Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Your Greatest Strength is Your Greatest Weakness

Has anyone done the DISC personality test?  It's a typology that splits people into four quadrants.  One axis is people vs task orientation, and the other is introversion vs. extroversion.  When I did the test, I was strongly people oriented, and right on the line between introversion and extroversion (SI, if you're a DISC test wonk).

That said, my personality displays itself in a very "I" sort of way (extroverted, people oriented).  To the point where, when my co-worker (boss is also appropriate, but a little formal for our workplace) describes "I" personalities, he identifies me as the archetype.  As he was describing this to someone today, I hollered across to his office, "HE DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN THAT AS A COMPLIMENT!"

As soon as I did it, I realized I had played right into his hands. Only an extroverted, people oriented person would consider it worthwhile to interrupt the task at hand (at which I had quietly been working) in order to interject in a conversation of which they had neither been a part of nor been invited to.  For the rest of the day I became very aware of the "I"-like things I caught myself doing - like talking about work and feeling like things were getting accomplished, or taking a little extra time to crack a joke with a co-worker.

Now, I'm not a great fan of personality tests like these.  I believe it was Wayne Campbell, from Wayne's World, who said (in Cantonese) "Was it Kierkegaard or was it Dick Van Patten who said, 'If you label me, you negate me'?"  (no, I'm not going to fool you into thinking I'm very clever by just using the quote itself.  I'll take my wisdom from wherever I can get it).  My fear with these tests is that they can be used to let us off the hook for deficiencies in our personality.  "Oh, could you really have expected me to succeed at that task?  My personality quiz says I'm not wired for that sort of thing."

But, here's where I find it gets really interesting: if you were to describe my greatest strengths, what would they be?  Big picture thinker, great with people, life of the party, or something like that.  And if you were to describe my weaknesses?  Head in the clouds, spends too much time socializing, has trouble focusing on tasks, particularly administrative details.

Notice any similarities?

I guess you could say I keep beating myself at my own game.

Today I had to confront a sub-contractor about a task they hadn't been doing.  Needless to say, I'm more likely to be referred to as the mom around our company than the dad.  I don't find those confrontations comfortable or enjoyable.  But I found myself thinking, "if you want to improve - in business, or personally - you have to find your way through situations like this."  If I constantly leave those challenges for other people, I will never 'progress'.  It doesn't matter how inspiring you are as a leader if you can't also hold someone's feet to the fire.

The value of a personality test like that is that you can get closer to what it is you're really good at, and improve it so that you have something even better to offer the world.  And that you can get closer to finding out your weaknesses, so you can find ways to minimize them, improve on them, or make them irrelevant.

So, while I grow my big picture thinking and my ability to connect with people, I'll also remind myself that my proving grounds are disciplinary actions and administrative duties.  The challenges are the true test of my mettle, not the easy parts.

It's wise for any person to get to know themselves.  Strengthen your strengths, and weaken your weaknesses (as in, improve them).  You'll usually find that they're the opposite side of the same coin.


  1. Holding people accountable is one of the toughest lessons I have had to learn as a leader as well - but a very necessary one at that. I found modeling myself after a mentor worked well for me until I was able to develop my own style. (though I still have thoughts of "what would so-and-so do in this situation"!

  2. I agree. Watching the strengths of those around you and learning from their actions has been the most successful way I've found to get better at what I would call my weaker points.