"History’s great achievers – a Napoleon, a da Vinci, a Mozart – have always managed themselves. That, in large measure, is what makes them great achievers."
Self-awareness is defined as a conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires. Being self-aware is a valuable skill to have in any walk of life. Whether you are a business leader, coach or parent, this skill has the ability to make you a high achiever. However, this isn’t a skill that we necessarily learn in school, is it? So, how do some people innately have this ability to be self-aware, while others seem completely oblivious to it?
Peter Drucker, the author of Managing Oneself, is not only a writer but a professor, management consultant and self-described “social ecologist”. He was hailed by BusinessWeek as “the man who invented management”.
In Managing Oneself, Drucker outlines how to develop this self-awareness skill and learn how we can effectively manage ourselves. Through what is discussed in this book, it’s Drucker’s aim to help us position ourselves to make the greatest contribution we can during our 40+ year working life. Although a short read (55 pages in total), Managing Oneself has been hailed one of the most important business books of all time.
What are my strengths?
"Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong."
This idea is very thought provoking. Throughout human history, there wasn’t a real need to know our own individual strengths – simply because most people did not have a choice. Think about it. You were born into a position and a line of work – the blacksmith’s son would be a blacksmith, etc. But in today’s world, people have choices. We can do and become whatever it is that we desire and dream about. The challenge now is to figure out what that is and how we get there. Drucker argues that the only way for us to capitalize on those choices is to know your strengths and then put yourself where your strengths can produce results.
How do I perform?
"Most people, especially highly gifted people, do not really know where they belong until they are well past their mid-twenties."
After determining what some of our strengths are, the next item that we as individuals need to evaluate is ‘How do I perform?’ The quest of understanding you perform relates to the size of the organization that one chooses to work for (large or small), along with determining whether you are a decision maker or more of an advisor. This all goes back to this self-awareness factor that we need to have in order to position ourselves for long-term success. I talk to recent college graduates and others that are just entering the workforce and many have not given much thought to the size of company that would best suit their personality, skillset and career goals. You may not 100% know, but at least give it some thought!
In my work in management consulting, I see countless organizations that have individuals in high visibility leadership roles that might be better off being the number two or number three in-command rather than the number one. Again, that one falls on the organization and senior leadership to make those types of decisions, but it all falls back to this who awareness topic. Drucker says, “Successful careers are not planned, they develop when people are prepared for opportunities, because they know their strengths, their preference of environment and their method of work.” He goes on to say that “knowing where one belongs can transform an ordinary person – hardworking and competent but otherwise mediocre – into an outstanding performer.”
Responsibility for relationships
"Managing yourself requires taking responsibility for relationships."
There are very few cases in business today where people are successful purely because of their own individual efforts. With education, technology and media platforms being what they in 2015, people succeed because of those they work and interact with in whatever capacity that might be. Some are better at “playing nicely” than others, but in order to be successful we have to take responsibility for relationships.
One must accept the fact that other people are as much an individual as we are ourselves. Meaning, everyone has their own strengths, ways of performing, values, etc. Therefore, to be effective, “you have to know the strengths, the performance modes and the values of your co-workers.” This sounds like an obvious concept but few people pay attention to it. This will pay dividends when you are “managing up” to your boss. If you’re able to find out and understand how your boss works and adapt the way you interact with them to be effective, you’re in fact “managing” the boss.
In a world where we are plugged in 24/7 and working in fast paced matrixed organizations, the way we can set ourselves apart is by building strong relationships, being easy to work with and producing results. One key way in succeeding in this area is being responsible for the relationships you have.
“The challenges of managing oneself may seem obvious, if not elementary,” writes Drucker. “And the answers may seem self-evident to the point of appearing naïve. But managing oneself requires new and unprecedented things from the individual and especially from the knowledge worker.”
Managing Oneself is such a practical read with gems of knowledge that have spanned the last half century. What we know to be true is that being self-aware to who you are, your strengths, your weakness and living out your career based on those things will position you for great success in whatever it is that you do.
One thing Drucker suggests we do is to take a look at the obvious signs of your past. Examine what have you have always succeeded at and what you have always failed at. Be extremely honest with yourself. Now redirect all your energy into the things and areas that you’ve always succeed in. Good luck!