Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager

Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager

Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager is authored by Ken Blanchard, Susan Fowler, and Lawrence Hawkins. It completes the trilogy that started with Leadership and the One Minute Manager and was followed by The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams.

Unlike most business text books, the One Minute Manager series are told through parables, so they are much more like reading a story. Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager follows Steve, a young account executive who is on the brink of losing a large company account, and likely his job. This book is a quick easy read and the lessons are presented in front of you in large bold text, so they are sure not to be missed.

Essentially Steve is promoted to an account executive from a position in budget and financing. In his first project on his own he is dealing with one of the company’s larger accounts, and his initial proposal to them fails miserably. While writing the rough draft of his resignation letter at a coffee shop, Steve meets Cayla, the understudy of the famed “One Minute Manager” guru. Through speaking with Cayla, Steve decides to follow her self leadership guidance in an attempt to save the account and his job. Ultimately, there are five lessons to be learned:

1: Accept Responsibility for Getting What You Need

When Steve initially failed with his proposal, he immediately started assigning blame. His manager gave him too much responsibility too soon with too little guidance and his creative advertising team didn’t support him at the level he expected. But upon reflection, Steve realized that he didn’t ask for any help from his manager nor did he give his creative team the direction and guidance they required from him, their manager. People are not mind readers and they can’t be expected to know what you want or need if you don’t explain it to them. You need to take responsibility for creating the situation you are in (whether it be good or bad).

2: Challenge Assumed Constraints

An assumed contraint is a belief you have, based on past experience, that limits your current and future experiences. In the book, this is also referred to as “elephant thinking”.

When a circus first receives a baby elephant, they clamp a chain around its leg and secure it to a large peg deep in the ground. The baby elephant will pull and tug and try to escape, but won’t be strong enough to lift the peg or break the chain. The elephant learns this lesson and it becomes an assumed contraint. Years later, the elephant has grown and yet fails to escape. This 6 ton beast has learned from past experience that he cannot escape and thus does not even attempt to do so. Circus handlers state a mature elephant could be restrained with a piece of string once this lesson had been learned.

This lesson is quite evident. There is a quote that says something like “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re probably right”.

3: Points of Power

Steve initially believed that the only form of power that existed in the business world was “Position Power”; his manager had power over him and he had power over those beneath him. What he failed to understand was the other forms of power that surrounded him within his organization. The book identifies four other forms of power: knowledge, task, relationship, and personal, but assuredly there are more.

Let’s examine the structure of many of today’s organizations. Fifteen years ago managers would manage anywhere from 4 to 10 individuals and thus it was possible for them to stay in touch with the majority of events and operations that occurred within the workplace. But with the streamlining of organizations and with the empowerment of teams, there are managers that now oversee literally hundreds of employees. These managers still have position power, but they lack any form of organizational power.

These individuals will generally have very little knowledge about the workings of many specific projects. Thus there is somebody else who holds the knowledge power. They will also have little understanding of who the suppliers, distibutors and support personel are. Thus somebody else will have the relationship power. The manager will also unlikely know what has to be done, in what order and when. Thus somebody else will have the task power.

Steve had to learn that although he had position power he still lacked many of the pieces required to put the entire puzzle together. He had to work as part of a team and maximize the different powers each and every individual had to offer.

4: The Development Continuum

Ken Blanchard has developed a continuum he believes most individuals travel through whenever they begin a new initiative. I believe this continuum holds true in both business and personal undertakings. There are four stages to this continuum and each stage is factored by a level of competence and commitment. Ken goes even further by stating that there are different types of support required for each stage.

Instead of using an example from the book, let me use my own example of learning how to play the guitar. Where do I start?

At D1. This stage is defined by high level of commitment but a low level of competence. I hear somebody playing the guitar around the campfire and I tell myself, “I’m going to learn to do that”. I’m all excited and fired up and I go an buy myself a guitar. But then I sit down with my guitar and chord book and immediately jump into:

D2. This stage is defined by low competence and low commitment. When I strum that first chord on the instrument all that comes out is noise. There’s no music there. So I try again with the same results. Playing the guitar is going to be a lot harder than I thought. I might never get any good at this!

It is at this stage that many people give up and quit. This is when it’s important to have somebody there that is highly directive and highly supportive. I not only need somebody who can teach me how to play the guitar, but somebody who will motivate me to keep going. At the D1 stage, I didn’t need anybody to motivate me (I had enough motivation on my own), but it may have helped to have had some strong direction. It would have been nice to know what to expect and to know which chord was the easiest to start out with.

If I’m able to endure and stick with my lessons I’ll move into D3. At this stage I’ll have increased to a moderate level of competence and I’ll have a variable level of commitment. There will be days when I can see myself playing the guitar in front of a rapt campfire audience, but on other days I’ll realize I’m still not as good as the person I heard play the previous summer. Maybe I’m not cut out to play the guitar and perhaps I should focus on another goal instead?

At this stage I won’t need quite as much direction. I’ll be good enough at the guitar that I am quite capable of teaching myself most things, but I will require high support. Somebody needs to convince me that I’m not that far from the light at the end of the tunnel. I just need to hang in there and the rewards will soon come.

If I’m able to stick it out, I’ll move into D4. I’ll have a high level of competence and a high level of commitment. I’ll be learning new songs on my own, easier than I’ve ever learned them before and as soon as the sun sets people will be requesting I pull my guitar out for a song. I will require very little directive or supportive coaching and will be in a position myself to provide that coaching to somebody else.

5: The Power of Collaboration and “I Need”

Steve needed to stop making excuses, identify what points of power he possessed, where he was lacking and where he was on the Development Continuum. From there he was able to assess his needs and admit them to those around him. Steve recognized he was at the D2 level of account managing. He needed a lot of direction AND support. By admitting these needs to his manager and his team, he found everyone was more than willing to help. They were all working towards the same goal and everybody wanted to succeed. Steve simply needed to collaborate and fill the gaps for his needs.

Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager is a fun, quick read with some poignant lessons that can assist people in many aspects of their lives. In a nutshell Blanchard states Self Leaders “Challenge assumed constraints. Celebrate their points of power. And Collaborate for Success” and that a “leader is anyone who can give you the support and direction you need to achieve your goal”.