I’ve been thinking recently about strengths and weaknesses, and how it seems to be the strengths we recognise and the weaknesses we ignore that become cemented within us as we age.

Perhaps that’s because the strengths that we ignore are never truly developed, while the weaknesses we recognise (and address positively) can very often be turned into strengths!

Weaknesses point us to our strengths

In his book True Colors, Dr Roger Birkman addressed a similar point:

“In my work, when promising to help people identify their strengths and weaknesses, I encounter frequent resistance. Some people who have become successful at ‘hiding behind’ socialized behaviour are reluctant to consider the truth about who they really are. Most people don’t mind dealing with their strengths, but prefer to close their eyes to any possible weaknesses.”

“Yet it is only possible to view strengths in the context of the things the person dislikes or doesn’t do well. I cannot over-emphasize: a person’s weaknesses need not be a negative indication. Weaknesses simply point us to our strengths.”

When we stop viewing ‘weaknesses’ as our potential downfall and instead accept them as part and parcel of who we uniquely are, we can leverage that knowledge to direct our focus and energy more effectively.

You might be someone who is highly motivated by getting the practical hands-on nitty-gritty details done, but struggle when interacting with people. This may be considered a ‘weakness’, but that weakness gives you a focus and undivided drive in the area where your strengths truly lie.

At the same time, a person who is good at both those things has a unique strength that lies in the intersection where those two areas overlap. Both variations produce strengths, once accepted and applied positively, but they are different, just as we are each different.

Your unique value lies in the intersection of your own strengths and weaknesses, and it is only when you are able to embrace and positively apply these intrinsic traits that you’ll find your niche - the place that you’re uniquely suited to fill.

Identifying weaknesses

So how can TBM (The Birkman Method - which powers all our platforms and products) help you to identify those weaker areas?

Here’s a couple of different scores you could look at to get you started:

On the Grid

Have a look at where your Usual marker (Diamond) falls on the Grid. If it’s in a corner, or all the way to one side, take a look at the opposite area and the behaviours typical to someone with a marker ‘over there’.

For example, if your Diamond is in the far Green corner of the Grid, then you are someone who normally works in a very responsive, flexible, on-the-fly sort of way - reacting to the environment around you and coming up with new plans to suit each situation.

If you were to look at the opposite - a Diamond in the far Yellow corner of the Grid - this might give you some idea of a potential weakness: you are likely to struggle to function in a systematic, highly organised or prescriptive manner in most situations. You may fail to stick to prearranged plans, and find yourself going ‘off-script’ when you think you see a better way of approaching a situation.

This is likely to make you a difficult person for others to deal with, because they are never quite sure when you might ditch approved plans for your own untested hunches. But it can also be a really positive thing when properly applied.

Think about how you can turn your weakness or potential blindspot into a strength, by drawing on the perspectives of others, allowing them to function in their strengths and embracing your own - all the while being cognisant of the impact your approach may have: on others, and on the smooth running of tasks or projects.

Areas of Interest

Take a look at your lowest Interest scores: what perspective or intrinsic motivation do these scores suggest you may be lacking?

For example if you have very low scores on Numerical and Clerical you are likely to underestimate the importance of: keeping records, having functioning systems in place, keeping things in good order, and keeping track of the ‘numbers’ (accounts, sales figures, site views etc.). You may be in danger of thinking “I know where to find things when I need them, having a system would just complicate things and waste valuable time.”

If you have very low scores on Artistic and Literary you are likely to underestimate the importance of any content and materials you create: design, wording, layout - and how all these things play together to create a sense of quality and professionalism. You may be in danger of thinking “as long as all the pertinent info is there, what’s the fuss about?”

If you are unaware of these blindspots they have the potential to become problems - for you and for any team or organisation you may be working within. If, on the other hand, you take note of these areas where you are less strong, and keep them front of mind as you work, you can turn them into opportunities to involve others who have the strengths you lack - while you focus on the areas where you are best equipped.

A large part of this process is about husbanding resources. You may not always be able to hand something off to a more suitable person, but the more we each recognise (rather than deny) the things that come less easily to us, the better equipped we are to spot potential issues and to do a good job!

Components (Signature Report only)

Finally, if you have a Signature Report, why not take a look at your Components and identify any scores you have where both your Usual and Need are at the same end of the scale (whether both high or both low).

What perspective does this indicate you are lacking (i.e. the opposite end of the scale)? How might this blindspot become a potential weakness for you? And how might you use your understanding to turn it instead into a strength and a positive piece of self-understanding?

To quote Dr Birkman again “a person’s weaknesses need not be a negative indication.” So rather than getting defensive, or denying the things that we just aren’t good at, why not embrace them? Keep your weaknesses front of mind, along with your strengths, and make sure they aren’t able to derail you or take you by surprise.