One-Minute Drill

Updated: August 20, 2015


Practice deep listening, synthesis, and validation.



Listening actively

Synthesizing / validating


  1. Take a few minutes to consider a question. (See reverse for suggestions.)
  2. Decide who will share first.
  3. Take one minute to share your answer. Your partner should listen quietly and keep strict time. Don’t take notes.
  4. Share the same answer again for one minute. You may refine or add to your answer if you’d like.
  5. The listening partner should take one-minute to reflect back what she or he heard.
  6. Hold up between one to five fingers based on how well the person reflected back what you said, with five being a perfect reflection.
  7. Correct whatever your partner may have misheard. Don’t be afraid to nitpick — nuances are important.
  8. The listening partner should take one more minute to reflect your story back again.
  9. Hold up between one-to-five fingers based on how well the person reflected back what you said.
  10. Switch with your partner, and repeat the exercise.
  11. Quickly debrief the exercise. What did you notice? How did you feel? What did you learn?

Design Notes

I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation. Not meditation, negotiation, problem-solving, debate, or public meetings. Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, and we each listen well.
—Meg Wheatley, Turning to One Another

The One-Minute Drill is the most fundamental exercise in Muscles & Mindsets. If you could only do one exercise, you should do this one over and over and over again. Many of the other exercises in the program are essentially variations of this drill.

It’s a simple exercise, but it can be very challenging, even in a focused situation with minimal distractions. In real life, our attention is constantly being drawn in multiple places. This exercise helps you get into the habit of listening deeply and of making sure the other person feels and is heard.

It’s also an excellent reminder on the value of practice. Even sharing your same answer just one more time often leads to greater clarity and smoother delivery. The one-minute time frame also helps build an intuition of how long one-minute actually is, which is useful when we’re sharing stories in groups and want to stay conscious of time.

Potential Questions

  • What’s your story?
  • What’s something good that happened to you this past week?
  • What’s a challenge you’re currently facing?


  • Allow note-taking. Some people find that this makes it easier to listen. This is a good way to test to see if it’s actually true.
  • Take two or five minutes to share your answer. This increases the level of difficulty for both the storytelling and the listening.
  • In larger groups, pair up pairs to form groups of four. Have each person share her or his partner’s answer with the rest of the group. This can be an excellent icebreaker.