“Can you list your 10 greatest strengths as well as 10 things you need to work on?” When I ask participants to answer this question in 15 minutes during my training sessions, quite a few of them feel unsettled. Knowing your strengths and your weaknesses, or things you need to improve upon, is one of the key abilities that pertain to emotional intelligence (link to article on emotional intelligence). What’s more, Socrates, one of the greatest Greek philosophers, made this concept famous more than 2,000 years ago when he said: “Know yourself”.
Why is it important to know your strengths and your weaknesses? Take Marc, for example. He decided to triple his dairy production and thought that with the right equipment and a good account manager, everything would fall into place. He was dumbfounded when he realized that it was much easier to add cows to his operation on paper than in real life. Going from a business he ran with his wife to a business with three employees did not require the same competencies, abilities or interests. Reality was far from what he had pictured.
“Had I known that human resources management was so difficult and that my job would change so drastically, I’m not sure I would have made the same decision”, says Marc. “Human relations and management day in day out are not my strengths.” Of course, Marc could work on these skills, but it is an increasingly accepted fact that in order to perform well, a person is best to work in an environment that relies on his strengths, not his weaknesses. We must adapt our work, our roles and our responsibilities to who we are; not the opposite.
For a long time, experts thought that with training, time, energy and motivation, anyone could excel at anything. Companies invested thousands of dollars to help employees and managers overcome their weaknesses. At best, by working very hard on your weaknesses, you could become average in an area, but never outstanding. However, by focusing on your strengths and your natural talents, you will excel. As a bonus, you will feel fulfilled and enjoy your work even more so.
Of course, we must be fully aware of our weaknesses, identify them, recognise them and understand how they can affect our business. We must surround ourselves with people whose strengths compensate for our weaknesses. This does not mean that we cannot improve ourselves. However, the success of our business should not rest on our weaknesses but on our natural talents.
Before undertaking a big project and making major changes that will affect your role, ask yourself if this change allows you to use your strengths and shifts the focus away from your weaknesses.
Take the test:
In 15 minutes, make a list of 10 strengths and 10 weaknesses.
If you stop after three strengths only, you are either being too modest or you don’t know yourself. If you find many more weaknesses than strengths, your self-esteem suffers. Finally, if you only write down strengths and almost no weaknesses, you are quite sure of yourself, but it may be in your interest to ask people around you for feedback.
Besides, do you really want to know yourself? Ask five people who know you well and that you hold in high esteem to describe your main strengths and weaknesses. This would be an excellent exercise in self-knowledge… and humility.
Work Psychologist, professionnal speaker, author and business coach
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