Self Leadership – The One Minute Manager

Gain the mindset and skillset for getting what you need to succeed

Ken Blanchard, Susan Folwer and Laurence Hawkins, HarperCollinsPublishers 2005.

Have you ever had a project go balls up and had the immediate reaction to point the finger? If so, strategies from Self Leadership – The One Minute Manager will help empower you to improve your performance and results.

The book is a short read with an easy story to help you keep your focus. The story is a business parable that demonstrates how individuals can set priorities, take initiative and solve problems. Self Leadership – The One Minute Manager is an empowering read that focuses on accountability − a key enabler for success. Ultimately, the book is a how to on success and finding liberation in a blame culture.


Do you believe in Magic?

In the first chapter we meet Steve, a business man, delivering a campaign proposal to a client. To Steve’s disbelief, the proposal is shunned and labelled as garbage.

Steve then contemplates his career at a place called Cayla’s Café where he asks himself the all too familiar questions about what had gone wrong and how he got off track. Steve projects his source of failure onto Rhonda (his boss), and decides to write his resignation rather than suffer the indignity of being fired. It is here that he meets Cayla – the magician.

“Did you enjoy the magic?”, Cayla asks Steve.

Steve cynically replies to Cayla that he appreciates the tricks and skill behind the magic but is aware there is no such thing. Cayla listens to Steve’s story about his failing business venture and how he blames his boss for abandoning him. Cayla replies that ‘he is full of excuses −a poor victim of circumstance.’  She then introduces the 3 possible magic tricks that she learnt from a person called the One Minute Manager.

Cayla suggests that Steve’s failed business venture is actually his fault and urges Steve to remember: ‘Empowerment is something someone gives you. Self leadership is what you do to make it work!’


People are not mind readers!

In most mentoring and professional development, we have home work that we need to do. In this chapter Cayla gives Steve homework to ensure he learns the One Minute Manager’s first trick to becoming a self leader.

Steve is to rank a list of workplace motivators in order of importance and give the same questions to 5 other team members to rank.

Steve experiences a few ‘Aha!’ moments when he speaks to his team about the survey and through his findings he realises that Rhonda his boss is not a mind reader and cannot expect to know what motivates him (much like did not realise what motivated his team and how it was up to him to create a professional environment that worked for the project he was working on). Steve concludes that: ‘Ultimately, it is in your own best interest to accept responsibility for getting what you need in the workplace.’


Elephant Thinking

Excited by his finding, Steve visits Cayla’s Café again and discusses with Cayla the insights he gained from his survey, particularly that until he surveyed his team he thought it was up to his boss to know what he needed on the job. He now realises he got things wrong.

This is one of my favourite parts of this book. Cayla introduces a business card and a challenge for Steve to conquer. Steve mentions he doesn’t have time and that the challenge is not possible. It is here that Cayla dubs his attitude as “elephant thinking”. She draws a parallel to a baby elephant being chained to a pole and learning that it cannot pull free, and therefore doesn’t ever try again even when it grows to a six-tonne adult elephant with ample strength.

Cayla suggests that assumptions like these are what is stopping him from success and clarifies that: ‘An assumed constraint is a belief that limits your experience! …and… the first trick of a self leader is to challenge assumed constraints!’

Steve takes the business card trick to his team and challenges the idea of assumed constraints applying it to their failed proposal. The team makes headway towards saving the business venture, but Steve asks: now what?

Cycles of Power

Being a fan of motorcycles, this chapter kept me intrigued. Steve goes for a ride on his Harley to let off steam and has some bad luck with his bike spluttering and stopping. To Steve’s surprise (and luck) the unspoken rule of another Harley rider stopping to help occurs – the bigger surprise is it is Cayla on the bike.

At this point in the story Cayla makes Steve realise that ‘Not realising your own power could be your greatest constraint.’  Cayla and Steve get to Hal’s Harley Bike Shop and Steve meets the crew there.

Woody, a bike parts specialist at the Shop, explains to Steve the points of power that teams can have. Woody explains that the mechanics at the shop have knowledge power but also have personal power with their ability to give people assurance with the work that needs to be done on the bikes. Jim, the head of sales, has relationship power in knowing how important relationships are and how vital his people skills are. Dee, the bookkeeper, explains task power with the processes of invoices, payroll and taxes. And Hal, the Bike Shop owner, explains that ‘position power is great as an owner, but the best leadership position is where you have position power but never have to use it.’

In this Chapter Steve realises that you need to know your strengths before you can lead and learns The second trick of self leadership: Activate your Points of Power!’


Diagnose Yourself and Get what you Need

After Hal’s Bike Shop, Steve decides to save his proposal and is determined to keep his job. He uses the second trickActivate your Points of Power!’ that he learnt from Cayla to develop a plan.

In this part of the story, Cayla introduces Steve to The Development Continuum – a great tool that defines how we build commitment when we increase competence. You can use the Development Continuum to see what stage you are at when learning to master a skill.

situational model

The continuum is used in conjunction with another one of Cayla’s magic tricks in the story. The Situational Leadership II Model is awesome for seeing what Leadership style you have adopted for the project that you may be working on.

In these two chapters Steve uses these tools to write down what he skills he needs so that he can get his project back on track.

Running together

Running together introduces Steve’s girlfriend Blair. In this section Steve tells his girlfriend all about Cayla’s analogies and fun magic tricks, the business venture, assumed constraints and points of power.

Blair strikes a deal with Steve saying she will help save his client and job if he helps her with her 10k run − activating her points of power.

Blair runs through The Development Continuum and The Situational Leadership II Model and relates these models to the preparation for her run. Steve and Blair map out strategies together.

Blair sets the goal to finish the 10k race and during the run Steve finds Blair more energetic and excited when her friends are there to support her. Steve concludes: ‘..there is joy in diagnosing your development level and getting the direction and support you need to achieve your goal.’

In the midst of the 10k run, Steve sees Cayla again in the crowd supporting a fellow participant. As a reader you know that another trick or lesson is coming from Cayla.

Steve loses sight of Cayla and somehow also loses his parking ticket after the race. He is told by the parking attendant that the woman on the Harley paid for the parking and is given a receipt − another lesson from Cayla: ‘The Third Trick of Self Leadership: Be Proactive! Get What You Need to Succeed!’


No Excuses

In this chapter Steve goes to Rhonda his boss and takes accountability for the failing proposal. Steve explains he has some ideas and has done his homework to move the account forward with the client. Steve uses some of Cayla’s teachings to describe what he thought he needed to do better with the account and explains that by using his team’s points of power Rhonda was not the only one that could help him lead. Rhonda replies to Steve that ‘A leader is anyone who can give you the support and direction you need to achieve your goal.’


One Minute Magic

This final chapter is a feel good. Steve is back stage 9 months after taking his plan to save the client to Rhonda. Steve is at an awards ceremony, and the client wins an award. Rhonda pulls Steve aside and asks him to meet him in her office Monday morning (which turns into something wonderful).

Finally, Steve meets Cayla at the Coffee shop for one last time. Steve looks back at his journey with Cayla and is told he has mastered the 3 tricks of self leadership: ‘Self leaders challenge assumed constraints, activate their points of power, and are proactive about getting what they need to succeed.’


Appendix: The Business Card Trick

To keep your eye on the end goal of finishing this great read, there is also one of Cayla’s business card tricks in the appendix which is fun for you to try. Teach others the magic!’


Self Leadership – The One Minute Manager is a fun and easy read. For more information about leading teams, particularly bid teams, give us a call on 07 3211 4299 or email us here.


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