March 20, 2006
Liz published this at 6:43 pm
Identify Your Weaknesses
Identifying your strengths is only half of the story. Next you need to be real about your weaknesses. Start by knowing everyone has them, and that knowing yours is the first step toward managing them effectively.
Often the easiest way to see your weaknesses is by looking at the flipside of your strengths. For example, if a strength is that you are detailed-oriented and accurate at checking specs, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s likely that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not strong at seeing the big picture. Developing process models probably isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t what you do best. In another scenario, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re innovative, you might take too many risks. If you value hard-won knowledge of the fundamentals, you might take far too few.
Get Curious to Shore Up Weaknesses
Now that you’ve found your weaknesses. Look at the skills that stand behind them. If you have trouble with the big picture, get curious about it. Start asking folks who like the big picture why they go there. See what values there are in having a strength in that area. Here’s an example of how just that helped me.
One of my weaknesses comes from my strength in perception. Information about people and how they think comes easily to me through normal interaction and conversation. It’s almost as if I can pick up signals from the air about who they are and what they think. Unfortunately the skill is not reciprocal, it puts the other person at a disadvantage, often making that person uncomfortable–uncomfortable being with me.
My corresponding weakness is I’m the poster child for small talk. I’ve never developed the skill or the habit. Until I realized I had the weakness, I saw absolutely no purpose for it. Then I got curious. I watched and talked to people who do small talk well. I saw how it helps establish personal relationships and boundaries between people–sort of mini agreements made by conversation. I still don’t start conversations with “How’s the weather?” or “How about them bears?” But I’ve learned not to jump right in with “on page 32 you can see where I . . . ”
No matter how good I get at it, small talk will always be an acquired still not a talent, but a skill that I work on when I can. These days it’s far less of a weakness and now it’s at least an option when I need it. Folks aren’t so uncomfortable when I start talking . . . I say a few things before I get to page 32.
Then Make Your Weaknesses Irrelevant
In like manner, no one–except my oldest brother, who’ll tell you he’s perfect already–will ever be free of weaknesses. No one can make them disappear, but anyone can control and shore them up. You can minimize their impact and make them irrelevant. They don’t need to be a burden in the marketplace, in your business or in your job. Here are some ways you might do that.
- Always volunteer for jobs that play to your strengths. Taking advantages of such opportunities gives you a chance to showcase your strengths in new ways–to be known for what you do well. Volunteering to your strengths is a fabulous way of promoting your personal brand.
- Go into a learning mode about your weaknesses. Be honest about where you do better with support. People see that as integrity. In other words, avoid the temptation to oversell your skills. People find out soon enough what you can’t do. Overselling your skills only makes your weaknesses seem larger. That’s the quickest way to kill your personal brand.
- Value people who have strengths that correspond to your weaknesses. Look first at the ones who make you crazy. Usually the reason folks drive us crazy is because they care deeply about what we hate. That fact makes them exceptional at tasks that we don’t do well. As a big-picture person, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m wise to value detailed-oriented people, and always seek them out as partners. That makes us both stronger. It puts my big picture strength and their detail competency together and makes our weaknesses irrelevant to the task we do together.
- Add extra check steps for any task that involves your weaknesses. Know that those tasks will require more time for you than they do for folks who have those skills as a strength.
- Within any situation, you can probably think of several ways to keep your weaknesses in control, if you stop to assess what strengths and weaknesses you’ll be working with before you start the task.
Now youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve established the core of your personal brand. You know your strengths and weaknesses. When you’re asked about them in a first meeting–with a client or at an interview–you can articulate how you play to your strengths and manage your weaknesses.
You can articulate the unique value of your strengths and how they meet real needs with actions and benefits. You have strategies for minimizing the impact of your weaknesses. You can talk about your competencies with competence, clarity, and confidence. That’s a dynamic personal brand.
YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re well ahead of the game already. All it took was a look in the mirror and using what you found there.
–ME “Liz” Strauss