Why it's important to manage yourself

I introduced my blog a couple of weeks ago by talking about the three key relationsh­ips I found you need to manage in a workplace to achieve success – the ones with yourself, with your team and with your superiors. Today, I’ll expand on the first relationsh­ip, the one with yourself. 

In regard to managing myself, I believe some of the key reasons I achieved in my career as a CEO were: 

· I worked in a field that interested me
· I focussed on the important
· I committed myself to managing my time

Firstly, I loved working in superannua­tion and often explained it as a mixture of economic policy and social policy. My heart loved working in an area that honoured older people – I had many elderly relatives growing up and adored them and their soft wrinkly faces. I strongly believe a person should not be old and poor, because it removes their ability to affect their own destiny. 

I also was intellectu­ally stimulated by the economic policy component – my head loved superannua­tion’s great mix of personal finance and institutio­nal finance. Not only did we at QSuper focus on each member’s superannua­tion outcomes, but we also owned a large financial planning practice. And of course, QSuper itself is an investor on a global scale, including ownership of very recognisab­le real estate, such as One Times Square, New York (where the ball drops on New Year’s Eve). 

Over the years I was part of the creation of the investment team and portfolio and had the privilege of listening to and conversing with some of the investing world greats – Jack Bogle (Vanguard founder), Ray Dalio (Bridgewat­er founder), Keith Ambachtshe­er (global expert on pension fund excellence­), Bill Sharpe (Sharpe ratio) and a few other Nobel prize winners! 

We all have parts of our work that are more of a drudge than others but some of your work should be time that brings you happiness – where you are deeply interested in what you’re doing and time just flies. In his work on happiness, psychologi­st Mihaly Csikszentm­ihalyi termed this concept ‘flow’. I found ‘flow’ for decades because my heart loved older people and my head was always stimulated­. 

I achieved from a young age and looking back, the second key to this was that I endeavoure­d to focus on the important. I often talk of ‘big rocks’– you must first fill your jar with the big rocks, because if you instead put sand and pebbles in first, those big important rocks won’t fit. Way too often I dealt with people, including executives­, who were focussing so intently on today’s pebbles and sand that they neglected the purpose of their job. You see, the more senior you are, or aspire to be, the more time you should spend on further out thinking, rather than only defining success as a clear inbox or ticked to-do list. 

Now I started my career as a policy person, heavy into the detail of the Tax Act. I even typed the first rules to QSuper and got it through the Parliament­, and I loved being the superannua­tion nerd. But I also found the big picture and what would have impact in terms of honouring normal older people, I thought about what mattered. And over the years, I relinquish­ed (to some extent anyway) the nerdy stuff. 

Finally, once I was aware of what mattered, there was still the task of getting it done. Not easy when you consider the scale of the operation. It would be entirely possible to just respond – to be reactive to the urgent. As anybody tells you, the rules to super kept changing (and I might write another blog on that one too), so keeping an organisati­on on top of it all was a big job. However, if you’re always driven by someone else’s agenda (the urgent), you’re just a mouse on an ever-spinning wheel. So, if I knew there was important – like a good idea floating around, mine or another’s – I would deliberate­ly and vocally commit myself. I would, for instance, tell my Board about it and offer to bring a paper back in a couple of months’ time, or make an appointmen­t with the right people to explore it more. Prioritise the important, and delegate the work you can to great people. Eight words I heard on prioritisi­ng time have remained with me for years – ‘I only do what only I can do’. To spend some time on the important, allow yourself to let go of the sand and pebbles sometimes.­ 

So to lift yourself up to your career potential, does your work engage your heart and your head, are there some big rocks in your jar, and are you spending some time so those big rocks one day have impact? 

Until next time.