Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker
Today is a time of immense and unprecedented opportunity. Gone are the days where you are
stuck having to do the same job that your father did. You can rise to the top of your
profession with drive, talent and ambition and it doesn’t matter where you’ve come
from. However, to achieve this you must look after your own career and not rely on a company
to do so for you. You must also personally make sure you’re engaged and productive.
In this book, Peter Drucker explains how to carve out your place in the world and when
to change course. He does so by asking a series of questions.
What are my strengths? You need to know what you’re good at as
a person can only perform from strengths. Performance cannot be built on weaknesses.
The way to identify your strengths is through feedback analysis. Write down your expected
outcomes for your key decisions and actions then 9-12 months later, compare them with
the results. Based on this feedback you can put together
a plan of action: Place yourself where your strengths can produce
results. Work to improve your strengths.
Avoid intellectual arrogance and acquire skills as required.
Remedy any bad habits. A weakness may in fact just be a bad habit. For example, a weakness
of not being productive could be due to browsing the internet too much. Eliminating that bad
habit could remove the weakness. Know what not to do by identifying areas of
incompetence and then avoiding them. How do I perform?
Drucker defines most people as being either a “reader” or a “listener”. President
John F. Kennedy was a reader who surrounded himself with a brilliant group of writers
who assisted him by writing to him before discussing memos with him in person.
Another American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt was a listener, preferring free-for-all press
conferences with no advanced warning of the questions so he could discuss the matter out
loud rather than reading and writing. You may learn through reading, writing, doing,
listening or talking. The important thing is to always employ the methods that work.
Rather than trying to radically change yourself, work harder to improve the way you perform
instead. What are my values?
When it comes to ethics, Drucker advocates what he calls the “mirror test”. Ask yourself
“what kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning?”.
Your personal value system should also be compatible with that of the company that you
work for. Avoid conflicts where your values differ. For example, is the company’s emphasis
on short term results or long term goals and do they match yours? This is the ultimate
test to see if you’re compatible with your employer.
Where do I belong? Only a small minority know at a young age
where they belong. Mathematicians, musicians and cooks are usually mathematicians, musicians
and cooks by the time they’re four or five years old. Most people do not know where they
belong until they’re well past their mid-20s. By then though, if they want to be highly
successful, they should know where they belong or rather where they do not belong as successful
careers are not planned. Successful careers develop when people are
prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their way of working and
their values. Knowing where one belongs can transform an
ordinary person that’s competent and hardworking but otherwise mediocre, into an outstanding
performer. What should I contribute?
The quest on contribution for a knowledge worker involves several elements:
a) What does the situation require? b) Given my strengths, methods and values,
what is the greatest contribution that I could make to what needs to be done?
c) What results have to be achieved to make a difference?
It is rarely possible to look too far ahead in this situation. An 18 month plan should:
a) Achieve meaningful results and make a difference b) Set stretched and difficult, but reachable
goals c) Gain a visible and measurable outcome.
Therefore you should define a course of action by planning what to do, where and how to start
and deciding what goals, objectives and deadlines to set.
Responsibility for relationships To manage oneself requires taking relationship
responsibility as most people work with other people and are effective through other people.
Working relationships are as much based on people as on work. It is important to take
responsibility of communicating how you perform to reduce personality conflicts. Trust between
people is what companies are built on. This doesn’t mean that colleagues necessarily
like each other, but they understand one another. Drucker concludes that in the modern working
world, managing oneself requires unprecedented things from the individual. This in effect
means that each knowledge worker should think and behave like a CEO.