With Self- Management comes the art of management. Only those who manage themselves well, can aspire to manage others. There are numerous dimensions to the concept of “Self- Management”. In this essay, the attempt would be to cover a couple of significant areas, that necessarily must be attended and addressed to, for the purposes of managing self.
The classical definition of management is, ‘an assembly line view of the workplace in which large tasks are broken down into smaller ones that are easy to accomplish’. This view led to the concept of classical management theory, which results in specialisation, since each worker understands their role and responsibilities, which are unique and specific to one area.
A general academic definition of management is, the coordination and administration of tasks to achieve a goal. This involves the process of planning, decision making, organising, leading, motivation, and controlling, resources, covering human, financial, physical and information resources of an organisation to reach its goals, effectively and efficiently.
Effectively speaking, therefore, these concepts and activities apply as much to individuals as to any organisation. Some widely accepted definitions are, ‘management is the art of getting work done by other people’. It is fundamentally here, that I have trained, and later made to experience by my generous supervisors, that management is not getting work done, instead, management is ‘getting people done’ by work. The meaning to capture here is that men are important and not the work, in the scheme of achieving goals, corporate or otherwise. If people are taken care of, then work automatically, would be done, with passion, zeal and effectiveness. It is the individual, as a constituent of a workforce, that is important. All energies must be directed at the development of the workers.
These individuals (professionals) must firstly learn to manage themselves. I have come across many managers, who would not only be personally confused, but would make sure that their teammates get even more confused, by not being able to either delegate the work or even to prioritise it; in the afternoon the priority is very different from what it was in the morning. In worst case scenarios the goalposts are changed by some utterly confused supervisors. A few areas that demand immediate attention and focus of leadership towards self development, include, framing vision, goal management, anger management, inter- personal skills management, relationship management, communication management, etc.
Leaders/managers are expected to display great poise and maturity in handling or responding to challenges, both planned and unforeseen. In my experience, I have seen many senior supervisors losing control over themselves when faced by situations that fall outside the ambit of the usual and regular. The unseen and unpredictable challenges and circumstances test to the fullest a manager worth his grain. The loss of self control reflects itself in the behavioural responses that usually and regrettably is available for all to see. Some would throw tantrums; others would react with anger; which in turn leads to a complete breakdown of communications.
Anger is an emotion that blinds the individual, from the ability to think and react, with rationality. Anger hinders good counsel; wisdom veils her face, when anger speaks. Managers lose their shirts in full public view. Their conversations, or more appropriately, monologues, touch new heights of decibel levels. Many occasions, I have giggled to see a supervisor shouting at his/her teammates and then making him/herself a spectacle... of amusement for others, but for their own sake, it is a pitiable condition to be in it. Rage is superior to intelligence or rational debates. Resentment consumes the possessor; anger tortures itself. Reasoning and judgement remains a prisoner of its own, where anger screens, logic.
Infact, an angry supervisor extends an offer, an open invitation for rebellion by colleagues. In this milieu of uncontrollable fury of anger, the temptation for indulgence into using expletives is heightened; some use cliches and innuendos, which has full potential for making matters worse and murky. The denuding of the inner personna in public eye is a consequence of lack of self management. There can never be a justification in using inappropriate language for conveying displeasure, no matter, however grave the provocation is. Anger, can find expression in silence too; infact refusing to react is a more powerful management tool, then to indulge in a shouting match, with colleagues on the shop floor.
Once the vision is spelt out and the related goals are established, it is critical for the senior management to be taken on board, for execution of the mission. Policies and procedures that are framed by the board, its sub- committees, in consultation with the CEO and the team, for smooth implementation need to be embraced by all. The buy-in of the board must be visible, so that all and sundry in the organisation know that the strategy being pursued is very much owned by them (board). The attitude of CEO/board members must reflect that they have the skills and commitment to realise their vision, this validating posture, requires a self developed senior management. The act has to be genuine and must be developed with purity of word and deed. The board members must also self manage themselves, to ensure and convey that they are serious in their pursuit.
Those who are cognisant of the importance of managing oneself are at a relative advantage in the construction and maintenance of stable interpersonal relationships and leadership positions. No individual can perform on the corporate platform, without active presence by team members. And to get commitment of performance by team members, it is significant, for each constituent, to have sound interpersonal relationships. Failing the cohesiveness that is essential for a successful pursuit of any objective, the outcome will abject failure of effort.
Self management demands that the manager/leader ought to demonstrate self respect and exhibit self esteem. Managers are a creation of their own works. As Emerson puts it, ‘we must be our own before we can be another’s’. To expect self discipline from colleagues, it is only fair to do so, if the leader positions himself in full glare of the cameras as a self disciplined individual.
Those supervisors who wish to develop themselves have to show punctuality and general respect for time. This respect for time should be for oneself as well as for others. Some supervisors, for an artificial sense of self importance, enjoy making colleagues wait for them, outside their offices. Time is crucial. If the team finds the leader wasting or misusing his time or finds that he devotes to wasting time of others, the result will be that no business targets would be achieved within stipulated agreed time schedules. Losing an hour in the morning, and you will all day be hunting for it, is an old adage. Time steals time. Be wary of it.
There is certainly no age bar to either recognise the need for self management or to start doing self management. Albeit it is preferable to start at a younger age; what is acquired in youth, age remembers; most times it lasts till arrival at the tomb.
Where and from whom, can any young professional, learn the art of self management? The sources can be plenty and varied too. In my opinion, reading books, regardless of the subject, is one significant source for developing maturity in thought process, leading to better self management. Reading books relating to history, political science, social or economic subjects; or reading biographies, autobiographies and watching people, including supervisors and colleagues, who have habits worthy of emulation, are essentially ready sources for sharpening skills in managing oneself.
During the early years of my career, I had ‘ideals’ whom I admired for their maturity and self control, even during the most difficult and stressful business challenges. They were individuals from whom I picked and learnt to handle, ‘storm’ with ‘calmness’; to eliminate stress amongst colleagues, by being ‘good listener’, and to observe ‘silence’ while being ‘provoked’, by colleagues or circumstances.
Leaders who self manage themselves well, end up being good managers of people and resources.
The writer is a senior banker and a freelance columnist