Peter Drucker has been a hero of mine for years. He is one of the most prolific and brilliant thinkers of our time. But, more importantly, he writes about the things that affect those in the business of serving others and making money.
Years ago, I moderated a conference of healthcare executives at Claremont (Calif.) College where Drucker is a resident professor. After I introduced Drucker, he strode to the microphone and proceeded to hold 150 healthcare CEOs in rapt attention for three hours as he spoke about the positive things going on in the healthcare industry. You could have heard a pin drop. Everyone came away from that meeting knowing they had heard from a genius who understood the intricacies of their industry and the contributions of individuals who were dedicated and committed to their profession.
Shortly after that conference, I received a book written by Drucker titled Managing the Nonprofit Organization. One of the chapters was titled, "What do you want to be remembered for?" Most of us don't even think about that kind of thing, but it is a question that makes each of us reflect on what it is we do for a living.
In a section called "Repotting Yourself," he says: "When you begin to fall into a pleasant routine, it is time to force yourself to do something different. 'Burnout,' much of the time, is a cop-out for being bored. Nothing creates more fatigue than having to force yourself to go to work in the morning when you don't give a damn."
His observation about the effectiveness of executives in the workplace is somewhat unsettling. "Most of us who work in organizations work at a surprisingly low yield of effectiveness. I've been working with executives for close to 50 years and most of them work hard and know a great deal. But fully effective ones are rare. The difference between the performers and nonperformers is not a matter of talent. Effectiveness is more a matter of habits of behavior and of a few elementary rules. But the human race is not too good at it yet because organizations are pretty recent inventions. The rules for effectiveness are different in an organization from what they were in the one-man craft shop.
In solo work, the job organizes the performer; in an organization, the performer organizes the job."
Drucker's belief is that to be fully effective, an individual has to employ one's strengths. "The road to effectiveness is not to mimic the behavior of the successful boss you so admire, not to follow the program of a book (even mine). You can only be effective by working with your own set of strengths, a set of strengths that are distinctive as your fingerprints."
Too many executives choose to copy others and use how-to books to become what they really are not. It is a waste of time. The truly successful executives play to their strengths only after they have evaluated what they are. This takes work, discipline and patience.
The question of what any of us want to be remembered for is not a simple one. To Drucker, it is important because "it pushes you to see yourself as a different person--the person you can become." Too many of us never ask the question because we are afraid to evaluate ourselves--our strengths and weaknesses. How, then, can we ever hope to be successful?
It makes sense,
Charles S. Lauer