Playing to Strengths, Part 3: Define Your Weaknesses

09 Mar
Hands touching

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re continuing our Saturday leadership series on playing to strengths and using teamwork to cover our weaknesses.  If you’d like to catch up, you can read Part 1 and Part 2 before continuing.

One of the greatest hesitations in really going for your strengths is relying on someone else to cover your weaknesses.  So, it behooves us to spend a couple of posts to make sure we do this right.

What’s the next step?

Define Your Weakness

Here’s the first question I ask when considering a weakness: “Is this weakness personal?   Or pertinent?”

A personal weakness is something I’ve identified in myself that I cannot do.  We have mentioned before some of the emotional baggage we carry at not being able to do certain things.  If I can’t fix my car because I’m not mechanical, perhaps I feel less manly.  If I can’t speak more than one language, perhaps I feel less intelligent, especially if I’m around others who do speak more than one language.

But when it comes to building high performance teams, we have to ask this important question: Does this weakness matter to what we’re trying to accomplish as a team?

Watch the difference in the first example (fixing cars): is my team reliant on transportation in areas where there are no mechanics?  If the answer is yes, that weakness of mine matters.  I’ll need someone who can fix cars on the fly or I’ll have to learn it myself.  (I would recommend finding someone in my case!).

But if that answer is no, then it doesn’t make sense for me to devote time to becoming a good mechanic when there are other real strengths to develop.

And what about language?  I live in South Texas.  I frequently acknowledge that it would be helpful for me to learn Spanish.  But again, is this personal… or pertinent?

If my business or team regularly interacts with Spanish speakers, or we’re trying to establish ties with a Spanish speaking population, my lack of language becomes pertinent.  I need to find a way to communicate.

But watch this: what if I team up with someone who is a fluent Spanish speaker… who also understands cultural nuances and can recommend the best ways to interact and influence?  In a ministry setting, perhaps I can team up with a Spanish-speaking pastor and use one of my strengths (teaching), to prepare that minister to excel!

Does that mean I’m wrong to learn Spanish… or how to fix my car?  Not necessarily.  If you have a real interest in developing a weakness of yours, perhaps you can make it a hobby and develop those skills to give you a break from the norm.

But what I am suggesting is that perhaps you shouldn’t use prime time and major efforts on things that aren’t pertinent to your goals as a team.  We can use this filter to determine our efforts:

Defining weakness with pertinent vs personal.

Defining weakness with pertinent vs personal.

Clarify Your Weakness

If you’ve made it this far and have decided your weakness pertains to the team’s mission, there’s one more step that’s well worth your time: clarify your weakness and make it as specific as possible!

Example: Let’s say I’m bad at math, but recognize that math will be important to my team.  Watch what happens as we clarify that weakness:

POOR: “I’m bad at math”  (Too general… how will you know what skill set you’re looking for?)

BETTER: “I’m bad at creating and managing budgets”

BETTER YET: “I need someone who can create and administer an annual budget to run 12 service projects for our non-profit organization.”

Clarifying your weakness not only shrinks the number of people you have to sort through, it also boosts your team’s chances to succeed in the team’s mission.

The Ultimate Goal

Let’s face it: exposing and talking about your weaknesses is rarely comfortable for anyone.  But at the end of the day, those called to make a difference in the world have to ask which question is ultimately more important:

  • Do I want to look good?
  • Do I want my team to succeed?

Winners are those who acknowledge weaknesses.  Losers… well… they sure look good.

What other ways do you compensate for weaknesses?  What would you add to the techniques above to help decide what pertains and what doesn’t pertain to your team’s mission?

1 Comment

Posted by on March 9, 2013 in Leadership


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