In an essay titled Managing Oneself
, management expert Peter Drucker writes that most people think they know what they’re good at, but they are usually wrong.
As he points out, this is a problem because a person can only perform well using their strengths: “One cannot build performance on weaknesses, let alone on something one cannot do at all.”
For Drucker, the best way to understand your strengths is through what he calls “feedback analysis.” Whenever you undertake a key action or decision, write down what you expect to happen. Then 9 or 12 months later, compare the results with your expectations.
Within a few years, this exercise will illuminate your strengths, and leave you with the following 5 actionable conclusions:
1. Concentrate on your strengths
Place yourself in contexts where your strengths can produce maximum performance and results.
2. Work on improving your strengths
The feedback analysis will highlight those areas where your existing knowledge and skills are no longer adequate and need to be updated.
3. Identify areas and instances where your arrogance leads to ignorance
People who are very knowledgeable in one area sometimes look down on knowledge in other areas, or they believe that simply being smart is a substitute for actual experience in a given field. Feedback analysis will reveal those cases where poor performance is the result of such arrogance.
4. Fix your bad habits
This involves those things you do, or fail to do, that “inhibit your effectiveness and performance.”
Drucker gives the example of a person not achieving the results they wish simply because he or she lacks manners. As Drucker notes, many otherwise smart people don’t grasp the importance of manners as the “lubricating oil” of an organization.
5. Waste as little energy as possible on areas of low competence
For Drucker, no matter our strengths, each of us has “an infinite number of areas in which we have no talent, no skill, and little chance to become even mediocre.”
You should concentrate your efforts on areas of high competence and high skill: “It takes far more energy and far more work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.”