Strengths and weaknesses – why do we obsess so much about them? It seems like you can’t go on a job interview without someone asking you what you’re strengths and weaknesses are. If your employer reviews you, chances are they help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. If you own a small business, prospective clients will compare your strengths and weaknesses with that of your competitors. So chances are you are at least somewhat aware of some of your strengths and weaknesses. Now what?
When faced with this burning question, many people leave their strengths alone and focus on improving their weaknesses. Perhaps the technical skills for your job are strong but your communication skills are lacking, so your course of action is take a class on interpersonal skills or public speaking. If you own a business and you find that potential clients are choosing a competitor over you because they leverage technology better than you, you might decide to bring in consultant to help upgrade you to the latest and greatest. Are these the right actions to take? Maybe.
Society in general is a little over-obsessed with weakness elimination. This is most evident in a work setting where people are often, although wrongly, expected to be strong in every aspect of their job. Employers want their people to improve from year to year so they provide constructive feedback, and often this feedback is irrelevant to their performance but included for the sake of having some constructive feedback to offer. Furthermore, businesses and politicians alike are lambasted for any weaknesses their competitors can expose. So it’s no wonder that we all feel the need to treat our weaknesses like an embarrassing member of the family.
People who get results have a different view of weaknesses. They determine whether or not the weakness is an obstacle for getting them where they want to be. Here are some examples to think about:
- If you’re a sharp computer programmer vying to be the best in the industry, does it really make sense to take a public speaking class instead of using that time to keep up with ever-changing technology?
- If you’re an electrician with a strong customer base, should you bother putting together a web site to attract new clients instead of keeping up with changes in the industry?
In these cases, you’re better off leveraging your strengths and avoiding the areas you’re weak in. One of my weaknesses as a professional speaker is that I have trouble when I have to read a speech word for word. It’s just not natural for me and although I could work to improve that particular area, I don’t bother with it because I have no interest in giving talks where I’m simply reading what someone else prepared. Instead, I look for opportunities where I can inspire an audience – an area that I’m strong in. Constantly worrying about and trying to improve the areas that we’re weak in and are irrelevant to our goals will make us the proverbial jack of all trades and master of none.
Again, the big exception is when your weakness is getting in the way of your goals. If you have a strong understanding of the business and you want to grow in your career, you won’t be able to do so if you can’t lead others. Similarly, if you’ve got a great product but you don’t know how to market it, you’re not going to be able to stay in business. If you work for yourself, you often have the added option to hire the expertise you need so that you can move forward.
So the magic formula for managing your strengths and weaknesses is as follows:
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses.
- Determine the strengths and weaknesses that can affect your path to success.
- Leverage your strengths and eliminate the weaknesses that hold you back.
Taking the time to think about the impact that your strengths and weaknesses have on your goals will save you time, stress and frustration. Remember to focus on what can help you reach your goals and avoid the temptation to try and fix everything that’s not perfect.