- What are my strengths?
- How do I perform?
- Am I a reader or a listener?
- How do I learn?
- Do I work well with people, or am I a loner?
- And if you do work well with people, you then must ask, in what relationship? (i.e. as subordinate, as team member, as commander)
- Do I produce results as a decision maker or as an adviser?
- Do I perform well under stress, or do I need a highly structured and predictable environment? Do I work best in a big organization or a small one?
- What are my values? (e.g. what is the function of a business? What is the responsibility of mangement?)
- Where do I belong? You can decide once you have a good idea of the answer to the first three questions.
- What should I contribute?
- 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?
- What results have to be achieved to make a difference?
- Responsibility for Relationships
- Know: The strengths, the performance modes, and the values of your coworkers
- Taking responsibility for communication
- Communicate: This is what I’m 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.
- Ask: What do I need to know about your strengths, how you perform, your values, and your proposed contribution?
The only way to discover your strengths is through feedback analysis. Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations.
Practiced consistently, this simple method will show you within a fairly short period of time, maybe two or three years, where your strengths lie—and this is the most important thing to know. The method will show you what you are doing or failing to do that deprives you of the full benefits of your strengths. It will show you where you are not particularly competent. And finally, it will show you where you have no strengths and cannot perform.
Like so many brilliant people, he believes that ideas move mountains. But bulldozers move mountains; ideas show where the bulldozers should go to work.
Comparing your expectations with your results also indicates what not to do. We all have a vast number of areas in which we have no talent or skill and little chance of becoming even mediocre. In those areas a person—and especially a knowledge worker—should not take on work, jobs, and assignments.
Few listeners can be made, or can make themselves, into competent readers—and vice versa. The listener who tries to be a reader will, therefore, suffer the fate of Lyndon Johnson, whereas the reader who tries to be a listener will suffer the fate of Dwight Eisenhower. They will not perform or achieve.
When I ask people, “How do you learn?” most of them know the answer. But when I ask, “Do you act on this knowledge?” few answer yes. And yet, acting on this knowledge is the key to performance; or rather, not acting on this knowledge condemns one to nonperformance. Am I a reader or a listener? and How do I learn? are the first questions to ask.
This is a reason, by the way, that the number two person in an organization often fails when promoted to the number one position. The top spot requires a decision maker. Strong decision makers often put somebody they trust into the number two spot as their adviser—and in that position the person is outstanding. But in the number one spot, the same person fails. He or she knows what the decision should be but cannot accept the responsibility of actually making it.
Whether a business should be run for short-term results or with a focus on the long term is likewise a question of values. Financial analysts believe that businesses can be run for both simultaneously. Successful businesspeople know better. To be sure, every company has to produce short-term results. But in any conflict between shortterm results and long-term growth, each company will determine its own priority. This is not primarily a disagreement about economics. It is fundamentally a value conflict regarding the function of a business and the responsibility of management.
But most people, especially highly gifted people, do not really know where they belong until they are well past their mid-twenties. By that time, however, they should know the answers to the three questions: What are my strengths? How do I perform? and, What are my values? And then they can and should decide where they belong.
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.
Very few of the people who believed that doing one’s own thing would lead to contribution, self-fulfillment, and success achieved any of the three.
Knowledge workers in particular have to learn to ask a question that has not been asked before: 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?
Managing yourself requires taking responsibility for relationships. This has two parts.
- The first secret of effectiveness is to understand the people you work with and depend on so that you can make use of their strengths, their ways of working, and their values. Working relationships are as much based on the people as they are on the work.
- The second part of relationship responsibility is taking responsibility for communication. Whenever I, or any other consultant, start to work with an organization, the first thing I hear about are all the personality conflicts. Most of these arise from the fact that people do not know what other people are doing and how they do their work, or what contribution the other people are concentrating on and what results they expect. And the reason they do not know is that they have not asked and therefore have not been told.
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.
Conversely, it is the marketing vice president’s responsibility to make sure that all of her coworkers understand how she looks at marketing: what her goals are, how she works, and what she expects of herself and of each one of them.
Even people who understand the importance of taking responsibility for relationships often do not communicate sufficiently with their associates. They are afraid of being thought presumptuous or inquisitive or stupid. They are wrong.
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?”
And one gets the same reaction—without exception, in my experience—if one continues by asking, “And what do I need to know about your strengths, how you perform, your values, and your proposed contribution?” In fact, knowledge workers should request this of everyone with whom they work, whether as subordinate, superior, colleague, or team member.