Drucker on Knowing How We Perform

In his book, The Essential Drucker: The Bestof Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management, PeterDrucker analyzed the ways that management practices and principles affect the performanceof organizations, individuals, and society. The book covers the basicprinciples of management and gives professionals the tools to perform the tasksthat the environment of tomorrow will require of them.

These are my takeaways from reading the book.

In the chapter “Know Your Strengths and Values,” Drucker discussed why the knowledge workers would have to learn to manage themselves. By managing ourselves, it means that we will have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution. We will have to learn to develop ourselves and stay mentally productive during fifty-year working life. We also will have to learn how and when to change because the environment does not stand still.

“How do I perform?” is as important a question—and especially for knowledge workers—as “What are my strengths?” according to Drucker. Most of us do not know that different people work and perform differently. When we work in ways that are not congruent with how we normally perform, that almost guarantees nonperformance.

Like our strengths, how we each perform is individual, like personality. How a person performs is a “given,” just as what a person is good at or not good at is a “given.” It can be modified, but it is unlikely to be changed. Just as we achieve results by doing what we are good at, people also achieve results by performing how they perform.

Drucker suggested that there are a few common personality traits which usually determine how one achieves results.

The first thing to know about how we perform is whether we are a reader or a listener. Very few people are both. Even fewer know which of the two they are.

The second thing to know about how we perform is to know how we learn. This element is even more critical to understand that in respect to readers and listeners. Schools everywhere are organized on the erroneous assumption that there is one right way to learn, and that it is the same way for everybody.

The third question we have to ask, Do I work well with people, or am I a loner? If we find out that we work well with people, we need to ask further, in what relationship do we work well with people? Some people work best as team members. Some people work exceedingly well as coaches and mentors. Some people are simply incompetent to be mentors.

The fourth thing to know about how we perform is whether we perform well under stress, or whether we need a highly structured and predictable environment. Also, do we work best as a minnow in a big organization, or as a big fish in a small pond? Few people work well in both ways.

One last crucial question is, Do I produce results as a decision-maker or as an adviser? On the one hand, many people perform best as advisers, but cannot take the burden and pressure of the decision. On the other hand, many people need an adviser to force themselves to think, but then they can make the decision and act on it with speed, self-confidence, and courage.

The action conclusion is that we should not try to change ourselves drastically as it is unlikely to be successful. We should work hard to improve the way we perform and try not to do work that would greatly contradict with how we naturally perform.