Born in Austria, Peter Drucker became one of America’s top management consultants during the late twentieth century.
He helped busy executives discover how to manage themselves and achieve professional goals, and Drucker shared this process through many books, papers and talks.
Drucker believed in building on one’s strengths to find success in business. Although Drucker died in 2005, his advice is just as relevant today as it was when he came to prominence in the 1960s.
Avoid Trying To Change Yourself
Modern self-help often demands we work hard on ourselves to fix personal weaknesses. Instead, Drucker wrote,
“Do not try to change yourself — you are unlikely to succeed. But work hard to improve the way you perform. And try not to take on work you cannot perform or will only perform poorly.”
If you’re several years into your career, you’ve probably had at least one bad performance review whereby a manager points out a flaw.
You could try to fix a skill-set deficit by taking a course or hiring a coach. Instead, Drucker recommends using this painfully acquired self-knowledge to decide what to get help with or say no to.
For example, the self-aware executive who excels at data analysis may want to decline an opportunity to give the team a motivational pep talk, for example. And the entrepreneur with strong sales skills should focus on engaging with leads and contract a developer to manage his or her website.
Several years ago, a manager told me I lacked attention to detail. While I try to take extra care with my work, I also enlist the help of others to counter this personal weakness.
For example, I’ve asked colleagues to double-check figures before distributing them and an editor to check articles for typos.
Focus On Improving Your Strengths
Drucker wrote, “Analysis will rapidly show where you need to improve skills or acquire new ones. It will also show the gaps in your knowledge — and those can usually be filled.”
Again, this suggests using self-knowledge to fix personal weaknesses, but then Drucker added, “Mathematicians are born, but everyone can learn trigonometry.”
Let’s say you enjoy placing sales calls to prospects and leads and can put people at ease almost at once. You might even pride yourself on remembering personal details from people you meet or talk to.
To improve this strength, learn how to use a customer relationship management tool where you record details about conversations you have with others so you’re able to enter a state of conversational flow even faster next time.
On the other hand, spending several hours taking Powerpoint design classes so you can craft a better sales presentation probably won’t offer the same return on investment. Instead, outsource this task.
Communicate What People Can Expect From You
Several years ago, I was searching for a role as a copywriter within the business-to-business industry.
A career and job interview coach advised me what to say when the hiring manager asked me about my particular skill set.
During the interview, the hiring manager asked, “What can you bring to the role?”
I said, “When I see web copy that’s confusing or full of jargon, I fix that.”
I don’t know how much of Drucker this career coach read, but communicating the results this hiring manager could expect helped me get the job.
If you excel at sales, explain to others that you will hit agreed sales targets by a particular date using cross-selling, upselling or your preferred sales method.
If you regularly engage in deep work like writing or coding, let colleagues know you need an hour or more of uninterrupted time before meetings, calls and so on.
This way of working might feel strange, but remember many productive and successful CEOs block book time in their calendars for reflection and analysis.
Level Up With Drucker
After Drucker died, Businessweek magazine described him as “the man who invented management.”
Although he worked with corporations during his career, you can use Drucker’s advice to manage yourself and discover what type of work to take on, avoid and delegate.
Then, by using Drucker’s mindset, build on your strengths to succeed both at work and in business faster.
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