We may think of ourselves as rounded individuals who are good at most things at work and even-handed in our dealings with people. However, the reality is that most of us have significant strengths and significant weaknesses both in job competence and in people skills. This matters.

The trouble really occurs when people are blind to their weaknesses. This is particularly true for managers and the more senior the person the greater the danger if they are oblivious of their faults or in denial about them. So how can we detect our faults? These two questions will help provided you follow the procedure.

The second question is the really powerful one but the first question helps and makes it easier to ask the second question and get an honest response. You can ask the questions of a colleague, of your boss or of somebody who works for you. The key rule is that you cannot disagree in any way with their answers. You cannot enter a discussion. All you can do is thank them for their response or possibly ask for more detail and then thank them. Explain this process to the other person before asking the questions.

Here are the questions:

  1. What am I good at?
  2. In what areas do I need to improve?

As a manager you will learn a great deal about yourself and your management style if you ask the people who work for you these questions in such a way as to solicit honest feedback. Their perceptions are realities. What they see is what you are — for them. Once you know your own weaknesses then you can put in place plans to compensate for them. Some of the weaknesses might be simple behavioral issues — for example, you do not give enough feedback and praise to your staff. Once you know this you can make a point of fixing it.

I recently worked with the CEO of a small recruitment company with 30 employees. He had founded the company and built it up. He had great difficult in delegating. He wanted to micro-manage every aspect of the business. He was smarter and more experienced than most of his employees so he was continually tempted to intervene in their work and tell them how to do things. The positive thing was that he was aware of this problem and welcomed ideas on how to solve it.  We put together a plan to help him to delegate more, to empower his staff and to gradually let go.

If for example you are good at communication and strategy but poor at administration and detail work then it is best to recognize this. For core competences you should build on your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses. Don’t spend more time on administration — spend less. Get someone else to do the paperwork while you can concentrate on the things you are good at.

To be more successful you need to be honest with yourself, start by asking these two questions. Quietly assess the answers and then make a plan to build on your strengths and overcome your weaknesses.

Featured photo credit: Question Marks via Shutterstock and inline photo by Colin K via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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