Self-assess to go from good to great

Rita J. King
August 17, 2018

Peter Drucker's advice on self-assessment is timeless.

I love a short, simple book packed with gems. MANAGING ONESELF by Peter Drucker is one that I highly recommend. Here are a handful of the ideas that stand out to me:

  • Discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it. The author gives an example of engineers believing that they don't need to bother understanding people. "Taking pride in ignorance is self-defeating."
  • It is essential to remedy your bad habits. For example, Drucker writes, a planner may find that his beautiful plans fail. Ideas don't move mountains. Bulldozers do. The plan must be clear, and the people who are executing it need to understand what they are supposed to do to make the plan happen. This is probably the biggest problem I see in ourclient work. Big plans at a very high level, and not as much attention to the granular reality of how it will get done, even as the need to adapt unfolds constantly, in real time. Communication is not a soft skill. It is essential, unless you're okay with lavishing lots of time and money on a problem and still never seeing the plan become real.
  • Figure out how you learn and do more of it. Is it by reading? Writing? Talking? Listening? Whatever it is, do more of it. The world is changing fast, and knowledge workers don't have the luxury of knowing what their jobs will entail for a career that spans half a century. Even a stable career requires a tremendous amount of effort now. An interesting one that grows over time demands constant learning.
  • Understand your company values. Results can be achieved any number of ways, but you need to pick a path and go for it. It's not enough to say "be innovative" or "take risks." It doesn't mean you can do whatever you want and if you fail, people will celebrate. Calculated risks undertaken by disciplined, critical thinkers is a very different beast than squandering tens of millions of dollars taking an unnecessary risk because nobody felt like doing the legwork to mitigate it.
  • Other people are also human beings. Modern organizations, Drucker says, are built on trust. This doesn't mean people like each other. It means that they understand each other, and, I would add, are aligned by a shared purpose and goals. If they don't know what aligns them, they can't trust each other, and you're left with politics as people act in their own self-interest in the absence of a unifying goal.

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