EE204: Business Management for
Electrical Engineers and Computer Scientists

Managing Oneself


  1. Managing Oneself (HBS course materials)
  2. Creating a Personal Brand


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Reading Summary

Throughout history, people had little need to manage their careers--they were born into their stations in life or, in the recent past, relied on their companies to chart their career paths. But times have drastically changed. Today we must all learn to manage ourselves. What does that mean? As Peter Drucker tells us in this seminal article first published in 1999, it means we have to learn to develop ourselves. We have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution to our organizations and communities. And we have to stay mentally alert and engaged during a 50-year working life, which means knowing how and when to change the work we do. It may seem obvious that people achieve results by doing what they are good at and by working in ways that fit their abilities. But, Drucker says, very few people actually know--let alone take advantage of--their fundamental strengths. He challenges each of us to ask ourselves: What are my strengths? How do I perform? What are my values? Where do I belong? What should my contribution be? Don't try to change yourself, Drucker cautions. Instead, concentrate on improving the skills you have and accepting assignments that are tailored to your individual way of working. If you do that, you can transform yourself from an ordinary worker into an outstanding performer. Today's successful careers are not planned out in advance. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they have asked themselves those questions and rigorously assessed their unique characteristics. 

Discussion Questions

  1. A person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weakness.
    1. The only way to discover a strength is through feedback analysis.
  2. Work on improving your strengths.
    1. What about working on your weaknesses (see page 3 discussion of planner whose plans fail)?
  3. Discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it.
    1. First rate engineers take pride in not knowing anything about people.
    2. Is this just a stereotype?
  4. Manners are the lubricating oil of an organization.
    1. Aren’t top leaders Like Steve Jobs abrasive?
  5. We all have a vast number of areas in which we have no talent or skill and little have little chance of becoming even mediocre.
    1. One should spend as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence.
    2. Energy and resources and time should go to making a competent performer a star.
  6. How a person performs is a given just like what a person is good at or not good at is a given.