Guest Post: Self Leadership—Challenging Assumed Constraints


John:  This week’s guest post is a real treat for three very good reasons:

  1. Susan Fowler is one of my favorite leadership authors.  If you are not already familiar with her work, become so … quickly.  A blurb at the end has a link to some of her best work.
  2. The topic of this guest post is “Assumed Constraints”.  When you finish reading this, you will know why this is an important self leadership topic and a bit about how to avoid falling into self-limiting traps.
  3. This is a nifty way to introduce yet another engaging title from the One-Minute Manager powerhouse.  Read it and some older and very valuable thinking will appear, along with some freshly updated leadership thinking … all in an easy-read, deceptively simple story that will add value to your leadership journey … if you pay attention and use it.

I will have more to say about this exciting new title later.  For now, just sit back and enjoy …

Self Leadership—Challenging Assumed Constraints

Originally Posted on 5/4/17: https://leaderchat.org/2017/05/04/self-leadership-challenging-assumed-constraints/

The negative, almost nasty, comment to one of my LinkedIn posts bugged me. I spent 30 minutes formulating a clever response and then, another 30 minutes trying to figure out how to post it. I could see the man’s comment in my notifications, but when I clicked “check it out” or “join the conversation,” I couldn’t find his comment. In pure frustration, I reached out for help from my Millennial social media guru, Kristin.

Her email back to me: You clicked the correct links to respond. I checked the links as well, and I also logged into your profile to look for the comment notification. It appears that he deleted his comment!

She had come to a plausible conclusion that I hadn’t even considered! I am supposed to be a subject matter expert on self leadership, yet I fell prey to an assumed constraint. I held an assumption that I was woefully ignorant when it comes to social media and incapable of solving the problem. I let that belief limit my openness to another possibility—such as, the man deleted his comment.

We fall prey to insidious assumed constraints every day. The way we internalize facts influences our beliefs that shape our intentions, which ultimately leads to our behavior.

Virtually raise your hand if your manager makes more money than you do. Nod your head knowingly if your manager has more position power than you do. Now consider how these facts influence your beliefs about the workplace, shape your intentions, and ultimately determine your behavior—and your relationship with your manager.

  • Comparing my manager’s power and income to my own, I may conclude: I don’t have the power or ability to affect change. This belief leads me to watch painfully as changes happen to me without my input or participation.
  • I may believe that my manager should know when I need more direction for achieving my goal. This belief causes me to wait for her to provide me with an action plan and the resources I need.
  • Even sadder, maybe I believe my boss should know what I need, but is so self-absorbed, she doesn’t even notice. This belief leads me to resent my manager and sabotage the relationship because I don’t trust she has my best interests at heart.

Assumed constraints are beliefs that limit our experience. Self leadership demands the acknowledgement, exploration, and reframing of assumed constraints.

Challenging assumed constraints by flipping them into statements that lead to positive action is an essential mindset of a self leader. For example, what if I took the assumed constraint about power and flipped it? I believe I have the power and ability to affect change. This statement is more likely to lead to productive behavior, such as proactive problem solving or selling my solutions.

The flipped assumed constraint also leads to an exploration of power: What types of power do I have and how can I use my points of power to proactively achieve my goals and make greater contributions to others?

Research provides evidence that self leadership competencies can be learnedand that organizations would be better served by focusing budgets and training employees on self leadership. But learning the skillset also requires cultivating a mindset to challenge assumed constraints, activate your points of power, and be proactive.

Thinking about my assumed constraint for responding to comments on LinkedIn, I take heart that I proactively reached out to a subject matter expert using my relationship power. I feel confident that the next time I find myself frustrated over social media (probably sometime within the next hour or so), I will challenge my assumed constraints by mindfully exploring solutions I wouldn’t have considered before receiving Kristin’s insight. Then, if I really am stymied, I will reach out for direction and support.

Self Leadership is having the mindset and skillset for getting what you need to succeed. For true self leaders, accepting responsibility and taking initiative for the quality of your work and life experience is a continuous pursuit of learning, growing, and achieving. It is the saga that never ends.

Susan FowlerABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Fowler implores leaders to stop trying to motivate people. In her latest bestselling book, she explains Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … And What Does: The New Science of Leading, Engaging, and Energizing. She is the author of by-lined articles, peer-reviewed research, and six books, including the newly revised bestselling Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager with Ken Blanchard. 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. For more information, visit SusanFowler.com

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