One-Minute Redirect: Instantly Fix Poor Performance

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The One-Minute Manager" by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is a one-minute redirect? How can performing one-minute redirects improve your staff’s performance?

In The New One-Minute Manager, a one-minute redirect is a way to give immediate, effective, and constructive feedback to your employees when they’re not performing up to standard. This method works better than the typical performance review because it allows employees to correct their mistakes immediately.

Learn why you should use one-minute redirects rather than performance reviews.

The One-Minute Redirect Technique

You can’t praise employees’ good work without also holding them accountable them when they don’t perform up to expectations. The two balance out to keep workers on track to achieving their goals. As a one-minute manager, you need to master the one-minute redirect technique. 

(In the old version of The One-Minute Manager, these were called “One-Minute Reprimands.”)

Prepare for One-Minute Redirects

For one-minute redirects to work, you need to do a few things first.

Set One-Minute Goals

You won’t be able to point out when an employee hasn’t performed up to standards if you never set those standards in the first place. It’s not fair (and it’s ineffective) to reprimand someone for not doing something they didn’t know they were supposed to be doing. Check that the goal is clear too. Sometimes, goals can be unclear, unrealistic, or poorly designed. That’s ok. Just make sure you take responsibility for that as the manager and clarify the goal with your employee.

Set Expectations

As with one-minute praisings, set expectations beforehand by telling employees that you’ll be giving immediate feedback. This matters even more with one-minute redirects: it’s hard for anyone to hear negative feedback about their performance, no matter how constructively you deliver it as their manager. Setting expectations early minimizes the potential that they’ll feel so blindsided by your criticism that they don’t hear it and don’t learn anything from it.

Also, only redirect people who have the experience to know better. As we’ve seen, people who are just starting out need encouragement and positive reinforcement. Unless it’s an extreme example, you don’t want the first feedback you give to a new hire to be negative. 

Giving One-Minute Redirects

Once you’re sure you need to re-direct, the one-minute redirect has two distinct halves. The first half focuses on the mistake itself.

Begin Immediately

Begin the redirect immediately following a mistake. Again, delay only breeds resentment and confusion, particularly with negative feedback like this. If you spring it on them weeks later, your employee will feel like you were being dishonest by not mentioning it during all of the intervening time.

Be Precise

Confirm the facts and explain precisely what went wrong. Tie it to the employee’s one-minute goals so that they clearly see the disconnect between the desired results and the actual performance. 

For example, “That report you just delivered was past the deadline that we had set out in your goals. It was also poorly researched and incomplete because you omitted these items.” Your employees won’t learn from mistakes without this degree of specificity.

Explain Why

Explain your feelings as a manager (anger, disappointment, frustration) and why their mistake hurts the organization.

For example, “I’m disappointed because we were depending on that report to establish our quarterly marketing targets. Because you submitted a subpar report, we’re going to have to revise our targets downward, which sets the whole company back.” 

This connects individual performance to company results. In effect, you’re saying, “By not pulling your weight, you’re hurting the goals that we’re all working towards.”

Pause and Let the Employee Reflect

After this, take a pause for a few seconds, and let your employee feel concerned about the impact of your words. Then, you’re ready to begin the second half, focusing on the person.

Don’t Make It Personal

Keep it about the issue and don’t make it personal.

One-minute redirects are not meant to be punitive: they’re meant to be instructional. You want to correct the behavior so that it doesn’t happen again. Make it clear that you’re criticizing behavior and performance, not their inherent ability to do things right. It’s quite the opposite, in fact: you’re redirecting them precisely because you know they have the capacity to do better. You’re building people up, not tearing them down.

Make It Constructive

Remind your employee that you think highly of them overall and that your anger/disappointment is because you have high expectations that they failed to meet in this case. For example, saying something like, “I still think highly of you as an employee. The reason we’re having this discussion is because I know you have the necessary experience to do better than this. I’m confident that you’ll learn from this experience and won’t repeat this mistake again.”

People need to know that bad feedback in one area doesn’t mean that they are failing on all levels.

This approach also keeps the employee from getting defensive, feeling mistreated, and viewing you as an enemy. Employees won’t take anything away from the redirect if they feel they’re just being torn down. You want them to own their mistake and learn from it. They’re correcting a specific behavior, not some deep-seated and unchangeable personality flaw.

Don’t Let It Linger

When the redirect is over, it’s over. There should be no lingering resentment on your part. This is crucial to keeping the redirect about issues. If you continue to be upset afterwards, your employee will think that you dislike them personally or think poorly of their overall performance. They’ll become resigned to this fact and won’t work to improve their performance, because they’ll think it won’t make a difference.

Principles for Effectiveness

Apply these principles when implementing the one-minute redirect.

Be Consistent

Hold employees accountable for mistakes even if things are going well elsewhere. People can’t get away with covering up their mistakes in one area by doing well in another area. If you make a mistake, you get a redirect, regardless of other circumstances.

Redirect Yourself

Lead by example and be willing to admit and laugh at your own mistakes. Managers who refuse to hold themselves accountable are setting themselves up for failure. Employees will see you as unreasonable and hypocritical, and ultimately refuse to take their own redirects seriously. 

Why One-Minute Redirects Work

What makes one-minute redirects so effective?

Redirects are Educational, Not Punitive

This means that employees rarely make the same mistake twice, because they have been shown the discrepancy between their goals and their performance, without being made to feel that they’re incompentent or stupid.

Your employee drives her own corrected behavior. She knows that her manager is confident in her abilities. Therefore, she’ll want to work harder to prove to you (and to herself) that she can indeed rise above the mistake and live up to those expectations. 

Redirects Raise Standards

Employees see that you’re on top of things. Accordingly, they’ll start holding themselves up to a high standard when they see that they are called to account for their mistakes. One-minute redirects also give employees the chance to improve their performance right away. You’re calling out and correcting problematic behaviors immediately. This means that employees don’t develop bad ingrained working habits. This helps both the organization and the individual employees themselves.

Redirects are Manageable Feedback

Ongoing feedback is more effective than a one-time annual performance review—you get good performance day-by-day, rather than poor performance through many months.

Moreover, the feedback is manageable. Your employees won’t overwhelmed with the feedback, because it happens in short sessions and is limited to one topic at a time.

Think about how the opposite dynamic works. It’s overwhelming for an employee to receive criticism all at once, as in a performance review. They will feel that they have been unfairly blindsided with a litany of months-old grievances about a wide range of topics. This is not conducive to the employee learning from these mistakes: instead, they’re likely to just become bitter and defensive.

When One-Minute Redirects Fail

Of course, this isn’t going to work every time. Some employees simply don’t have the talent or work ethic to learn from their mistakes. Consequently, they repeat the same mistakes over and over again and you find yourself giving one-minute redirects about the same issue. As a manager, you need to ask yourself if it’s worthwhile keeping someone around who can’t or won’t learn from mistakes. You might need to transfer, demote, or even terminate such an employee.

One-Minute Redirect: Instantly Fix Poor Performance

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Here's what you'll find in our full The One-Minute Manager summary :

  • How to empower your employees and teach them to succeed
  • Why immediate and direct feedback is the most effective
  • How to offer constructive criticism to correct behavior

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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