If there are Strengths,
then there must be weaknesses. Otherwise, you would always be succeeding. I
feel confident in saying, none of us, is always succeeding. Even if your track
record is very good, there are ways in which you can improve.
So, what are you going to
do about your weaknesses?
First, what do you think
is a weakness?
For this article’s
purpose, let’s think of two types of weaknesses:
Not being able to run a
marathon, the week after you start jogging, is not a talent weakness. It is the
lack of developed athletic skill. Not being able to understand what is going on
in a Wagner opera, performed in the original German, is not a talent weakness. It
is a lack of language or musical knowledge. If you have the desire to run
marathons or comprehend Lohengrin, then you might want to apply effort
to develop that ability. That is, if you have the inclination to run marathons
or appreciate opera. How good you get or care about getting at either, is about
your talents and ultimately about your Strengths.
Not knowing how to do
something is a skill weakness. Skill weaknesses may be corrected by expanding
your horizons and expending energy to learn something new or improve a skill.
Conventional practice is
to expend your energy to overcome your weaknesses. Have you ever had your
annual evaluation and been told you are great at A, B, and C, but need to work
on X, Y, and Z. A year passes and the ritual repeats itself, excellence at A, B,
and C and coming up short on X, Y and Z. You might be told to stop working on B
because you are obviously amazing at it, but if you don’t get your Y and Z
together, there may be consequences. By the time this “edifying” experience
comes around again, you’re A and B are getting weaker, and your X, Y, and Z are
only marginally better. By now, you hate your job and your boss and have mixed
feelings about the guy who fills the snack machines.
Why are you good at somethings and less so at others? Sometimes it’s a skill weakness. If that is the case, then improvement is possible given the right tools, motivation, and opportunities to learn to use them. If it’s about a talent weakness, then you either need to find a path to improvement through your talents or you need to find a way around it.
The Strengths’ philosophy recommends that you concentrate on your Strengths and work around your weaknesses.
One sign that you are not
working in your Strengths, is exhaustion from trying to do a particular type of
task or doing a task in a particular way. Conversely, working in your Strengths
My father-in-law was a successful,
brilliant, and nimble small businessman. He owned a heavy equipment business
that had evolved from a trucking company. He was able to shift his business
multiple times to meet conditions changing from domestic to international
business and back depending on market conditions. He sought out new areas of business,
like learning the ins and outs of the logging equipment business to add lines
of equipment and find new opportunities. His talents lay in areas of ideas,
adaptability, and developing relationships.
He was also disorganized,
prone to jotting down everything on multiple yellow legal pads, while jumping
from one great idea to another. The man would have been a failure without a
secretary. (That is what we used to call people who handled office
administration and actually kept offices running). She transcribed and
clarified his chicken scratch handwriting and put order to his genius. He was
able to concentrate on his strengths, improving knowledge and skills when
necessary and working around his weaknesses.
Gallup defines a weakness
as anything that gets in the way of near perfect performance. You may think of
a weakness as the opposite of a strength. That is self-defeating. For example,
people with the Deliberative Strength tend to slow things down by looking for
the pitfalls and being aware of what can go wrong. They want the t’s all
crossed and the i’s all dotted. It can be a very valuable Strength to avoid
Conversely, the Activator
Strength wants to get others started and wants to do the same themselves. Activators
act as spark plugs and bugle blasts calling everyone to move forward. When the
ball needs to get rolling, Activators tend to the ones who give it a shove or
Activator seem like opposites in this example. So which one is the weakness? The
answer is neither one. Success comes from positively applying the Strengths
that you have.
A weakness is anything
that gets in the way of amazing performance. Amazing performance for a high Deliberative
is using their superpowers to find the mines in the minefield and the potholes
in their path. Amazing performance for a high Activator is successfully
rallying the troops and getting the charge going. If you do not have the
Deliberative Strength, your “near perfect performance” is not going to be
Sometimes what the Deliberative
needs is someone with a Strength like Activator, to help them get things
moving. Sometimes the Activator needs someone with Deliberative to help them
avoid taking off without proper preparation and soberness. This is how each of
them can work around their weaknesses.
When we think of star athletes,
we think of talents, strengths, and agility. On an American football team, like
almost all team sports, different players have different contributions to make
to the effort. The quarterback calls plays, throws or hands off the ball, and
occasionally runs with the ball. Offensive linemen use size and muscle to give
the quarterback time to execute. Receivers use speed and finesse to position
themselves to receive the ball. Running backs use dexterity to weave through the
lines. The defensive players also apply skills and talents specific to tasks
they need to perform.
A quarterback who fails
to tackle an opponent who recovers a fumble is not suffering from a weakness.
He is not talented in that function. In fact, doing so, might be foolhardy, reducing
his effectiveness by injuring himself trying.
The quarterback hones his
skills by practicing and studying his craft – passing, play calling, rolling
out of the pocket. The greats adjust as they go modifying to compensate for age
Occasionally a defensive
player, intercepts a pass or recovers a fumble and must shift his inclination
(talent) to do something different. These moments are celebrated but should he
fail to score on that play, it is unlikely to be considered a failure or a
weakness. He isn’t wired to make offensive plays.
Each player adjusts to
the situation around him as players block or fail to block, receivers are
forced to change routes and weather and wind influence each moment of the game.
You have a team of Strengths within yourself. Each one influencing and affecting every other one.
When an orchestra plays, there are times when one particular instrument plays and others remain silent. At other times, various instruments play together in harmony creating a greater, richer sound than is possible for any one instrument. Just because the contrabassoon or piccolo isn’t played at a particular time, it does not mean they do not matter, it means they didn’t belong at that moment in that piece of music. When you play Concerto for Piccolo and Contrabassoon: I. Allegro giusto by Damian Montano, the piccolo and contrabassoon take center stage. If, however, the glockenspiel player suddenly decides that he needs to be heard and jumps to the front of the orchestra, chaos and possibly hilarity occur, but not music or at least not tuneful music. Your Strengths’ melody comes from applying the right Strengths when applicable and letting other Strengths just mark time until their moment in the spotlight.
The Strengths’ philosophy
says that Strengths do not just exist, but that they are attributes that you
can work to develop. Strengths are similar to the muscles you develop to
succeed at a sport. You develop them not to just be large, but to be efficient,
flexible, and toned to apply them to particular situations.
Weaknesses can result from
a misapplication of Strengths. Maximizer
is a Strength which is about taking things up another notch. It is about making
good things great and great things amazing. Misapplying it can be about “gilding
the lily”. There are times when it is necessary to move on, to stop exerting
additional effort. It could be time to Maximize a different project. Sometimes deadlines
mean that it is time to stop maximizing and get the project submitted.
A golfer needs strengths
to send a ball down the fairway. But to be effective, she needs to calculate
the amount of muscle power that she is capable of exerting through a particular
club, taking the topography of the course, wind and weather and her level of
exhaustion as the game goes on. Merely whacking the ball as hard as possible is
as likely to end in failure as it is in success. Aiming your Strengths is much
The Strengths philosophy is “Lean into your Strengths and work around your weaknesses”. Understanding whether you are dealing with a talent weakness or a skill weakness, will help you determine your best course of action. Skill weaknesses are shortcomings you may be able to deal with directly. Talent weaknesses are things about which you may need to change your approach, trying a variety of your Strengths until you find the right tool set. Alternatively, you may need to find other people with the required Strengths to help overcome things you are not wired to thrive at naturally.
Thank you for continuing to read these posts. I trust that you find them valuable.
Helping people stop hating their jobs by finding meaningful, purposeful, engaging work is my goal. If you need help working around your weaknesses, please contact Crews Strengths. If you are considerng a job search, creating a resume, deciding to make a career move or figuring out how to put your Strengths to work, please reach out.