It’s easier to overlook and overcome weaknesses when you realize that most often they are merely strengths taken to an extreme.
By Brad Lindemann
The following is an excerpt from from Brad Lindemann’s forthcoming book, In Business For Life: What Being In Business For Life Has Taught me About the Business of Life. Sign up for news and updates from PumpJack.me Thought Leader Marketing and Brad Lindemann.
This is far from an original thought, but one that has proven immensely helpful to me over the years as a manager, husband, father and friend. The reason I like it so much is because it draws us back to positive common ground after a weakness lands us in the mud puddle. Here’s how…
Since I’m such an easy target, I’ll pick on myself. Truth is, I’ve got a pretty limited skill set. So, I can do a couple of things fairly well, then there’s a steep drop-off in competency.
Most who know me would say I’m a decent, perhaps even gifted, communicator. Yes sir, given enough time, I can talk the chrome off a trailer hitch. And given the right ingredients, I can whip up a pretty mean omelet. Beyond that, there’s a long list of better qualified people to do whatever the situation calls for.
So, how might my communications strength become a weakness? Zig Ziegler tells a related story that I often tell on myself. It’s about a little boy who asks his Dad a question to which Dad replies, “I really don’t know, son. Have you asked your Mom?” The son deadpans, “I really didn’t want to know that much about it.” It probably won’t surprise you to know that I’m much more like the mother than the father in Zig’s story. My leaning is towards the whole loaf when a single slice would have suited you just fine.
To illustrate the power of the “extreme strengths = weakness” formula, pretend you’re my manager and we’ve just gotten out of a meeting during which I talked the chrome off of three trailer hitches and a nice set of mag wheels. Feeling you can’t let this teachable moment pass, you pull me into your office and say, “Brad, how do you think the meeting went?” Still on an adrenaline high from having just summited Mt. Gushmore, I say, “Geez boss, I don’t think it could have gone any better. The team really seemed engaged and fired up. How ‘bout you?” Just the opening you were looking for. “Have a seat, Brad. I’ve got a few things I’d like to share with you.”
“Brad, you’re one of the most gifted communicators I’ve ever known. Our firm has benefited greatly from those gifts. The way you rallied the troops during our last annual meeting was truly awe-inspiring.
“The meeting we just got out of however…not so much. The team was fired up all right, but not in a positive way. They were mad because you talked so much they couldn’t get a word in edgewise. You were so mesmerized with your own words, you had no interest in what anyone else had to say. I’m afraid your communications strengths were taken to extremes today, Brad. I just wanted you to be aware of it, so you can dial it back a notch or two next time. Make sense?”
You bet it makes sense. It makes perfect sense to take someone who’s fallen into the weakness mud puddle back to their point of strength before attempting to work on their weakness. After all, it’s much easier to throttle back something you’re really good at than to muster a strength from something you’re not so good at.
I’ve used this approach during many coaching sessions with employees over the years. It makes otherwise difficult conversations much easier, leaving the employee feeling valued instead of chastised. I won’t go into it here, but the applications to other relationships are obvious. The next time your spouse does something that makes you want to put a fork in your head, retreat to his/her underlying strength and start moving towards marital harmony.