Leadership guru, Peter Drucker, says that many of history’s great achievers – Napoleon, Da Vinci, and Mozart – learned to manage themselves, and you can too! You can learn to manage yourself better, says Drucker, by answering 5 questions.
1. What Are My Strengths?
You can discover your strengths through feedback analysis. Here’s how: When you make a key decision or action, write down what you expect to happen as a result. Then 9 to 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations. This method will show you where your strengths lie, what you are doing and failing to do, where you are not very competent, and where your weaknesses lie.
Action point: Waste as little time as possible on improving areas of low competence.
2. How Do I Perform?
How you get things done is about personality. Are you a reader or a listener? What is your learning style? Do you learn best by taking notes, by doing, or by hearing yourself talk? Find out how you learn best and do it. Do you work well with people or are you a loner? If you work well with people, do you work best as a subordinate, a commander, or team member? Do you perform well under pressure or in a structured and predictable environment? Do you work best in a big organization or a small one?
Action point: Do not try to change yourself – you are unlikely to succeed.
3. What Are My Values?
Working in an organization whose value system is incompatible with yours will doom you to frustration and underperformance. For example, should your company hire primarily from the outside or from within? Should your company aim for small, incremental growth or big, risky breakthroughs? Should you run your business for short-term results or with a long-term focus? Organizations, like people, have values. To be effective, your values must be compatible with the organization’s values.
Action point: Stop pretending like your core values don’t matter in the workplace.
4. Where Do I Belong?
Mathematicians and musicians usually know what they want to do when they are 4 or 5 years old. Doctors know in their teens. But most people, especially highly gifted people, don’t know where they belong until their mid-to-late twenties. By the time you are in your thirties, you should know the answer to our first three questions, and then you can decide where you belong.
Action point: Knowing where you belong can move you from an ordinary to an extraordinary performer.
5. What Should I Contribute?
You will be able to answer this question by addressing these three areas: 1. What does the situation require? 2. Given your strengths, your way of performing, and your values, how can you make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done? And finally, 3. What needs to be achieved to make a difference? It is rarely possible – or fruitful – to look too far ahead. The question, in most cases, should be: Where and how can I achieve results that will make a difference in the next year and a half?
Action point: Aim for results that are “stretching” but doable, meaningful, and measurable.
Managing yourself means taking responsibility for relationships. This involves recognizing that other people too have their strengths, their ways of getting things done, and their values. To be effective, therefore, you have to know your co-workers. And if you have a boss, it is your responsibility to observe your boss, find out how he (or she) works, and adapt yourself to what makes your boss most effective. This is the secret of “managing” your boss.
Managing yourself also means taking responsibility for communication. Most “personality conflicts” arise from the fact that people do not know what other people are doing and how they do their work. Whenever someone goes to his (or her) associates and says, “This is what I’m good at. This is how I work. These are my values. This is the contribution I plan to focus on and the results I should be expected to deliver,” the response is always, “That is so helpful! Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” And you will get the same reaction if you continue asking, “And what do I need to know about your strengths, how you perform, your values, and your proposed contribution?”
The Second Half of Your Life
After 20 years on the job, a person is usually very good at his (or her) job but is no longer learning, or deriving challenge and satisfaction from the job. That is why managing yourself is likely to lead you to consider beginning a second career.
The first way to develop a second career is to actually start one. This can involve moving from one kind of organization to another, or moving into a different line of work altogether – the business executive or government official who enters the ministry at 45, for example. People who do this often need a community – the children are gone – and they need income too. But above all, they need a challenge.
A second way is to develop a parallel career. Many people who have been successful in their first careers continue on in that work on a part-time or consulting basis. But, in addition, they create a parallel job, often in the non-profit sector, with the time that they have gained.
The time to begin managing the second half of your life is long before you enter it! If you do not begin to volunteer early, it is unlikely that you will start in your later years. Another reason to start early is that most people will experience some sort of serious setback in their life or work – you are passed over for a promotion, there is a tragedy in your family (a marital breakup or loss of a child) and a second major interest (not just a hobby) could make all the difference.
Where there is failure, then it is vitally important for the individual, and equally for the individual’s family, to have an area in which he or she can contribute, make a difference, and be somebody. That means finding a second area – whether in a second career or a parallel career – that offers an opportunity for being a leader, for being respected, for being a success.
This summary of Peter Drucker’s article, “Managing Yourself” is from the January 2005 issue of Harvard Business Review.
Edited By – Tim Augustyn