Turning your weaknesses into strengths

Oliver DearIn 2010 I had my first interview for my first role, post University and about 30 minutes in, I must say it was going rather well! I then got hit with a question that I never even considered before, “what are your biggest weaknesses..?” “Erm, I mean, erm, I work too hard”, I was stumped. Why on earth do they need to know my weaknesses, surely to get a role or “succeed”, you only need to know my strengths right?

It was such a cliché thing to be asked during an interview but it did leave me wondering; what are my weaknesses? What am I going to do about them and equally as important, why haven’t I thought about this before? Surely if we can understand what our weaknesses are and come up with techniques to turn them into strengths, there is very little that isn’t achievable?

So, where do you start? Here are a few suggestions on turning those weaknesses into strengths:

Weaknesses exist, and that’s ok!  You can’t turn a weakness into a strength if you’re in denial that they exist! Once you have accepted that they exist and it is ‘normal’, sit down and ask yourself, what specifically would I like to work on? It doesn’t have to be a fundamentally life changing behaviour, however saying to yourself that there are things you want to work on or find difficult, can be both empowering and liberating. Just because you are not good at something now, doesn’t dictate how good you could be.

Seek out support.  When you are finding something challenging and you know it is an area you are working on, seek out those who will support you through that journey! Look to colleagues, friends or family when you need support, but also look to those who will challenge you. Those who challenge our way of doing things, tend to push us to work harder and re-analyse what we are doing, in order to improve.

Make mistakes!  American basketball player, John Wooden, said “If you are not making mistakes, you are not doing anything” and I’ve always found this quote really beneficial when I’m trying something new and the outcome is not what I expected.

In a coach/athlete context, areas of development are analysed and new techniques are implemented to try and improve performance. Athletes will only know if the new technique has worked if they give it a go first and then measure any improvement. Be consciously aware when trialling a ‘new technique’, and be clear on what results would represent an improved outcome. But if it doesn’t go to plan, that’s ok – we tend to benefit the most from lessons learnt through failure.

But be sure to embrace your weaknesses as well as your strengths, and build on them, after all without understanding where we need to improve, how do we know where our strengths lie and how talented we are?

Oliver Dear is national account manager for Mitie Client Services

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