Drucker on Managing Oneself, Part 2

In his book, Management Challenges for the 21st Century, Peter Drucker analyzed and discussed the new paradigms of management.

Although much of the discussion revolves around the perspective of the organization, these are my takeaways on how we can apply his teaching on our journey of being a knowledge worker.

Knowledge workers face drastically new demands when it comes to career development as compared to manual workers. Drucker proposed that we must ask ourselves the following questions as we work on managing our careers and work:

  • Who am I? What are my strengths? How do I work?
  • Where do I belong?
  • What is my contribution?
  • How do I take the relationship responsibility?
  • How do I plan for the second half of my life?

When it comes to performance, Drucker believed that we need to capitalize on our strengths. Drucker also believed that it is generally not productive trying to over-compensate for our weaknesses, let alone on something we are incompetent at doing.

Knowing our strengths used to be not so important, as the industrial age had well-defined career paths for people to follow. However, those industrial age career models are less applicable these days, and people have more choices in pursuing a career. Knowing our strengths become an important aspect of career management.

What should we do if we do not know what our strengths are? Drucker believed there is only one way to find out, and that tool is The Feedback Analysis.

The Feedback Analysis describes the process of a decision/action and feedback loop. Whenever we make a key decision or take a key action, we write down what we expect will happen. When the results or outcomes become available, we again record them for future references.

After a while, we would have accumulated a series of decisions/actions, the initially expected outcomes, and the final results. With a short duration, this simple procedure can tell us where our strengths are (the things we do well one). This procedure will also show us where we are not particularly competent or opportunities we missed when we did not capitalize on our strengths.

There are several actions we should take as a result of analyzing the feedback. First, we must concentrate on our strengths. Another word, we actively put ourselves in a position where our strengths can produce performance and results.

Second, we must work on improving our strengths. No skills and knowledge will be adequate forever, and we must set up opportunities to update them. The feedback analysis can show us where we need to improve our skills or to acquire new knowledge.

Third, the feedback analysis tool can help us identify areas where intellectual arrogance and lead to “disabling ignorance.” We can fall into the “disabling ignorance” trap when we strongly believe our superior talent in one area can compensate for all our weaknesses.

Drucker explained that the main reason for poor performance often is the result of simply not knowing enough of what is needed for the job. We can use the feedback tool to overcome intellectual arrogance and work on acquiring the skills and knowledge needed to make our strengths fully productive.

Finally, Drucker advocated that we waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. It simply takes far more energy and far more work to improve someone from incompetence to low mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence. There are many of those examples in our school system.

Instead, we should concentrate on getting even better at areas of high competence and high skill. We should put the energy, time, and resources should go into making us, competent at something, into a star performer of that same subject.