10 Ways to Deal with Weaknesses in Others
Everyone is great at some things and lousy at others. Arrogant leaders compare the weaknesses of others to their strengths.
Don’t judge others by the way they compare to you.
When you evaluate others through the eyes of your strengths, they feel judged and you feel superior. You suggest they should be more like you. If you were God, that would be fine.
The job of leaders is maximizing the strengths of others, not building a team of mini-me’s.
The path to excellence always includes dealing with weaknesses.
10 ways to deal with weaknesses in others:
- Strengthen weaknesses when they become hindrances to strengths. Let go the rest.
- Clearly identify the path forward in behavioral terms. “You need to improve your time management,” doesn’t help.
- Provide models so they can see the behavior in action.
- Meet frequently to discuss progress, at least once a week. If a weaknesses is important enough to point out, then deal with it aggressively.
- Explore ways they can adopt the behaviors of others and remain authentic.
- Tie progress to their career goals. Improving a weakness is about what’s good for them. Don’t let it feel like punishment.
- Deal with the issue and move on. Don’t keep bringing it up.
- Accept that they may never be great at what they were weak at.
- Minimize the negative impact of their weakness by creating compensating-connections. I’ll never be as good at making lists as one of my friends. Rather than struggling to make lists, I just call him. It’s easy for him, but hard for me.
- Keep people in their sweetspot as much as possible.
Frustration with teammates who struggle with issues where you’re strong is intolerant arrogance.
Humility honors others, works to enable, models the way, and adjusts roles.
How do you deal with weaknesses in others?
Excellent article. A must read for all mentors and appraisers. In my opinion.
Love this post Dan, especially this line: The job of leaders is maximizing the strengths of others, not building a team of mini-me’s.
Thanks Diana. Have a great week.
Dan, what are your thoughts about the approach of not trying to develop weaknesses because it’s time taken away from investing in what someone is naturally good at. In other words, is it worth trying to make a circle a square when a circle can be a much better circle all of the time?
Would love your thoughts.
People are brought into groups for their strengths, not their weaknesses. That is why there is a selection process for the Olympics and sports teams, as well as many military units.
However, not all strengths are identified as products of skills or training; for example, perseverance is a strong character trait, as are low neuroticism and high EQ.
Weaknesses related to a mismatch in values normally require that the individual be separated from the group.
Weaknesses related to personality can often be overlooked through tolerance towards diversity and individuality if the individuals have strengths that can contribute to the organization. If the weaknesses are too disruptive to overlook, they can sometimes be improved through training and behavior modification.
Weaknesses related to lack of skills and training can often be strengthened by appropriate education or training, in a manner analogous to developing strengths.
Thanks for bringing your insights to this important conversation.
Thanks Dave. Great question. Research has been done on improving weaknesses as a way of magnifying strengths. http://bit.ly/Tp4wJ5 If you follow the article to HBR, you’ll need to register for an account.
One of the reasons I started writing Leadership Freak is because I felt a need to improve my leadership skills. Now, I spend about 2 hours a day developing my leadership skills.
Dan, what if someone does not have the ability to perform at the next level hey have been promoted to, say after 12 months or so. Is it better to put them back to thier previous postion, albeit gently, and bring up someone who can perform? Not sure when to fish or cut bait…
Thanks for the great post.
12 months is far too long to determine a person was wrongly promoted. Organizations can ill afford a year to determine that a team is performing poorly due to having the wrong manager. Promotion should have a 90 day evaluation period, and a good manager will know very quickly if he/she has done the right thing.
In my opinion, if a person is promoted to a position of incompetence, his/her supervisor should be held accountable. Promotion from within normally occurs from knowledge of a person’s capacity.
That being said, the person who was promoted to a level of incompetence is affecting the performance of those he/she leads. That person should be made aware of the problem, and should either undergo coaching/training to improve to an acceptable level within the right period of time, or should be moved into another role in which they can add value.
Three ways to avoid the problems associated with wrong promotions are:
1) Pay the person less for the first 3 months of his/her new role than he/she was making in the previous role, so that the only attraction they have to accept the new role is a desire to succeed and excel. Reserve any extra pay for 12 months after the promotion. Thus, a person who was making $60k/year who is promoted to a $90k/year job could be paid as follows:
a) $13k for the probationary period. If he/she does not succeed, he/she would be paid $5k to return to the $15k/quarter job.
b) $15k for each of the next 3 month periods. This is the same as he/she would have made in the original job.
c) The $2k not paid in the probationary period + a $30k bonus at the end of a year in the new position, in order to arrive at the $90k figure.
2) Offer training or coaching as required to be successful.
3) Give formal weekly feedback for the first month, then monthly formal feedback for months 2,3, and quarterly formal feedback thereafter.
Thanks John. Great question.
I feel your concern for the well-being of an employee who is in over their head. I bet they feel that way too.
Here are some ideas:
Be sure you have clear information that the employee is under-performing.
Be upfront with the performance issues. Don’t dance around. Just say that it isn’t working out.
Take responsibility that the person who promoted them made a mistake.
Affirm a commitment to the welfare of the person.
Develop a plan, WITH the employee, to remedy the situation.
Expect a speedy resolution. Dragging this out only makes it worse.
Be compassionate, direct, and honest.
Your question suggests you lean toward the compassion side. The being direct is more difficult. It is for most of us. You may want to develop some strategies for being direct with a colleague or coach.
I do a seminar called dancing with elephants. We call them tough conversations for a reason.
Great post. Just the other day, my boss and I were having this conversation. He doesn’t agree with this philosophy as much as I do. To me, it is simple macroeconomics. If Albania can use its resources to produce 7 lemons or 3 bushels of beans, and Bolivia can produce either 9 bushels of beans or 8 lemons with its resources, it is best to let Bolivia focus on beans and Albania to focus on lemons. The world gets 9 bushels of beans and 7 lemons, instead of 8 lemons and 3 bushels of beans. Same principle applies to human resources!
Thanks Dunk. Peter Drucker put it this way. A person can only perform from strength. One cannot perform out of weakness.
In regard to a business, there may be some importance to diversification. But, the idea of doing what you do best seems to work best.
I appreciate your suggestions and points discussed to deal with weaknesses in others. Comparison is not right in any way. Generally people compare weakness with strength of others, I appreciate your point. People are unique so, their expertise. You can not be somebody else.But I agree there is always scope and space to develop. Leaders should develop strength so powerfully that weaknesses automatically vanish.
Many times, when people start focusing on weaknesses, it sucks energy. They start feelings that they are inferior to someone. One quality of leaders is they train others weakness in such a way, that others do not feel, they are working on weaknesses.
The major hindrance in working with weakness is “feeling weak” and “comparison with others”.
If leaders can address these issues, they can transform people.
Dan, the discussion so far points to strengths being behaviours that are different from weaknesses.
What if strengths and weaknesses were connected? Something like two ends (or 2 noticeable points) of a behavioural continuum? What I’ve noticed is that weaknesses are often overdeveloped strengths … or strengths taken to an extreme. They become highlighted when the environment changes.
The terms themselves are relative to the environment/ situation/ culture … in the way that “one person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist”
The achievement of organisational goals often boils down to individuals’ decisions to give their very best effort to help the company reach its objectives. Few paybacks on investments will match the transformative capacity of the return on investment in the right people. A leaders’ capacity to recognise and decipher the human drivers of organisational performance will deliver the biggest dividends.
Don Clifton developed the Strengthfinder method. As a university professor, researcher and author he was a paragon of academia. His son, Jim struggled with college. In a father-son talk, Don pointed out to Jim that academics were simply not a strength, and he would not flourish pursuing that avenue. Jim became a very successful businessman. (now CEO of Gallup) When I teach strengths, I use the example of my pickup truck. It has high ground clearance, can carry a lot, pull a lot, (strengths) but it is not very fast, nimble or economical. (weaknesses). I could work to fix the weaknesses – I could lower the suspension, add sport rated tires, tweak the engine for economy, and it would become more nimble. It would also detract from the inherent strengths of the truck. It is never going to be a sports car. On the other hand, I could enhance the strengths and make it a more capable truck.
The question is, “What do you do about the weaknesses?” The don’t vanish and they can’t (shouldn’t) be ignored. The can, however, be managed. Marc’s last three paragraphs describe how: lack of skill – training/education. weakness in personality – tolerance and/or training/education. weakness in values – may require separation. The key is to spend only enough time and effort to improve the weakness so it is no longer a disrupting influence, then focus on enhancing strengths to achieve greatness.
Thanks JP. Your last sentence nailed it. I enjoy the view that weaknesses are disrupting influence.
Tis a good one. Too often we give an order, but don’t show the path. I must confess that, while I do try to show the path, I am often guilty of barking out orders
When someone is dealing with a weakness, I try to understand what they are going through. I like to have open and candid conversation with them. Like you mention in your post, meeting weekly to discuss progress is a great way to address it. I would also say having casual and open conversations can work as well. People may be more receptive to advice and comments when it is delivered in a lower stress environment. Casual conversations allow you to level and connect with someone in a different way. I would also try and relate to the person. I would look at myself and look to where I have been weak in the past or present. Looking at my own struggles, I try to find comparisons and similar situations. Being able to relate to the person and share advice and experience can help the person work through their weakness.
Dealing with someone’s weakness, you could accept that they will never be great and move on, but I think it is also important to try and lift them up as much as possible. I have a tendency to sell myself short, especially when it comes to my various weaknesses. Some of my biggest accomplishments stem from serious encouragement. When I was ready to give up and quit, family and friends were quick to encourage me. They would not allow me to give up. While it was difficult to listen to them or take them serious at the time, I continued to push through the adversity and really shocked myself with the outcome. It is important to not give up on people too early. It is a fine line. Like you mention in your post, there is a sweet spot.
Finally, I would definitely agree with you that, “Arrogant leaders compare the weaknesses of others to their strengths.” I can think of a few people who do this… Not a great look.
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