Managing oneself | Peter Drucker


Published: 2008

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Managing Oneself is a book, written by the management consultant Peter Drucker, that takes two hours to read and fits in your back pocket. A main theme in the book is to identify your strengths and build on them.

BUILD ON STRENGHTS. If you are an analytical person, you should choose a profession where this quality is appreciated. The same applies if you are creative, detail-oriented or social. Drucker believes that the only way to find out your strengths is through feedback analysis. For example, when making a decision, write down what you think will happen. One year later, compare your expectations with the outcome.

“One cannot build performance on weaknesses, let alone on something one cannot do at all“…“Analysis will show where you need to improve skills or acquire new ones. It will also show the gaps in your knowledge – and those can usually be filled. Mathematicians are born, but everyone can learn trigonometry“

PREFERABLE SITUATIONS. Do you work better in larger companies or in smaller companies and are you better in group work or prefer to work individually. Are you a listener, writer or a reader, that is – how do you learn best? Drucker believes that far too few are aware that there is such a division. And few are equally adapted for all options. “Few listeners can be made, or can make themselves, into competent readers – and vice versa”.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

NO COMPREHENSIVE SOLUTION. Many respected writers were bad at school or even thought their schooling was torture. Some learn by doing something practical, while others learn by hearing themselves speak.

”The explanation is that writers do not, as a rule, learn by listening and reading. They learn by writing. Because schools do not allow them to learn this way, they get poor grades”

INVERSION. If you do not know what you are good at, you may at least know what you are not good at. Then it is possible to tick off almost 90% of all options we have in this life. It takes more energy to go from bad to average than to go from average to excellent. Dare to close the door to something, to build on the strengths on something else. It’s okay to be bad in some areas. He repeats the same conclusion several times:

”Do not try to change yourself – you are unlikely to succeed. But work hard to improve the way you perform. And try to take on work you cannot or will not perform poorly”

RECONCILE VALUE SYSTEMS. Drucker suggests doing the mirror test “what kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning?”. Do not dedicate your life to something that does not fit with your value system. What you have talent for or are good at may not always fit your values – but there are often good alternatives. Furthermore, Drucker emphasizes that you must take responsibility for your relationships. The secret to efficiency is to understand the people you work with so you can use their strengths and the way they work.

CUSTOMIZE YOUR PATH. Based on all this information, you can place yourself in a situation where you can achieve excellence without actually working hard. Do not end up in a situation where your “innate talents” are suffocated. It is hard to reach higher levels of performance and satisfaction in an area you do not have an aptitude for.

THE 18 MONTH GOAL. Drucker talks about setting goals over an 18-month horizon. It is the optimal time frame for breaking a bad habit and consolidating a good habit. The goals must be difficult to implement and require a certain amount of sacrifice.

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