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The One Minute (Family Law) Manager

Date:19 JUN 2014
Third slide
President of the Law Society

At home, at work, indeed in all of our relationships, we manage and are managed by other people.

Rarely, if ever, do we feel that we get it just right – that tough, clear but nice mix which works for us and others.

In my second blog, I want to introduce you to the ‘One Minute (Family Law) Manager’. Let’s see if there are any helpful learnings for us overworked and stressed family lawyers the managed and the managing...

‘The One Minute Manager’ is the ‘big daddy’ of management self-help guides having sold over 13 million copies and been translated into 37 languages.

Unlike other self-help books, it tells a story an allegory if you wish of a young man who searches the world for a great manager. He wants to work for one and learn how to become one. Sadly, he finds little inspiration: hard-nosed managers who get things done but who are disliked by the staff, and nice managers who love their staff but do not pay enough attention to the bottom line. (Is this sounding familiar?)

The young man hears about a manager in a nearby town who may fit the bill and, to his surprise, the manager agrees to see him right away and explain how he manages people.

Fortunately, there are only three secrets to his success.

One Minute Goals

Now, I’m going to blow the whole theme as these will take more than one minute to set, I’m afraid!

The ‘one minute’ is more symbolic of the idea that managing people can be much simpler, quicker and more efficient than we think possible. There is no need for endless meetings to discuss objectives / problems and achievement if we apply the theory of efficiency to our interpersonal workplace relationships.

First thing the manager and member of staff do is to agree on goals. There should be a maximum of a half a dozen and each goal should be written briefly maybe a sentence or two on a separate piece of paper. It’s vital that everyone knows exactly what is expected of them and that the staff member is able to achieve each goal. It is often confusion around responsibilities; conflicting aims and goals being set which are outside of an individual’s control which leads to frustration, discontent and discouragement for all.

When goals are set which are clear, simple and achievable, employees are happier as they know where their responsibilities lie and what they need to do. This enables people to become their own problem solvers rarely going ‘up the line’ as they understand their role and goals.

If time is invested in getting this part of the process right then management can become ‘light touch’ more about reporting than supporting.

If you’re thinking this isn’t ‘touchy-feely’ enough for family lawyers, let me cover the second secret:

One Minute Praisings

As suggested above, all staff should know their goals, regularly review to ensure performance meets expectations and provide detailed records of progress to their manager. The purpose of the reporting is so that the manager can ‘catch you doing something right’. Indeed, this is a goal of the One Minute Manager.

When this happens, the manager should praise the employee immediately, giving specific positive feedback. It’s important that the manager lingers giving the individual the opportunity to ‘feel’ how good the manager feels about their performance and their importance to the department/ firm/ them.

And don’t we all wish it could always be like that, however, in the real world, sometimes our colleagues despite clarity of role/ goal/ opportunity and skill set fail to deliver. This leads to the:

One Minute Reprimand

It is vital that we are open and honest with colleagues about their performance. As with the praisings, the reprimand must be specific and immediate. The manager would likely express consternation that the behaviour or action (and this must crucially be distinguished from a criticism of the person) is not up to the individual’s usual high standards. The reprimand also focuses on the first secret by enabling a better understanding of responsibilities and how to complete them correctly.

The reprimand must be immediately followed by reassurance that the person is important / valued by the manager and that it was simply the action / performance that disappointed.

Honestly, this does work in any setting. But why? The answer lies in our psychological make-up. According to the authors, the ‘number one motivator of people is feedback on results’. We all like to know how we’re doing and if we’re doing well, we feel good. If we are not achieving transparent, realistic and agreed goals, we will usually see the reprimand as fair and because it’s undertaken in a non-personal way and ends positively, we want to change and do better.

Why don’t you give it a go? After all, it’ll only take a minute (or so!).

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.