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Don’t use preferences to cover weaknesses

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Don’t use preferences to cover weaknesses

Scott Miker

The other day I was talking to a friend I used to work with who just got promoted at his current company.  He was talking about the struggles he is having getting the team to adjust to his leadership style.

He described several situations and complained that his staff just couldn’t work in the way he needed them to.  At first I thought he must have a difficult staff but after several minutes I realized something.

When he worked with his new staff he expected that they follow his lead due to his authority.  He laid out his expectations and required their focused effort.  But instead of focusing on business objectives he was really just forcing them to work the way he wants to work. 

There will always be some of this.  Anytime you have a boss you will have to understand how they prefer to work and find a way to beneficially work together. 

But as a leader it can be easy to mistake your weaknesses for preferences.  If you are horrible at staying focused in meetings you could believe that this is your preferred way to work, but really it is something that is a weakness and should be addressed as such. 

Realizing we have weaknesses is important.  We all have areas of weakness.  In order to improve we have to realisticly assess our abilities.  We can’t simply expect others to work around our weaknesses. 

But it is too easy to substitute the word preferences for weaknesses.  Suddenly, as the assigned leader, we can expect others to respect our preferences.  It seems completely reasonable. 

The only way to overcome this is to have a focus on self-improvement.  Self-improvement will shift our mindset from being rigid in our ways to understanding when we have weaknesses that need to be addressed. 

But this isn’t just important in leadership.  This is important in most areas of our lives.  We might have weaknesses in our diet but we can easily say we simply prefer a bacon cheeseburger to a grilled chicken sandwich.   Or we prefer to get Starbucks coffee every morning instead of a less expensive option. 

But our preferences are powerful and can easily sabotage our efforts to improve.  I recall in college wanting to get in shape.  But I also refused to change most aspects of my life.  I expected to find a way to get in shape without changing my preferences.  Yet my preferences were what caused my unhealthy habits to begin with. 

The interesting thing is that this mindset, for me, was everywhere.  It didn’t matter what weakness there was, I somehow always focused on what I preferred not on what was best.  I couldn’t improve in most areas and was incredibly frustrated.

But once I took 100% responsibility I realized that I couldn’t go by my preferences in order to improve.  I would need to change how I acted. 

Whether in leadership or in our personal goals make sure you don’t underestimate the power of taking 100% responsibility and seeing weaknesses as weaknesses.  Just because we prefer things a certain way doesn’t mean it is the best method.  Being closed to that idea and focusing on your preferences will only mask your weaknesses and hold you back from improving.