Managing Oneself

I was cleaning out a few piles of books recently to make room in my apartment to host Thanksgiving. (Yes, there are books where people should sit, eat, and stand.)  I found a tiny little pamphlet by Peter Drucker called Managing Oneself. I went to recycle it, but started reading it instead. (Typical.) In this time of annual reviews, I thought I’d share a few things that inspired me on re-reading. 

“We will have to place ourselves were we can make the greatest contribution." - Peter Drucker

The book is essentially a long article originally published in the Harvard Business Review. It urges us to become familiar with our strengths to determine where and how we should work and thereby effect change on the world. 

He proposes an intriguing method to determining strengths: feedback analysis. The method is to track each action and it’s expected outcome over the course of a couple years. In reviewing this document, it will be very clear where your strengths and weakness are — the places where you have successfully predicted the outcome indicate strengths. I am a little skeptical here, but have wanted to try it since I first read the article. Usually when feedback is discussed, it comes from an external source — manager, peers, etc. This introspective and analytic method is appealing to me. My skepticism comes from a sense that perhaps this is a way of tracking whether you are strong at predicting outcomes or not. But as a basic idea of journaling and reflecting, I think it makes a lot of sense. In some ways, this blog is my method of tracking and reflecting. I appreciate the ability to go back and see what I was thinking a year or two ago.

In getting to know yourself and your strengths, there are a few questions you can ask on how and where you might perform best. 

  • What is your learning type? Are you a reader, listener, writer, speaker?
  • Do you work best alone or with a team?
  • Are you stronger as a decision-maker or advisor?
  • Do you perform better under stress or in high structure?
  • Do you prefer a small company or a large one?

The next step is to communicate out to others what you are trying to do, how you will go about it, and the results you expect. I was recently participating in a user research study, and one of the stakeholders was asking a lot of questions about the study. I was confused at first — I almost didn’t know how to answer the questions because the reasons we were doing research and the expected outcomes were so obvious to me I never even thought about them. I took them so much for granted I had a hard time putting it into words. But this stakeholder reminded me that thinking about and communicating your most basic goals and motivations is helpful — not intrusive, or condescending. Drucker calls this your responsibility for relationships. As you cannot accomplish things alone, each person is responsible for both communicating and asking others about their contribution and goals. And this effort is always appreciated.

You own your career, your performance, and your success. Your drive change in your projects and your organization. Don’t wait for someone else to do that for you.