One Minutes Supervisor – teaching students to supervise themselves

How can you make supervision simple and rewarding for the student and supervisor? How do you keep focused on the target, make steady progress and enjoy the process?

What I learnt from the business classic book the “One Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson that can be applied to research supervision for outstanding success.

Here are some powerful lessons that you can use as a supervisor and research student.

1. Work together

A key observation from my experience is that the best research gets done when the supervisor and student work together as a coherent team towards a common goal like a dart player hitting the bulls eye. Use the combined brain capacities and resourcefulness of the supervisor and student to build unstoppable momentum towards the target.

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success” Henry Ford

The experience of the supervisor is married to the youth and energy of the student in a synergistic way. You contribute to each other’s growth working in unison. This is rules of mathematics are turned upside down and when 1+1=11 and not 1+1=2

2. Have lots of fun

You must have fun in doing research together. The fun elements will provide a powerful driving force for research success. You will attract everything you want and need for your success like a powerful electromagnet. You only build on your strengths, enthusiasm and mutual respect. These will draw out the best in you. Positive enthusiasm builds esteem and confidence to do high quality research. This will build a strong foundation under your research.

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game” Michael Jordon

 Once you have built a solid foundation you will be able to draw on it for the rest of your life. I am still publishing joint papers with people I worked with 20 years ago at the beginning of my research career. My relationships with my students and co-researchers were built on honesty and integrity couple with mutual benefit. Always think win-win in any working relationship. In contrast negativity and criticism destroys research capability and creativity. You don’t want to engage in any of that. If you get involved then correct yourself and get onto the right highway to success.

3. One Minute Goal Setting

The foundation of one-minute supervision is “One Minute Goal Setting”. Write your goal on a single piece of paper that takes no more than a minute to read. State them positively and in present tense. Keep it simple and elegant. Put a timeline on your goal. State it terms of behaviour as well as the specific outcome your desire. You should be able to look at your goal and specific behaviour and decide if you are moving towards or away from your goals.

Here is an example of a research goal.

“By Friday I want to learn how to use the Zetasizer. I will learn how to interpret the results. I will ask John to teach me how to use it since he is an expert. I will ask him intelligent questions. I feel good learning the basic principles of how it works, its advantages and limitations. I will do several experiments under John’s supervision and correct course whenever I think I can improve. I will write up the operating instructions in my notebook and get John to check them and give me feedback. I will read all the relevant research papers where the method has been applied”. 

Another example involves writing.

“I will complete Chapter 3 by the end of the month. I will write the outline and get feedback from my supervisor. I will organise all the relevant research papers I will need. I will write two pages a day. I will make sure my writing flows and easy to understand. I want to feel proud of my completed chapter when I give it to my supervisor”

Several times a day look at your goals and behaviour. How closely do they match up? If they are close then that is great, you must reward yourself. These could be simple things such as a compliment or a smile. You don’t need to wait for someone to compliment you or reward you. When you played football as a youngster and you scored a goal you went crazy with excitement. Your teammates followed you, hugged you and joined in your celebration.

However, if they are distant then take steps to redirect your behaviour towards your destination.

When you read your goals you must feel good. Visualise your goals and feel the magic. Feeling great propels you like a rocket heading for the sky. General when people feel good about themselves they perform better. Conversely, when people feel bad they perform poorly. Good feeling reinforce success until the actions become habits. These habit are like being on autopilot they drive you towards your goal without you even thinking about it.

4.  One-minute praises

Take a look at your goals and your behaviour. Do they match up? If the answer is yes then praise yourself immediately. Don’t wait till later praise straight away. Praise is most effective when done instantly. What did you do right? Be specific in your answers. When you identify specific things that deserve praise it will feel genuine and honest. General things are less powerful. The thunder is in the preciseness of your behaviour. You will be driven to repeat it. Rewarding good behaviour reinforces it making the neural pathways stronger.

Take the time to really feel the emotions. We are driven toward things that we think will give us pleasure and happiness. Conversely, we are driven away from what we think will give us pain. The more intense the pleasure or pain the greater the boost we have to drive towards or away from certain behaviours. By feeling the emotions we train ourselves to form habits.  Conditions these feelings often enough you will become like “Pavlov’s dog salivating at the sound of a bell”.

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate” – Oprah Winfrey

Your nervous system cannot tell the difference between a vivid imagined experience and real experience. This means that you can get things right in your minds before going onto the stage. Practice as many times you want in our imagination. Your body will think it has done the tasks before many times. It will execute what you imagined.

5.  One minute recoveries

What do you do when you find yourself off course? You know you won’t hit the Bulls Eye if you continue in the same direction. In this case you have to correct yourself immediately. This is vitally important. One-minute recovery has two parts.

Firstly, recognise what you have done that doesn’t match you goal. Feel intensely the pain of being off target. Do it for 30 seconds. The stronger the feelings the less likely you are to repeat the behaviour. Pain will drive you to correct your actions. Reinforce your belief that your actions may have been bad but you are a good person. You don’t need to defend your behaviour even to yourself. Just acknowledge where you are and correct yourself. This is a major part of being successful. Statistics from highly successful people affirm that they have also failed more times than anyone else. The player who has scored the most goals has also missed the goal most. Never be afraid of trying to score. Every time you try believe you will be successful and commit to quality actions.

“I believe in recovery, and I believe that as a role model I have the responsibility to let young people know that you can make a mistake and come back from it” – Ann Richards

Secondly, correct your actions and get your aim back on target. Feel good about being back on track. The pleasure of being back on track will keep you on track. An aeroplane is off course 90% of the time but it keeps correcting itself and will certainly arrive at its set destination. If it is off course only a few inches at the beginning and no correction is made it be miles off reaching its desired airport. Immediate correction is the key to keeping on target toward what you desire.

“….to learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know”  – Stephen R. Covey

Apply these 5 powerful steps and you will teach yourself what you most need to learn. The goals are yours and you will feel great when achieve them. It will be painful when you miss. When you teach yourself you will feel empowered and have high self-esteem. Your confidence will soar like an Eagle in the sky and soon your achievements will make you proud.


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