One of my fondest memories from high school was leaving a dance and walking a mile to retrieve my car. The snowflakes were falling gently and I felt warmed by them as I walked. In my solitude their peaceful descent felt comforting, like God was touching me and telling me to be who he created me to be. But who was that? Many years later I read this article and it reminded me of that memory. The article helps me better understand who I am. Hopefully it will do the same for you.
From “Managing Oneself” by Peter Drucker* in HBR Leadership Fundamentals.
“Now most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves. We will have to learn to develop ourselves. We will have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution” (p. 7).
“We need to know our strengths in order to know where to belong” (p. 8).
“The only way to discover your strengths is through feedback analysis. Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or twelve months later, compare the actual results with your expectations” (p. 8).
“Several implications for action follow from feedback analysis.
- First and foremost, concentrate on your strengths. Put yourself where your strengths can produce results.
- Second, work on improving your strengths….
- Third, discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it” (p. 8).
“It is equally essential to remedy your bad habits — the things you do or fail to do that inhibit your effectiveness and performance” (p. 8).
“Manners are the lubricating oil of an organization. It is a law of nature that two moving bodies in contact with each other create friction” (p. 8).
How Do You Get Things Done?
“Comparing your expectations with your results also indicates what not to do….In those areas a person…should not take on work, jobs, and assignments. One should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence….Energy, resources, and time should go instead to making a competent person into a star performer” (pp. 8, 9).“Amazingly few people know how they get things done….For knowledge workers, How do I perform? may be an even more important question than What are my strengths?….A few common personality traits usually determine how a person performs” (p. 9).
- “The first thing to know is whether you are a reader or a listener” (p. 9).
- “The second thing to know about how one performs is to know how one learns” (p. 9).
- “[Writers] do not, as a rule, learn by listening or reading. They learn by writing” (p. 9).
- “Some people learn by doing.
- Others learn by hearing themselves talk” (p. 10).
- “Am I reader or a listener? and How do I learn? are the first questions to ask. But they are by no means the only ones.
- To manage yourself effectively, you also have to ask,
- Do I work well with people, or am I a loner?
- And if you work well with people, you then must ask, In what relationship?” (p. 10).
- “Another crucial question is, Do I produce results as a decision maker or as an adviser?” (p. 10).
- “Other important questions to ask include, Do I perform well under stress, or do I need a highly structured and predictable environment?
- Do I work best in a big organization or a small one? Few people work well in all kinds of environments” (p. 10).
“The conclusion bears repeating: Do not try to change yourself — you are unlikely to succeed. But work hard to improve the way you perform” (p. 10).
“To be able to manage yourself, you finally have to ask, What are my values?….To work in an organization whose value system is unacceptable or incompatible with one’s own condemns a person both to frustration and nonperformance” (pp. 10, 11).
“Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values” (p. 12).
“Knowledge workers in particular have to ask a question that has not been asked before: What should my contribution be? To answer it, they must address three distinct elements:
- What does the situation require?
- Given my strengths, my way of performing, and my values, how can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done?
- And finally, What results have to be achieved to make a difference?” (p. 12).
“Managing yourself requires taking responsibility for relationships. This has two parts.
- The first is to accept the fact that other people are as much individuals as you yourself are. They perversely insist on behaving like human beings. This means that they too have their strengths; they too have their ways of getting things done; they too have their values. To be effective, therefore, you have to know the strengths, the performance modes, and the values of your coworkers….
- The second of relationship responsibility is taking responsibility for communication” (p. 13).