Do The Wisdom of Peter Drucker
Focus your energy. It’s harder to move from incompetence to low-level mediocrity than to move from good performance to excellence.
Drucker offers this insight as part of a strategy to make managers more effective—and efficient—business leaders. He encourages them to concentrate their efforts in areas in which they are strong instead of wasting time trying to improve themselves in areas where they have little competence. It’s better, he adds, to delegate to others those tasks in which you have less ability. In the long run, it saves time, money—and lots of personal aggravation.
There are unexpected benefits when you adopt Drucker’s way of thinking. As you recognize your weaknesses, you will quite naturally compensate for them by leaning on others to take up those critical tasks. As such, you will learn how much you need others and you also will discover how much you appreciate their skills and abilities. And, even more important, you will begin to exercise more conscious efforts in nurturing those strengths in others, and that will help you build rich, evolving and satisfying relationships with those colleagues.
Taken together, those acquired skills will make you a better manager.
Track your decisions. Every time you make an important decision or take some major action, keep a record of what you thought would happen because of that choice. Then, a year or so later, go back and compare the actual results with your year-ago expectations.
You may discover, for example, that no matter how hard you tried, you could not accomplish your goal. Or you may find you failed to follow through on certain aspects of the exercise or that you didn’t link up with colleagues in your organization who may have had the time, skills or interest to tip the effort toward success.
Each time you compare expectations with results, you’ll probably be surprised by what you learn. A serious gap will reveal where you may be behind the times, lacking critical knowledge or even—heaven forbid—incompetent.
Pinpointing the reasons for the gap can be very useful. For one thing, it alerts you to any resistance you might have to skills and information outside your own specialty.
Also, the gap could point out that your knowledge and/or ability may have far more limitations than you had believed.
Learn efficiently. Do you absorb information most effectively by reading, by listening or by watching? As it turns out, few people learn equally by all three ways. For some, the instruction manual works the best. For others, watching or listening to an expert gives them the knowledge needed to gain competence.
Yet most people don’t bother to invest the effort to assess which method best suits them. As a result, many otherwise intelligent people can make bad decisions if they base them on this less-effective learning method.
You may discover, for example, that after an informational meeting you need to prepare notes to fix the ideas in your mind. And you may have to write out some sort of “decision tree” listing the pluses and minuses of an idea before you can determine what course to take. Or, on the other hand, you may find the best way for you to absorb the meeting’s data and prepare your decision is to debate the issue silently in your head or with a small group of colleagues.
Once you recognize which method works best for you, use it. In all probability it’s not worth wasting time trying to develop strengths in the alternative ways because it’s unlikely you ever will gain competence using the other techniques.
Source: Management Challenges for the 21st Century by Peter F. Drucker, HarperBusiness, 2001.