(by Peter Drucker, from "HBR's 10 Must Reads: The Essentials")
We live in an age of unprecedented opportunity. If you've got ambition, drive, and smarts, you can rise to the top of your chosen profession--regardless of where you started out. But with opportunity comes responsibility. Companies today aren't managing their knowledge workers' careers. Rather we must each be our own chief executive officer.
Simply put, it's up to you to carve out your place in the work world and know when to change course. And it's up to you to keep yourself engaged and productive during a work life that may span some 50 years.
To do all of these things well, you'll need to cultivate a deep understanding of yourself. What are your most valuable strengths and most dangerous weaknesses? Equally important, how do you learn and work with others? What are your most deeply held values? And in what type of work environment can you make the greatest contribution?
The implication is clear: Only when you operate from a combination of your strengths and self-knowledge can you achieve true--and lasting--excellence.
Ask yourself these questions:
What are my strengths?
How do I work? In what ways do you work best?
What are my values? What are your ethics? (The "mirror test"--what kind of person do you want to see in the mirror in the morning?) What do you see as your most important responsibilities for living a worthy, ethical life? Do your organization's ethics resonate with your own values? If not, your career will likely be marked by frustration and poor performance.
Where do I belong? Consider your strengths, preferred work style, and values. Based on these qualities, in what kind of work environment would you fit in best?
What can I contribute? In early eras, companise told businesspeople what their contribution should be. Today, you have choices. To decide how you can best enhance your organization's performance, first ask what the situation requires. Based on your strengths, work style, and values, how might you make the greatest contribution to your organization's efforts?
Very few people work by themselves and achieve results by themselves. Managing yourself requires taking responsibility for relationships. This has two parts:
Accept the fact that other people are as much individuals as you yourself are. They too have their strengths, their ways of getting things done, their values. To be effective, therefore, you have to know the strengths, the performance modes, and the values of your coworkers.
Take the responsibility for communication. "Whenever I start to work with an organization, the first thing I hear about are all the personality conflicts. Most of these arise from the fact that people do not know what the other people are concentrating on and what results they expect. And the reason they do not know is that they have not asked and therefore not been told. ... Even people who understand the importance of taking responsibility for relationships often do not communicate sufficiently with their associates. They are afraid of being thought presumptuous or inquisitive or stupid. They are wrong. Whenever someone goes to his/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 if one continues by asking, '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."
Organizations are no longer built on force but on trust; this does not nmean they like one another, it means they understand one another. Taking responsibility for relationships is therefore an absolute necessity.
(Excerpt from The Essential Drucker: The Second Half of Your Life)
Last modified 02 June 2021