Book notes: Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker

book notes managing oneself peter drucker

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Managing Oneself was written by Peter Drucker, one of the most famous consultants of all time. Drucker was born in Vienna in 1909 and began working as a business consultant in 1934 after moving to the United States and wrote over 37 books on business and management.

Drucker’s book, while very conceptual is unique in that the advice given is refreshingly practical. Essentially the book a set of questions and explanations of their relevance which prompt you into better self understanding in such a way that the application flows naturally from understanding their significance.

Drucker explains throughout the book that by doing this, readers will be able to position themselves into opportunities where they are most likely to succeed.

Here are a few of my favourite points.

Do you understand your strengths?

Drucker advises you to consider your strengths. While it may seem to be a simple exercise Drucker argues that frequently people are not actually correct or honest about their own abilities.

He stresses that knowing your strengths is key for a number of reasons.

For one, this can help you pursue work that is efficient and easy. It can also help lead you away from situations where you will you be naturally less able and the work will be more difficult.

However one of Drucker’s more novel points is that understanding your strengths can also help you enhance enhance your abilities. Drucker explains that once you understand your strengths, you can then work on developing the surrounding or secondary skills that help unlock their potential or remove barriers to your full utilisation.

How do you work?

It is intuitive that everybody operates differently. But Drucker pushes you to understand how.

Do you work better alone or in a team? Are you a leader or a follower? Are you better as an advisor? How do you learn?

If you don’t properly understand how you operate, you are less likely to succeed.

Drucker gives plenty of examples in the book. Though they are fairly dated for younger readers (like myself), he tells of leaders who were promoted into positions which were not in line with their way of working.

Advisors who moved into positions of leadership, readers were informed by talkers, etc, all experienced less success when put into situations which did not match their personal style of working.

This point is interesting when you consider Drucker’s own career. Despite writing 37 books and consulting on the area of business, Drucker does not appear to have started or lead a large company. His main success came from acting as an advisor. (More on Peter Drucker’s history here).

Maybe he considered that his own particular style of work was best suited to counselling others rather than leading a traditional company himself.

What is your contribution?

One of the shorter sections of the book, Drucker’s questioning on your contribution is one of the most interesting.

Immediately before this question, Drucker discusses understanding your values having started the book with an examination of strengths and how individuals operate.

Drucker then asks how will you contribute. He gives an example of a hospital administrator who decided his contribution will be to improve the standards of the hospital’s ER within a year or so. The result is that in less than a year, the ER becomes a model for other hospitals around the country and helps the hospital into becoming one of the top hospitals in the country.

Drucker then advises not to plan with a timeframe more than 18 months.

Taken in context of the books discussions of your unique skills, method of operating and finally your values, the idea of a contribution here begins to take shape practically. A contribution here means more than the application of skills to a firm, it means what will you create?

Managing Oneself was republished in 2008 and is available on Amazon.

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