Manage oneself

Peter Drucker – arguably the father of modern management – provided an illuminating take on how we should manage ourselves. According to Drucker, the historical figures such as Da Vinci or Mozart have not gained their reputation because of their intellect or acumen but due to how they managed themselves.

To manage ourselves, we must raise a few intriguing questions.

Question 1: What are my strengths

Drucker followed the famous adage in risk management: you cannot manage what you cannot measure, and you only measure something you can accurately identify. We should take stock of our strengths. We measure our strength through, according to Drucker, an honest and consistent feedback system. When making any decision or starting a project, we should write our expectations of what will happen due to our determination or commitment to that project. What would be the outcomes of the project? Would we meet the target? Conduct a SWOT Analysis (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) on the decision or the project we are undertaking and, after 6, 9, or 12 months, assess whether the expectations were right.

The feedback system is an excellent approach but not from the expectation angle; I would disagree with Dr. Drucker's view; it would work best from a retrospective angle. The contribution you have put into an enterprise or a project is a useful measure of strength. That contribution could either be self-gauged and monitoring or set by a second party – such as your line manager in a corporate environment.

Question 2: How do I perform

Many people are mechanical; they do things without being aware of what they are intrinsically performing. Every one of us is unique; we can modify our modes of operations, but we cannot entirely overhaul it. To understand how we perform, we must answer the following sub-questions:

  • Am I a reader or listener?

If we understand this about ourselves, we will identify other people around us. It plays a significant role in determining whether your line manager is a reader or listener. In his book "Never wrestle with a pig," Mark McCormack tells a story about his friend who was a superior performer but could not maintain a healthy relationship with his line manager because he was a reader. In contrast, his line manager was a listener. Reading and listening are distinct types with their ramification on how people on each camp react, respond to body language, connect with people, length of updates, etc.

  • How do I learn

Some of us learn by speaking; Some learn by writing; some learn by reading or doing. For instance, Winston Churchill did not do well at school because he could not learn by listening to his teachers. To Churchill, learning is writing. He understood this about himself. He followed it religiously until he was awarded in 1953 the Nobel Prize in Literature for his linguistic capabilities in describing things, particularly that related to history!

  • Am I an advisor or a decision-maker?

When do we produce results that make us happy and proud when we advise the decision-makers, or when we become the decision-maker or successfully implement the decision maker's resolution?

There is nothing wrong with being the second man if that is your makeup. You can outperform your peers, widen your skills set, achieve your targets, including financial ones- and be a happy second man to the ultimate decision-maker. You might not be as successful if you were promoted to be Number 1. Number 1 requires a different tools kit. Dr. Drucker indicated that he had a friend who saw his performance plummeted when he moved up from Chief Operating Officer to the Chief Executive Officer.

  • Can I take the stress?

This is a crucial question that can shape an entire career. Maybe you scored well at school and dreamed of pursuing a degree in medicine. But can you take the stress and pressures in the Emergency Unit or inside the Operations Theatre where people's lives are at stake awaiting you to decide, act diligently, monitor, lead the operations team? This is a different ballgame than the office's pressure to produce minutes of a meeting or write a report to a supervisor for a meeting next month. Regardless of exams' scores, not everyone's physiological and neurological makeup fits the stress in Operations Theatre or trading rooms.

Question 2: What are my values?

Organizational values are explicit in their literature and implicit in it how it managed. One's values should be aligned with those of the organizations he associates him/herself with.

Question 3: Where do I belong?

After answering the above questions and sub-questions and understanding his/ her skill set, ambitions, and energy, one should know by now where they belong. Does he belong to a small enterprise with a simple structure, a complex group structure, an international organization, a local or regional organization, etc.?

Question 4: What will I contribute?

Given the identified strengths and values and knowing the methods of performance and learning, one should determine what course of action is needed to meet the expectations.