Anant Jain

Managing Oneself

Book Review

Managing Oneself is a very short 60-page read by Peter F. Drucker, also the author of the popular book The Effective Executive. In this book, Mr. Drucker gives a short framework through which you answer certain questions about yourself. Knowing answers to these will hopefully better position you to make your greatest contributions, and stay mentally alert and engaged during your 50-year working life.

What are my strengths?

  • Feedback analysis: The best way to discover your strengths is through feedback analysis: whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen. 9 to 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations.
  • Implications: Concentrate on your strengths. Work on improving them. Discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it. Remedy your bad habits. Know what not to do — waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence, and instead focus on areas of first-rate performance and take them to excellence.

How do I perform?

Just as people achieve results by working on what they are good at, they also achieve results by working in ways that they perform best. The key is to identify your personality traits that determine how you perform:

  • Am I a reader or a listener?
  • How do I learn? Through listening, reading, writing, or talking?
  • How do I work best? Do I work well with people, or am I a loner? And if I do work well with people, in what relationship? As a subordinate, a team member, a commander, a mentor or a coach?
  • Do I produce results as a decision maker or as an advisor?
  • Do I perform well under stress, or do I need a highly structured and predictable environment?

What are my values?

  • The mirror test: What kind of a person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning?
  • Working in an organization whose value system is unacceptable or incompatible with your own condemns you to frustration and nonperformance.
  • There may sometimes be a conflict between your strengths, and your value system. In that case, the work may not appear worthy devoting your life to. Values are and should be the ultimate test.

Where do I belong?

Most people, especially highly gifted people don’t know where they belong until they are well past their mid-twenties. Be able to at least decide where you do not belong.

What should I contribute?

To answer this, address the three different 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?
  • What results have to be achieved to make a difference? These results should be within reach, while staying meaningful.

Responsibility for relationships

  • Other people are as much individuals as you yourself are.
  • Take responsibility for communication. Tell others:

“This is what I’m good at. This is how I work. These are my values. This is the contribution I plan to concentrate on and the results I should be expected to deliver”

The Second Half or your Life

By your 40s, you would probably be bored doing the same thing for 20+ years. Seek a second career pursuing something that will keep challenging you, keep teaching you and give you a satisfaction of contributing back. Three ways to go about this:

  • Start a second career: For instance, the mid-level manager who leaves the corporate life to go to law school and become a small town attorney.
  • Develop a parallel career: Stay in your current role, but go part-time or devote 10 hours a week to another role in maybe a non-profit organization.
  • Become a social entrepreneur: Start a nonprofit to benefit a cause you really care about.

Two other things: you should start managing the second half of your life way before you get there, preferably in your 30s, if not earlier. Second, having a second major interest will carry you through the tough times, and everyone goes through tough times in work and in life once in a while.

This is #1 in a series of book reviews published weekly on this site.