Military Management Lessons: Tips from the One Minute Manager

Today, I want to share some of my favorite military management lessons.

One of my favorite leadership books of all time is “The One Minute Manager” by Dr. Ken Blanchard.  In the book, Dr. Blanchard provides three helpful tips to be an effective manager and leader.

Top 3 Military Management Lessons

I’d like to share my thoughts on these three ideas when it comes to military leadership.

His three tips for success as a leader include (1) setting goals for your followers, (2) providing praise when people do a good job, and (3) reprimanding poor performance quickly.  We’ll cover each idea in more detail below.

Step 1: Set Goals

As a military leader, you need to take the time to set specific goals for your team members.  This begins when you conduct your initial counseling with your subordinates.  You must clearly outline their job description, what you expect of them on a daily basis, and their personal and professional standards.

But, it doesn’t stop there.  Each week (or each month for National Guard/Army Reserve folks) you should set goals for/with your subordinates, and review their achievements for the previous month.

If the person is new to their job, you should set goals for them.  If they are experienced in the job, you should let them set their own goals, but have them share their goals with you.

In both cases, both you and your subordinate should be clear as to what their goals are this week, month, quarter and rating period.  This keeps everyone unified, working toward a common goal.

I’ve found that most folks don’t have written goals.  When was the last time your boss helped you set some goals for your job?  When was the last time you set written goals for yourself?  Probably never.

Whether your boss helps you or not, your job is to be an effective leader and help your subordinates set written goals, so they know what is expected of them.  Make sure the goals are written down, and clearly understood by both parties.

The goals are the objectives the person is working to accomplish.  Without clearly identified goals, most people do not really know what their supervisor expects of them.

Step 2: Provide Praise and Feedback

Have you ever noticed that people train their pets by giving them a “treat” when they do a good job?

I’ve found that it’s much easier to improve someone’s performance by rewarding good behavior, rather than just reprimanding bad behavior.

As a leader, you should provide constant feedback to your followers: both good and bad. 

Whenever they do something good, you should give them an ‘atta boy’ or pat on the back. Everyone loves praise and feedback.

Most people only hear from their boss when they mess up.  They can do 99 things right and hear nothing, but if they do one thing wrong they get punished.  Personally, I think that’s horrible leadership.

Make sure you take the time to provide feedback to your subordinates. This includes written counseling, praise through email, awards, certificates, praise in public, an occasional free meal, thank you cards, etc.

Whenever possible reward good behavior.

Never make your followers “guess” what you think about their performance.  Instead, let them know what you think.

Who doesn’t like feedback?  Don’t you want to know where you stand with your boss?  I’m sure you do.  Your followers want the same thing from you!

By all means, correct people when they are wrong or mess up.  Just make sure that isn’t the ONLY time you give them feedback.

Step 3: Reprimands

Your job is to enforce the Army standards and hold your followers accountable for their performance.

If people know what is expected of them (clear goals) and you provide feedback and praise when they do a good job, I’ve found that it’s very easy to reprimand someone (without them getting angry).

The key is how you do it.  I’ve found that if someone is messing up, your key to fixing the behavior is to pull them aside in private and talk with them.

Remind them of what is expected of them, tell them what they are doing wrong, and tell them what they need to do to fix it.

I also recommend you dig a little deeper and ask questions, especially if they are normally a good performer.

Make your reprimand quick, to the point, and end on a positive note.

Most importantly, reprimand poor performance immediately.

This is where good people skills can come in handy.  Anyone can chew someone out or shout at them, but how effective is that?

Do you like to get chewed out or shouted at in front of your peers?  I doubt it.

The bottom line is to address the issue immediately, use your people skills when you do it, and let the person save face.

Final Thoughts

In summary, I recommend that all military leaders follow these military management lessons, so they can be an effective leader.

The key to success is to (1) tell people what you expect of them by setting goals with them, (2) provide feedback and praise when they do something right and (3) reprimand poor performance.

I recommend you implement this leadership strategy as quickly as possible. You will be glad that you did.

What do you think about these military management lessons for increasing performance?  I’d love to hear from you.  Just leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

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chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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3 thoughts on “Military Management Lessons: Tips from the One Minute Manager”

  1. When defining goals you need to make sure the goals are specific and not vague. "Do a good job." while a nice statement doesn't really help the guy who is turning a wrench or needs to file records. State what you expect in each area i.e. fitness, job performance, job attitude, military bearing, outside activities. Your troop shouldn't be blindsided by a reprimand about something you never discussed with them.

  2. This sounds like a great book. I will have to put it on my list of future reading material.

    As Rick said, reprimands are more difficult to give than praise. At least for some. There are some leaders that reprimands are simple and you never hear praise come from their lips. This is where a tight-rope exists. The best leaders are able to perform both. What I liked most about this post is that you have praise 2nd and reprimand 3rd. Great leaders give out more praise than they do reprimands.

  3. It is always easier to deliver praise than a reprimand, but being able to do both the right way is super important. When everyone is prepped on the goals and understands what is expected of them, it gives something clear to point back to when someone does not meet their goals. I have not read the book you reference here, but it seems like one that would be good for someone, no matter what type of management or leadership job they have.

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