Managing Your Weaknesses

A few thoughts:

1. Avoid working in your weaknesses if at all possible.

2. If you can’t, then seek to become competent in your areas of weakness. You won’t become extraordinary in areas of weakness, but competence is sufficient.

3. Continue to spend the most time sharpening and harnessing your strengths. This is where your contribution will shine. As long as you are competent in your weaknesses, they won’t detract and your strengths will stand out and make an extraordinary contribution.

An example (a slightly risky one since I’m not huge into basketball, but you will get the point): Let’s say you are a basketball player and you are great at making baskets but pretty bad at getting rebounds. You need to become solid at getting rebounds when they come your way, so you don’t do harm. But your focus should be on putting yourself in a position to take shots, not get rebounds, if that’s where you make an incredible contribution.

And here’s an example of avoiding your weaknesses altogether: if you are a great quarterback, it doesn’t matter if you are terrible at defense. Don’t play defense. This is so obvious as to be completely undisputed.

Why, then, do we feel like there is some sort of virtue in focusing on our weaknesses in our work?

Seek to contribute where you can make the greatest contribution.


  • Bob Tiede

    Good post!

    Another way to manage weaknesses is to partner with others–find someone who is strong where you are weak and weak where you are strong and then have each of you do the things you are best at. In the book “Strength Based Leadership” the thesis is, “There are no well rounded leaders, but there can be well rounded teams!” So shared leadership is a great way to manage everyone’s weaknesses.

  • Nate

    How does this apply to stay-at-home moms? My wife and I discussed this post last night….her comment was that she feels like she has no time to sharpen her strengths. Life with little ones can be very tiresome and monotonous. If she were in any other job I think most people would tell her to quit….

  • Andrew Tebbe

    Great perspective. I would only add that I think it can be all too easy/tempting for us to find “weaknesses” in work we simply don’t want to do. I have had bosses who have delegated work and responsibilities to me and it made good sense. Conversely, I’ve had bosses who simply didn’t feel like doing something and foisted the task on to me (when it made most sense for them to do it) using the strengths/weaknesses argument as an excuse.

  • Loren Pinilis

    My wife and I are in the same boat. She’s a stay at home mom for our 4-year old and 2-year old, so I can feel your pain.
    First, perhaps there are ways for her to work on her strengths and develop them with the children. If her strength is being an active and fun mom, then play to that and do lots of fun things with the kids. If her strength is to be more tender and cuddly, then she can play to that. In short, she could develop her strengths by using them with the children – instead of thinking that she has to have some unbroken block of alone time.

    Secondly, I would encourage you two to get creative about ways she could get some time to herself. Perhaps she “partners” with another mother and they each take turns watching the other’s kids for a day. My wife does this with a friend of hers. It’s a little rougher watching more kids in one day, but not much more so. But then she has a day off the next day to do errands, housework, etc.
    There are probably plenty of other ways she could find time here and there.
    I try to watch the kids for a good block of time once a week or so also, freeing her up to have some alone time.

  • Loren Pinilis

    The subject of strengths is something that makes sense in theory, but I’ve had problems translating to real life.

    The issue, for me, is determining the difference between a bottleneck and a mere weakness. Some weaknesses can becomes so overpowering that they limit our results, and a small improvement in those areas can yield large results.
    To continue your basketball analogy, what if a player had poor physical conditioning. Their weakness in that area tainted everything else they did, so working to improve in that area can drastically change their game.

    I think the key is to very honestly evaluate how your weakness affects other areas of performance.

  • Matt


    I think the distinction between a “bottleneck” and a “weakness” is a good one. My son is learning baseball now, and when I see that he is having trouble catching fly balls, I don’t call that a “weakness” and ignore. We focus there so he can become better; there’s no way you can be an effective fielder if you don’t have catching fly balls down.

    Now, if he excels most in fielding ground balls, then he should be an infielder and we would focus on that side of things. But we wouldn’t ignore making him competent in fly balls. The point of strengths is not that he doesn’t need to be up to snuff in catching fly balls (since there is no way around the need for it, no matter his position), but rather that when we determine what area to focus on making him _excellent_ in, we focus on the area where he has the most natural talent and what energizes him–in this example, fielding ground balls. Competent in every area he needs, excellent in the area where he is most energized and inclined to excel. And the practical implication there is that this means the most time needs to be given to fielding ground balls, not fly balls — that’s the counterintuitive part.

    In the world of work, we have more control, though not necessarily always. To continue the baseball analogy, if my son is best at ground balls and only competent at fly balls, then we shouldn’t slot him in the outfield. Likewise, if we are most strengthened by X rather than Y, we should seek out jobs that need more of X than Y (and adjust our current jobs altogether). If we are very weakened by C, then if possible we should seek a job that doesn’t involve that. But if some level of C is necessary in any job that also involves X (our greatest strength), then C becomes something that is limiting to us and we would have great results from getting up to snuff on that. But we won’t become excellent at it; the great returns there come from getting competent in it, and then getting back to focusing on what our strengths enable us to do.

  • Matt

    @Nate and @Loren,

    The application of strengths in the home is one of the hardest things, because there are so many things that just need to be done, and you can’t “delegate” them out.

    One main thought from me, and much more could be said and much more needs to be discovered and figured out:

    I find it helpful to try to adapt tasks that I am weak at so that I can do them in a way that calls on more of my strengths. For example, bedtime used to be a draining (weakening) experience for me. But then we changed some things about how we go about it, and it took care of that. So the problem there was how we were doing things, not bedtime itself.

    This is right in line with what Loren suggested, which is great.

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