The Latest Invention: You

When Peter Drucker speaks, businesspeople listen. At 95, the renowned management guru is still dispensing wisdom that makes sense. One of his latest management tips: In these changing times, you have to reinvent yourself. Here are three ways, according to Drucker and others, to actively redesign yourself for more managerial success.

Let go of the past With so much change surrounding us, nearly everything we learned in the past is becoming irrelevant. Drucker suggests that what is learned and experienced early in life becomes obsolete. No surprise here. But the pace at which it is now becoming obsolete is new, and unnerving—what we learned a few years ago is already useless. Unless you take steps to get ahead of the curve by acquiring new knowledge and skills—in effect, reinvent yourself—it's a very short step into business oblivion.

Pare down your management influence Reinventing yourself does not mean becoming a supermanager. According to Professor Henry Mintzberg, one of my management gurus, the opposite may be just what the doctor ordered: Do less rather than more. Call it "just-enough leadership." According to Mintzberg, caring is more important than curing, connecting better than controlling, and demonstrating more effective than deciding. In other words, putting yourself on top of the heap means wielding too much influence. Better to step down a bit and make room for others to contribute. Not only does this reduced style of management make you more effective, it engages those around you to step up and contribute more.

Get some training

It never ceases to amaze me how little training is provided to new and upcoming managers. I recently conducted a two-day seminar called "Turning on Your Leadership Talent" for the management team of a major incentive house. The executives all had a lot of experience but very little formal leadership training. We covered the major people skills required for good leadership: big-picture thinking, motivating others, delegating for results, communicating effectively, dealing with conflict, and so on. There were two results, both positive. If they already knew parts of the information, what they currently were doing was recognized and reinforced. That certainly made them feel good. Or, if the content was new to them, they learned where they had to reinvent themselves to become more successful. Formalized, consistent, and cumulative training in "people smarts" does more than revitalize you. It helps you reinvent yourself in the most effective way.

Reinvention, of course, involves risk. But as the saying goes: A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for. The same can be said for leaders. Given the current environment, change and reinvention go hand in hand. Drucker's advice: Determine what steps you can take right now to achieve reinvention, and take them.

Dr. Tom McDonald, a ph.D. in psychology, speaks on "People Skills" needed for "Business Results." Reach him in San Diego at (858) 523-0883 or [email protected], or visit