An extract from one of Harvard Business Review’s all-time popular articles written by Peter Drucker in 1999. The ideas in this are still extremely relevant today

Managing OneselfIn terms of personal development and managing oneself towards excellence, Peter F. Drucker suggests you ask yourself the following five questions:

1. What are my strengths?
2. How do I work?
3. What are my values?
4. Where do I belong?
5. What can I contribute?

These are not simple questions and require an honest self-analysis…

What are my strengths?

This is about not wasting time in areas where you have little knowledge or competence and concentrating on building on your strengths. According to Drucker, you discover strengths through feedback analysis – analysis you get about your own effectiveness from other people, from the results you are producing or not etc.

Many organizations don’t analyze this about their employees and end up turning competent performers into mediocre ones. A classic example is someone doing a great job as a front-line executive then turning out to be a poor team leader. The reality is many organizations and their HR departments spend a lot of time trying to fix employees’ weaknesses rather than focusing on their strengths.

How do I work?

Every individual has unique strengths and a unique way of performing. This is really largely a question of personality and although people can be taught to work differently from the way they would like to, they always gravitate back to the way their nature is.

Peter Drucker used two examples in his article of well known people not knowing if they were a reader or a listener. Dwight Eisenhower, former supreme commander of the allied forces in Europe, apparently didn’t know he was a reader not a listener. Lyndon Johnson destroyed his presidency by not knowing that he was a listener, not a reader like his predecessor John Kennedy.

Some people work well in teams – others excel when left alone. Some people collapse when in stressful environments and others thrive. Winston Chruchill did poorly at school, simply he was not a reader nor a listener. Churchill learned by writing. Some people learn by taking notes, some learn by drawing pictures they can relate to, yet others learn by doing or learn by hearing themselves talk. Understand how you learn!

Peter Drucker suggested “don’t try to change yourself, you are unlikely to succeed, but work hard to improve the way you perform.”

What are my values?

To answer the values question, Peter Drucker suggested the mirror test. “What kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning”. Organizations have (ethical) values as well. In order to perform well or being effective in an organization, both the values of organization and individual must be compatible. Value conflicts result in frustration and non-performance.

Where do I belong?

If you answered the first 3 questions (What are my strengths, How do I perform, What are my values) you should be able to decide where you do belong or where you do not belong ! Drucker said “Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values.”

What can I contribute?

Professionals need to learn to ask themselves some important questions:

“What should my contribution be?”
“What results have to be achieved to make a difference?”

Responsibility for relationships

Managing oneself means taking responsibility for relationships, which consists of two parts:

One – you have to appreciate that others around you are also unique individuals, with their own diverse history, background, beliefs. Don’t expect them to be like you or in accordance with your expectations. Drucker’s quote is really insightful: “Working relationships are as much based on the people as they are on the work.”

Two – when you clearly communicate your strengths, the way you work, your values and proposed contribution, colleagues find it most helpful and respond with the question “Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”.

The second half of your life

Finding a second area in your life – whether in a second career, a parallel venture or perhaps a social enterprise – offers an opportunity for being a leader, for being respected, for being a success and for being more fulfilled.