Let’s talk about your weaknesses, shall we?
Yes, I’m looking at you. Take a seat. Get comfortable. I know it hurts to hear, but you’re not perfect. Don’t worry. No one expects you to be.
We all have weaknesses because (surprise!) we’re human. Knowing them—and effectively addressing them—can be a powerful tool in the professional world. Pretending like they don’t exist, on the other hand, can have tragic consequences.
So today, I’m encouraging you to take a good, hard look at your weaknesses. Yes, that’s plural. More than one. Make a list my friends. Need help? Ask your co-workers for some brutal (but productive) honesty. They’ll have some thoughts, I’m sure.
Be honest with yourself, but not overly harsh. What gets you into trouble? What is a constant struggle for you? What holds you back? Go on. No one else is looking. The truth shall set you free.
Knowing Is Growing
The point of this exercise isn’t to make you feel bad about yourself. It’s actually quite empowering to take ownership of your imperfections. In the workplace, it’s also respected. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you’re just giving up. Recognizing your weakness is not the same as accepting this thing will always be your weakness. In fact, you can only improve once you know what needs to be improved. If you’re too afraid to look it in the eye, you’ll never be able to change it.
This is one of the big reasons prospective employers often ask you to identify your own weaknesses. Most interviewees freak out and try to find something that sounds like a weakness but really can be turned into a strength. That’s the oldest trick in the book and most employers see right through it. A far more compelling answer is an honest one that indicates a real weakness and the real steps you’re taking to grow and get better.
Seek Complementary Skills
Another benefit of understanding your weaknesses is that you can look for people who have what you don’t and get them on your team. Since no one is perfect, we all have gaps that need to be filled by others. A strong team has a diverse group of people whose skills are complementary. Where one person is weak, another soars. It’s funny how few professionals really understand this.
Ask any successful leader who surrounds himself with a great team, and he’ll probably be able to quickly pinpoint his own weaknesses and the specific people on the team who have what he doesn’t. By honestly assessing your weaknesses, you can more easily identify the team where you’ll fit best—the one that fills your gaps and the one where you fill the gaps of others.
When you can clearly state your weaknesses, without justifying them or making excuses, others know you’re real. They know you aren’t trying to fake anything. The worst answer to the question, “What’s your biggest weakness?” is “I can’t think of one.” That just shows that you’re either (a) in denial (b) too scared to admit reality (c) completely unaware of the fact that you’re human or (d) you really think you’re perfect…which is both sad and kind of terrifying.
So who do you want to be? Step up and let your weaknesses make you stronger.
Photo Credit: Windsordi (Flickr)