Sometimes your goals can be as hard to find as the buoy in this picture. Often you cannot see your goal until you have gotten closer. But as your own manager, you have the luxury of defining those goals yourself. While it is a huge challenge being your own manager, the upside in positive energy and success is huge.
For the nearly twenty years that I worked for Apple, my managers were almost always hundreds if not thousands of miles away. For only two of the twenty years did I work for a manager who lived within twenty miles of the office.
When I started for Apple, I worked in Halifax, Nova Scotia and my manager was located in Montreal over 700 miles away. There were two of us in the office. I was the one who lasted more than a year. I survived because I managed myself.
What key differences did that self management create. I was dedicated to my job, worked harder, and focused on getting what had to done. I often took the extra hours out of my personal life with no complaints.
The other person in the office was more interested in enjoying the perks of the job than mastering the job or even getting what needed doing done. He was a Xerox trained sales person who knew little of computers.
I had just spent ten years building a successful cattle breeding operation and two years managing the sales people in a five store regional computer chain that sold Apple.
I understood what we were selling and why people were buying. I did not need any fancy sales tricks to get people to buy computers. I lived and breathed them.
I also had a commitment to the Apple brand. In 1984, when I went to work for Apple, I truly believed that Apple products were the best computers for a wide variety of people. Apple was a company that I wanted to be far of for the foreseeable future.
It was at this time that I learned one of the most valuable lessons from Apple. Your success was often in spite of your manager not because of your manager.
There were only two brief periods in my career at Apple when I had managers who actually helped me get my job done instead of throwing up roadblocks that I had to clear.
By the time that I became a manager in 1993, I had learned well that a manager's job is to do the blocking and tackling for his employees and to become a leader instead of a manager as soon as possible.
In building a team instead of a group of employees, I had to learn not to do their work for them. I had to give them enough freedom to fail or to be successful. I had to be there to pick them up when they failed or to make certain that their success did not go to their heads.
Considering the success my teams had at Apple, I believe that I became a top manager because of my own self management skills. The many years I worked at Apple for either incompetent or toxic managers prepared me well for managing myself after Apple.
I learned the importance of a plan for yourself. You cannot be successful without goals and without trying your best to make those goals.
When I came back to technology sales in 2012, I was reminded once again of the importance of goals and developing relationships.
I am happy to have long term customers as part of dialog once again. Still the conversations that you have with yourself are absolutely critical. You have to evaluate everything that you are doing and make certain you are focusing on the right elements.
You need to explain what you are doing to experts and listen to their feedback.
Above all you need to maintain balance and stay close to those who believe in you. I have always believed that the road to success is paved with the bodies of those who gave up too early. Along the way to success you will also pass those who tried to build their success on the bodies of others.
When you are managing yourself it is very easy to do what you want to do as opposed to what you need to do. You cannot let yourself fall into that trap. Your day may have to be focused on doing things which you least enjoy but which are most important to your success.
I create a three to five year plan for myself. When I measure myself against the plan, I make adjustments for the things that I cannot control, and I work hard at the things which I do control.
It is a tough job being your own manager, but it is far easier than having a toxic manager. As long as you keep focused on what you need to do, and try to socialize only with people whose energy can help you succeed, you will make it.
My one rule is never let those who are not going to make it make you a part of their defeat. Stick to your plan, focus on achieving your goals, and make sure you add value in whatever you do.
It is a good recipe for success.