Let me tell you about Mark and Jan.
Mark leads a team of 30 people. He’s great at helping people to extend out of their comfort zone, and respectfully challenging them to do more. He moves fast, always quick to “run the experiment,” i.e., test out new ideas and then make adjustments as needed. Because of these strengths, Mark gets results.
Not everyone’s comfortable with Mark’s management style, though. They see his focus on productivity as just ticking boxes off a list, and feel that he lacks genuine interest in them. And sometimes in his attempts to move quickly, things backfire—leading to lost time and money.
Now, let me tell you about Jan. Jan also leads a large team. People love working for her because she’s empathetic; they feel she “gets” them. And because she’s good at building relationships, turnover on her team is low. Since she’s analytical by nature, Jan can get to the root causes of a problem without wasting time on “band-aid” solutions.
But because of her empathy, Jan hates conflict and tends to avoid it. At times, this causes her to push off difficult conversations, even if they’re sorely needed. Since she doesn’t like to “push” people, the important things sometimes get missed. And the same analytical nature that helps in some cases hurts in others—because it causes her team to miss opportunities.
Now, let me ask you: Who are you more like, Mark or Jan?
As you might imagine, I’ve simplified Mark and Jan’s traits to teach a lesson, and that lesson is this:
Don’t let your strength become your weakness.
The truth is, both Jan and Mark have major strengths—and when they play to those strengths, they can get the best out of their people. However, those same strengths can easily become weaknesses.
Recently, I read some marriage advice that I felt applies to everyone:
“…a [person’s] strengths and weaknesses are often different facets of the same quality. When that is the case, you cannot discard the weakness without also eliminating the strength, any more than you can dispose of just one side of a coin.”
It’s so true, isn’t it? You can’t discard the weakness without getting rid of the strength. But you can learn to leverage the strength while mitigating the weakness. (That’s why I like to say, make emotions work for you, instead of against you.)
And how do I do that? you ask… Here are three things that can help:
1. Find the right partner.
One of the best ways to keep your weaknesses in check is to find someone you trust with whom you can speak and bounce ideas off of. This could be a colleague, a spouse or family member, or even a friend.
The key is to find someone who has a different perspective from you, someone who excels where you struggle, and vice-versa—because it’s those people who can help you the most.
2. Use your rules.
Once you identify your weaknesses, you can use the “rules” you’ve learned through this newsletter to help you minimize them.
For years, I struggled with a tendency similar to Jan’s. My strength was to be empathetic and understanding to others; however, this also led me to avoid necessary conversations or to hold back from saying things that I should. To help me fight this tendency, I use methods like:
- The 3 Question Rule
- Turn critical into constructive
- The rule of awkward silence
These rules are helpful because they’re simple constructs that I can quickly go through in my mind, to help me speak up and say what needs to be said, in a way that actually helps instead of harms. (You can find all of these rules in our free course, so make sure to enroll for that if you haven’t already.)
3. Practice. Learn. Repeat.
As you build self-awareness, continue practicing rules one and two.
But remember, despite your best efforts, you will still fail (at times). Treat those failures as chances to learn. View them as case studies into your own behavior. Strive to identify what went wrong, and what events and actions contributed to it going wrong.
Then, try again.
Practice alone won’t make perfect…but it will make better.
After all, nobody’s perfect. We all have strengths and weaknesses.
But when you build self-awareness, you can then work to leverage your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
And it doesn’t get any more emotionally intelligent than that.
TRY THIS: First, make a list of your strengths and weaknesses.
Then, ask yourself:
- In what situations do my strengths help me?
- In what situations do my weaknesses hinder me?
- How can I leverage my strengths, and mitigate my weaknesses?
If possible, find a partner who you can ask to do this exercise with you. Then, arrange a time to meet and discuss what you’ve learned.
PS: Have you been enjoying this newsletter? Can you think of someone else who might benefit from the lesson? If so, please consider forwarding this email to them!