Managing Oneself

I just finished re-reading Peter Drucker’s “Managing Oneself,” and it was helpful as ever. (Credit to David Cancel for codifying for me that you ought to own physical copies of books that you plan to go back to many times over.)

If you haven’t read this book by Drucker, it’s a very fast read and packs more useful nuggets per page than just about any business book that I can think of; it certainly punches above its weight-class if weight is a proxy for page-count in the publishing world.

After this particular reading, here are four reminders that resonated most with me:

Turn a strength into a super-power.

We need to focus on what our strengths already are and invest in making those strengths even greater. The inverse of the maxim being that we shouldn’t waste time trying to become average at something that is a weakness. This can be really challenging for some people, particularly those who work at early-stage companies. You’re in the trenches. You identify a problem. There is no one else around readily to fix it. So, you spend time on fixing the issue even though this means that you have to work a ton in an area where you’re weak. It’s a worthwhile acknowledgement that everyone has to do this from time to time. That said, Drucker’s insistence is that whatever real investment we make in making ourselves better should be done in areas where we already shine. Certainly, Drucker argues, organizations should focus on improving the strengths of its talent, while keeping their talent away from projects and responsibilities that lead to investment of time in areas where talent may be mediocre or poor.

Don’t plan too far out.

Planning is great. But it’s very difficult at best and nearly impossible at worst. To plan more than 18 months out is probably a waste of our time, so we shouldn’t do it. Better to keep our planning, measurement, and tracking to a year in length at most, according to Ducker. Anything beyond that timeframe blurs the line between foresight and guesswork, and guesswork isn’t terribly valuable to anyone.

Spend as much time trying to understanding others as we do ourselves.

Drucker is big on definitively understanding how we individually learn and communicate, but doesn’t let us off the hook once we achieve that. He goes further: it’s our responsibility to understand our colleagues, our managers, and our direct reports in the same way that we understand ourselves. Ultimately, we’re all responsible for how we communicate with others and if we have business relationships that go sideways, it’s probably our fault. Harsh, but in my personal experience, I have found that in most personality conflicts and miscommunications in the workplace, both parties bear a large percentage of the responsibility.

Successful careers are not planned.

I love this one, and if we go through a rough patch in our careers, this simple statement is like a port in the storm. Drucker argues that if we focus on leveraging our strengths and favoring the types of environments that we’re likely to excel in, our careers will progress on a positive trajectory. There’s no roadmap, there are only opportunities that we either take or pass up. Knowing enough about ourselves to decipher which opportunities fit us best is a key to success.

There’s plenty more in “Managing Oneself”, which is why I encourage you to read it yourself. If you learn better by listening, Drucker would say, buy the audiobook instead.

(This post is cross-linked from LinkedIn)