I’ll be sitting there with a client and we’ll get onto the subject of how to answer questions about their strengths and weaknesses at interview. Previously we’ll have spent a good bit of time working out what their skills are and what the evidence is for these, so I am expecting them to wax lyrical about what they’re good at. But typically they dive into the weaknesses bit first – I’ll see their eyes light up as they get all excited about talking about what they’re not good at!
There’s something very British about being more comfortable talking about your shortcomings rather than your successes. Maybe it goes back to childhood when many of us were encouraged not to brag or get too big for our boots.
Performance management practices in the corporate world have in the past often focussed on “training needs” and glossed over the times when the employee shone.
The management guru Peter Drucker said:
“It takes far more energy to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.”
Enlightened organisations focus on identifying an employee’s particular talents and then nurturing them.
It makes sense to spend your energies trying to get really, really good at what you are already pretty good at. Chances are that these are also things you enjoy so you’re going to get a lot of satisfaction out of practising them and learning more about them. So if you are already good at developing customer relationships that lead to more business, work harder to become a first-class business relationship builder.
If you have weaknesses that are going to get in the way of you doing this (maybe you have a tendency to put less emphasis on following up meetings with detailed information that the customer needs for them to agree to a deal), then of course you have to work on them, but otherwise, as much as possible, find ways to do less of what you aren’t good at.
It’s all about trying to get your best fit.