square-peg-round-hole.jpgNone of us are perfect nor, in spite of our best efforts, will we ever be perfect. We all have weaknesses. We need to be aware of them, particularly those that might lie in mission-critical areas. We may need to manage weaknesses that impact our areas of responsibility or that might impede our progress toward a desired goal.

The one thing we do NOT do is let our weaknesses stop us or hold us back, at least not for long. We do not empower our weaknesses nor allow them to consume an inordinate amount of our attention or focus.

Focus on your strengths.

Much more effort and energy often is spent trying to fit a square peg into a round hole than trying to find a suitable square hole that needs filling! I’ve seen some managers spend an extraordinary amount of time trying to overcome a person’s weaknesses. I tend to look for strengths and move people to positions where those strengths are most relevant, most applicable, where their strengths are so valuable as to make their weaknesses irrelevant or where their positive impact is so great that it is worthwhile to revamp the position description to allow other team members (or outside vendors) to cover for those weaknesses.

True, sometimes there is not an alignment and on rare occasions the misfit is too great to be overcome, and someone’s future may need to be freed up for him to seek other opportunities more in line with his interests and talents. However this is more unusual than you might think.

I do not try to teach squirrels to fly or birds to climb trees. They have their natural strengths and I focus on finding situations where natural strengths can flourish.

Yes, we need to be aware of our weaknesses. I’m not saying stick your head in the sand. Just find a coping mechanism and move on.

I’m great with numbers if I can see them (hey, 734 on math SAT). But throw complex or long numbers at me verbally (particularly fast without pauses where I can absorb them) and I tend to transpose them. When I was young I thought I was not good at math. Then I stumbled on my learning style and realized that if I were allowed to do it my way, I was great at it.

I’m also a bit dyslexic: I tend to mix up letters. To spell a complex word it helps me to visualize it first in my mind and then literally “read” what I’m seeing. If I’m ever asked to recite the alphabet as proof of sobriety, I will request to recite multiplication tables instead! Strange as it may seem for a man with three college degrees, I have to really concentrate on the entire alphabet and tend to get lost toward the end, especially if I’m nervous.

Does this bother me? Do I spend a lot of time obsessing about it? No way! Sure, I’m a lousy speller and in pre-spellcheck days I spent a lot of time paging through the dictionary. But heck, my life works. I’ve got loads of counter-balancing strengths that more then offset it. I’ve got several coping mechanisms and I’m happy.

I’m a classic attention-deficit hyper-activity type of person. Can’t stand sitting still, hate meetings, got too much I want to do, want to make happen. I want to move. I have lots of great ideas, love to launch them, then tend to get bored and lose interest when those all too vital details start to need attention.

I knew this from the get-go. I knew I needed others to back me up, to finish my projects for me. So I created Paradigm Properties and Collier Enterprises and now I’m blessed with 350 highly-competent people who make sure the details get done. Of course, it did not happen overnight. In the beginning it was my then-wife checking my spelling, then a really good leasing agent who also was a fantastic detail person, then a full-time handyman who could not rest easy until the job was done right, and then… You get the picture.

I could go on. My list of faults and weaknesses could probably challenge even the storage capacity of the mega hard drive of my laptop. The point is that it is our strengths we should focus on and as our strengths grow, they tend to make our weaknesses less relevant.

Go with your strengths, backstop your weaknesses.

P.S.: This being a blog on leadership, my focus here is on operational weaknesses not moral ones. Yet I believe we all have a deep and abiding responsibility to do good and be good, so my intention is not to condone or excuse any moral or ethical weaknesses. Rather I think the same principle applies: The more we work on our spiritual side, the stronger our spiritual strengths become, the more easy we will find it to resist ethical temptation, the more naturally we will find our moral lapses diminishing or even vanishing.

P.S. #2: There is a book, “Soar With Your Strengths,” by Donald Clifton and Paula Nelson that covers portions of this topic.