Managing Oneself identifies the essential questions you need to ask yourself to take charge of your career: What are my strengths? How do I perform? How do I learn? What are my values? Where do I belong? What should I contribute? Drucker writes a short book with a lot of punch. There are some great gems in this, but I also felt turned off by the deterministic and fixed mindset messages spread throughout the book. The messages in the book reflect an older form of thought at the peak of the corporate molding era. I found myself reflecting on the questions more that Peter's details behind them.
In business school, you're sure to hear about Peter Drucker's teachings. I'm a big believer for self-reliance and taking charge of one's life and thought I may resonate with the messages in this book.
“Like so many brilliant people, he believes that ideas move mountains. But bulldozers move mountains; ideas show where the bulldozers should go to work.” Peter F. Drucker
“Of all the important pieces of self-knowledge, understanding how you learn is the easiest to acquire.” Peter F. Drucker
“Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves their strengths, their values, and how they best perform.” Peter F. Drucker
“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.” Peter F. Drucker
History's greatest achievers have always managed themselves.
What are my strengths?
Drucker recommends focusing on strengths instead of weakness.
He states, "One cannot build performance on weakness, let alone on something one cannot do at all."
This is where I have some slight disagreements, and shows a tone that can lead to fixed mindset. I view certain weaknesses as areas of opportunity, that in the longterm can strengthen my strengths or becomes strengths. Over specialization can make you vulnerable in a time of rapid change.
On discovering strengths, Drucker recommends feedback analysis.
"Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you will expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations."
Feedback analysis overtime will show you where you have intuitive capabilities around; where you strengths are.
What to focus on with feedback analysis
"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."
How do I perform?
"Like one's strengths, how one performs is unique."
Learn how you best perform.
Am I a reader or listener?
This question is about how you take in information best. Listeners comprehend better when information is communicated through sound and Readers comprehend better when it is through text.
Drucker states, "Few listeners can be made, or can make themselves, into competent readers - and vice versa. [..] They will not perform or achieve."
How do I learn?
The educational system tries to fit students under a single way to learn. We each have a particular set of learning styles. Find out which way you learn best. Some people learn by doing, some need to take notes and write things down, others learn best visually and more.
Towards the end Drucker makes another bold claim, that got me slightly upset:
"The conclusion bears repeating: Do not try to change yourself - you are unlikely to succeed. But work hard to improve the way you perform. And try not to take on work you cannot perform or will only perform poorly."
Again, Peter Drucker's message seems to be that of someone with a strong fixed mindset and deterministic beliefs around talent.
What are my values?
"To be able to manage yourself, you finally have to ask, What are my values."
Drucker proposes the mirror test. You ask yourself, what kind of person do you want to see in the mirror.
"A person's strengths and the way that person performs rarely conflict; the two are complementary. But there is sometimes a conflict between a person's values and his or her strengths. What one does well - even very well and successfully - may not fit with one's value system."
Where do I belong?
For those that don't know where they belong, they should at least know what their strengths are, how they best perform and what their values are and they should at least be able to decide where they do not belong.
"The person who has learned that he or she does not perform well in a big organization should have learned to say no to a position in one."
"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."
What should I contribute?
"To answer it, they must address their 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?"
"A plan can usually cover no more than 18 months and still be reasonably clear and specific. So the question in most cases should be, Where and how can I achieve results that will make a difference within the next year and a half? [..]
First, the results should be hard to achieve - they should require "stretching"[..] But they should also be within reach. [..] Second, the results should be meaningful.[..] Finally, results should be visible and, if at all possible measurable."
"From this will come a course of action, what to do, where and how to start, and what goals and deadlines to set."
Responsibility for relationships
"Very few people work by themselves and achieve results by themselves [..] Most people work with others and are effective with other people. [..] Managing Yourself requires taking responsibility for relationships."
"The first is to accept the fact the other people are as much individuals as you yourself are. [..] 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 co-workers."
"The second part of relationship responsibility is taking responsibility for communication."
The second half of your life
After working in the same industry or job for multiple decades one may wish to switch careers.
Drucker provides three ways to develop a second career.
"The first is actually to start one."
Sometimes this could even mean staying in the same company but switching departments.
You could also use your connections you've developed over the years to move into entirely different lines of work.
"The second way to prepare for the second half of your life is to develop a parallel career."
Some continue working, but at a slightly reduced capacity either part-time or consulting basis and find or create a parallel job, usually in a nonprofit organization that takes another 10 hours of a work a week. You can also find opportunities within your community to lend your professional experience.
"Finally, there are the social entrepreneurs."
"There is one prerequisite for managing the second half of your life: You must begin long before you enter it."
In a knowledge society, everyone can't be a success. People will need to be more versatile and develop parallel careers for more fulfillment.
"In effect, managing oneself demands that each knowledge worker think and behave like a chief executive officer."