System1Search Blog

Ignorance of Key Strengths and Weaknesses

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018 | Uncategorized

This is the first of 20 blogs about the most common mistakes I have observed in career management. These comments and ideas are my observations from working with tens of thousands of people over the past twenty-eight plus years as a recruiter.

The 1st mistake is ignorance of key strengths and weaknesses. I observe most highly successful people have a strong understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, other people do not, and the result is slower and less significant career growth.

Beginning with weaknesses, people generally experience them in situations that create the most disappointments, anxiety, anger, confusion, or regret. Many people find it hard to confront weaknesses because they do not enjoy thinking about their deficiencies. It can bring on feelings of worthlessness, self-criticism, and self-doubt. Psychologically, they throw up “bodyguards” to protect themselves from these feelings or avoid them. These bodyguards can take the form of feeling overly exhausted, agitated, confused, or they may self-isolate or withdraw. They might even believe that others readily see all their weaknesses and find this embarrassing.

This resistance to confronting weaknesses can be overcome by approaching them in a detached relaxed manner. The goal is to understand what needs improvement but avoid crushing ourselves. The intent is to improve and grow professionally and personally, not put ourselves down.

A practical approach to reviewing weaknesses is the same approach taken by an experienced mentor. First, they would request approval from the recipient to share advice on weaknesses that can be humiliating. Second, they would gently offer feedback so the recipient would gather wisdom, understanding, and clarity. Third, they would provide feedback with heartfelt sincerity that indicates only wanting the best. Finally, they would add encouragement to let them know that even if some of their weaknesses are formidable, this does not mean they cannot improve. Even if the improvement is initially 5-10%, it is still progress in the right direction.

Improving weaknesses requires a regular plan of action. The motivation is the results will be worth the effort. Progress can also be measured in small steps versus expecting to eradicate the problem in one motion. Progress can be reviewed each month or two to note improvements, make needed changes, and offer self-praise for our efforts.

One final point, weaknesses are generally not used to build significant strengths. The goal is to reduce their negative impact, but typically, a weakness does not suddenly flip into one of our most valuable strengths.

The second exercise is to identify and work on strengths. Strengths include examples of when we overachieve in various tasks. Understanding strengths might sound more comfortable than working on weaknesses because there is no psychological resistance to thinking about our best attributes. However, the major issue with defining our strengths is that people can either define them in vague terms or fail to improve them.

For example, someone might think that a major strength is their ability to build strong relationships. This category is too general. For example, does this mean they are friendly in a similar way that a dog is friendly to many people? Does it mean they never argue, they are always helpful, or they listen well? Could it mean they are a reliable problem solver for others or regularly offer to take on their colleagues’ workload? Perhaps it might mean they have an exciting bubbly personality that is charming, or maybe they are a wealth of knowledge that people can tap, as needed?

Understanding strengths is required because it is only by carefully defining them that they can be further strengthened. This is critical because strengths are the cornerstone of career success. They must be intimately known and worked on regularly to enhance them.

The second problem is recognizing that even with strengths, there is always more to learn. An individual must further develop their strongest skills over time to become even more exceptional in the future. This is the key to growth and a never-ending process for the most successful people.

One final point is strengths taken to excess can become a weakness, and a reformed weakness can become a useful asset. The following are some examples.

  • People frequently see courage and confidence as strengths, but they can tip towards being arrogant and short-sighted—both highly undesirable qualities if taken to excess.
  • Some people see shyness as a weakness, but it can also lead to the necessary introspection that allows creative ideas to develop.
  • Emotionally needy people can be seen as high maintenance and difficult to manage., However, if moderated, they can represent people who are easy to befriend, work with, and willing to help.
  • Overly ambitious people are likely to be resourceful and hardworking, but if taken to excess, they can become too self-centered and insensitive to others’ needs.
  • Some people are highly sensitive to stressful situations and can become easily discouraged. However, if moderated, their sensitive nature can recognize subtlety and people’s needs—both useful and desirable qualities.
  • People who are steady and reliable might seem slowly paced, but they can be stable workers and persevere through many difficulties in the workday.
  • Certain people are insecure and sensitive to criticism. They are likely to prefer closer supervision until they learn a protocol, plus a bit of attention and confirmation that their work meets or exceeds expectations. However, their great need to do the “right thing” and be accepted can lead to a person of high standards, productivity, and integrity.
  • People can view self-doubt as a weakness, but if moderated, it keeps people on their toes and in a learning mode.

So how about others reading this? Do you have a good understanding of your key strengths and weaknesses? Do you realize that it is easy to resist working on weaknesses because they can lead to feelings of despair, hopelessness, or humiliation? Have you carefully defined your strengths, and do you regularly work on them to enhance their power and make you a more valuable asset?