Know Thy Self And Don’t Keep It A Secret

Last month Barry Hessenius made a post that expanded on a concept proposed management guru Peter Drucker’s article, “Managing Oneself,” that I wrote on a decade ago.

Drucker had suggested that people understand how they work and then communicate that to other people to help others help you to be more effective.

“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.”

Hessenius suggests very much the same thing in the context of writing a “Users Manual” for others. He cites some suggestions made by Abby Falik, founder and CEO of Global Citizen Year,

She synthesized these answers into a six-section manual: Note: See link for her excellent user manual for ideas.

My style
What I value
What I don’t have patience for
How to best communicate with me
How to help me
What people misunderstand about me

Then he added some of his own suggestions:

Here are some variations of the above (with just a couple of ideas in each) along the same theme:

How I communicate – preferences (e.g., do you prefer direct contact, phone calls, emails, tweets, Facebook or something else)
What’s important to me in workplace relationships (e.g., do you like blunt, direct communication or do you prefer gentle tact)
What I don’t like, what I try to avoid (e.g., do you abhor people who are late, or are you flexible with timelines? Do you like ad hoc conversations or consider them a waste of your time?)
How you can help me work better……
How I can help you work better…….
Things that don’t mean much to me (e.g., is getting credit really important or is the idea itself what you are after?)
What I’m not so good at, but trying to improve (e.g., do you have a short fuse or are you calm and steady; are you detailed oriented or a big picture person?)
Bad habits that drive me crazy (e.g., does it make you crazy when people tell you they will call you in the afternoon with an answer and then don’t?)

Hessenius’ thoughts are a good update from Drucker’s original concept given the advances in technology since Drucker originally wrote “Managing Oneself.” What technologies and methods of communication people are comfortable using might be included in the manual.

Since there is a blurring line between work and personal time, someone might want to declare whether they are open to being contacted after 5 pm, on weekends and vacation periods. Likewise, organizations might declare their values are that no one is expected, overtly or tacitly, to regularly work or respond outside of regular business hours.

Indeed, since there so many options and opportunities for collaborating to reach certain goals than in the past, the necessity of creating a statement about your process and expectations may be more of a requirement than an option.

It also occurred to me that someone might be inspired to use such an “owners manual” at some point in a romantic relationship. While I honestly think it could help avoid a good deal of misunderstanding and miscommunication, when I imagine people using it, I envision Frazier and Lillith from Cheers. (I am sure there is probably a similar scene from Big Bang Theory, but you gotta love the classics)

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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