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Published on February 17, 2020

7 Steps to Turn Your Weaknesses into Strengths

7 Steps to Turn Your Weaknesses into Strengths

When I first thought about turning weakness into strength, I thought about the words people use when they realize that their weaknesses are destroying their happiness and success. Then, I thought about new clients and unwilling team members who are dragged along on a team day with me thinking “What kind of hell is this?”

They firmly believe that life/and or work are just like that and it’s circumstances that can’t be changed; “Out of your control”.

Through the magic of coaching, I’ve learned that our weaknesses hide what we really need to learn.

So what better way to turning weakness into strength is to you get what you want in life. Using case studies and techniques that I know have helped. Clients who said things like:

  • Why do I never learn?
  • My shyness is holding me back!
  • I never finish my to do list!
  • Why do I spend too much time on social media?
  • Why am I such a people please?
  • Why don’t I just go for it?
  • Why am I so scared all the time?
  • Why do I never stand up for myself?
  • Why does what I want never feel important enough to get on with?

This is your chance to turning weakness into strength of yours, write it down and coach yourself out of weakness to gain a strength.

1. Find Your Weakness

turning weakness into strength

    To begin, never stop yourself from finding your weaknesses and really experiencing them. If you are a client of mine, you’d know I make my clients really feel the pain of the weakness that they feel is standing in the way of their happiness, goals, success and any other dream they’d like to be a reality.

    As mean as it sounds to make your clients suffer, it’s an imperative part of the process of turning weakness into strength that ensures you see results.

    Therefore, start by feeling the pain from your failures and that voice that tells you it will never happen and you aren’t good enough. Don’t hide from the negative. Don’t hide from the bad stuff in your life.

    This part of a coaching session can take an hour so that a client properly gets to brain dump every single thought in front of us. So, don’t shy away from any thought, just write it down.

    2. Dig Deeper

    The first level of pain is not usually enough to turning weakness into strength.

    Usually we talk about the shallower level of pain because like a beast in the corner of the room we are keen to not acknowledge it and accept that life as we know it is about to end.

    Working with a coach ensures you don’t wallow there, you find the true pain and own it but don’t experience it again and again and again. Here is a couple of example of the first 2 steps so you can see them in action. I’d like to share a story of my coaching client, Tom, not his real name.

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    Tom told me how he was not that clever, and everyone always overlooked him at work and at home. Until recently, it had suited his life but now with plans to further his career and travel he wanted a decent career to pay for it all. He told me he looked around the office and everyone had had a promotion except him. Someone who’d started 1 year ago was already telling him what to do!

    It grated, it infuriated him and he felt invisible and unappreciated. In his session, Tom put it down to not being that clever. He explored what that had meant to him all his life and how this weakness had impacted on him and his success and obviously it hurt, but that was only step 1, in step 2 I asked him “Telling me all this, how does it feel now?”

    He said he felt foolish and like he had wasted years. It was like watching someone get sucker punched in the stomach. He stopped talking and half smiled and half grimaced and I could see he’s eyes had gone glassy.

    In a normal conversation, you would reach across the table and say something reassuring, wouldn’t you? As hard as that is as a coach, that’s not your job to have any opinion good or bad. The non-judgmental nature of coaching helps to ensure someone feels safe to say anything.[1] And that’s what Tom did.

    We explored the true issue that made him feel stupid, and we looked at what evidence he had to prove that he was stupid, obviously there was none.

    And next…

    3. Explore Your Beliefs

    Step 3 is where you explore that person’s beliefs. It’s hard to accept that what we believe to be fact is often only opinion and a viewpoint. By breaking down a perceived fact into an opinion, then that person can learn that there could potentially be a new way of thinking, reacting and acting to get better results.

    For Tom, we did this by looking at what proof he had that he was stupid. I tend to joke with my clients and so I jested “So Tom, how does someone so stupid get to work for X, did they feel sorry for you?”

    As mean as that question sounds, it’s said in a jokey way and Tom went from bordering on breaking down to laughing.

    It’s not easy being confronted with a new truth. Tom went on to tell me about how in actual fact, he had been headhunted. He had been shocked when it had happened. He hadn’t been in the workplace for long and was not expecting it. This brought evidence to the front of his mind that he didn’t even have any proof that could back it up that he was stupid!

    turning weakness into strength

      If you are looking to get rid of weaknesses in your life, and start turning weakness into strength, look for the evidence that in every aspect of your life that you respond/act/think in the way that you think is your weakness.[2] However big your weakness, there will be areas of your life where that weakness doesn’t exist.

      Coaching can go in many different directions according to what comes up, so here we will explore some strategies that may help you move forward and address your weaknesses. Ideal for when you get stuck!

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      A great strategy is to look for that weakness and find out where it doesn’t exist. Then you can ask questions to understand how it can be so different in this area of your life to that one. I’ve been lucky enough to be working with an amazing team of people for 3 years now and as an organisation they felt they were absolutely rubbish at communication. It came up time and time again:

      • We get far too many emails – if you answered them all you’d never get any work done.
      • No one can ever do anything around here without a meeting, sub meeting and half a dozen long documents being copied around the place for days.
      • I’m not even in that department and I’m constantly dragged into discussions and meetings.
      • I could finish work at a decent hour if I didn’t have so many pointless emals to wade through.
      • Everyone is so worried about making a decision you get copied in on everything!

      Allowing everyone in a team (even if that’s 220 team members in one big 2 hour coaching session!) to rant and share their views is important, you need a few ground rules:

      • No judgement on anyone’s view.
      • No view is wrong.
      • No idea is wrong.
      • No such thing as a silly question.
      • And as I like to say like Vegas – what happens in this room, stays in this room – with less cocktails, dancing girls and one armed bandits – obviously!

      (These rules apply to coaching yourself too!)

      Once everyone was allowed to go through step 1 and get into step 2. We started to see for this large team that in actual fact, their ability to be so honest had helped them be the country’s leading organization because their customers were always at the forefront of their mind.

      Someone flippantly had shouted out (you can hide in a crowd of 220!) “Shame they don’t treat the staff as well as the customers!”

      Bingo!

      This flippant comment led to us exploring the fact that their biggest weakness was actually their strength. We looked at what enabled them to be leaders in customer communications and wrote it all down. Looking at where they excelled enabled them to return to their weaknesses and understand what strategies and tools, they already knew that could help them change and achieve more.

      4. Explore Lots of Possibilities

      Never scrimp on this step of turning weakness into strength. People fail at coaching themselves and others when they try to race this part of the process. Our natural instinct as human is to jump to the solution. 1 + 1 =…. you’ve already answered it haven’t you?

      To really create solutions, you need to create a long list of possibilities. And in my experience, it’s usually a lot simpler than you realize.

      Let’s be honest, if life feels tough and you feel like your weaknesses are holding you back and have been for years, then it stands to reason that you are going to assume it’s going to be tough to change? Overthinking is a big thing that stands in the way of finding solutions. So, don’t over think, write every idea (however silly or pointless down.)

      5. Examine Your Weakness

      Let’s get personal, I was told growing up that I was too sensitive. It was only through my own personal development that my mindset to this changed. So, look around you.

      Do you really have a weakness or is it a strength that others don’t like, appreciate or feel threatened by?

      I’ve always been sensitive and my family would say “Oh, Mandie, you take things so personally.” I’ve learnt (not until I was in my late 20’s!) that this was a good thing not a bad.

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      My ability to feel what other people are experiencing means I am far more emphatic than most people and I’ve learned to hone my sensitivity to a new level, which means I can pick up on micro expressions and really help people on a level that most miss.[3]

      My ability to be good at my job as a coach is because I’m very sensitive. I am turning weakness into strength. Ask yourself if this is a weakness or a strength hiding in plain site?

      6. Find Your Voice

      Another client of mine is Kate, not her real name. Kate’s case is a good example of turning weakness into strength. Kate worked for a very large organization and was by no means senior. We had a team day with over 50 members of the company. The senior staff had invited employees like Kate so that they could experience strategy sessions and look forward in their career.

      At the time, Kate described herself as painfully shy. She felt it would impact on her career as it had her whole life. Through the coaching process, Kate found her voice.

      Laying down the ground rules meant she couldn’t be wrong. We fear speaking up or acting when we fear the outcome. If you think you’re shy and understand what that means to your life and success, you will do everything to stay safe, won’t you?

      Kate sat at the back listening and saying nothing. As the session went on, more and more ideas and weaknesses were added to our list of things to explore in our day. The senior staff weren’t breaking down their barriers to honesty – I felt strongly like they were more interested in proving they were right rather than in learning how to achieve more, and overcome their personal and professional weaknesses.

      Kate stopped that with one sentence. Kate asked “If that’s the case, why have you said that you feel you are expected to work at the weekends? Surely if this was working, we would all have guilt free weekends?”

      Where she gained the strength to speak up, no one seemed to know; but with that question, everyone became more honest. She started turning weakness into strength. Afterwards, Kate said she realized she just couldn’t tolerate everyone not dealing with the real issues. And in that one question, the whole day changed.

      Find what truly motivates you and however big your fear you will override it.

      Learn more about what really motivates you in this article: How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up

      Being the “Shy one” worked in Kate’s favor because no one would expect her to speak up. So when she did, everyone listened!

      turning weakness into strength

        Don’t be so quick to assume what you see as a weakness. It is actually a hidden strength you’ve just not flexed the muscles on!

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        As you’ve seen with Kate and Tom, the coaching process helped them believe in themselves and start to learn to trust that they were enough.

        So, before you look to change, ask yourself how confident you feel? Check your confidence level here.

        If you don’t believe you can start turning weakness into strength, how likely are you to achieve?

        The more I coach, the more I think social media should come with a health warning. — Mandie Holgate

        Too many people go online and assume that what they see is the full story. We hunt out approval and likes when we should be looking to find that in ourselves.

        If you feel you lack something and have weaknesses, look to how social media, the press or even your choice of box sets make you feel:

        • Do they make you feel empowered and ready for anything?
        • Do they make you feel inadequate?
        • Do you compare yourself to others and think I’m not like that! Am I not good enough?

        Trying to be someone else is never going to work in turning weakness into strength. you need to admit that “This is me”. If you can’t that’s your first weakness to tackle.

        7. Stop Procrastinating

        The last thing I do with every client is look for the excuses; the reasons why it won’t happen, the obstacles that they’ve not considered.

        If you know you are someone that can create a billion excuses why it didn’t’ happen and none of it was your fault, work on your accountatbility:

        • Who will you tell you are taking this action too?
        • Who will you report back to? Imaginary bosses are great – ask yourself “If I had a boss, would they be happy with my progress?”

        turning weakness into strength

          Final Thoughts

          Life is busier than ever; so again, we can blame the kids, partner, boss dog, deadliness, traffic, even illness on why we didn’t take action on our weaknesses. But if you go back to the start of the coaching and really feel your pain, you will do everything in your power to stay away from it:

          • Do you need to block time out in your diary?
          • Do you need to write your goal on your bedroom wall?
          • Do you need to set an alarm?
          • Do you need an app?
          • What would ensure you stay focused on the end result you want moving forward?

          And remember, hidden in every weakness is a strength, as Christine Szymanksi said,

          “Acceptance of your weaknesses along your life path you will stumble upon your strengths.”

          I would say the biggest weakness that any of us must face first is our fear to get started. If you take that leap of faith and follow these steps, there’s no reason why you can’t turn your weaknesses into true power that leads to the results in life you want. What have you got to lose?

          More Tips on Fighting Fears

          Featured photo credit: Lubo Minar via unsplash.com

          Reference

          More by this author

          Mandie Holgate

          Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

          Motion vs Action: Which One Is More Important for Success? 9 Most Essential Leadership Attributes of a Great Leader What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours How to Make a Positive Change for a Fulfilling Life 13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride

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          Last Updated on July 3, 2020

          Positive and Negative Reinforcement: Which Is More Effective?

          Positive and Negative Reinforcement: Which Is More Effective?

          It has been said that rarely am I short of words, and yet I’ve rewritten this article on positive and negative reinforcement five times. Why?

          It’s not as if I have a lack of thoughts on this subject. It’s not as if I don’t spend my days enabling people to communicate powerfully and get what they want in life. So why the rewrites?

          I’ve found myself thinking about the diversity of people I’ve coached and how different we all can be. Usually when I write for Lifehack, I’m able to see instant commonality in the subject that means I could share some ideas that would resonate wherever you are in life, whoever you are, regardless of what you were looking to achieve or what adversity you may be facing.

          However, with this, it’s a “How long’s a piece of string?” answer, i.e. I could probably write a whole book’s worth of words and still have ideas to share.

          Let’s look at some key points:

          • You will have times in your life where you need to get someone to do something.
          • You will have times when someone needs you to do something.

          Let’s look at how positive and negative reinforcement would work. In both of these situations, you can face some big obstacles:

          • Someone may resist your desire for them to change.
          • Someone may challenge your authority or leadership.
          • Someone may be at risk of getting hurt.

          The important thing to remember is that, in life, we all have to be influenced and influence those around us, and some ways will help us get the result we want, and others won’t. However, that may differ on where you are, who you are talking to, and what you want to see happen!

          So, how do we know when positive reinforcement is effective[1], and can there ever be a time when negative reinforcement is good?

          Worryingly, if you get positive and negative reinforcement wrong, you can risk your career, your business, your relationships, your reputation, and your brand.

          Positive and negative reinforcement each have their merits, so it’s imperative to know when to employ them. Interestingly, despite a ton of evidence to the contrary, we still rely on the wrongs ones in society, business, and even in parenting.

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          The 4 examples below showcase the use of positive and negative reinforcement, and whether they personally apply to you right now or not, they will resonate and be very useful to you personally in every area of your life.

          For each we will look at:

          1. What’s the problem?
          2. What have you tried?
          3. Now what?
          4. The results!

          The Boss

          Okay, you may not be a boss, but everyone will have times in their life where they need to get people organized and working together to get the best result. Often, leaders say things like this to me:

          • “I’ve told them until I’m blue in the face not to do that!”
          • “They constantly refuse to use the new system.”
          • “They just don’t listen.”
          • “They don’t respect me.”

          What Did the Boss Try?

          Often, I hear “We’ve tried everything!” No matter who is reading this, trust me, you’ve not tried everything. (That’s the first thing to accept.) When you accept that, you then need to look at what you have tried to move forward.

          The boss has tried:

          • Giving the person training.
          • Spending time with them and showing them how to do it.
          • Telling them it wasn’t good enough.
          • Telling them we aren’t doing that any more.

          Now What?

          The above situations create tension between the two as you constantly battle to maintain your position on the situation. If you are looking to get someone to do something, and they constantly resist, you need to stop and ask yourself some questions:

          1. What have we tried? This helps you to understand what they are good at, so you can utilize that in the conversation.
          2. From their viewpoint, what could prevent them from doing what I’ve asked? What could they fear, and how will we allay those fears?
          3. What do they want? Seeing their viewpoint enables you to use their terminology and language so they feel listened to.
          4. What do they believe? Do their beliefs prevent them from seeing the benefits? Beliefs can be changed but not by force—coaching is very powerful for this.
          5. How do these answers differ from my beliefs and views? Bridging the gap helps you to see both views and communicate more powerfully.

          In my experience, rarely does a boss or leader need to say the word “No.” If someone is not doing what you want them to, the quickest way to see results is to ask questions and listen. Often, when you really listen, you discover a big gap between what you think you are saying and what the other person is hearing.

          The reasons why someone is not doing what you want can include:

          • They don’t know how to do what you’ve asked them to do.
          • They are scared to get it wrong.
          • They fear what people will think of them.
          • They don’t have the confidence to come and tell you they need help.
          • They are scared that someone will tell them off.
          • They don’t understand where the boundaries are.

          People tell me, “But I said that to them!” If you are too close to the situation, then how likely are they to take notice from you? Here’s what you can do:

          • Get out of your usual environment – Neutral environments make difficult conversations easier. They can take you both off your guard, which can be good.
          • Start by making that person feel safe to say anything. Start with ground rules like “This is a confidential conversation” and “I won’t make any judgement on what you say, I just want to understand.”
          • Be prepared to say “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t realize.” When you do this, positive and negative reinforcement can be used.

          Learning how to coach people instead of tell people is key. Enabling the other person to see the benefits of what you want for them (and not you) is quicker than trying to dictate action.

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          • Lay out expected outcomes.
          • Create boundaries.
          • Explain what support and help you will provide.

          The Results

          This style of reinforcement is about utilizing both positive and negative reinforcement. It enables someone to feel safe to explain why they’ve not been taking action and helps them to overcome the limitations they feel while safe in the knowledge that they will get the support to change with the positive results explained in a way that matters to them.

          The Young Child

          If you’ve ever found yourself on the wrong end of a relentless tantrum of a small child, you will know it can feel impossible to get through to them. While many elements of The Boss scenario could work, there are times where you may need some negative reinforcement.

          What’s the Problem?

          My children are now 15 and 18. I can honestly say that, while we have had some challenging behaviors, our parenting means I have two children I’m very proud of–great communicators, great work ethic, kind, funny, considerate. The point is that, for my children, this stuff works. And, to be honest, when I’m with other people’s children, they often say “How did you get them to do that!”

          Young children are amazing. It’s like they’ve just woken up in a new body and have been told to go touch, feel, experience everything–every emotion, every taste, smell, experience, texture, the lot! They are curious and keen to know more. They sap up everything, and a lot of that we don’t want them sapping up!

          When they go to put a pencil in an electric socket, or let go of your hand as you cross the road, it’s imperative they get the learning and knowledge they need fast. I once was talking to a parent that said I was wrong to say no to my children. I asked, “At what age would you like me to introduce them to that word?” to which they had no answer.

          While I agree that there are usually a lot more words than just no for children, “no” is a word that kept you and I safe when we were small.

          What Have You Tried?

          While young children are incredibly intelligent, explaining the merits of your preferred course of action is not going to keep them safe. Tying them to your waist isn’t working. Punishing them and telling them there’s no more park time until you walk next to me doesn’t work either. So how do you say no and keep them safe?

          Now What?

          Sometimes negative reinforcement is essential[2]. For instance, my son (who adored Bob the Builder when he was little) was playing with his plastic tool kit and discovered an electric socket…I didn’t stop to explain the merits of how that could be dangerous. I said calmly, “No, that’s dangerous!”

          Here’s the important point: It’s not just about your words. With young children, it’s important that your body language clearly says the same.

          The Results

          I did feel like the luckiest parent on the planet to have two children sleeping through the night, but that didn’t tell the full story. I can remember spending a few weeks calmly picking my daughter up with no eye contact, no overly big hug, no conversation, just saying, “Sorry darling but now’s bedtime, so back we go.” And yes, being the strong-willed girl that she is, there was sometimes a good hour of that until she got the message that Mum really isn’t going to play, turn into a dinosaur, sing, or read a story.

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          The thing with positive and negative reinforcement is that you need to have faith it will work, and you are doing the right thing.

          Of course, when I went in to get her from her cot the next morning, I had a big grin on my face that said, “Wow, what a grown up girl you are staying in your bed all night!” I used positive reinforcement to get the day started.

          The Teenager

          What’s the Problem?

          If I’m honest, I don’t have problems with my teenagers. However, I think that is in no small part to my style of communication. Having respect for them is key, and appreciating how much change is happening in their lives really helps–as someone who helps large teams of people deal with change, I know how hard it can be.

          However, when I wrote the article How to Enjoy Parenting Teens and Help Your Kids Thrive, I was inundated with stories of hellish behavior from other parent’s teenagers, tales of staying out all night and not phoning home, abusive behavior towards parents and teens–I really felt for all involved.

          What Have You Tried?

          The problem with teens is they know exactly how to wind you up like a little clock-work toy. And if you’ve had a tough day, the last thing you want is to have to deal with someone who can’t even communicate with words, let alone put their dishes in the dishwasher.

          Losing it is never the option, but it can easily happen. Shouting, bribery, and doing it yourself because it’s just easier really don’t work in the long run.

          Now What?

          If you consider everything we’ve covered, you can see that you need to communicate using positive and negative reinforcement. In life, there are consequences to all actions, and teens have a ton of stuff to learn to become effective, successful, happy adults.

          Before you embark on any course of action, consider how the other person perceives the world. What are they going through?

          You may have loved being a teen, but that doesn’t ensure your children will. Likewise, in life, there are things you love that others will loathe–seeing the world through other people’s eyes really helps you to understand the best way to communicate.

          The only big difference for teenagers is to use emotion with caution. I personally let my children see all emotions–I’ve not hidden my tears when I’ve lost a loved one as it’s a perfectly normal thing to do. However, if a teenager in a foul mood can spot a weakness, they may just take advantage of it.

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          The Results

          My kids love to tell everyone I’m a scary mom. I’m not, I just have high standards, and I’m not prepared to drop them.

          We shy away from telling people what we expect and then wonder why we are getting as stressed as the other party because no one knows where they stand.

          I’m happy for my children to take over the TV room and eat far too much sweet stuff and binge on a box set. Just don’t put cups on the carpet, we have places for drinks. It’s having the confidence to say this is the rule.

          People think negative reinforcement is a bad thing. However, how can someone change if they don’t know what they are doing wrong? And that’s the issue: so many of us are fearful of saying “Stop doing that!” If you lack confidence, find your voice because people aren’t mind-readers.

          Final Thoughts

          Before you start considering whether positive or negative reinforcement is best for others, ask yourself what you respond better to.

          Personally, I respond far better to negative reinforcement–I can improve and be more successful and happier if I know what I’m doing wrong. Furthermore, I know that sometimes negative reinforcement works better with some clients who really don’t want to look at the issue–but it’s always done with respect and love.

          Coaching people is also a great representation of when positive and negative reinforcement is best. We are looking to find ways to increase the positive action with positive reinforcement and ways to reduce the negative results with negative reinforcement–and usually my clients keep those changes for the rest of their lives.

          More on Positive and Negative Reinforcement

          Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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