What is the most valuable, marketable skill you can acquire? Self-management! Suzanne Updegraff, CEO, author, and business leader, can testify to that. For over 20 years she has been working with organizations to help their employees improve their professional presence, increase personal effectiveness, and become accountable for their own decisions, careers, and lives. In Suzanne’s words, “Learning to self-manage means contributing innovative ideas, applying critical thinking skills and being a self-starter. Those who have mastered the art of self-management don’t wait for instructions on how to perform. They plan their career (and their life) with results in mind.”
Core Traits of Self-Management
- Expect (and look forward to) being held 100% accountable, regardless of whether your workplace has a culture of accountability or not -this is about you and your career.
- Do what you say. It sounds simple, but if you say you are going to call, make sure to call. The flip side of this is learning to be very measured in the promises you make. Instead of feeling weighed down by commitments, consider that you can free yourself from some of them, to ensure that you can keep the important ones.
- Foster amazing habits that inspire others. Become your own motivator. Don’t wait for a dynamic leader to show you the way. Productive work habits will give you energy and you’ll find that you have more energy and time. Poor work habits, whether they include procrastination, poor communication habits, or a history of inciting conflict, they all will drain your energy. For example, the temporary relief of putting off the tasks at hand never pays off.
- Embrace dependability, timeliness, and diligence. One way to ensure that you are seen as embodying all of these qualities is to build a layer of transition time and energy into everything you do. For example, if you have a 1:00 meeting, complete lunch early and take time to prepare. Is someone expecting you for a dinner appointment? Leave early, so you are collected and ready to shift your attention. Having transition time allows you to be present for each task that lies before you.
- Concentrate on execution. Strategy and planning are important, but should take no more than 10-15% of your energy for a particular project. Move right into execution as soon as possible.
- Shed any victim or martyr self-talk that you have been carrying with you. It hinders your ability to effectively self-manage, and the bonus is that once you let it go, you will instantly feel lighter and more free to be yourself.
Morris Shechtman, author of Working Without a Net says “… self-initiating employees come forward and say, I need to be doing something different.” When you take the initiative in managing your workload and refining the process of your day-to-day activities, you’ve taken the first step toward becoming self-managed. Another valuable focus for those that practice the art of self-management is in setting goals and being accountable for the outcome. Goal setting creates “ownership thinking” and a sense of control both over the small details and the big picture. David Maister, author of True Professionalism, says that “to choose a goal without being prepared to be accountable for progress towards it is to choose nothing.”
Being responsible for yourself creates the foundation of professional competence and opens doors for future growth and promotions. By taking responsibility for your own productivity, you empower your- self with your own success. The end result is that your manager will trust that you can handle the complexities of your position without hand-holding.
A final note on self-management from management leader, Peter Drucker: “Knowledge workers … need to develop, preferably while they are still young, a noncompetitive life and community of their own, and some serious outside interest—be it working as a volunteer in the community, playing in the local orchestra, or taking an active part in a small town’s local government.”
—Peter Drucker with Joseph A. Maciariello, Management: Revised Edition, 2008
So with Peter Drucker’s words in mind, consider your own personal development. Foster communities and interests outside of your professional life. It will be rewarding, and make you a more multidimensional person, with a thread of self-management that runs through all areas of your life!