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After two decades, the fourth secret of the One Minute Manager is revealed

The One Minute Apology:
A Powerful Way to Make Things Better

by Ken Blanchard and Margaret McBride (Harper Collins, 2003, ISBN 0688169813

On an audio program recorded several years ago, Ken Blanchard recalled a letter he had received shortly after the One Minute Manager was published in 1981. Its writer, a vice president of a large corporation, congratulated him on the book, but chastised him for assuming that managers never make mistakes. The three secrets of the One Minute Manager -– one minute goal setting, one minute praising and one minute reprimand – all are based on the assumption that the manager is always right.

We know that is not the case, the letter continued. Sometimes a manager is wrong. Sometimes a manager should apologize. The letter prompted Blanchard to explore the fourth secret of the One Minute Manager; the one minute apology that he described in the audio program. Now, 22 years after the first of a series of One Minute Manager books appeared, Blanchard and Margaret McBride have revealed the one minute apology to a larger audience with the publication The One Minute Apology.

Written in Blanchard’s trademark parable style, this book tells the story of a young executive who turns to a family friend, the One Minute Manager, for advice on how he can help his mentor, a company president, deal with some mistakes he has made and save his career. The young man benefits not only from the wisdom of the One Minute Manager, but also from that of his mother and his daughter.

What is wrong with most apologies is that the person who is apologizing makes it about himself, not those harmed by his actions. People are motivated to apologize (“Gee, I am so sorry.”) because they feel that if they do, others will forgive and forget. The apology will let them off the hook. The One Minute Apology teaches us to apologize because we are wrong. “Apologize not for the outcome but because you know you were wrong and it’s the right thing to do,” the One Minute Manage reminds the young man.

The one minute apology consists of two parts. It begins with Surrender and is completed with Integrity. Admit first to yourself that what you did was wrong and take responsibility for your actions. Apologize as soon as possible and tell those who were harmed how badly you feel about your actions.

Continue by acknowledging that such behaviour is inconsistent with who you want to be and affirm that you are better than this. Make it up to the individuals whom you harmed and through your future actions, demonstrate that it won’t happen again.

The one minute apology is an approach we can use with our family, friends, co-workers and customers. When we make a mistake that impacts others, we must apologize and take action to correct the problem. In the words of the One Minute Manager, “A one minute apology can be an effective way to correct a mistake and restore the trust needed for a good relationship.”


Apologizing is one of several techniques participants learn during Nelson Scott’s Customer Service Magic: Transforming Complainers into Loyal Customers.


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A professional trainer, speaker, and consultant since 1995, Nelson Scott works with organizations that are committed to making the right hiring decisions, developing and retaining productive staff, and strengthening relationships with customers.  Learn more by visiting or e-mailing


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