An excerpt from

Ms. Woodman's Lesson

It was lunch time, and Ernest decided to spend it in research, to better prepare himself for his next interview. He went to a nearby bookstore and bought every book written by the Maniac. Although he had to spend a small fortune to buy them all, he remained undaunted. He did wonder, however, why they were all so thin and had such large type. It would have been more efficient, he reasoned, for his Minuteness to have written one book, with each subject making up a chapter. But who was he to question the pearls cast before him? It must, he thought, all be part of The Wise One's master plan. He finished the books between bites of his burger, then returned to One Maniac Plaza.

On his way to Ms. Woodman's office he imagined applying what he had learned. The method seemed so simple. He fantasized about trying it out on his own subordinates, saying Clean This Mess over and over again in his best baritone. Ernest sighed. It would be so much easier if he had subordinates.

Soon he arrived at a big door with a plaque that read "Ms. Woodman". He went in.

"Pardon me," he said to the pert secretary. "Is Ms. Woodman in?"

"Dunno," came the reply. "I can never tell. No one ever comes to see her and she never comes out. The door's open. Why don't you go in?"

The young man did just that.

Inside, he saw a plump woman in her fifties standing with her back to him, gazing out an enormous window. Her body was rigid and motionless - the perfect executive at attention, lost in the world of high-powered decision making.

Before he could say anything, the alarm on Ms. Woodman's watch beeped. She spun around and began making faces at him - stretching her mouth and eyes wide, scrunching them up, thrusting her tongue in and out. Suddenly she stopped these expressions and began climbing and imaginary ladder. Panting heavily, she spoke to Ernest in a high, squeaky voice.

"Excuse me (huhha, huhha) this is my (huhha, huhha) FitTime (huhha, huhha) Gotta keep (huhha, huhha, HUHHA) fit! (huhha, HUHHA, HUHHA) Onlytakeaminute!"

Abruptly she sat down, picked up the phone, dialed, slammed it down, ripped open her day-planner and started scrawling furiously. Ernest was about to speak when jumped up from her chair, then sat, seized the phone, and started writing again. Ms. Woodman repeated this standing-sitting-dialing-writing sequence faster and faster until she became a frantic blur. Ernest watched her frenzy in amazement, dodging the pens, pencils and paper clips that flew with vicious velocity from her desk.

Finally her watch beeped again, and she collapsed into her chair.

"Keep robust or else you rust, I always say." As she paused to catch her breath she gave Ernest a goofy smile, "Now then - what can I do for you?"

The question came so suddenly that it derailed the young man's train of thought.

"What kind of exercises are those?" he blurted out. "I've never seen anything like 'em."

"They're ExecuCises. Real time-savers."


"Simple idea," Ms. Woodman continued. "You just speed up office activities until they become aerobic. You ever do push-ups in a staff meeting?"

"No . . ."

"Of course not, silly! So why do 'em for exercise? Be better to get faster at what you do at work, doncha think?"

The young man was thunderstruck. "Of course! Why didn't someone think of that before? So that's why you were jumping up and down at your desk. But what about those weird expressions?"

"You mean ExecuSpressions. Keeps my face limber for Minute Hypes and Gripes. You never know when you'll have to go from a grin to a grimace," she said, flashing a grin and a grimace to make her point.

"And the ladder-climbing?"

"Ah, that's my favorite. Up, up, up the corporate ladder!"

Ernest's mind was awash in an ocean of new ideas. How could his poor brain soak it up fast enough? Ms. Woodman's voice broke his trance.

"So. Enough of that. Why are you here? Get to the point, please."

It took Ernest a few moments to remember. "Well, ma'am, my name is Ernest Fellow and I've come to see the One Minute Maniac. I've already visited Mr. Stickley down the hall and he said I should see you before I go on."

"Stickley's just following one of his favorite Minute Scams - 'Pass the Buck.'"

"He said you'd tell me about Minute Hypes. Are they the second secret of the One Minute Maniac?"

"Yup," declared Ms. Woodman.

"What's the Maniac like, anyway?"

"Well, he's quite a guy."

"So I've heard," said Ernest.

"Isn't he quite a guy?" she mused.

"I don't know, ma'am, I haven't met him."

"Believe me, he's quite a guy. I changed my whole management style because of him. Before I came here, people said I was a heartless manager. I was known for chopping heads. I admit it - I liked giving people the ax. But after the deadwood was cut, the leftovers would resign. Imagine - the nerve! I could never keep my employees - until the Maniac showed me how."

"Did it have something to do with Minute Hypes?"

"You bet it did."

"I imagine he showed you how to empathize with your employees. Did he encourage you to spend more time with them? Get to know them, their hopes, their fears, their - "

"Stop talking drivel!" Ms. Woodman interrupted "I'll do the explaining."

"Sorry," said Ernest.

"Anyway," she continued, "The Maniac told me he wanted me do to well. To do that, he said, I had to know exactly where he stood - and in no uncertain terms. He promised me clear, concise feedback on my job performance. Then he said my earrings were lovely."

She smiled wistfully and fondled the gaudy baubles hanging from her earlobes. "I've worn them ever since.

"He said it might be uncomfortable for us at first. To tell one's truest feelings is always hard. But he said I was very special to him. He put his arm around my shoulder. 'If you would get me a cup of coffee,' he told me, 'that would be a very good thing.'

"So I brought it to him. He was pleased - and let me know it right away. 'Thank you, Agnes,' he said, 'and I must say your taste in shoes is wonderful.' Do you see what he was showing me?"

"The value of career dressing?"

A grimace, for which Ms. Woodman's face was well prepared, appeared. "He was demonstrating," she said sternly, "the power of Minute Hypes."

"Can you give me an example of what you're talking about?" the young man requested.

"I just gave you one. The One Minute Maniac takes time to say you're doing well, and reinforces his message by touching."

"Touching? Where does he touch you?"

"None of your business!" Ms. Woodman barked. She added: "But I will tell you he's very good. A very good manager, I mean."

"Well, he doesn't sound like any manager I've ever heard of before. Doesn't that approach take a lot of his time?"

"Not at all. Less than a minute from start to finish."

The youth imagined what it would be like to receive one of the Great One's Minute Hypes. Ms. Woodman's voice interrupted his daydream.

"Let me ask you a question," she said. "When you've done your best at work, what kind of reaction do you get at your company?"

"Not much of anything," Ernest admitted dejectedly.

"Exactly. That's the way it is most places. But not here. Here, we notice if you're really trying, and take time to tell you. We have a motto that says:

Employees are like puppies
Pat them on the head and they'll lick your boots

"You see," she continued, "we motivate our employees without that vulgar commodity used by most companies."

"What vulgar commodity?"

"Money! That is, anything beyond their meager salaries. Christmas bonuses, profit sharing, raises - we've bagged 'em all. Our employees are conditioned to be content with Minute Hypes. They live for our calculated compliments."

"Oh," said Ernest. He was silent for a moment. "But . . . may I be frank?"

"You be Frank and I'll be Earnest," Ms. Woodman giggled.

"Uh, right. Anyway, the one thing that bothers me about all this is that it seems a little . . . manipulative."

"Manipulative?" the executive fairly shouted. "Why, that's preposterous!" She punched a button on her intercom. "Gladys, come here, please. Turning to Ernest, she continued. "Now, I'll give Gladys a Minute Hype, and you tell me if it's manipulative."

The secretary Ernest had met at the front desk shuffled into the room.

"Oh, Gladys, I need your help on something," Ms. Woodman said, picking up a folder full of invoices. "Straighten these up for me, would you, dear?" She sent the folder sailing across the room, scattering yellow sheets everywhere. Gladys dutifully gathered the invoices while the amazed visitor looked on. When she was done, Ms. Woodman folded her arms and smiled approvingly.

"Fine job, Gladys," she said. "Really super." With this, the executive gave her secretary a hearty clap on the back. Then, smiling intently, Ms. Woodman gazed at Gladys for a brief but meaningful moment. "By the way," she remarked, "that hairstyle makes your face look less pinched. Is it new?"

Gladys perked up. "Why, yes, Ms. Woodman, its - "

"Thought so. Thanks. Back to work, now!"

Gladys mustered a brave smile and returned to her desk.

"There, you see?" announced the executive, "A Minute Hype is all it takes to keep her happy in her job."

"She did seem a little crestfallen when you cut her off," the young man remarked.

"Nonsense," she said, "Gladys thrives on praise from me, no matter how brief."

Ernest had a flash of insight. "I think I'm beginning to see how a Minute Hype works," he said. "Everyone wants to be loved. In the corporate view, that's an exciting resource to exploit!"

"That's it! Now you're getting it."

As Ernest looked at his notes, he reviewed what he had learned about Minute Hypes:

To Minute Hype your employees, simply:

    1. Let them know up front that you're the ultimate judge of their personal value.

    2. Reinforce them immediately for correct corporate behavior.

    3. Tell them what they did right. If they haven't done anything special, give them a superficial compliment.

    4. Take a meaningful moment to let them "feel" good about "feeling" good.

    5. Touch them in a way that makes them "feel" even better.

    6. Okay, that's enough! Everyone back to work.

"You certainly catch on fast, Ernest," said Ms. Woodman.

"Thank you," Ernest said. "Tell me, how many secrets are there, anyway?"

"Three, of course, like all fables. You know - three wishes, three secrets, three little pigs."

"What is the Maniac's third secret?"

Ernest's question was answered by the familiar beeping of Ms. Woodman's watch. "Well," she said, "nice talking with you, but I've got to clean the Velcro on my Minute Planner now. Anyway, you have to stick with the program. Go see Mr. Coward, down the hall. He'll tell you about the third secret."

"Oh. Well, thank you for your time, Ms. Woodman."

"No problem, Ernest - I've had plenty of time since I became a One Minute Maniac," she chuckled.

The young man packed up his things and prepared to leave. As he was about to step through the door, Ms. Woodman called to him.

"Oh, Ernest - I almost forgot."


"Nice socks."

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