Working on weaknesses

I’ve always believed people should maximise their strengths, rather than improve their weaknesses. After all, we have so many weaknesses relatively speaking, that we could spend our lives trying to level up.

But my recent experience is different, and today I read an article which summarised it nicely.

OK let’s get the awkward bit out of the way first: I’m getting more and more women’s articles sent to me in my news feed.

I think that’s inevitable.

I admire Cheryl Sandberg.

And I come from a long line of strong women.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not tuned out of my masculine side: I love cars and sports and cooking over naked flames.

But I appreciate diversity of thought and I think that’s manifesting itself in articles aimed towards women being shown to me online.

I just haven’t noticed it until recently.

I don’t mind it though. Today I read a good article by Dr Nicole Lipkin on Forbes.

Dr Lipkin makes the argument that you should work on your weaknesses, rather than ignore them to focus solely on your strengths.

I’ve been doing exactly this as I amped up my leadership journey over the last couple of years, so naturally it resonated with me.

Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, focus on how you show up, you’re the only one you can change.

All these require knowing your strengths and not over playing them. Also understanding your weaknesses and being able to overcome them.


Dr Lipkin gives an easy-to follow framework:

  1. Do a mini 360
  2. Practice the skill
  3. Hire a coach
  4. Look to someone whose strength is your weakness
  5. Get some training to support your weakness
  6. Tell people you’re working on this

My own experience

I followed some of these steps

Mini 360

I faced up to the dark side of my personality late last year.

A coach had run a 360 assessment with my team in the summer, and whilst what came out was positive and they had some suggestions on how I could improve, I couldn’t help feeling that the crowd was biased and the chances of a positive review were always stacked in my favour.

So ahead of a leadership course in January, I went out to my biggest critics for feedback. With one group of people, my relationship had suffered so much in the preceding year, that they pooled their feedback collectively to anonymise it.

It was uncomfortable.

Seeing or hearing your own weaknesses described in someone else’s words is like hearing a recording of your voice. It’s natural, even musical in your head, and then awkward, ugly and embarrassing when you hear it as others do.

But it wasn’t all bad.

The very act of seeking that feedback broke down the barriers. I demonstrated humility by asking and it started to build a bridge between me and the people whose feedback I was seeking.

They even said some nice things!

Practice the skill

Here are 3 pieces of feedback that I chose to work on:

  1. I should finish what I start (a suggestion from home)
  2. I should listen more (canvas others’ views and not always fight so hard for my solution)
  3. I should be aware of how I use my voice (it can come across as severe)

I now have this post-it on my computer monitor, visible to me each day.

I’ve found that in the toughest moments, I need this visible to keep my old behaviours at bay.

Like those moments in movies when, in the heat of battle, the hero is gritting their teeth and holding off the enemies. I keep these notes in my sights to do just the same.

Tell people you’re working on this

To help me I’ve told people I’m working on this and they should call me out when I step back into my old behaviours.

It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it.

My relationships have improved.

People around me are getting more of what they want.

And guess what? So am I.

AND I feel better for it. Proud of who I’m becoming. Finally like the grown up I always thought I was, but never realised I wasn’t.

So what should you do?

I’ve always believed people should maximise their strengths, rather than improve their weaknesses.

But if you get input from others, stand in their reality and listen to their experience of how you’re doing damage, you have the perfect way to improve the lives of you and others.

So my advice is go for it. Dig for weaknesses, use these steps, and see how much of an impact you can make by overcoming them.

Good luck and let me know how you get on!

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