Admit it. You’re Weak.

How to start your year focusing on your strengths and why you’ll be a better manager and leader for it

It’s early, dark, cold and your New Year resolve to get up early and achieve good health, revived friendship and to eat a wholesome breakfast are already slipping away. The 31st January looks unlikely to be dry, as you know the only thing getting you through the next day is the thoughts of [insert alcohol of choice] this weekend.

On top of all the above, you now feel some degree of the following; guilty, annoyed maybe frustrated. Now you feel that you couldn’t possibly achieve the things you had planned for 2018 if you can’t even start your day right. (For those of you who are yet to return to work and are still holding up well with your resolutions, maybe return to this post on the 12th January)

You’re not alone. We’re all weak (at something) and we all have weaknesses. It’s true. It’s not something we generally learn throughout our lives, where we aspire to be great at everything and are expected to outwardly express our excellence at everything. Except, no one is great at everything and it’s exhausting to try to be so. Strengths and weaknesses are also relative to your context and environment. Your strength in one environment may be a complete weakness in another. Over the past 17 years working with people and their development, I believe focusing on and building your strengths is one of the most freeing concepts and helps them become the best version of themselves they can be.

If you’ve made it this far, I’m hoping you’ll continue to read my three top tips on reclaiming 2018 and make it a year to focus on your strengths whilst embracing and admitting your weaknesses. By focusing on your strengths you will invariably become a better manager and leader as you empower those around you to harness their own strengths, recognising what every team member brings and freeing yourself of having to be the best at everything. Understanding others strengths leads to effectively delegating things others are much better able to do, leaving you to be great at what you do. I hope you find at least one of the suggestions below useful.

Self Reflection
One of the easiest yet underused tools in a person’s toolkit. It’s free, other than your valuable time. I say this as someone who finds it very difficult to see the immediate value in taking time to reflect and not to automatically jump forward to a million solutions when I do take the time. It’s something most people need to build up into a habit before it feels natural, but when they do, they almost always say it’s one of the most transforming habits they have built. I could talk about the need for reflection as a core part of learning and performance, but I won’t, as many a writer has written far more thorough works than I. You can read more here.

Top Tip: If you are new to self-reflection then start once a week setting some time aside. Even if it is 15–30 minutes. Go ahead and block that time in your calendar now. During those few minutes where you ask yourself a few questions and make a note of your honest answers. 
1. What did I do well this week and why? 
2. What do I know now that I didn’t know a week ago? 
3. What did I do that could have been better and what will I do next time? 
4. What have I enjoyed this week and why? 
5. What haven’t I enjoyed and why? 
Bonus leadership and management questions
6. Who could I support or share knowledge with next week and what will I share? 
7. What am I struggling with and who could I reach out to next week who might have some expertise they are willing to share with me?

Why not graduate to reflecting with your team on a regular basis with similar questions. You’ll be amazed at the great success stories and personal achievements you’ll hear about.

Just doing this one thing, once a week for 52 weeks of the year will mean you’ll end 2018 with 52 entries providing you with insight into things you have achieved, things you have enjoyed, things you could do better and a better way of sharing your strengths whilst recognising others have expertise and you could be reaching out to them.

Communication
How do you know what you’re good at? Your own reflections are a wonderful insight, however, according to Johari’s window we all have blind spots that we are completely unaware of. If you want to find out more about this concept take a read here, the aim of the game is to continue to reduce your blind spot. There are lots of tools, techniques and expensive, time-consuming tools you can deploy to elicit feedback from others. They are all valid and when used in the right way powerful and transformative. However, an action you could take right now is to actively ask for feedback. Again, like the self-reflection, a difficult habit to build, but once it becomes second nature it will feel natural. Most us don’t work in such large teams that we don’t get at least some time with our colleagues or people we work with on a weekly basis. If you do, then use this with your closest colleagues or your nearest and dearest in your personal life. When you get open and honest feedback you will find out positive things about yourself that others see as strengths, that you were just not that aware of. Most people don’t recognise their strengths as they mistakenly believe everyone must be good at the same things they are good at. We are often our hardest critics and others are often able to provide a more rounded view of ourselves than we are able to.

Top Tip: Take time to recognise others actions and behaviours. Tell someone when they have done something exceptionally well or where you think they could have acted or behaved in a different way. Make it part of the natural conversation with that person, so it doesn’t feel threatening or unjustified. Feedback works best when done close to the action or behaviour so it makes sense. 
You could start by asking people to give you feedback on a specific action or behaviour. You could approach it as something you are trying to build upon such as;
- ‘I’m trying to actively listen more as I know this is how I get good ideas, by listening to people, but I need to stop interrupting them when they speak as I break their flow of ideas. Could you let me know when I am doing it so I can change this behaviour’
This is easier for both parties as it focuses the feedback and is a great way to build openness and regular communication, where you will begin to get broader feedback and insights. Go ahead, pick one skill, behaviour or other strength you want to build upon and let someone know you want their feedback on it. Take them for coffee and combine the feedback with some team bonding time.

Find Solutions When your Weaknesses Get in the Way of Your Strengths
Focusing on your strengths and admitting your weaknesses isn’t an excuse to throw your hands in the air and say ‘Well everyone, I’ve admitted to you It’s a weakness so I no longer have to worry about that anymore’ or to delegate all the parts of your job you don’t enjoy. I still maintain my plea for you to focus on your strengths, but unfortunately, we all have to do things that aren’t our strengths and that we aren’t very good at. In an ideal world we would all find roles and organisations that fit our strengths and we wouldn’t have to worry about weaknesses as they would rarely be a problem, but I am guessing you don’t have that luxury. 
Understanding and reflecting on your strengths and your weaknesses allow you to identify where they are of use to you and where they may be hindering you. There’s no point being a great idea generator unless you have enough structure to bring the ideas to fruition. It’s great being able to analyse the data but if you can’t tell the story with that data then it probably won’t matter anyway. 
We live in a beautiful age where you can find a hack, an app or some other clever piece of tech that can help you find a solution around the weaknesses that may be really hindering you and your team in achieving great things. 
I’m not very structured and do not take joy in routine or organising. I am curious and easily distracted. I know, however, that others require structure and organisation to do their best work and I need plans to make things happen. Using top tips from others who have been able to organise things like information flow to reduce the distraction and keep me on track are my own solutions when my weakness and strengths can hinder me.

Top Tip: You won’t be alone in the things that may be hindering you. You may not know what they are. Take a look at your job description and think about the parts of your job you would take out if you could. Can you find a simple solution to make those things easier? How about finding someone who is great at what you aren’t and find out if it’s an innate skill or whether they found their own great solution. If it’s their own strength, ask them for their top tips, if they have learned how to become better at it, ask them how they did it. If you can’t find someone, find a book.

I hope that at least one my these suggestions have been useful or has at least reminded you to be more focused on the importance of focusing and building upon your strengths or the power of reflection and communication.

A helpful nudge to get you started

If you need something to help you reflect on yourself and your strengths you may find a framework or personality preference profiling tools useful. If nothing else, they give you a starting point to either agree or disagree with. I’ve found the following frameworks useful as have those who I have worked with.

- Free in-depth online personality preference profile: https://www.16personalities.com/
- Gallup Strengths Finder: http://strengths.gallup.com/110440/about-strengthsfinder-20.aspx
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Additional links if this has piqued your interest in building your strengths and achieving your goals

Strengths based approach to leadership development: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/strengths-based-leadership.htm

Setting Goals and Building Positive Habits: Think Small: The Surprisingly Simple Ways to Reach Big Goals http://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk/uncategorized/think-small-to-reach-big-a-new-book-by-owain-service-rory-gallagher/

Alternative view if you are looking for negative consequences of focusing on your strengths: https://hbr.org/ideacast/2016/01/stop-focusing-on-your-strengths.html