A cartoon some years ago showed a manager talking to his subordinate. “My therapist says that I have to be nice to you for an hour every day. I’ve got five minutes left, so watch out!”

We laugh; but what if you could cultivate the winning relationships you wanted in five minutes rather than 60? What if you could get everyone on your side without having to make-nice all day?

Would that interest you?

In order for this to work, you must do it in the first five minutes of your day. It won’t work if you do it at any other time. If you can’t discipline yourself for five minutes, then you’re missing an opportunity, the opportunity to make a difference.


Turn off your mobile phone, and then in the first minute, greet everyone personally, by name, in your office and with a genuine smile. That means that you smile because you mean it. If you’re faking, then no one will believe that you’re really smiling. Instead, they’ll think that you have a hidden agenda. That you are only doing it because it you read it in an article somewhere.

In the second minute, ask how each person is doing. You have to get past, “I’m fine” or “not too bad” or “I’m good.” Those are the lines that everyone has learned to say as employed actors. "I'm fine" is shorthand for "I see you". To cultivate a winning relationship, to make a real impact you’ll have to dig a bit deeper. That’s so that you’ll know what to do in the third minute.

In the third minute, you want to take the conversations a bit further. If the person really is doing well, then ask why. If the person is struggling or has had some bad news, then express genuine sympathy. Demonstrate that you care by taking an interest in the details.

In the fourth minute, ask how you can help. It doesn’t matter if the person is feeling really upbeat or downcast. Either way, you want his or her day to get better. Find out how you can do that. It’s better to say something like, “Would you like me to . . .?” and then to make your sincere offer that will make a difference in that person’s life, than to say, “What would you like me to do?” Most people don’t know what they want you to do, and those who do will be afraid to ask you. You might say that you can’t, and then their day would get worse.

In the fifth minute, tell them what you will do. You’re a manager. You care about your people. You want them to be happy. This is not rocket-science. And so that means that you should be able to think on your feet. You should be able to do something for them that will help them. So tell them right then, while you’re thinking about it, what you’ll do, for them. If you have to say something like, “I’ll see what I can do,” then make that a priority. Don’t leave that person hanging in expectation.

Now you’re set for the day. You’ve just demonstrated that you really care about those you supervise. They know you do, and so do you. They are now confident enough to do their work knowing that you are happy with them. And you are now free to do your work because you are more confident in their abilities. Why? Because you know what concerns them and what it is that makes them want to celebrate.