You’ll get much further in your career by polishing strengths than by compensating for weaknesses. But there is an exception – weaknesses that are central to your work and which are holding you back. Maybe you’re a gifted verbal negotiator, but struggle to convey your thoughts on paper in your final reports. Or you are great at logical analysis, but not so good at presenting your results in a meeting.
I have personal experience here. As anyone who knows me well will tell you, numbers are not my thing. When I was about fifteen, my school maths teacher told me that if I wanted to get a place at university (which I did), then I should drop maths immediately (which I did). This proved to be an excellent strategy, as lawyers don’t need maths skills beyond the ability to calculate their fees in six-minute increments – and they have staff to do that kind of task, naturally.
All was good, until I started my own business. As a lean start-up, I couldn’t afford a bookkeeper in the beginning, so I had to master basic accounting skills. I had to learn to use spreadsheets, and enter expenses correctly. I had to read a balance sheet and invoice my clients the correct amounts, work with GST calculations and understand a BAS statement. A nightmare. However, there was no way I could run a successful business without doing these things, so I slowly developed a minimal competence at them. I persevered long enough to ensure this weakness of mine was not hampering my business growth, and then, as soon as I had any spare cash, I hired a bookkeeper.

In this I was aided by a really very nice letter from the Australian Taxation Office, saying that while they didn’t believe I was being deceptive, there had been at least one error in each of my last three BAS statements, and so perhaps it would be a good idea if I got some help. (Seriously.) As my very patient accountant explained, they could tell I was reversing digits in my additions – such as putting ‘51’ when I meant ‘15’. He said they could tell because of some formula to do with 1s and 9s (who knew…). It was all mystifying to me, but things went much more smoothly once my bookkeeper started doing the grunt work.

So, if a weakness is all that stands between you and your next big promotion or business growth, try these strategies:

*Do a short course, read a book or get some hands-on help to lift your skill

*Find a strength through which you can create a work-around that will adequately bridge the gap. Following the above example, perhaps our gifted verbal negotiator could dictate their reports to a recorder app, and then type them up?

*Enter into an alliance with someone in your team, who has the strength you lack, and who would benefit from your way of looking at the world. Perhaps our logical analyst could team up with an extroverted presenter?

Remember, it’s only necessary to work with those weaknesses that are holding you back – and only to the extent needed to allow your strengths to shine!

Do you have any relevant weaknesses that you need to look at?

Joanna Maxwell


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