Think back to any job interviews you've had. If you're like most people, the least favorite interview question is probably, "What do you consider your greatest weakness?". The temptation is to take a strength of yours and skew it in such a way that it can be played off as a weakness. Like, "I care too much." Or "I want things to be the best they can be, which makes me work harder at having excellent time management since I spend a lot of time on projects." Do those sound like very authentic answers? I think not.
The truth is, none of us want to put the spotlight on our weaknesses.
Before I left my full-time office job to pursue building my own business, it was so easy to daydream and think about all the awesome things I could fill my day with if I was my own boss with a super flexible work schedule. I could take Griffin on a long walk in the afternoon. I could spend a whole day painting if I wanted to. There are so many articles out there about how sweet the freelance life is, and no doubt it is a sweet lifestyle. I'm fortunate to be able to take my dog on a nice long walk instead of rushing him before driving to the office in the morning. And yes, if I plan properly I can take a day just to paint and play. However, there is soooo much more to running your own business than the flexible work schedule. Being your own boss makes your strengths shine through, but that also means your personal weaknesses get highlighted too. So when I leapt into Gillian Tracey Design full-time, I didn't only want to focus on the awesome things. That just wouldn't be realistic. I wanted to think about what would be hard; what I would struggle with. After all, a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link.
I think there’s a true benefit to knowing yourself enough to predict what you’re going to struggle with because then you can prepare for it. Perhaps that’s why the dreaded “what do you consider your greatness weakness” question comes up in job interviews. By being well acquainted with your weaknesses (instead of acting like they don't exist), you can make yourself stronger. Instead of answering that question by trying to make one of your strengths sound like a weakness, I’m going to encourage you to be honest with yourself. Go ahead and shine the spotlight on your not-so-glamorous parts. Too shy? Here, I'll share a few of mine because we're all friends here, right?
- I can get huge influxes of creative ideas, which is a good thing until they start becoming a distraction (and they almost always do). When I get an idea, the thing I'm working on gets pushed aside instead of getting completed. The hard work of finishing the task at hand should come before the play of pursuing a spur-of-the-moment idea.
- Not all the parts of running your own business are fun or very palatable. When those things come up, I don’t always have enough discipline to just sit down and get it done. Instead, it's way too easy to take a break and check out what's happening on social media.
- Even though I’m okay with spending time by myself (any other introverts out there?), I have a feeling there is a potential for loneliness in the future the longer I work from home.
Those are just a few, and believe me when I say that list could be much longer. It's not a fun list to look at, but don't stop with just writing down your weaknesses. While it's good to know what they are, that knowledge doesn't end up being very useful unless you can come up with a way to improve. After looking at your weak spots and regular struggles, what are actionable and effective steps you can take to counteract them? For example, when I get a huge burst of creative ideas, I'll finish the task at hand and then take a moment to write them down. If I finish other important things on my to-do list, then I can pursue those ideas. If I'm worried about the possibility of getting lonesome as a solopreneur, I can work towards building up a master mind group, schedule a weekly get-together with another creative, or go work from a coffee shop.
The reality that is building a business, and all the components that go into it, is hard. Real hard. The people who make their small businesses successful have a lot of strengths to boost them up. But since we're all human, we all have weaknesses too (even the people with perfect-looking Instagram accounts). By facing up to our shortcomings, we can only make ourselves stronger.
If you want to work on taking actionable steps to being strong by knowing your weaknesses, go ahead and download this worksheet! This free worksheet will help you identify your top three weaknesses and plan actionable steps to improving them.