Month: October 2013

Career Wellness Checkup #19

Now that you own your strengths, are you ready to own your weaknesses?

You can call them opportunities or challenges. Whatever makes you feel good. But the point is this: in this modern culture of defer, deflect, or deny anything that sounds less than 100% positive, we can unintentionally limit our potential for growth. If we don’t acknowledge any weaknesses or any gaps, what incentive do we have to try to improve?

I believe wholeheartedly in strengths-based performance. Tapping into our natural strengths gives us energy and easy wins. And we need that. But how do we expand our impact?  By expanding our capabilities.

There once was a time when I used my natural strength of observation to great effect.  I lay on my back (or my belly) and observed the world. And I learned a lot. All good stuff, that I used later in life. But I had a weakness.  I could not yet crawl. And this really limited my world, and my impact on it. So, I worked on crawling.  And, even though I never became a world-class crawler, it sure changed my life.

Okay, I admit that was a tongue-in-cheek example, but it illustrates that we cannot focus only on that which we already do well.  We must take an unflinching look at those things which we don’t. Rather than looking away from them and trying to pretend they don’t exist, face them. Then, decide what to do about them.

What are those things with which you struggle?

Name them. It’s okay.  We all have them.  The best leaders acknowledge their weaknesses and use various strategies for minimizing the impact on their effectiveness.  Here are a few:

1) They ask “How critical is this competency?”

In other words, there are certainly many things which we aren’t good at that we simply don’t need to be. Acknowledge them, and then forget them. Do not invest any more of your mental, emotional or physical energy on them. You’ll need it elsewhere. I was never a fast runner. Fortunately, this has nothing to do with success in my career. So, I invest 0% of my energy in developing that skill.

2) They ask “Do I need to do this myself or can I leverage another person for this?”

No leader is an expert in all things. The best ones, though, surround themselves with those who do possess the critical skills that they don’t. They enlist others in their vision and harness the horsepower of others.

3) They ask, “What skills are complementary to my strengths and will magnify them?”

Sometimes possessing a particular competency ourselves is critical. These are the ones in which we need to invest. For example, the most impactful innovators are those who not only do the research & design, but have developed some skill in presenting their ideas to others. Innovators who can’t or won’t speak up will never get their ideas heard. There is a fantastic article here in the Harvard Business Review on the topic of developing complementary skills. I encourage you to read it.

4) They invest time and energy in developing those competencies. 

It’s not easy.  It’s almost never quick. No pain, no gain as they say.  But the investment can pay off big time.

So, are you ready to own your weaknesses?

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