a professional trainer, my company paid for me to attend a week-long “Train the trainer” session that I felt at the time changed my life. I thought it opened my eyes to all sorts of things that I hadn’t understood before.

This was thirty years ago, and I was introduced to a number of concepts that nowadays are screen-saver material, but which I found intensely enlightening back then.

I was introduced to the idea that that some people are ‘visual learners’ (I am not a visual learner, and was shocked to find that not everyone was like me).

I was told that a learner who listened to a lecture retained only a small percentage of what they heard. Being encouraged to take notes and ask questions increased the level of retention. Actually participating in the trained task by getting hands-on with it raised the level of retention to its highest point.

I was told about a training method that was labeled tell-show-do-go, in which a trainee was never allowed to do a task the wrong way as he or she was taken through a 4-step progression where the trainer first explained a process, then demonstrated it. Next, the trainee was given the chance to practice under supervision, but the trainee had to explain each step before taking it, with the trainer correcting any errors before the trainee acted. This was repeated until the trainee could do it perfectly all the way through; only then could the trainee act independently.

Part of that week-long train-the-trainer session back in the mid-1980s was devoted to running large group training sessions.

The first principle that the instructor gave us was that all learners were different, so it was important to deliver the message with a variety of media — pictures, words, sound, hands on training, writing, and so on.

Another popular idea at the time was that people needed 5 to 9 repetitions to remember a concept, so repetition was encouraged — but within the context of varying media whenever possible, as opposed to merely stating the information multiple times.

A third concept was one I remembered from my university years; the idea that people have a limited attention span — usually 10 to 20 minutes. Therefore, training had to be quick paced. The instructor assured us that this didn’t mean that all training had to take place in 20 minutes or less, but that a longer training session had to be comprised of ‘components’, each lasting 20 minutes or less. In other words, one might spend 10 minutes giving information to the whole group, 15 minutes with trainees working together on a project, 5 minutes eliciting large-group responses, 20 minutes on a problem solving activity, followed by a 10-minute quiz to make up an hour-long training session. The trainees would sort of ‘reset’ their attention span as the session moved from the end of one component to the start of another.

TED Talks

I think most people these days are familiar with TED talks. I teach a lot of presentation skills classes at my university, and TED talks provide a wealth of examples to draw from, allowing students to see and evaluate a range of speakers. Here’s one of the principles of TED Talks explained:

The enormously popular TED talks are a series of talks in which speakers present their ideas on a wide range of topics from technology to biomedical research to culture. One key stipulation given to all speakers is that they have a maximum of 18 min to present their material. The rule dictating 18 min is based on the notion that 18 min is long enough to have a “serious” presentation but short enough to hold a person’s attention.

I want to stop and acknowledge something here

I’ve been careful in what I’ve written above to talk about what I was told, or how things were presented to me. What I’ve learned in the subsequent 35-plus years of my life is that none of these concepts is universally accepted as true. All of them have been challenged, and some of them are in conflict with each other.

A quick Google search on the topic of attention span will most likely bring you face to face with a variety of references over the past couple of years to the concept that people’s attention spans are getting shorter; that it may now be as little as 6 to 8 seconds! But, while that idea may be based in factual research, it may not convey accurate information:

[I]f you pay a bit more attention to where the statistics come from, the picture is much less clear.

All those references lead back to a 2015 report by the Consumer Insights team of Microsoft Canada, who surveyed 2,000 Canadians and also studied the brain activity of 112 people as they carried out various tasks.

However, the figure that everyone picked up on - about our shrinking attention spans - did not actually come from Microsoft’s research. It appears in the report, but with a citation for another source called Statistic Brain.

A quick Google and it is easy to find where they got it from. The Statistic Brain website looks pretty trustworthy too. It even says they “love numbers, their purity, and what they represent” - just the kind of people with whom we, at More or Less, can get along.

As if to prove it, the number-lovers at Statistic Brain source all their figures. But the sources are infuriatingly vague.

And when I contact the listed sources - the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the US National Library of Medicine, and the Associated Press - neither can find any record of research that backs up the stats.

My attempts to contact Statistic Brain came to nothing too.

I have spoken to various people who dedicate their working lives to studying human attention and they have no idea where the numbers come from either.

So, the popular notion that attention spans are getting shorter, and that 6 - 8 seconds may be the current ‘norm’, seems to be less fact-based than our facebook and Twitter reporting world might make it seem. It may, in fact, be almost a made-up idea, with no empirical basis whatsoever.

Which makes me wonder about my own long-accepted notion about attention span — that idea that people only focus for 10 to 20 minutes before suffering attention deficit or a wandering mind.

I turned to a short paper published on the website:

The Genesis of the 10-Min Attention Span

The academic literature is replete with articles and books supporting and propagating the conclusion that lectures should adhere to the 10- to 15-min attention span that is characteristic of modern students. In the book Tools for Teaching, Davis (5) states that “...student attention during lectures tends to wane after approximately 10–15 minutes.” Similarly, Wankat (20) argues that “Although student attention is high at the start of a lecture, it has reached a low point after 10–15 minutes.” In essays honoring the psychologist Wilbert J. McKeachie, Benjamin (1) asserts that “When the lecture begins, most students are paying attention, and for most students that attention lasts for about 10 minutes.” Indeed, McKeachie (13), in Teaching Tips (8th Ed.), has maintained that “Attention typically increases from the beginning of the lecture to 10 minutes into the lecture and decreases after that point,” a sentiment still echoed by this author more than 20 yr later in the 14th edition of the book (19).

[T]he propagated concept of a 10- to 15-min attention span ultimately appears to rely on a single key manuscript published in 1978 (10) describing the waning of attention during a lecture.

If all of the citations for a 10- to 15-min attention span originate with a 1978 article by Hartley and Davies (10), then a thorough examination of this article is clearly warranted. What is remarkable regarding this publication is that attention span is not actually the subject of the article; rather, the subject of the manuscript is in fact “note taking.” This article itself is also not a primary data source, but it reviews the literature up to that point regarding the taking of notes in class by students.

Although this publication concerns note taking and not attention span, perhaps note taking is a reasonable surrogate marker for attention. Indeed, the review by Hartley and Davies (10) contends that the amount of notes taken declines over the course of a lecture, consistent with “attention” decline after the first 10–15 min of a lecture.

[T]he question still remains: is note taking a good surrogate for attention? The answer appears to be no. Hartley and Davies (10) concede that there is a waxing and waning in attention span during a lecture but that measuring note taking was not an indicator of attention. Indeed, citing the author’s own work (9) and that of Maddox and Hoole (12), Hartley points out that note taking is not necessarily indicative of attention at all. So, note taking is not a good proxy for attention whatsoever, and even if it were, it does not support a 10- to 15-min limit on student engagement.

Here’s what all of that means:

The concept of a 10-20 minute attention span that I was taught in college, and that was reinforced in the excellent Train the Trainer session I attended in the late 80’s, is NOT based in empirical study.

Like the recent arguments that contemporary attention span is getting shorter, it sounds unsupported and possibly just a ‘made up’ idea.

That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just unsupported by empirical evidence.

Arguments against short attention span

There are probably dozens — maybe hundreds — of strong arguments against the idea that people have a ‘natural’ attention span limit of 10 - 20 minutes, but I didn’t bother to Google it or look for any of those arguments anywhere else because I think there’s a single, commonsense argument against it.

I think that most of us know that we are capable of concentrating on tasks for long periods of time.

In my own case, I love building and working on spreadsheets. To me, they are magical things, with incredible precision and symmetry. I have one spreadsheet that I use for managing the financial aspects of my life. It started as a simple one-page cashflow projection about 14 years ago, but it has turned into a monstrous construction with about 65 tabs with cross references and hyperlinks, and even links to external spreadsheets.

I’ve been working on it and refining it for 14 years. I made another ‘tweak’ to it just this morning in an effort to improve its utility.

I can get lost in spreadsheet construction for hours. Some days I’ll open up my laptop in the middle of the afternoon to build or work on a spreadsheet, and when I finally close the lid of my laptop, I’ll look up at the clock, surprised to find that it’s midnight or later.

I love to read, and it’s not at all unusual for me to get lost in a book for 3 or 4 hours of reading.

And, as many regular Hogs Haven readers would realize, I enjoy writing. I frequently sit down on the sofa with my laptop to start working on something for Hogs Haven, and realize later that I’ve spent two hours, 5 hours... sometimes 7 hours engrossed in the process of researching and writing.

I’m sure that most people who are reading this article can relate similar experiences of work-related or personal engagement that so fully occupies them that the hours simply melt away unnoticed.

So, right away, I know — and you probably do too — that people can remain engaged far beyond the 10-20 minutes that my college professor and others told me about so long ago.

That doesn’t make the concept useless

Today, I am a college teacher, and I have been teaching — sort of semi-retirement - for about 13 years. I see teaching as a natural extension of the management and training skills I developed as a businessman when I was younger.

Even knowing that the attention-span information that I first learned in 1978 isn’t necessarily validated by research, I continue to use it as a guiding principle in my teaching, along with lots of other ideas — some of which I mentioned above, some of which I didn’t.

I would never dream of standing at the front of the room and lecturing for 3 hours, even with the “visual stimulation” of a Powerpoint file. Perhaps I should say I would avoid it especially if I was using a powerpoint file. Powerpoint is the modern-day soul killing equivalent to the dreaded ‘vacation slides’ of the 1950s and 60s.

A 3-hour class with me is, if I achieve what I set out to, a fast-paced journey through a series of presentations, exploration, formative activities, discussions, and review designed to maximize student engagement.

I show students videos when appropriate. I teach one class on Business Negotiations, and one of my favorite videos in that class is the “Show me the money!” telephone conversation between Cuba Gooding Jr. and Tom Cruise from the movie Jerry Maguire. At the end of that conversation, the two characters, Jerry and Rod Tidwell are locked into a relationship that defines the movie. In an effort to get students to think about negotiation as something more than haggling over the price of a tee-shirt, I tell them that this phone conversation is an active negotiation between Jerry and Rod. I ask them to analyze the goals of each character at the beginning of the phone call, the strategies each uses, and to assess the winner of the negotiation by identifying which character actually achieved his negotiation goal.

I embrace the technology that students carry in their pockets. On the day that I teach students how to write a persuasive essay, I give them URLs to websites devoted to two endangered species: elephants and polar bears. The students work with a partner. They have 90 minutes to use their smart phones to access one of the sites, review the available information (there’s LOTS of it), and then, without copying any of the information from either site, construct a 350-word persuasive essay about either polar bears or elephants and submit it prior to the end of class.

When I teach students the skills they need for job interviews, we do role play work. But then, they are asked to form a group of 4 people (a small startup company). Each group holds a meeting and develops a business plan around a developing technology (these are Engineering students). After researching the structure of job ads, their ‘company’ has to write a job ad for a position they need to hire for. The following week, that ad is given to 4 other students in class, who are then interviewed for the job by the members of the group that wrote the ad. The final class of the semester sees each group hold a final company meeting to decide which of the four candidates to hire.

All of these techniques are aimed at engaging the attention of these young people, who are, after all, professional students at the nation’s most prestigious university. They are the ‘cream of the crop’ in Thailand, and I guess I could simply expect them to stay focused without any special effort from me to create a more motivating environment.

I could just stand at the front of the room and lecture for 180 minutes, but I believe with all my heart that the students would lose interest after 10 or 15 minutes, and my attempt to teach them would be ineffective. I would have failed them, and I would not take pride in myself for being the best teacher I could be.

I ask students, sometimes, about how other teachers teach. Some actually do spend 180 minutes with a powerpoint file and a microphone. I ask students about those classes. They tell me that most students either sleep or surf the internet on their smartphones during the lectures, and that no one really listens. I belive that a critical part of our job as teachers is finding ways to make the sessions interesting and engaging.

It’s boring to be trained, taught or coached when your role as the trainee, student or athlete is passive. It’s very different from getting actively engrossed in a constructive activity like writing a contract, designing a building, preparing battle plans, building a retaining wall, or painting a picture.

Good teachers, good trainers, and good coaches take responsibility for creating that sense of engagement.

Humor in teaching

One of the many fine resources I have read in my career is a book called “Made to Stick” by two brothers named Chip and Dan Heath. They started with a simple idea. Everyone has heard presentations. Some presenters are better than others.

The Heath brothers set out to identify what separated the best presenters/lecturers/teachers from the rest.

To do that, they had to define what they meant when they talked about a good presentation. Having read the book carefully, this is what I distilled from their description of a good presentation, which they described as a “Sticky” presentation:

  1. The audience understands it
  2. When the presentation is over, the audience remembers it
  3. Later, the audience members, inspired by what they heard, tell others (friends, family, colleagues) about the key points of the presentation

In the book, they give lots of examples of how to present ideas in this way, but to me, the best example was the first one given in Chapter One. They describe a guy who was tasked with communicating how horribly unhealthy the artificial butter was that movie theaters put on the ‘buttered’ popcorn served in movies theaters. The raw numbers were startling, but... well... boring.

In the end, he brought reporters to a press conference. He showed them a container of popcorn that a guy and his girlfriend might consume at the movies on a Friday night.

Then he showed them a trestle table laden with McDonalds hamburgers, fries and soft drinks in a big pile.

The amount of bad stuff in the buttered popcorn, he said, was equivalent to the big pile of McDonald’s junk food on the table.

This was visually stimulating, instantly understandable, and unsettling in its clarity.

Photographs — the smallish popcorn container and the pile of junk food — accompanied the articles that the journalists wrote, and they were published all across the U.S. The public outcry led movie theaters to change to a healthier alternative for their buttered popcorn sales soon after.

This was highly effective communication.

The book identified 6 key factors in ‘Sicky’ presentations:

  • Simple
  • Unexpected
  • Emotional
  • Concrete
  • Credible/Credentialed
  • Story

Not every presentation would have every element; and not every element could be delivered at the 100% level, but the more elements in a presentation, and the higher the intensity of the elements, the ‘stickier’ it would be.

Certain presentations are emotional by their nature. Most appeals for money, or donation of time or items, attempt to press emotional buttons.

Business presentations are usually different, but not always. They might push buttons for pride, or shame or confidence in an effort to be stickier.

When I teach professional presentation skills, I tell my students that humor has a role in teaching, training and selling. I stress that professional business people are not invited to a present in a workplace in order to do a 10-minutes standup comedy routine, but I always stress the value of getting the audience to laugh with you once or twice.

Laughter is engagement, and engagement is almost always good.

Humor is based on the unexpected, and the unexpected means ‘different’. In other words, not just the same routine.

Humor, at a certain level, helps keep the audience alert and engaged.

Unexpectedness and emotion support the other elements of presentations, making them easier to understand, easier to remember, and easier to relate to others later.

One maxim of my personal philosophy is this: If you can get the audience to laugh with you once, you’ve won — at least in a short presentation.

There’s another reason why I believe that it’s good to get people to laugh with you. It’s an idea that is built on the mind-body connection.

For each of us, the body and mind are connected. That’s why the placebo affect has been proven to be a real thing.

Slouch with your body, and your mind will get the signal that it can relax, coast or shut down. It isn’t needed.

Sit up alertly and the mind gets the message that it is needed, and that it has to pay attention.

Get someone to smile or laugh, and the brain gets the message that he is enjoying himself; he likes the presenter, and the presenter is someone worth listening to.

If you’re smiling and laughing, you must like the person who is making you laugh. If you like that guy, you want to hear what he has to say.

It might sound like a lot of hooey, I don’t know, but these are the things that I believe. They are the maxims that underlie the methods I use when I teach.

I think that being a student/trainee/learner is NOT like creating a spreadsheet, writing an article or reading an interesting book. It is not like playing an enjoyable video game.

For most people who have to pay attention during training, the experience is passive and non-engaging — especially when it happens in a large group without focused one-on-one attention.

It is the trainer’s responsibility to create the optimal training environment and to create engagement from the learner. The failure to do that is the trainer’s failure, not the trainees’.

Greg Manusky

Greg Manusky, who is 6 years my junior, has ideas about how to engage and train the (mostly) young men he is responsible for. He says that they have limited attention spans during training sessions.

He likely got this notion in a way similar to the way I got it; someone he trusted and believed in probably shared the idea with him.

Like me, he probably found that his practical experience backed up the concept. When you’re training people, an energetic session that is quick- paced, varied, and which incorporates creativity and a bit of fun makes the training more effective.

Sure, “shut up and listen” is an appealing idea, but as a professional teacher, I can tell you that I haven’t found it to be effective.

Looseness and fun are not the enemies of learning or performance.

Stress and intimidation are the enemies of long-term production.

People seek social acceptance, high self-esteem and self-actualization once their basic needs for food, shelter and safety have been met. Money doesn’t motivate - though lack of money demotivates. Pride, clear communication, high expectations and a strong sense of accountability do motivate people. Strong discipline is a positive idea that results from understanding expectations and living up to them — not the concept of punishment for failure.

The boot camp atmosphere is used to break down individuals and meld them into an effective combat unit, but fear and intimidation don’t last as motivators, even in the military, where decisions can literally be life or death. Soldiers are given a sense of pride in the unit, and their place in it; they are given high level expectations for outstanding performance and near flawless execution; they are trained to a high level of proficiency to follow specific rules and rewarded for doing so with precision.

A continuous ‘boot camp atmosphere’ doesn’t work effectively in any work environment. Intimidation, fear and threats create stress, which is the enemy of efficiency and high-level performance. Instead, great organizations build trust, teamwork, reliance and accountability.

Teachers, trainers and coaches are individuals who need to find and exploit their own gifts in order to shape turn a collection of individuals into a high-performance unit.

I spent 16 years of my life building high-performance work units in the business world, and when I hear Jay Gruden and Greg Manusky talk about the atmosphere that they try to build in order to get the most out of their players, it sounds to me like they understand what’s important.


Which is closest to how you feel about the approach that Jay and his coaches take to practice, players and game preparation?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    "Club Jay" is too soft. DJ Swearinger’s comments are probably right on, and a sign that the team lacks the right kind of discipline needed to win a lot of games in the NFL.
    (28 votes)
  • 58%
    Jay and the other coaches may do some things right, but he has simply hit his ceiling as a head coach. As long as Jay is in charge, the Redskins will be a 7 to 9-win team.
    (85 votes)
  • 22%
    Manusky and Gruden understand coaching. If there’s lack of talent, that’s on the front office. If there’s lack of execution, that’s on the players. These coaches are doing a good job.
    (32 votes)
145 votes total Vote Now

I have had many influences in developing my ideas about how to be an effective working professional. At the core, every successful person has to believe in something. I have ideas about how to negotiate, how to teach, how to run a good interview, but there’s a more fundamental level that each person needs to have as a foundation — ideas that define how you manage each interaction in your business and personal life.

While I don’t perfectly follow these principles all the time, I have core values and beliefs that I rely on and try to use as guiding principles when my own pettiness, pride or anger doesn’t get in the way. Here are three resources that I found most valuable in my working life for developing these core beliefs. I recommend any of them to people who are still formulating their own set of core beliefs.

Feel free to share your ideas about your own core beliefs, and perhaps where and how they were formed, in the comments section below.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnagie

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. ...
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard

One Minute Goal Setting - How do you get people truly excited about their work? Make it clear what is expected of them. One Minute Goal Setting is simply:

1. Agree on your goals.

2. See what good behavior looks like.

3. Write out each of your goals on a single sheet of paper using less than 250 words.

4. Read and re-read each goal, which requires only a minute or so each time you do it.

5. Take a minute every once in a while out of your day to look at your performance, and

6. See whether or not your behavior matches your goal.

One Minute Praisings is the second secret. The authors suggest that effective managers help people reach their full potential by catching them doing something right. “People who feel good about themselves produce good results.” The One Minute Praising works well when you:

1. Tell people up front that you are going to let them know how they are doing.

2. Praise people immediately.

3. Tell people what they did right - be specific.

4. Tell people how good you feel about what they did right, and how it helps the organization and the other people who work there.

5. Stop for a moment of silence to let them “feel” how good you feel.

6. Encourage them to do more of the same.

7. Shake hands or touch people in a way that makes it clear that you support their success in the organization.

One Minute Reprimand is the third and final secret to effective managing. “Clearly the number one motivator of people is feedback on results.” Feedback is the breakfast of champions. The One Minute Reprimand works well when you:

1. Tell people beforehand that you are going to let them know how they are doing and in no uncertain terms.

the first half of the reprimand:

2. Reprimand them immediately. [reprimand the behavior only, not the person or their worth]

3. Tell people what they did wrong - be specific.

4. Tell people how you feel about what they did wrong.

5. Stop for a few seconds of uncomfortable silence to let them feel how you feel.

the second half of the reprimand:

6. Shake hands, or touch them in a way that lets them know you are honestly on their side.

7. Remind them how much you value them.

8. Reaffirm that you think well of them but not of their performance in this situation.

9. Realize that when the reprimand is over, it’s over.

Interaction Management from DDI

  1. Listen and respond with empathy
  2. Maintain or enhance self-esteem
  3. Ask for help in solving the problem