Dear Executive: Admit Weakness to Gain Strength

The competitive nature of the capitalist system creates a catch 22 situation for many executives. In order to look good, they feel they have to hide their weaknesses and expose their strengths, however, in order to learn one needs to be vulnerable by exposing one’s weakness.

It is easy to get lost in the World of Pretending, where you lose touch with the reality of who you are and the pragmatic view of your character. Admitting a shortcoming, especially in the emotional intelligence zone, is, practically, a taboo in business – to such a degree that one often hides it even from oneself.

But hiding is often unrealistic as usually others can clearly see the issue. They might not say anything because they are afraid of your reaction. Culturally, especially among men, this might also be deemed inappropriate. So what should you do if you are a manager or an HR specialist?

Look into creating a culture of feedback, starting from softer forms of it, so people can get used to the process and feel the benefits. There are many experiential exercises where people, by seeing themselves in action, can see themselves as in a mirror. Based on the experience + simple measurements, they can tell where they are with the selected set of skills.

It is really important how you design, set up and implement the whole system. Providing feedback in a coaching way, by having people share in pairs, rather than in front of the entire group,  ensures additional safety and deepens understanding. If the issues require more attention,  individuals can work with a professional coach.

What  should you do if you are an executive who is starting to see things you would like to improve but are afraid to take it to your HR/manager? Do not wait and think the issue will  go away by itself. Repressed weakness is unhealthy to you and your relationships;  it will cause  problems both on the job and off the job.

Firstly, look at yourself pragmatically and admit to yourself where you are having difficulties. Gather feedback from people you trust who are willing to be honest. Second, have a conversation with a coach; do not wait for HR to send you one. Learn about possible coaching interventions.

Consider paying for coaching yourself, rather than waiting for the company budget. Do it especially if the problem is significant or emotionally difficult. Your growth does not follow the budgetary schedules. You want to perform at your best now, not a year later. Your career depends on it.

Life is short. Take your development into your own hands.

The greatest performers are the ones who admit their weaknesses first and start working on them right away.

Jacek “Skyski” Skrzypczynski, executive coach