Your greatest strengths almost certainly dictate your greatest weaknesses.
I have always considered communication a strength of mine. I enjoy speaking and writing, and do so often. I am forceful in championing my point of view. It took years to realize that I was “communicating” so much that I wasn’t listening. I was either drowning out my peers or waiting for my turn to speak.
After years of antagonizing my peers in this way Sheryl Sandberg pulled me aside and told me my behavior was holding me back. I resisted the feedback. I had produced great results in my career and this was how I had done it so how could that be holding me back? She smiled and with all the kindness in the world she told me, “Boz, you have been effective in spite of your behavior, not because of it. I know you are afraid if you grow you will lose your power. You are wrong. You will have so much more.”
She was right.
We are often afflicted with a fixed mindset. We perceive our strengths and concomitant weaknesses as innate properties of our person. They are part of our identity. In that lens, the idea of growth feels not only threatening but impossible. We can feel defeated and inadequate at the discovery that our strengths are not unalloyed goods.
But we can change. I did. And it has made all the difference in my career and even my personal life.
I was mortified to realize that I had so badly misattributed the root of my success. After this moment I started to audit all of the things I considered strengths and open myself up to the possibility that each made me blind to a weakness. This shift to a growth mindset also allowed me to accept feedback more graciously without considering it a personal attack.
And the best part? Working on your weaknesses doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your strengths. You can do both. I don’t communicate any less today. But I listen a lot more. And I coach my team on how to do the same. That means when we communicate it is much more effective. And far more people are willing to work with me than they were back then.
What are your strengths? What weaknesses do they encode?