No matter how difficult it is to manage your team, self-management is the toughest nut of all. It’s hard to stay objective when you’re intimately bound up with yourself. You tend to take it to extremes, at times forgiving yourself for offences that you’d never accept in others, yet at other times holding yourself to impossibly high standards.
To avoid such extremes, you need to approach the task of managing yourself as if you were managing someone else. In The Golden Rules for Managers, personal coach Frank McNair offers the following suggestions for doing so:
1. Shore up your weak points: The first step is to admit to yourself where you’re most likely to fail. Having identified your shortcomings, surround yourself with people whose talents will help compensate for what you lack in these areas. But don’t stop there. Continue to press yourself to grow, so that your weak spots eventually become areas of competence. If you focus only on your current strengths, you’ll limit your potential for success.
2. Set a deadline—and offer yourself a reward for meeting it: The next time you have to slog your way through a difficult and seemingly interminable project, get through it by “being your own boss.” Set a due date for the project’s completion and an incentive for reaching it, such as a professional massage or dinner at a fancy restaurant. You’re likely to achieve the most productive outcome if you make the payoff for meeting your objectives as clear as the consequences for falling short.
3. Remember that the angrier you get, the dumber you become: In the heat of an argument, we have all said and done things that we would move heaven and earth to take back. You’ll never meet anyone who thinks better and makes better decisions when they’re angry. Refuse to allow yourself to indulge in the rage that can damage valuable relationships. And remember that, as a manager, you don’t have to get angry in order to give feedback.
4. Don’t skip that holiday: In 20 years, the only people who will remember that you didn’t take your vacation will be you and your family, who will recall feeling shortchanged by your excessive devotion to business. Take time off to experience the joy that comes only from being with your loved ones. Another plus: you’ll return to the office refreshed and better than ever.
5. It’s okay to fire yourself: At some point, many people find that they’re dragging along in a job that is less and less satisfying. Yet most stay because they fear change. That can happen even if the job is CEO and it’s your own company. If you reach this point, you should “fire” yourself—either by finding a way to fire yourself up with renewed enthusiasm for the work, or by actually firing yourself from the job. If it’s the latter, you need to find a job you like better, whether within your own company or elsewhere, and then attack it passionately.