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Manage weakness leverage strength

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.  

Manage weakness leverage strength

Scott Miker

I have a policy that I employ in my own person pursuit of improvement but also when I manage others.  I have used it in many instances and it guides my philosophy of management.

The idea is that we develop an accurate assessment of our strengths and weakness.  Then we work to get the weaknesses to an acceptable level and then put all of our other energy towards leveraging our strengths. 

But most people become obsessed with their weaknesses.  They see a flaw and they let it drive them crazy, always trying to change that flaw.  But this leaves their strengths abandoned and left to sit. 

Most ultra successful people use the opposite approach.  They find a strength and then leverage that strength by continuing to put all efforts into maximizing that strength and using it to build their career. 

Think about any professional athlete.  They are highly specialized in that one area.  Yes a few try multiple sports but it is extremely rare for someone to be able to be the best in more than one sport. 

Think about politicians.  They are able to use their political clout and leadership skills.  They might not be athletic or might have some other weakness or flaw but it doesn’t matter because they leveraged their strengths to the max.

In my opinion both strategies are actually flawed.  A balanced approach tends to be better due the ability to avoid major areas of weakness that could ultimately turn into a major catastrophe. 

Let’s take a fictional example of an up-and-coming defensive lineman at a top college playing football.  His strengths might be his physical attributes, ability to understand complex defensive strategies, ability to be a great team member, etc. 

On weakness side, maybe he isn’t great at throwing a football, has a problem controlling his anger, and not being able to relate to people outside of football.

Most people would argue that if he continued to hone his strengths he could reach the professional level and this would be the best approach for him to maximize success. 

But time and time again we see a weakness that if ignored can turn into a crushing characteristic.  If he has a difficult time controlling his anger and acts out, this could result in any number of violent acts that could destroy his chance of playing in the NFL.  But his inability to throw a football probably won’t damage his career or his life at all. 

In this situation he obviously needs to continue to work on his strengths.  But he shouldn’t completely ignore his weaknesses.  Instead he should get the weaknesses to a level where they aren’t likely to sabotage his success. 

This is the balance that I have found works well.  Get any weaknesses that could be detrimental to a minimum level where they aren’t as likely to get in the way of success.  Everything else should go into leveraging strengths. 

Let’s take an example of a production employee in a factor or even a new software developer in a tech company.  If they have major weaknesses that prohibit them from getting the job done correctly, those need to be addressed and improved so they don’t hurt job performance. 

But then they should find their strengths and work on growing those.  If they can’t overcome those weaknesses it won’t matter that they have strengths. 

Those weaknesses that prevent them from doing the job in a satisfactory manner will out-weight and overshadow their potential. 

We shouldn’t ignore our strengths or our weaknesses.  But we can’t just spend all of our time obsessing over weaknesses.  Instead we have to put in place processes to get our weaknesses out of our way and then use everything we have to build up our strengths. 

Doing this will help us avoid the weakness that comes back to bite us but still work on the elements that make us unique and give us a distinct advantage.