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Leier Newsletter: May 2017 Part 1

Manage yourself

Like so many brilliant people, he believes that ideas move mountains. But bulldozers move mountains; ideas show where bulldozers should go to work.

The Harvard Business Review publishes articles that they believe made a 'big impact'. They recently published two of Peter Drucker's articles: Managing Oneself and What makes an effective executive. Peter Drucker is often called the father or modern management.

These two articles are actually two sides of the same coin. Firstly, how should you manage yourself to become more focused and productive? And secondly, how should your manage others to extinguish unnecessary distractions and tasks?

The article about self-management identifies the questions that you have to ask yourself in order to gain the necessary insights to take control of yourself.

We must all learn to manage and develop ourselves. How should we do it?

  • What are my strengths?

Most people think they know what their strengths are, but they are mostly wrong. You can't build achievements on weaknesses. Today, people have many choices and therefore they should know their strengths very well. You can only discover your strengths through feedback. If you decide on a certain action, write down what you expect nine or twelve months down the line and then compare these to the actual results. Feedback analysis was developed by an otherwise unknown theologist in the 14th century. Almost 150 years later, Johannes Calvyn and Ignatius of Loyola incorporated it into their own practice. Within 30 years the institutions that these two started – the Calvinistic church and the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) – dominated Europe.

With this method, you can determine your strengths within two or three years. It also shows where you perform poorly. This feedback has several implications:

  • Concentrate on your strengths

  • Improve your strengths

  • Learn where your intellectual arrogance is causing ignorance, and correct it. People who are skilled in one area often look down on expertise in another area.

  • Heal your bad habits – things that you do wrong (or not at all) and that undermine your efficiency and achievements.

  • It shows where the problem is a lack of manners. Manners are the lubricant of any organisation. Manners mean saying 'Please' and 'Thank you' and knowing the other person's name. It allows two people to continue to work together, even if they don't like each other.

  • It shows you where NOT to work. Stay away! You will only waste your time and energy.

  • How do I perform?

Most of us don't even realise that different people work and perform in different ways. It is all about personality. The way in which someone performs can be adapted to some degree, but it will never change completely. What are the most important personality characteristics that determine this?

  • Am I a listener or a reader?

Few people are both. A reader wants things on paper beforehand.

  • How do I learn?

Many overachievers (Churchill is a good example) don't do well at school. Some people don't learn by listening and reading, but by writing. Some learn by taking lots of notes. Some people learn by doing and others need to hear themselves talk. This is how successful advocates learn.

  • Do I perform under pressure or do I need a structured and predictable environment to perform well?

The conclusion: don't try to change yourself – you won't really succeed.

What are my values?

Ethics require that you ask yourself: What kind of person do I want to be? What kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning? Working for an organisation where the ethics system is unacceptable or unreconcilable with your own values, can lead to frustration and poor performance. In the church, there are congregations that focus only on the number of members, while others choose to focus on the spiritual growth of their members.

Organisations, like people, have values. Values are the number one test.

Where do I belong?

Once you know what your strengths and values are and how you perform, you can decide where you belong. Successful careers aren't planned. They develop when people are ready for opportunities, because they know their strengths, their work methods and their values. If you know this, you can perform extraordinarily.

What should I contribute?

Most people are told what they should contribute. Until recently, people did only what they were told to do. Today people ask: what do I want to do? They heard: Do your own thing. This is wrong! While it is supposed to lead to a significant contribution, self-fulfillment and success, this seldom happens. No, we should ask: What should my contribution be? The answer to this question consists of three elements:

  • What does the situation require?

  • Given my strengths, my manner of doing things and my values, how can I make the biggest contribution?

  • What results should be achieved to 'make a difference'? These results should involve effort, and should be achievable. They should be meaningful – they should make a difference. The results should be visible and preferably measurable.

It is seldom possible to plan ahead more than 18 months.

Responsibility for relationships

Very few people can work alone and achieve results. Most people are most efficient when working with others. To manage yourself, means accepting responsibility for relationships.

  • Accept that other people are individuals, just like you. They have their own strengths, work methods and values. To be successful, you need to know these things. Very few people give attention to this: each one works in his/her own way – not your way. And they have the right to do so. What is important is whether they perform well and what their values are. You should know the people that you work with and whom you trust.

  • Accept responsibility for communication. In an organisation, conflict is often caused by inadequate communication. Most people today work with others on different tasks and have different responsibilities. People often don't communicate enough, because they are afraid that others will think they are nosy or stupid. Organisations are built on trust, and not power. Trust between people doesn't necessarily mean that they like each other, but rather that they understand each other.

The second half of your life

In the past, most people worked with their hands. They also continued doing what they were doing. If you survived 40 years in transport or in a factory, you were happy to do nothing for the rest of your life. Today, knowledge workers aren't finished after 40 years. People are increasingly drawn to second careers. How?

  1. Move from one type of organisation to another. Move to another type of work. These people have skills and they know how to work. These people are often in need of a new challenge.

  2. Develop a parallel career. This other career is usually in a charity or church organisation.

  3. The social entrepreneurs. They don't work for a challenge anymore. They start a new activity – usually something that doesn't make a profit.

These people who manage the second part of their lives, are in the minority. To manage the second part of your life, means planning long before you get there. If you aren't a volunteer before you turn 40, you won't be one in your 60s.

Wherever there is success, there has to be failure.

The challenges of managing yourself are clear. The answers seem obvious – even naive. But it requires new things from the individual. It is a challenge for the social structure. Every community accepts two things as given:

  • Organisations live longer than workers

  • Today, the opposite is true: knowledge workers live longer than the organisation, and they are mobile. They have to manage themselves.


We live in a time of opportunity. If you have ambition, drive and skills, you can reach the top of your career – no matter where you started. But with opportunity comes responsibility. Organisations don't control their knowledge workers' careers. Each one should manage him-/herself.

You have to carve out your place at work and know when to change direction. You have to keep yourself involved and productive during your working years. To do this, you must understand yourself. What are your most valuable strengths and your most dangerous weaknesses? How do you learn and how do you work with others? In which work environment do you make the biggest contribution? The implication: you will only achieve true and lasting excellence if you work from a combination of strengths and self-knowledge.

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