Posted tagged ‘weakness’


June 15, 2012

Weakness can be a strength… But perhaps not at the Olympics!

If there is one thing I have learnt in my local government career it is that we are collectively really poor at identifying personal weaknesses.

By this I don’t mean that we are bad at identifying mistakes or errors. On the contrary we are excellent at this and many authorities have cultures of hanging people out to dry without giving them support or identifying why the problem occurred.

Instead, what I am talking about is our individual inability to be self-reflective and recognise that we have some weaknesses. Equally, the managers in our workplaces seem to have difficulty identifying the weaknesses of those below them and focusing on them as areas of improvement.

I don’t think that weaknesses are a bad thing. Weaknesses imply other areas that are strengths and we should be proactive in accepting that people have a bit of both. If not then we are probably accepting mediocrity across the board or expecting universal brilliance or incompetence, both of which are equally unlikely.

This inability to identify weaknesses impacts the organisation in a number of ways.

  1. In the workplace we often set staff up to fail by asking them to do things which they are not comfortable doing. We then run the risk of assuming they are poor performing rather than just someone with strengths and weaknesses (like all of us).
  2. People become defensive when mistakes are made or performance is low instead of asking for help as soon as they realise things are going off track.
  3. We fail to improve our staff due to our focus on what they do well. Thus, a member of staff could be in an organisation for ten years and never take action on an area, or be told, that they really need to improve in certain areas.
  4. Teams are rarely ever planned with complementary skills. Indeed, as we fail to recognise weaknesses appropriately we end up with teams with shared weaknesses.
  5. On a slightly different but related note, projects are often reported as being green because people are reluctant to admit that there are weaknesses in their project and would rather pitch it as green than admit failings and ask for help.

The problem doesn’t just exist in individual staff members or an organisational culture that doesn’t encourage this sort of critical self-awareness; it also rests with managers.


Nobody’s Perfect

July 28, 2011

Who will make sure you are going the right way?At a recent job interview I found myself faced with the dreaded question: what are your areas for development?  Essentially the inquisition interview panel were asking me “what things are you really bad at that will make us think twice about employing you?”

Of course in such a situation the worst thing to do would be to tell the truth.  “I have a terrible memory”, “I sometimes say offensive things in the hope of starting conversations”, “I actually don’t understand most of the financial regulations so just bumble my way through them” – all of these may be true but are not going to help get the job.

I refused also to say the standard, tired response of “I’m a bit of a perfectionist”; that’s BS of the very lowest degree in most cases and simply screams out ‘I’M NOT CREATIVE ENOUGH TO COME UP WITH AN ORIGINAL RESPONSE’.  In the end I went for my willingness to JFDI – Just-Flowering-Do-It (you can replace Flowering with other more suitable words should you feel the need to).  This sometimes means I’m halfway through an exciting project before I remember that my line manager might just be interested in finding out what I’m up to.

Why do I bring this up now?  Well, at a recent Senior Management Team meeting one of our Service Heads stood up to talk about the review she had conducted on her service.  She went into detail about some of the things that had gone well, but then also detailed some of the things which, to put it bluntly, had gone really badly. (more…)