Managing Oneself: Identify Strengths
It takes far less energy to move from first-rate performance to excellence than it does to move from incompetence to mediocrity.
You can learn to identify your strengths by using feedback analysis. This is a simple process in which you write down every one of your key decisions and key actions along with the results that you expect them to achieve. Nine to twelve months later, check the actual results against expectations. After two to three years of use, you will know your strengths by tracking those decisions and actions where actual results fell in line with or exceeded expectations. Once you have identified your strengths through feedback analysis, you can use this knowledge to improve performance and results. You can make this happen in five ways.
First, concentrate on your strengths. Second, work on improving strengths. You may need to learn new knowledge or to update old. Third, recognize disabling habits. The worst, and most common, one is arrogance. Oftentimes poor performance results from an unwillingness to pursue knowledge outside one’s own narrow specialty. Fourth, remedy bad habits and bad manners. All too often, a bad habit such as procrastination or bad manners makes cooperation and teamwork all but impossible. And fifth, figure out what you should not do.
Managing Oneself: How Do I Perform?
Performance that violates your values corrupts, and it will ultimately sap and destroy your strengths.
Just as different people have different strengths and weaknesses work and perform in different ways. For example, some people reading, others by listening. And few readers can become successful listeners or vice versa. Learning style is just one of several factors that go into making up a person’s work style. There are other questions that must be answered. Do you work best when cooperating with others, or do you achieve results when working alone? If you work best with others, is it usually as a subordinate, peer, or supervisor? Do you need a predictable, structured work environment? Do you thrive under pressure?
You also have to consider your personal values: are they comparable to or at least compatible with your strengths? If there is any conflict between your values and strengths, always choose values. Performance that violates your values corrupts, and it will ultimately sap and destroy your strengths. These are just some of the questions that must be answered. What is important is to figure out your unique work style.
Practice Comes First
Decision makers need to factor into their present decisions the “future that has already happened.”
Decision makers – in government, in the universities, in business, in the labor unions, in churches – need to factor into their present decisions the future that has already happened. For this they need to know what events have already occurred that do not fit into their present-day assumptions, and thereby create new realities.
Intellectuals and scholars tend to believe that ideas come first, which then lead to new political, social, economic, psychological realities. This does happen, but it is the exception. As a rule, theory does not precede practice. Its role is to structure and codify already proven practice. Its role is to convert the isolated and “atypical” from exception to “rule” and “system,” and therefore into something that can be learned and taught and, above all, into something that can be generally applied.
Management and the Liberal Arts
Management is what tradition used to call liberal art – “liberal” because it deals with the fundamentals of knowledge, self-knowledge, wisdom, and leadership; “art” because it deals with practice and application. Managers draw upon all of the knowledge’s and insights of the humanities and social sciences – on psychology and philosophy, on economics and history, on the physical sciences and ethics. But they have to focus this knowledge on effectiveness and results – on healing a sick patient, teaching a student, building a bridge, designing and selling a “user-friendly” software program.