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close this bookManagement Self-Development - A Guide for Managers, Organisations and Institutions (ILO, 1985, 282 p.)
close this folderChapter 2. Self-assessment and planning one's own future
View the document(introduction...)
View the document2.1 The self-assessment process
View the document2.2 Our higher and lower selves
View the document2.3 Obtaining information about yourself and your performance
View the document2.4 Clarifying the questions and issues facing you
View the document2.5 A self-development plan
View the document2.6 Suggestions for further reading

2.4 Clarifying the questions and issues facing you

If you have gone through all the information-gathering methods described in the appendices, you are probably feeling pretty dizzy and confused 1 In fact, it is quite likely that you will have concentrated on one or two methods, and that you will come back to the others later.

In any case, you are now at the point where you have quite a lot of information, and a number of questions or issues are facing you, as shown in figure 9.

Figure 9. Questions and issues (phase 1)

One of the problems here is that not only might you be suffering from an overload - simply too many issues and questions to handle at once - but some of these may be in conflict. That is, some could well be contradicting others. Although there is no simple solution to this problem, there are one or two things you can do to make it a bit more manageable.

Firstly, just make a simple list of your key questions and issues, as you now identify them (that is, from whichever of the method(s) you have used). It may be that this simple step will be enough in itself. Looking at your list for a few minutes might be sufficient for one or two priority areas to leap out of the page, as it were, so that you can then concentrate on doing something about those.

However, it is of course quite likely that you will still be finding a lot of confusion in your list of personal questions and issues. In that case, it can be helpful to classify them according to the various roles you adopt in life.

The roles you play

What do we mean by this? Well, each of us has a number of roles to play. For example, somebody might take on roles such as

- departmental manager;
- chairman of a standing committee;
- member of governing body or related professional institution;
- husband;
- father;
- friend.

One role might be subdivided into a number of sub-roles. For example, "departmental manager" might become

- person in charge of particular department;
- member of senior management committee;
- friend to certain colleagues.

We are facing a number of different life issues and questions across most of our differing roles. So one way to clarify the possibly bewildering array of such questions is to classify them according to these roles. To do this, a format along the lines of figure 10 is helpful. In the left-hand column, you list the main roles that you play in your life.

Figure 10. Roles and questions

You do not have to list all your roles, of course. You might well want to restrict it to those that concern your job - although do not forget the growing importance of recognising the link between job and non-job development, and the need for balance here.

When you have listed your various roles, you can then note the life questions and issues that face you in respect of each one, in the right-hand column of the table.

Having done this, you should be in a clearer position to choose certain areas and issues to work on. One important difficulty should be mentioned, though. You might well find that the issues in two different roles are more or less diametrically opposed. For example, in your job, you might be being asked to spend more time at the office, or to go overseas on a course, whilst at the same time your children are saying "please spend more time at home".

There is certainly no simple solution to this one! You will have to make a difficult decision. However, there are some ways of analysing these situations in a little more detail, which should help. These ways will now be described.

Identifying alternative courses of action

Now then, we are at the point shown in figure 11. The next step is to explore some of these questions and issues.

Figure 11. Questions and issues (phase 2)

The purpose of all this, of course, is to decide on what you are going to do. It is important to distinguish between general wishes (what you would like to do), intentions (what you really are going to do), and first steps (getting started). In order to "jump the gap" between these last two, you also need resolutions - which make a detailed action plan of what you are going to do.

As already mentioned, you can either choose one particular issue, or a number of related ones (including those that clash with each other), or two or three quite separate ones. Do not forget, though, that you can always come back later to look at some more, so it is probably a good idea at this point not to take on too many at once.

On the other hand, at times you will not be able to sort out your priorities until you have in fact examined several in detail. So it is important to keep an eye on the overall picture, examining several, then focussing on certain ones for priority attention.


desired action


motivations to act


plan of action



The basic questions are involved yet again here. So, for the various issues you are considering, ask yourself

- what do I think about this?
- how do I feel about it?
- what would I like to do about it?
- what am I prepared to do about it?
- what am I not prepared to do about it?

It is convenient here to look at two types of issue. Examples of the first type might include:

- how can I become a better listener?
- how can I be more assertive?
- how can I improve my physical fitness?

In general, these - which we might term small-scope or narrow-focus issues - tend to focus on one element of your development: of your character, or your skills, or your health, and so on. They are concerned with certain limited aspects of your development.

The second type, on the other hand, are much broader in scope. These involve tackling questions such as:

- I want to set some life goals for the next five years;

- I am dissatisfied with my current job. Should I move to another one, or try to improve things here?

- I have the opportunity to study overseas for a year. Should I take it?

- I am wondering about leaving my current employer and starting up my own business.

Clearly, these types of issue involve much more than just certain specific aspects of your development. They may have a significant influence on your whole life style, and they also affect other people as well.

We can look at the two types of issues separately.

What to do about narrow-focus issues

There are two main ways of dealing with these, as shown in figure 12.

Figure 12. Narrow-focus issues

One way, then, is to carry out special self-development techniques and activities, related to the issue or need that you have identified. A number of these are described in chapters 3 to 8, which also give some guidelines on which techniques are particularly suitable for certain types of issue.

However, the other extremely important approach is to use your normal, everyday life experiences as opportunities for development. Since these are happening anyway, let us make the most of them!

Sometimes this can be made easier by translating the issue into action terms.

For example, think about the example of a wish to be more assertive. When? In what circumstances? With whom? Give some examples - when could you practise this? Make it an intention: "I want to be able to tell my boss that I disagree with him". Fine. Then your resolution is that the very next time you disagree, you will tell him so. And when you do tell him, you have taken your first step.

Or take another example. "I want to listen to my immediate subordinate more. At present I ignore what he says." Fine. Then resolve to do it - the very next time he comes to talk to you. And when he does - take your first step.

Of course, it is all very well to say "Fine - then do it". Obviously it is not as easy as that 1 But this can show you the opportunities that exist. Very probably, when the opportunity actually arrives, you will not do as well as you would have liked. Very well - use that as part of the learning experience. Turn it into a critical incident, and analyse it as already described earlier in this chapter. Learn from the failure - or success.

What to do about broader-focus issues

These questions, of course, are somewhat different from the narrow-focus ones. For example, there is no simple exercise or activity that will tell you whether or not you should change your job. There are, though, a number of things you can do to help you with these broader issues.

If you have not done it already, you will probably find that going through the biography process (appendix 4) will be helpful. This can clarify the main questions facing you, and can also give insights into your main life-themes, which can play an important part in making an important life decision.

With these bigger questions, you will almost certainly recognise several alternative answers or solutions. For example, suppose you are thinking about changing your job. Various alternatives could include:

- no; stay where I am and try to make things better here;
- yes; look for an internal transfer;
- yes; look for a job in another organisation.

At this stage, it is useful to take each alternative in turn, and examine it very carefully. First, note all the obvious advantages and disadvantages, in terms of outcomes, ease or difficulty in carrying it out, likelihood of success or failure. Since we are trying to prevent self-development from being selfish, you should also look at each from the point of view of the other people who are likely to be affected. What are the good and bad points as far as they are concerned?

Then take each one in turn again. Imagine that it is now a time in the future, after you carried out that particular choice. So, you have chosen that one, and put it into action.

Now imagine to yourself, what is happening? Who are all the people involved? What is going on? What am I doing? What are all the other people doing? What am I thinking? How am I feeling? What am I wanting to do? (All this in your imagination, in the future, as a result of your choice.)

What are the other people thinking? How are they feeling? What are they wanting to do?

Put as much detail into this imagination as you possibly can. Really try to feel, hear, smell, touch, as well as see what is happening.

Doing this imaginative exercise will help you to get a clearer impression of the features of each choice. It breathes life into your list of advantages and disadvantages, making them more meaningful, more real.

Having said that, a new complication might now emerge. It is quite likely that you will still be faced with some conflicts amongst the choices. For example, you might realise that choice A will lead to some people being happy, others less so. Choice B affects different people. Choice C requires approval or sanction by your employer. Which do you choose? Only you can decide. In the end, you have to make the difficult choice. But...

- you do this after examining the alternatives carefully; you have followed through the consequences for everybody involved, and have taken these into account along with your own wishes; therefore you are taking a morally responsible decision;

- this may help you to talk with those people; after all, your imagination of their reactions might be wrong; in any case, if they are so likely to be affected, do not they have the right to be consulted?

- having considered these things consciously, perhaps you will be in a better position to "brief" people as to what you want to do; if it is something that will upset them, can you now think of ways of telling them that will minimise their upset?