Coach: You have weaknesses as well as strengths. And my guess is that you know what you need to do to build on your strengths. But do you know how best to deal with your weaknesses?
Michael: Can I not build them up until they become strengths?
Coach: That is a well-known myth. The truth is that weaknesses do not become strengths no matter how hard you work on them. More to the point do you know what your weaknesses are? The strange thing is that we can go through life without knowing what our weaknesses are.
Michael: Really! I find that hard to believe.
Coach: It is true I’m afraid. We seem to turn a blind eye on them and get on with life. At school and at work we have to do things we are weak at as well as things we are strong at. We just do not have a choice we just have to do it. And this is bad for us because it is habit-forming.
Michael: I can see that but the fact what we can go through life without knowing what they are bad at is scary.
Why it helps to know what your weaknesses are
Coach: When you know what you are really bad at you can avoid it and work on things you are good at. These are your strengths. When you use them you will achieve more and feel more satisfied.
Michael: I find that it is not always possible to avoid acting in the areas of weakness that I know about.
Coach: Yes this is a fact of life. But once you know it is an area of weakness you can limit the damage and get help or delegate it. Whereas if you don’t know its a weakness you can turn out second-rate work without knowing it. Work that could harm others. And will damage your performance and your career.
How to find your weaknesses
Coach: We assume that we know what our weaknesses are. But this is not always true. Because we often do not realise how bad we are at some things.
Michael: You mean that I can think I am good at something that in fact I’m bad at?
Coach: Yes this is more common than you would think. As Kruger and Dunning tell us “People hold overly favourable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains.”
Michael: How can I deal with misreading my abilities like this?
Coach: Don’t trust your own self-assessment. The trick is to get other people’s views on your weakness. The ones you need to work on or avoid using.
How other people can help you find your weaknesses
Michael: What is the best way to do that?
Coach: Assume that you don’t know what your weaknesses are. Then make a list of what you think they might be. Do a long list. One of about ten potential weaknesses.
Michael: That sounds like a difficult task.
Coach: It is not an easy thing to do. But give it your best shot. Your very best shot. And then rank the items in order of importance to your success in life.
Coach: Keep this list to yourself. And get people you can trust to identify three of the weaknesses you need to work on as they see it. Tell them you want to use it to improve your performance. And encourage them to be as open with you as possible.
Michael: How many people should I get to do this for me?
Coach: You need to get at least six people to get an accurate picture. And when you have their analysis you can compare them with your own selection.
Michael: Yes I can see how this will give me a reasonably clear picture.
What to do about your weaknesses
Coach: Use this information to draw up a shortlist of your weaknesses. And then draw up a plan for dealing with each one of them.
Michael: Can you give me an example of one of these plans?
Coach: Let use say that your ability to sell your services is one of your weaknesses. And although you have learnt a lot about selling it is something you just aren’t very good at. What kind of plan do you think you would need to deal with this weakness?
Michael: I suppose I could hire a sales person to do it for me. Or get one of the people who work with me to do it. If I had no option but to do it myself then I could get an expert to coach me until I can do it at least reasonably well.
Coach: Well done. You are on the right track. I think you have covered all the angles.