I met Spencer Johnson at a cocktail party. He had written a bunch of children’s books as part of a series called Value Tales–The Value of Determination: The Story of Helen Keller, The Value of Believing in Yourself: The Story of Louis Pasteur, The Value of Humor: The Story of Will Rogers. My wife met Spencer first and hand-carried him over to me. She said, “You guys ought to write a children’s book for managers. They won’t read anything else.” So that was really the impetus for our book. I invited him to a seminar I was doing the following Monday and he sat in the back and laughed. Afterward he came up and said, “Forget The One Minute Parent”–which was the book he was working on at the time–“let’s do The One Minute Manager.”
Why do you think the book was so successful and resonated with the business world in the way that it did?
Because it was all about simple truths that really resonated with people. I can’t tell you how many people have said, “I should have written this book. I knew those three secrets.” The reality is that One Minute Goal Setting, One Minute Praising, and One Minute Reprimands/Redirection are the key elements of managing your kids, your marriage, your friendships–everything.
When you write a business fable, people get caught up in the story and don’t get judgmental about what you’re teaching them. If you’re teaching a bunch of concepts, people get skeptical and say, “Where’d you get that research?” But if you tell them a story, they get caught up in it while they learn.
Do you feel like business fables are still relevant in today’s business world?
Absolutely. I’m still writing fables. So are Spencer Johnson, Patrick Lencioni, and others. People love them, because they can pass them around, share about them with others, and easily get buy-in on concepts told in the story format.
How has your process changed from One Minute Manager to later books like Lead with LUV?
Lead with LUV is the first book I’ve ever done that’s just a pure conversation between my coauthor and me. Colleen Barrett (President Emerita of Southwest Airlines) is such a special person, it just didn’t seem right to write a fable around her. I thought it was best to let people get to know her. The best way to do that was by interviewing her and dialoguing with her throughout the book.
What makes a good business book stand out from all the others?
A good business book teaches simple truths. People don’t have time to figure out complicated approaches to dealing in this rapid-fire world. They want to know: “What is the 20% that’s going to give me 80 percent?”
What are your three favorite business books, and why?
Of course there are many books I love, but the three that come to mind are The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Why do I like these books in particular? Because they teach simple truths in a way that you can understand and apply right away. Patrick Lencioni, Spencer Johnson, and Stephen Covey are great communicators. I love to read what they write and try to apply what I learn in my own life.
Ken Blanchard is the author, with Spencer Johnson, of The One Minute Manager.