The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

How do I perform?

Quite frequently people hope for feedback when asking others how they performed. People learned to ask for feedback. It has become a rule of the performance game in our culture. And there is something to it, as such feedback can be integrated into an ongoing practice whenever it is perceived as helpful.

But asking for feedback may not be a sufficient approach when it comes to performing within a knowledge worker environment and as one.

One of the many interesting points in Peter F. Drucker’s essay “Managing Oneself” is how little people know about themselves. And much of this essay is there to help people find ways to become more self-knowledgeable and gain awareness of some of their specificities.

How people perform the same task will vary deeply depending on their individual preferences and personality traits. Drucker highlights the “reader or listener” personality trait as one that has a strong impact on the ability of leaders to perform. It is a trait that describes how people best take in information. And it is highly relevant to leaders when they need to take in data enabling them to assess a situation and be prepared to react to it. A leader will naturally be quite distant from events and direct input of information relevant to the situation. There is way too much for them to be able to process, so they need to be able to be briefed and process that information to be able to relate it to their teams. And if they work best listening to others, they will struggle when they are asked to read the information or vice versa.

But this is not only true for leaders. It will also happen within everyday situations and simple input. I can find myself struggling when someone tells me what route to take instead of writing it down for me or showing it on the map.

It’s a small detail, but if someone gets it wrong, there is a good chance that they’ll never change the circumstances to what is useful for their performance.

Closely linked to this question is the one of how people learn. Here again, the way the information needs to be processed will vary. For some it is the doing, they put forward the need to experiment with the information and act on it. Others however will have a more theoretical approach in the sense that they will have a preference to either write or talk. Some will take copious notes, maybe not even ever needing to go back to the written material. Others will take the information and process it by talking to others about it. They’ll search for an audience with whom to share their ideas and learn from that sharing.

Moving beyond the processing of the information itself and subsequent learning of it, there is more to learning. David A. Kolb for example described an experiential learning model that can happen within an instant as well as across years. Individual learning preferences impact people’s ability to accomplish some of the steps in the process.

What makes Drucker’s point so important is that he is addressing ingrained ways people have as to how they perform and learn they may not be able to change. And maybe should not even try to change as it is how they are at their best and can build all the other elements of performing on.


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