If you’ve been in leadership circles for long, you’re familiar with the phrase, “Play to your strengths.” I believe it completely! It makes all the difference in the world when it comes to delivering sustainable results and cultivating long-term employee satisfaction. But there’s one point that is often misunderstood.
As I’ve talked with other leaders who believe deeply in maximizing their strengths, sometimes they overlook their weaknesses to their demise. And when you confront them on the issue, they quickly and unashamedly say, “But that’s not my strength.” I get it! And I’m glad they get it. But if that’s where your view of weaknesses ends, there’s something that you don’t get: Compensation.
No, I’m not talking about money. Nor am I talking about your benefits package or your desire for a pay raise. I’m talking about compensating for your weaknesses. I’m talking about more than being blissfully aware of your strengths-I’m talking about being responsible with your weaknesses.
I’ve come to realize quite clearly what I do well. I understand what puts wind in my sails. And I work as hard as I can to play to my strengths as often as I can. Gallups research indicates that less than two out ten people get to play to their strengths most of the time at work. That’s a travesty. And honestly, I couldn’t imagine being one of the eight out ten.
I also understand what I don’t do well. I know what deflates me and what weaknesses have the potential to derail me. But a weakness is okay as long as I compensate for it. Otherwise, my weakness will turn into a liability…for me and the organization.
I know this: If I don’t find ways to compensate for my weaknesses, the day will come where I’ll no longer get to play to my strengths. Why? Because I’ll be out of a job. Why? Because while employers love the idea of employees playing to their strengths, there’s one thing most employers love even more…knowing the job they hired you to do is getting done. All of it!
The moment your weakness becomes your organization’s weakness, you’ll be standing in the unemployment line. It’s not enough to acknowledge what your weaknesses are (although that’s where all of us must start). You also need a plan that helps you navigate your weaknesses. Anything less is irresponsible.
So if you don’t know what your strengths are, find them. And once you find them, play to them. And as you play to them, hone them. But in the process, don’t forget that tiny big issue-compensate for your weaknesses. Here’s how:
1. Identify a Partner: Who can you partner with (that has a different set of strengths) allowing both of you to spend more time playing to your strengths?
2. Make People Development Your Top Priority: Most employees spend more time doing the work than developing people. The best leaders are people developers. The more people you develop, the more work you’ll get done through others.
3. Delegate Without Dumping: Who can you delegate your weaknesses to (for whom they are a strength)? This might include fellow employees, interns, or volunteers. When you delegate a weakness to someone for whom it is also a weakness, you’re not delegating…you’re dumping. Delegating is a powerful reality–for you and the person you’re delegating to–so long as it is done right.
4. Outsource: Who can you hand weaknesses off to outside of the organization via outsourcing? Are there companies, organizations, services, or hungry college students looking for extra work?
5. Evaluate Alignment: Is your role aligned so much with your weaknesses that you need to move into a new role all together? This is a tough admission, but one that requires total honesty. It’s unrealistic to expect to spend significant amounts of time playing to your strengths if your current role doesn’t need your strengths. While easier said than done, you have to put together a plan to make a change in roles…even if it requires going back to school or putting together a long-term transition plan.
Question: What does your compensation plan look like?