Don’t Ignore The Weaknesses

Don’t Ignore The WeaknessesAfter many years, my tendency to look for the negative had taken hold and it made me a much less effective leader. As with any character trait, it impacted my personal relationships as well.

As we lead our teams, grow our businesses, and find more ways to add value to the lives of others, we depend upon the traits we’ve developed and cultivated throughout the years to move us forward.

Some of these traits and characteristics we have developed consciously and others…not so much. Many of these are positive, serve us well and would be considered strengths. Others are negative and counterproductive to our overall effectiveness.

Are we stuck with the negative ones? Should we even bother worrying about them?

Much of today’s popular teaching tells us to simply ignore our weaknesses and focus only on our strengths.

While I understand the intent, I believe that as a general, all-inclusive rule it is incorrect.

There is certainly much validity in focusing on our strengths. They are basically the value we bring to both our personal and business relationships. Focus on them, indeed. However, ignoring the weaknesses can be downright dangerous in terms of our potential success!

I believe our weaknesses — both personal and business — can be grouped into three main categories:

  1. Those that truly do not matter. For example, I’m not good at running long distances. Since I have no plans to run a marathon, I ignore that one.
  2. Those that matter and need to be mitigated. I have a weakness for junk food and have to be very aware; constantly monitoring myself.
  3. Those that matter and need to be turned into a strength. I used to be a gossip. It was hugely destructive. That weakness I worked on until I had not only overcome it, but become well-known for very rarely saying anything negative about anyone.

Had I not overcome that last one and turned a weakness into a strength, I can guarantee you my level of influence and success in many areas of my life would be much less than it is now.

Benjamin Franklin understood this concept and devised his own Character Improvement program. The difference that made in his life is self-evident.

So, yes, by all means, focus on your strengths. That’s where you will achieve the most.

But, don’t ignore your weaknesses. At least the ones that matter.

Action Step: Focus on just one negative character trait that you’d like to improve. It might be wasteful spending, overcoming anger, speaking ill of others. Work on that one thing and take pleasure in every small success until you’ve turned it from a weakness into a strength.

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  • Jeff ‘SKI’ Kinsey

    Great insight as usual Bob, especially providing a framework to evaluate one’s weaknesses. As you know, Zig Ziglar preached the idea of asking a basic question to measure the worthiness of a decision: “Does this action i am considering, take me closer to, or further away, from my goal?” I see a connection to Zig’s query and your item #3. Too often I have ignored such a weakness. That has been a mistake on more than one occasion. I will endeavor to do better! Thanks.

  • bobburg

    Ski, thank you for your kind feedback. And, Zig’s question you cited is as profound as all of Zig’s teachings. A terrific question to ask ourselves.

  • Warren Whitlock

    I was getting pretty good at finding the negatives I wanted to correct, even priding myself on “fixing” thing that needed fixing and letting go of those that did not fit the criteria.

    I did notice that some on my team would take my well intended choosing of what needed to be fixed as negative, annoying or just downright rude. “Results speak for themselves” I’d mutter as I apologized for hurt feelings and encouraged all.

    One day I saw a video about trombones and started reading about talents. When the talk of pushing a child in the area where he had a “D” or “C” came up, I pictured myself drilling spelling words to my one child who didn’t enjoy it as much as the others.

    I started looking for the good, the positive, the promotable… and soon found that I was finding less things that needed fixing.

    Like you described, I can still find the thing to fix, now wondering if that’s something to brag about :)

    • bobburg

      Thank you for sharing your always valuable wisdom and point of view, Warren. And, congrats on your upcoming new book. I know that you are your team have a put a LOT of work and effort into it!

      • Warren Whitlock

        and thank you for seeing the positive in my comment :)

  • Eric Wilbanks

    Thank you for posting this, Bob. I have many concerns about the indiscriminate acceptance of the strengths movement, both from a psychological perspective (positive psychology has much to offer, but also comes with it’s own set of issues) and a theological perspective (an outgrowth of my faith and background). It’s sometimes difficult to communicate those concerns in a way that is simple and straightforward. You’ve done that here. I’m grateful.

    • Bob Burg

      Eric: Thank you for your very kind feedback and comment. Means a lot to
      me to know you found it to be simple and straightforward. A weakness of
      mine (that I do need to continue to work on) is that I can be too wordy.
      :-) Thank you!

  • jon_mitchell_jackson

    Bob- When getting jury feedback after a trial, I love talking about my weaknesses. I always try to direct the conversation towards answering the question, “what can or should I do different?” Most of the time the weak links can be fixed or eliminated– and that’s a good thing. Having said that, strengths are fun to fall back on and enjoy every now and then. Helps keep things positive and a bit fun. Always enjoy your work!

    • bobburg

      Jon: Thank you. It really says a lot about you that you are open to hearing what those weaknesses might be. Even after considering whether or not their specific suggestions are something you need to work on, it certainly puts you in the position of being conscious of it. That’s terrific! I love that! And, thank you for your very kind words. I appreciate that a lot!

  • Lucy Chen

    Sometimes it is most difficult to understand ourselves.

    I often have to paint some thing and see what’s in there, and let my painting tell me about me. And then sometimes I’ll try to write down what I learned. I know I’m inpatient, this is one of my weaknesses.

    Trying to analyze myself further gives me headache. But thank you, Bob, I think I’ll use this as a prop to paint a portrait. Then I’ll understand my weaknesses better.

    • bobburg

      Lucy: Thank you for your kind feedback on the post. And, I agree with you that it can be very difficult to understand ourselves. After all, we’re so close to ourselves that it’s difficult to take an objective look. :-) Cool about you using your skill as a painter to help you in this regard. That’s awesome!

      • Lucy Chen

        Bob, thank you for the response. I think that’s how many artists function LOL!

  • Suzanne Vara


    Always fantastic and useful posts you bring to us readers. I use this concept with my son as at 8 he is more inclined to brag about something he does really well. Very age appropriate but teaching him to steer away from that and ask for help/talk about with something he wants to improve upon has shined some light. Instead of giving up with an attitude, I cannot do this!, he is finding that he can turn a weakness into a strength and have fun doing it.

    We all have weaknesses and the fear of exposing makes us vulnerable. This vulnerability many times prevents us from tackling the weakness. It keeps a barrier up around us as no one can see that I cannot do this or that. Makes sense until we realize that relationships can be built or made stronger when people see the real you.

    PS I share your junk food weakness. Who needs a salad for lunch when cookies are staring at you?