The first rule of management is that successful management is actually more about how you manage yourself rather than being about how you manage others.

Management life tends to be extremely busy and demanding, particularly when you manage a large and complex organisation or business unit, and it is easy to forget that just having an external focus is not enough for one to be successful as a manager. It is critical that you take the time to also manage yourself as well as those for whom you have been given responsibility.

Here are some of my main focus areas for self-management.

How you manage your own integrity, ethics, goals and performance

Good managers do not wait for their boss to initiate a performance review to discover how they are doing in their job. It is important that you keep a critical and subjective view of your own performance and behaviours in the same way that you would do for the members of your team. Too many managers tend to readily see weaknesses in their employees without serious review of their own. It is easier, for example, to blame weak sales on underperforming salesmen than it is to look at how you, as the sales manager and the person who controls the culture and environment, are impacting the business levels being attained. Managers who fail tend to blame others, rarely themselves, but a skilled manager should monitor his own performance with even more rigour than he measures others.

Author: Robin8376 (own work); via Wikimedia Commons

How you manage your own career

No matter how senior you get it is critical that you manage your own career rather than allow it to depend on the vagaries of the fates. Too many managers are driven by opportunities that arise around them, or that come to them, rather than having a clear understanding of what they actually want to do and how they plan to get there. I was regularly amazed at how many young people I interviewed in my time who told me that their goal was to “have your job”, but when I asked them how they intended to achieve that goal, had absolutely no idea of what it would entail. A successful manager must have a clear understanding of his intended career path and the planning, training, development and mentoring needed to get there, as well as how to go about showing to the corporate “heavies”, through current performance and proof of future potential, that s/he is suitable for promotion.

How you manage your time, both work and personal

If you don’t focus on managing your own time, others will do it for you and then you will then have no control over your own life. The more senior you get the more you will find that your year will start off pre-planned to a major degree. Towards the end of my corporate life, by the time that my calendar allowed for both internal and external board meetings, my own and my boss’s management meetings as well as customer events, speeches, lecturing, teaching, mentoring, shareholders meetings, partner events and press involvements, my year was already about 70% pre-determined, and mostly involved considerable travel commitments. You must get control over your discretionary time by blocking out time for focussing on the tasks that drive your own success rather than that of others. It is also critical that you ensure that you block out time for vacations andpersonal and family events as I have rarely found a successful executive who does not have a supportive, understanding and forgiving family life.

by Wikimedia Commons

How you manage upwards and sideways

Successful managers understand that they have to build a suitable and effective working relationship with their boss. You have to be able to convince your boss that s/he can trust you enough to leave you alone to do your job, yet be there when you need him for things like advice or to remove a road-block that s/he is better placed to do. This means that you have to ensure that s/he has a detailed enough understanding of what is going on in your area of responsibility, both good and bad, to feel comfortable with according you the right to continue to control the destiny of your business area. I always told my management team that the five words that they should fear most from me was if I told one of them that “I am here to help”. You also have to build solid relationships with your network of peers as success is rarely driven in isolation.

How you manage your health

Management roles can be tough on the body and the mind, and personal physical fitness is a key element in promoting mental health. The strains of continuous travel, with changing time zones, cultures and cuisines can place massive stresses on the body and it is rare for a successful executive today to be heavily overweight and unfit. When you are “on the run” most of the time it is critical that you watch your diet, alcohol intake and exercise levels. There is no need to become excessive about it, but it is important that you keep up a fitness regime that enables you to meet the pressures of the role without it impacting your ability to do the job. In particular it is critical that you have an ability to differentiate between pressure and stress. I have found that pressure can be a key ingredient to drive the adrenalin that makes you achieve great results, but unmanaged stress can kill you.

Author: User:KVDP, User:Slashme; via Wikimedia Commons

Dee Hock, founder of VISA International said

“Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership is leadership. If you seek to lead, invest at least 50% of your time leading yourself—your own purpose, ethics, principles, motivation, conduct. Invest at least 20% leading those with authority over you and 15% leading your peers. If you don’t understand that you work for your mis-labeled ‘subordinates,’ then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny.”



  1. Frank says:

    Les, excellent, and I really liked you started with “integrity, ethics etc” and finished with “health and fitness”, these are critical to leadership (by example), but too often not acknowledged. Regards, Frank

  2. Bruce Rankin says:

    Hi Les, really good commonsense stuff that you write. (Unfortunatelly common sense is not necessarily all that common!) Reminds me of the analogy that, when you point the finger at someone, remember that you are also pointing the other 3 fingers back at yourself. ie start with yourself first. Best, Bruce

  3. Noel says:

    Yes, very good Les, especially coming from one who “walked the walk”. Regards, Noel.

  4. Managing is really a very hard part specially in business if you don’t ready and you don’t also have an idea on how it is you should rather quit,in Finland most of the business are manage very well in fact product is one of their focusing right now,in Helsinki there is a lot of product information management expert that gives successful multichannel commerce solution.

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