4 Questions to Converting Your Workplace Weaknesses Into Strengths
“Come on in, Mike. Please have a seat,” suggested my supervisor who started to sit across from me in his black leather chair behind his unique desk as we were preparing to discuss my first job evaluation. As we continued to discuss my performance, he politely (and strategically) asked me what areas of my performance could we identify as “opportunities for improvement”? In other words, aesthetically posed, what am I doing bad/what are my weaknesses? Having not heard of the term “opportunity for improvement” before, but conscious of what the intention behind it, I politely laughed at it. And then star
ted presenting my honest, yet strategic “opportunities for improvement” points.
Have you ever thought about why do we possess weaknesses in our professional lives? Although it is part of our human nature, if a weakness has been identified, finding ways to strengthening it to a point where it actually becomes a strength itself is a positive outcome. Weaknesses always come from comparison. For example, how can multitasking be a weakness? Well, when we measure productivity, staying on one task at a time till its point of completion boosts task productivity. Thus, if you are pursuing productivity over getting multiple things done, multitasking is identified as a clear weakness. After all, when you jump from task to task you often need some extra time to rethink where you left off and what again needs to be accomplished.
It’s important to distinguish and separate weakness from people’s preference on who you should portray yourself to be and how you should be. A weakness is the condition or quality of being weak on a given context. Thus, it is important for you to personally explore, define, and establish your weakness and turn it into a strength. After all, a weakness hinders you from getting better results.
As recently covered, in order to turn your weakness into a strength, you must personally explore, define, and establish your weakness. Four questions that facilitate this process are:
Are there any areas at my role that can be perceived as weaknesses?
Why are these areas deemed as weaknesses?
Can I agree that these deemed weaknesses are truly weaknesses?
How, specifically, can I turn my weaknesses into strengths?
The main reason we would want to identify and turn weaknesses into strengths is that they are holding us back from being much more productive. Productivity pays big dividends (job retention, promotion, recognition, praises, etc.). Thus, it is important that we continue to strive to eliminate our weaknesses and establish new strengths.
For the purpose of this article, I’ve identified, explored, and established four weaknesses people have agreed they possessed at workplaces. These typical weaknesses are that professionals can be unorganized, inefficient, and/or not collaborative.
It takes a humble attitude and a “Bigger Picture” approach to admit to possessing a weakness. However, the willingness to continue to grow professionally by addressing your shadow side is seen as an authentic approach to being a more productive professional.
Examples of a typical weakness identified as “unorganized” that is hindering you from better results are: a cluttered desk, no to-do lists, procrastination, no tracking systems, and impulsive decisions. Eliminating this weakness from our day-to-day operation can boost our level of productivity.
After establishing this perceived weakness as truly a weakness of ours, we now need to answer question number four: How, specifically, can I turn this weakness into a strength? Using one of the examples from above (To-Do Lists), we can set an approach to turning it into a habitual strength. Fifteen to twenty minutes prior to leaving work, spend that time to creating a To-Do List that you can check off in the following day. Additionally, consider what you can check off by the end of the week (tasks that will take longer to accomplish). Once you come into work, revisiting and starting to tackle your To-Do List should be your top priority. As you see more To-Do points, add them to your list (eliminating some extra minutes when brainstorming for more To-Do points at the end of your working day). You’ll feel amazed at your level of productivity as you look back and see what you have accomplished that day and week.
Once we are getting the gist of how things work regarding our roles, tasks seem to be performed almost to an automatic approach. It is only when we are running out of time or want to accomplish more in the given time we have that we start pondering on how to accomplish things faster.
Examples of a weakness deemed as “inefficient” that is hindering you from better results are: working for too long on given tasks, replying to emails as they come, reacting to troubleshooting, lack of systems to repetitive tasks, no true understanding of subordinate daily operations, and lack of clear communication.
Again, back to question number four: How, specifically, can I turn my weakness into a strength? Tackling a simple, yet highly inefficient weakness such as replying to emails as they come can skyrocket your productivity. It is so easy to respond to a quick email. (It’s probably a subconscious reason why we do it so often because it gives a sense of checking off another individual item from our busy day; indicating that by helping others to get your response is a sign of staying productive.) Yet, replying to emails as they come can be one of the most unproductive multitasking approach you can do at your job. Unless your sole job is to troubleshoot problems, paying too much attention to your emails significantly slows your progress. To turn this weakness into a strength, set specific times to get in your emails and start replying. Stick to those times and eventually it will become a habit of yours. Now you can avoid distraction and have a much more focused attention on getting things done.
As we’ve heard, “Two strings are stronger than one” and “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” Yet, we still like to get things done alone; and this can be for several reasons: “I get things done faster by working alone”, “I’ll share my work for feedback when I’m done”, and ”It is going to take allot longer because of the bureaucracy of collaboration.” Although taking responsibility for our tasks, being open to effective collaboration can enhance your results.
Examples of a typical weakness identified as “Not Collaborative” that is hindering you from better results are: individualistic approaches, personal recognition, managerial one-person decisions, skills and knowledge deprivation, and lack of strengthened relationships.
Then, how, specifically, can I turn my “Not Collaborative” weakness into a strength? Well, given the many constructive and positive implications of a collaborative professional and workplace, acquiring a collaborative approach as a strength is the ideal conversion. As described is the linked article, when you collaborate you will have access to a plethora of benefits. By collaborating at your workplace, you will have access to skills and strengths, further develop your own skills, solve problems and innovate faster, work more efficiently, and be more satisfied at work.
Turning your weaknesses into strengths is a must when you are considering new approaches to optimize and maximize your productivity level. In the process, however, you need to be open to the possibility of uncovering workplace weaknesses. Exploring your weaknesses and understanding why they are weaknesses, because they do hinder you from performing at a faster and more productive level, will allow you to truly seek a change. As seen, strategically and intentionally turning your weaknesses into strengths pay profitable dividends.
What other thoughts would you add to this post? I am interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments below.
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About the Author
Mike Sprowl is becoming the most sought after Readiness & Flourishing Coach and Consultant in the coaching community. He is famous for helping clients find a direction, implement personalized pathways, and facilitate flourishing and growth so that their lives are meaningful and purposeful without being negative.