Managing oneself summary

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Author: Peter F Drucker

An essay on how knowledge workers can manage themselves and their career

5 key Points

  • Knowledge workers have to manage themselves mentally and career wise.
  • They will outlive most of the organizations they will work for.
  • Maintaining a second strong interest outside your career will help to plan second half of life (Retirement)
  • Managing yourself requires taking responsibility for relationships and informing others about your strengths, performance method and values.


  • Knowledge workers will have to Manage themselves.

    • This means
      • learn to place yourself where you can make the greatest contributions.
      • Learn to develop yourself.
      • Learn to stay young and mentally alive during 50 year working life.
      • Learn how and when to change what they do, how they do it and when they do it.
  • Knowledge workers outlive their their organizations (average life = 30 years).

  • Those who are entering late in the workforce (Master, PHD) will have to most likely work up to 75 if they live upto 80.

  • Average working life is 50 years.

  • organization that live long will undergo many changes.

    • Includes government, schools, hospitals, universities
  • Changes includes.

    • structural changes
    • change of work
    • knowledge required
    • kind of people they employ.

Knowledge worker will outlive any one employer and will have to be prepared for more than one job, more than one assignment, more than one career.

Questions to ask

  • Who am I? What are my strengths?
  • Where do i belong?
  • What is my contribution?
  • They will have to take relationship responsibility.
  • They will have to plan second half of their lives.

1.1 What are my strengths

  • People often know what they are not good at than what they are good at.
  • How to find your strength
    • Feedback analysis.
        1. Write down when you make a key decision and whenever you do a key action.
        • Write down what do you expect to happen.
        1. Review your decisions after 9-12 months.
        • compare results to reality.
    • Doing so for 2-3 years constantly would tell you
      • where your strength are.
      • Where you are not competant.
      • Where you have no strengths
    • Once you complete feedback analysis, do
        1. Work where your strengths can produce performance and results.
        1. Work on improving your strengths.
        • Feedback analysis would show
          • which skills to improve
          • which area to acquire new knowledge
          • Which skills are no longer adequate and needs to be updated.
          • Where are gaps in your knowledge.
        1. identify areas where intellectual arrogance causes disabling ignorance.
        • Bright people make the mistake of not recognizing their circle of competance and perform poorly outside it.
        • They misidentify being bright as a substitute for knowing.
        • Example
          • Engineers take pride in not knowing anything about people.
        • Work on overcoming intellectual arrogance by
            1. acquiring skills and knowledge to make one’s strength fully productive.
        1. Remedy your bad habits.
        • Bad habits are things you fail to do that inhibit effectiveness and performance.
          • Example.
              1. The feedback analysis would show that a planners plan die because they don’t follow the plan.
              • He can counter by realising that work begins at the end of planning and needs to find people to carry out the plan and so on.
              1. A person failed to get results due to lack of manners.
              • Young people don’t understand that manners are the lubricating oil of any organization.
        1. What not to do
        • Feedback analysis would show ares where you lack minimum endowment needed.
          • Example:
            • Areas where you have no talent, skill or little chance to become mediocre.
            • Don’t take work in these areas.
        • Waste as little effort as possible on improving these areas of low competancy.

1.2 How do I perform?

  • few people know how they get things done.
  • Most of us don’t know that different people work differently.
    • This is the result of schools which taught only one way of doing things.
  • How one performs is individual (personality).
    • How a person works is formed long before he enters the work.
  • The feedback can show something missing in performance but can’t deduce the cause.

It takes few years of work experience to realise how one performs.

1.3 Am i a reader or listener

  • The ratio of listener to reader is ~ 50:50
  • A listener should not try to become a reader and vice versa.

1.4 How do i learn

  • Different ways people learn
    • A lot of notes/ Sketching
      • Beethoven sketched but never looked into it while composing. He wrote down as he would not forget it.
    • Writing
      • Alfred Sloan would write notes after each meeting.
    • Speaking
      • A CEO just needed an audience to hear himself out.
      • He would argue with himself taking for, against, neutral position about the topic.
    • Most people know how they learn.
      • Where people lack is the lack of action on this self-knowledge.

1.5 Do I work well with people or am i a loner?

  • If you work well with people?
    • Ask?
      • In what relationship, do i work well with people?
        • Subordinates
        • team member
        • Coach
        • Mentor
    • How do I perform under stress?
      • Do I need highly structure and predicatable environment?
      • Do I work best as a big fish in a small organization or small fish in a big organization
    • Do i produce results as a decision maker or as an advisor?
      • Many people work best as an advisor but can’t take the burden of and pressure of being a decision maker.
      • This is the reason why people fail when promoted from being number 2 to number 1 as they lack the skill of a decision maker.
    • Don’t try to change yourself but work hard on improving the way you already perform.

1.6 What are my values?

  • to be able to manage oneself, one has to be know his values.
  • Different organizations have different ethics.
    • Value system is one part of ethics
  • Your values should be compatible with the organization.
    • They don’t need to be same but close enought to co-exist.
    • Otherwise, you will be frustrated and unable to produce results.

1.6.1 What to do in a value conflict.

  • There can a conflict between a person’s strengths(what he does well) and his values.
    • Values are and should be the ultimate test

2. Where do I Belong

  • You should not decide it in the beginning of your career.
    • This decision needs experience.
    • A person who learned that he is not a decision maker should say “no” to that kind of role.
    • Similarly, a person who underperforms in a big organization should say “no” to such opportunities.

Successful careers are not planned. They are the careers of people who are prepared for the opportunity because they know their strengths, the way they work and their values. For knowing where one belongs makes ordinary people - hardworking, competent but mediocre otherwise - into outstanding performers.

3. What is my contribution

  • It means moving from knowledge to action.

  • Remember, the question is not: “What do I want to contribute or What can I contribute or What am i told to contribute.”

  • What failed in early 1960s - The organization man: Japan: The organization maintained the career of the person employed through career development department. - Very few people believed that doing one’s own thing leads to contribution, self-fulfillment, or to success achieved any of the three. - “Only you should be the career planner for your life but no one else.”

  • Knowledge workers will have to learn to ask.

    • What should be my contribution.
      • Then
        • Does it fit my strengths?
        • Do i find this rewarding and simulating?
      • Another thing to ask.
        • Where and how can i have results that make a difference.
          • To balance, answer should
            • Result should be hard to achieve.
            • They should require stretching but within reach.
              • Don’t aim at results that can’t be achieved.
            • Results should be meaningful. They should be visible and possibly measurable.
  • So, to answer “What should be my contribution be”. - Balance 3 things

      1. What does the situation require?
      1. How could i make the greatest contribution with my strengths, my way of performing, my values to what needs to be done?
      1. What results have to be achieved to make a difference.

4. Relationship responsibility

  • Very few people work by themselves and achieve great results.
  • Example, Few Scientists Artists Athlete
  • Most people work with other people and are effective through other people
  • Managing yourself requires taking responsibility for relationships.
  • This has two parts. - 1. Accept the fact that other people are as much individual one is oneself.
    • People are individuals just like you.
    • To work with them, know their strengths, way of getting results and values
    • Example People who wrote reports for the first boss, kept of writing reports for the second one who was instead a listener. to solve, ask How does he or she perform?
    • Tip: How to deal with a boss?
    • A boss is entitled to work as he wants.
    • It is up to you to observe them, to find out how they work and adapt to the ways so that bosses are effective. - 2. Take responsibility for communications
    • After you find your strengths, way of getting results, and values.
    • Ask
      • Who needs to know this?
      • On whom do I depend?
      • Who depends on me?
    • Finally, Ask What is their way of receiving information?
      • Tell them in a way in which they receive well.
      • Example:
        • In a memo for a reader
        • Talking to them if they are listeners.

organizations are not longer built on force. They are increasingly built on trust. Trust does not mean that people like each other. Trust means that people can trust each other.

5. The second half of your life.

Individuals outlive organizations. This create a new challenge, what to do with second half of life?

Also, 40-50 years of same work is too long for most people expect great artists or scientists.

5.1 How do others deal with retirement plans

ExecutiveManual WorkerKnowledge worker
Midlife crisis at 45-48. Boredom from same job as they have learned all they couldPhysically and mentally tired before they reach age of retirement.Those who are still healthy work on nothing productive but simple hobbies like fishing.not finished. They however get bored of the work which once seemed challenging at the beginning of their career.

“People who manage the second half will always be a minority.”

3 Choices/Answers

  • To have a second half of life, start creating long before one enters it.
  • The best book for planning second life.
    • Bob Buford.
      • Half Time.
      • Game Plan.

There are three answers.

1. Start a second and Different Career2. Parallel Career3. Social Entrepreneurs
Move from one kind of organization.
Example: Middle aged women from executive to lawyer
After children are grown, they enter law school.
lawyer in small communities
moves at age 45-48 to another organization (hopsital)
People who are successful in their first career stay in work for 20-25 years
Many keep on working 40-45 hours a week in main job.
Some move from busy to being part-time employee or consultant.
They create a job in a non profit organization (10 hours a week)
They take over administration of a church.
Presidency of some local board.
work for public library
People who were successful in first profession
Businessman, physicians, consultants, university professors
They love their work but it no longer challenges them
They start non profit activity along with what they had been doing.
  • A strong second interest helps a knowledge worker to absorb life’s setbacks.
    • A competent engineer may be overlooked at the promotion but a second interest can help to feel successful and balance perspective.


  • Success does not come without failures.
    • Statistically, Everyone cannot be a success.
    • Its important to maintain another area of parallel career.
    • A serious outside interest.
    • second career
      • social venture
        • All of them offering a chance to be a leader, for being respected, for being success.

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