Preview Thursday: Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager.

“Do you have a business card?” Cayla asked.

“Sure,” Steve said. He pulled a card from his briefcase and handed it to her. “I apologize. I should have given one to you yesterday.”

“It’s not for me—it’s for you. It’s a challenge.” Cayla held the standard size business card in both hands, turning it over several times as though to be sure there was nothing abnormal about it.

She slid the scissors in Steve’s direction and ceremoniously laid the business card down on the table. “Take these scissors and cut a hole from the card large enough to go around your head. By the way, a hole is a space surrounded by continuous paper—no gaps or breaks, or joining ends.”

Steve looked at her as though she were crazy. Cayla sat silently, waiting.

“I know you said you were going to teach me some magic, but I don’t have time for games, Cayla. My job is in jeopardy.”

Cayla replied, “I know you think you don’t have time for this.  You can’t imagine how it could be useful or relevant and besides, it’s just a trick, right?”

“Now that you mention it, I hate parlor tricks—I’ve never been any good at them. I’ve lost more money in bars than you can imagine. Some people just have a knack for this kind of thing—I don’t.”

Cayla nodded. “Elephant thinking.”

“Excuse me?”

“You’ve limited yourself based on your past experiences,” she said. “When they begin to train an elephant, they chain the baby elephant’s leg to a pole in the ground. The baby elephant wants to get away. He pulls and tugs, but he can’t escape—the chain is too big and the pole is too deep in the ground. So he stops trying. As he grows up, he just assumes he can’t get away.

“Today he’s a six-ton elephant. He could sneeze and pull out that chain—but he doesn’t even try. Trainers say they can put a piece of string around that six-ton elephant’s leg and he won’t break away.”

“So you’re saying I’m like that elephant?” Steve frowned. “That because I’ve failed in the past I don’t even try anymore?”  Hearing the words out loud, he realized there was some truth in what he was saying.

Cayla smiled. “You have just tapped into the first trick of a self leader.”

Steve perked up. “Really?”

“Yes. It’s those kinds of assumptions that limit you every day. They’re called assumed constraints.”

“What’s a consumed restraint?” Steve asked.

She laughed at his mangled terminology, then clarified:

An assumed constraint is a believe that limits your experience.

“Okay, I understand that I have assumed constraints about this scissors and card trick, but what’s that got to do with my work situation?” Steve asked.

“You are assuming you know what Rhonda, your team, and your client think and feel. You are assuming you can’t be successful in your role at work. You need to knock it off.”

“This is depressing,” Steve said.

“It could be inspirational,” Cayla countered.

“Too bad I don’t have your powers of observation. Then I’d know what everybody is thinking and I wouldn’t jump to assumed constraints so often,” Steve said.

“Being able to read people is a gift—but the greater gift is to know your own mind.”

Steve winced. “Yeah. That’s a definite challenge.”

Cayla nodded. After a pause she said, “I have to go, but while we’re on the subject of challenges, are you ready to cut a hole from your card big enough to go around your head?”

Steve took the scissors and picked up the card. To his astonishment, his business information was no longer on the card. Instead were the words:

The first trick of a self-leader:

Challenge Assumes Constraints!

He glanced up to commend Cayla on her sleight-of-hand, but she was gone. With an amused smile, he shook his head. Looking at his watch, he realized he should be gone, too. In less than an hour he was due back at the office for his dreaded, post-presentation team meeting.


Susan Fowler is the author of by-lined articles, peer-reviewed research, and six books, including the bestselling Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager with Ken Blanchard. She is a regular blogger for the Huffington Post and LeaderChat. Tens of thousands of people worldwide have learned from her ideas through training programs such as the Situational Self Leadership and Optimal Motivation product lines. Susan is a professor in the Masters of Science in Executive Leadership program at the University of San Diego and a rotating board member for Angel Faces, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping adolescent girls with severe burn and trauma injuries.

From Self Leadership and The One Minute Manager, copyright © 2005, 2017 by Polvera Publishing, Susan Fowler, and Laurie Hawkins. All rights reserved. Do not duplicate.

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