Anyone who has attended our workshops or worked with us as a client knows one of our foremost goals is to guide leaders toward self-awareness. It is only when leaders recognize and embrace both their strengths and weaknesses that they become conscious of them. With our strategic coaching, this is accomplished through coaching, DISC, Values and Attributes indexes. By seeking to understand, leaders become self-aware, opening the door to being understood by others.
What do we do with such understanding, once we have it? When we don’t understand our own strengths—as well as our weaknesses—we relinquish control over them, giving them the power to control us. Strengths are easy. We all like to discover and acknowledge our strengths.
Weaknesses are a different story. In the discovery process with clients, we are constantly reassuring executives that everyone has weaknesses as well as strengths. We strive to leverage our strengths toward success. This is fairly easy. However, how we handle our weaknesses once we know what they are and understand them is a bit more complex.
Over years of administering a behavioral profiles we use in assisting leaders by pinpointing their strengths and weaknesses, we have found certain strengths and weaknesses can go hand in hand. For example, those scoring very high in decisiveness (one characteristic we measure) tend to be able to do things very quickly. However, they can become frustrated with others who may arrive at decisions more slowly. Just being aware of this weakness in themselves gives such leaders understanding of from where the frustration stems. By asking such leaders to acknowledge both the strengths and weaknesses of their very decisive nature, we are not seeking to change the latter, but merely to understand how others may perceive them.
How does this knowledge contribute to growing a business rapidly while maintaining freedom to enjoy life? First of all, once we understand our weaknesses, we can try to temper any negative impacts that may arise from such. For example, many successful executives tend, surprisingly, to have decreased self-confidence. In part, this often arises from perfectionism many leaders possess. By knowing this, a leader exhibiting this real or perceived lack of self-confidence might advise employees, “I don’t want you to think I am wishy-washy, but I just need more information before I decide.” Alternately, the executive may decide just to accept feelings of lower confidence and realize where this stems from, reflecting on the strengths instead that led to his or her initial success.
Another important outcome of understanding our weaknesses is being able to stick with what works. Someone who grows a successful business by being well organized, but may have a tendency to be overconfident, can use such self-awareness to stay on track and keep doing what made him or her successful. Such a leader would not need to attempt to change their confidence level, but may want to temper it in her dealings with others and capitalize on the things that led to her original success—being organized.
Along the lines of embracing our weaknesses, it is crucial that leaders do not use their employees’ weaknesses as weapons against them. In the discovery process, executives will invariably discover not only their own weaknesses, but those of their employees. However, just knowing what those are is probably enough. It certainly is not fair to cite a known weakness as an excuse for some other unrelated action. For example, suppose a CEO feels one of his vice presidents is no longer necessary to the success of the organization. He can’t justify paying the high salaries of five vice presidents when four would do just as well, so he decides to eliminate one position. Rather than being honest about his reason for eliminating the position, he ill-advisedly tells the vice president that customers find her intimidating. Such behavior is unjust and should be avoided.
Overall, in our workshops and in working directly with clients, we constantly guide toward self-awareness. It is paramount that everyone on a leadership team understands not just the strengths that make them successful, but weaknesses as well. Moreover, while weaknesses can’t usually be changed, just being conscious of them allows for better understanding by oneself and other team members—why we do the things we do and how they contribute to the business we do.
Read about the author David Chavez.