Managing Oneself, a Contemporary Way of Working Efficiently by Peter Drucker

Drucker wrote this book on the basis of an already developed person. Which means, this book is more oriented for the people who have tasted the society a little bit and who have entered the corporate life.

Everything in this book stems from the already established strengths and weaknesses of one’s, and one shall improve and avoid upon them. This is clearly stated in the book.

The book is very short, you can finish it with probably 3 or 4 hours of meticulous reading.

To break it down, Drucker has pointed out several features of managing oneself, or an efficient way of working yourself up.

1. What are my strengths?

It’s a chapter that focuses on your personal strengths. To know yourself is the first step to become great. One shall have the keen eyes onto himself so he can remedy the wrongs and improve the strengths.

Drucker always stresses that one should improve where he’s already good at to achieve excellence rather than improve on his weaknesses to achieve mediocrity.

Feedback Analysis. Drucker defines it as a 18 months, a year and a half, process to compare the start and the end for understanding the differences. And therefore you can know your exact strengths and weaknesses.

The analysis does not have to take up 18 months, feedback analysis is a standard way of analyzing things. As long as something has a result, you can use feedback analysis to compare the result with your initial expectations. And it does not only tell the strengths of one’s, it also tells something is wrong or right with the whole project.

One thing Drucker said about one’s strength is that when someone has hit a plateau, he will be blinded by his own exceptional expertise in a specific field. Thus the person will not accept other fields’ knowledge as something need to be acquired.

The arrogance of human kind. 

I don’t think I need to elaborate even more on this, since I have already posted this in my blog.

Drucker also mentioned one thing in his book—manners.

Manners—simple things like saying “please” and “thank you” and knowing a person’s name or asking after her family—enable two people to work together whether they like each other or not.

I remember someone said this on Quora. In a new place that everybody is a stranger, the way to keep civilization going and make people work together is courtesy/mannerism.

The simple “thank you”, “please” and “excuse me” are even the protection words in a prison. Said by Michael Franzese, a mafia boss.

2. How do I perform?

This is a chapter about personality. How one works.

At first, Drucker pointed out there are two types of personalities that contrast hugely–listener and reader.

A listener is someone who can process information through conversations. A reader is someone who can process information through printed papers and documents.

However, this is probably the simplest way of differentiating people. Currently, there are multiple ways to segregate people. MBTI is a good example, there are also other standards that categorize people by functions and similarities.

Second is how does one learn? One can learn through multiple ways, it’s crucial to know how you process information. There’s a process of seeing, understanding and applying.

To me, one actually learns when he applies the knowledge. Drucker only stated some general and obvious ways of learning, such as through writing, talking, doing, taking notes etc. Nonetheless they are important for you to know about yourself.

The key point of Drucker is that one needs to know what type of person he is. What does he like? What does he not like? How does he work? And what is one’s relationship with work environment? Is he a team player, or a loner? A mentor or a subordinate? A decision maker or an adviser? Is one good with stress or he needs highly structured and predictable environment? Can one work well in big organizations, or small ones?

3. What are my values?

This chapter is about the value conflicts. The organization you work in should match your value system, otherwise the conflict can only produce ugly results.

You know yourself now, you strengths, how you perform. But you also understand your values.

Values determines one’s direction. Wherever you go, should not contradict where your organization go. If the two is not compatible, one must make changes. Either the corporation, or the person. Normally, the person will leave the conflict.

Organizations, like people, have values. To be effective in an organization, a person’s values must be compatible with the organization’s values. They do not need to be the same, but they must be close enough to coexist. Otherwise, the person will not only be frustrated but also will not produce results.

A person’s strengths and the way that person performs rarely conflict; the two are complementary. But there is sometimes a conflict between a person’s values and his or her strengths. What one does well—even very well and successfully—may not fit with one’s value system. In that case, the work may not appear to be worth devoting one’s life to (or even a substantial portion thereof ).

4. Where do I belong?

It’s a very simple question. Before or after you enter society, you should know exactly what suit you the best.

“Yes, I will do that. But this is the way I should be doing it. This is the way it should be structured. This is the way the relationships should be. These are the kind of results you should expect from me, and in this time frame, because this is who I am.”

For example, I know I can’t deal with general public. So I choose to do something more unique and special. And I also know that I hate working for others, thus I try to work for my own.

You have your likes and dislikes. When you decide to go into a life, try to decide what suit you the best.

Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values.

5. What should I contribute?

It is a duty for modern knowledge workers to know his contribution to the society and the world, and therefore his capability to make a change.

What should my contribution be? To answer it, they must address three distinct elements: What does the situation require? Given my strengths, my way of performing, and my values, how can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done? And finally, What results have to be achieved to make a difference?

Drucker also says that one’s plan should not be planned to far ahead. Steve Jobs also had the same habit. Every Apple’s plan does not exceed 3 years.

In an interview of him in early 2000s, Japan. He stated that he did not want to plan too far ahead. Because the market is constantly changing, one can not predict things that are too far ahead, let alone making changes for the plan.

How to plan? Drucker has this answer:

First, the results should be hard to achieve—they should require “stretching,” to use the current buzzword. But also, they should be within reach. To aim at results that cannot be achieved—or that can be only under the most unlikely circumstances—is not being ambitious; it is being foolish. Second, the results should be meaningful. They should make a difference. Finally, results should be visible and, if at all possible, measurable. From this will come a course of action: what to do, where and how to start, and what goals and deadlines to set.

6. Responsibility for relationships

In this chapter, there are only two parts, however, two crucial parts for people working efficiently in a corporation.

The first, is to understand your coworkers’ stats like above: What is his/her strengths? How does he/she perform? And what are his/her values? His/her likes and dislikes? His/her expectations and goals?

Here’s an example, and Drucker specifically emphasizes on how workers should all exchange information on this regard.

Whenever someone goes to his or her associates and says, “This is what I am good at. This is how I work. These are my values. This is the contribution I plan to concentrate on and the results I should be expected to deliver,” the response is always, “This is most helpful. But why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

The second, is to communicate efficiently. When people work together, there is a huge problem needed to tackle–communication.

The point is to make messages transfer losslessly and clearly. Also to understand each other better so that the organization can produce a better result with “teamworking”.

Today the great majority of people work with others who have different tasks and responsibilities. The marketing vice president may have come out of sales and know everything about sales, but she knows nothing about the things she has never done—pricing, advertising, packaging, and the like. So the people who do these things must make sure that the marketing vice president understands what they are trying to do, why they are trying to do it, how they are going to do it, and what results to expect.

It’s kind of like basic stats for characters in a game. When you pull out the stats, you can see all members’ stats in a party.

Think of it as pulling out the stats of characters, when one is managing a corporation.

At last,

Organizations are no longer built on force but on trust. The existence of trust between people does not necessarily mean that they like one another. It means that they understand one another. Taking responsibility for relationships is therefore an absolute necessity. It is a duty. Whether one is a member of the organization, a consultant to it, a supplier, or a distributor, one owes that responsibility to all one’s coworkers: those whose work one depends on as well as those who depend on one’s own work.

7. The second half of your life

Drucker thinks that successful people all have a second career to boost their own personal life.

It was true in 60s, still is true today.

Today, we are seeing more and more successful people having multiple lives. One can be a successful entrepreneur, the same time a bartender in a local bar and a party organizer for his friends and families.

One great example is James Franco. Look at the man’s Wikipedia page, you’ll be amazed by how many activities he has taken in.

Drucker says that successful people, the minority of the society,

But it is this minority, the men and women who see a long working-life expectancy as an opportunity both for themselves and for society, who will become leaders and models.

Not just a second career, think about expanding your expertise and learn whenever you can.

Drucker says that if you want to jump into a second career, better take it early. Which means if you plan to have a successful second career in your 50s, start to prepare for it in your 30s or 40s.

As far as I know, as an entrepreneur, one should always be an adventurer. Always seeking new discoveries and new challenges, until the void in his heart is fulfilled. 


In conclusion, Managing Oneself is a great introductory book for one to adapt to the 21st century constant changing modern life.

We have transformed from the main workforce being manual labor to the knowledge work. People have more and more choices today and opportunities are abundant in a sense.

We are currently at an age of technology application (Third Technology Revolution). The Age of Discovery for smart machines.


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