Are you a listener or a reader? If you don’t have any idea what I am talking about, you may want to take a look at Peter Drucker’s “Managing Oneself,” an article that has been reprinted in the Harvard Business Review a number of times. I first got my hands on it at the Arts Presenters Emerging Leadership Institute in January and have read it about three or four times since then. (It is only 11 pages long.)
As one might imagine from the title, the main thrust of the article deals with self-examination as a way of self-improvement. What he suggests isn’t a “12 Easy Steps to a Better You” program. If anything, he believes trying to adopt another’s practices is likely to make you miserable. He also observes that people often think they know what their strengths and weaknesses are but are usually wrong. (So if you are miserable in your current position, read it!)
In addition to knowing ones strengths and weakness, he feels it is important for people to know how they perform. That is where the whole reader or listener question comes in along with learning how one learns, what environments one thrives most in and what ones values are. Then, given your knowledge about how you best operate in relation to these factors, what is it you can contribute? Drucker gives a number of interesting examples of how men like Patton, JFK, Eisenhower and Churchill were hampered by situations which emphasized their weaker areas.
Once you have obtained this self-knowledge, Drucker urges you to recognize that everyone around you is an individual operating in varying degrees to the same criteria, have different ways of achieving success and therefore need different things from you to realize that success.
“Whenever someone goes to his or her associates and says, “This is what I am 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 response is always, “This is most helpful. But why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
And one gets the same reaction – without exception, in my experience-if one continues by asking, “And what do I need to know about your strengths, how you perform, your values, and your proposed contribution?” In fact, knowledge workers should request this of everyone with whom they work, whether as subordinate, superior, colleague, or team member. And again, whenever this is done, the reaction is always, “Thanks for asking me. But why didn’t you ask me earlier?” Organizations are no longer built on force but on trust. The existence of trust between people does not necessarily mean that they like one another. It means that they understand one another.”
Yes, I know there is a certain irony in expecting people who don’t learn best by reading to gain maximum benefit of Drucker’s message through reading.