“Build on your strengths, work on your weaknesses.” – Minh Tan
The information presented below may be unpopular because it contradicts popular opinion, but bear with me. For years, researchers have studied whether or not it’s beneficial for people to strengthen their weaknesses. Being a fan of Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, I completely understand the argument against working on weaknesses. Technically, our strengths will improve, while our weaknesses may never be as good as our strengths. Also, I am sure that most people would love to be told that they no longer have to focus on something they dislike and are not good at anyway. As a matter of fact, I am one of those people. But, here’s the thing: unless we can be guaranteed that our weaknesses will never haunt us in the future, we might want to focus on them, just a bit. One’s weaknesses are often those areas that are disliked, abilities that make one feel uncomfortable or a skill/event from previous experiences that is tied to a negative memory or result, maybe from childhood. They are areas that don’t emerge naturally; over time, they have the ability to turn into more of a detriment as one’s strengths enhances.
For me, it’s math. Math was a weakness when I was a child, and it still is, to a certain extent. Numbers and formulas are literally another language that I have never been able to fully grasp. I have done everything in my life to avoid working with math, yet the majority of my day-to-day life (career, home, future planning, etc.) deals with numbers, measurements, budgets, and data sheets. I literally cannot escape the bane of my existence!
As I’ve met other professionals, I hear the same thing. It might not be every day, but at some point, one’s weakness shows up as something that needs to be performed. It cannot be escaped. That is why, while I understand the research that suggests that we only focus on our strengths, I can’t fully endorse that concept. I don’t believe that a weakness will somehow work itself out if energy isn’t given to it. For some people, a weakness is not something to be ignored, so it should be worked on while improving the strengths.
- Recognize it and accept it for what it is. People weren’t meant to do everything by themselves; we need each other. Therefore, instead of a weakness being seen as a deterrent, see it as an opportunity to partner with someone else.
- Work with those who are strong in areas where you are weak. Doing this means that you have someone close who can teach you methods and strategies to help you succeed. In every job I’ve had, there has been a team member who was quantitatively strong while I qualitative. Even in my current job, we build each other up and give one another tips for when we have to handle a project on our own.
- Work on your weakness little by little. A weakness does not need to turn into a strength, it just needs to get better over time.
- Prepare yourself when dealing with a weakness. For example, if you are not a great public speaker, but have to speak at an event, plan early and practice longer before your presentation. Have someone listen to you and coach you through your speech. The point is to become good enough, not great (that’s what strengths are for).
- Get additional training. The great thing about living in the 21st century is that we have access to so many tools and resources. Whatever your weakness is, there’s more than likely a resource to help you develop it. Seek that resource out and use it to your advantage.
Here are some ways to boost one’s weakness:
As you continue to work on those areas that don’t come naturally to you, you’ll become comfortable with them and more confident in your ability. Unlike popular opinion, a weakness does not have to cause derailment in your life. Instead, take the steps that will help you work with your unenhanced areas, as well as the areas in which you shine.
Here’s your challenge:
List your weaknesses and focus on strengthening one. Look for resources to help you improve that area and practice some tips that are offered. As you work on this area, be sure to note changes in confidence levels and results. Remember, the goal is to get good enough.