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WeaknessesWhile being clear on your strengths is important, you also need to be aware of your weaknesses.  Then you can plan how you will work around those weaknesses in order to deliver great results.

If you feel unhappy in your role, it is probably an indicator that a large chunk of the role is doing tasks that you’re not good at and don’t enjoy doing. This saps motivation and performance drops.  You can slide into a negative cycle, because low motivation also affects the tasks that you are good at.

Here is a process I use with coaching clients to address weaknesses and plan development that excites them.

1.     Identify the tasks you don’t like doing

Thinking about your weaknesses, write down the tasks that you dislike or know you’re not good at. Be honest with yourself, as this is only for you.  What do you avoid doing or put off to the last minute?  It is likely that these are tasks you dislike.  Have you got something on your To-Do list that has been carried over from week to week?  Maybe you feel you should do it or someone else has told you to do it, but it never works its way up to the top of the list?

These are all indicators of those tasks where your motivation and capability are low.

2.     Determine the skills you feel are lacking

What kind of situations do you dread, because you lack the skill to handle them effectively? Presentations in front of a large audience may scare you. Or perhaps you feel unable to speak up in conflict situations. Do office politics faze you?  Or you feel you lack gravitas and presence?  Are numbers your weakness, or creativity?  Does a mention of strategic thinking fill  you with dread? What are the skills you have not yet developed?

If you’re unsure, a good way of identifying these skills is to recall times when you have felt stressed.  Stress is often an indicator that you are operating from a weakness. This is especially true if you can’t put stress down to workload.

We all have things that we are not good at and there is no need to feel any shame about that.  Simply acknowledging your weaknesses empowers you to do something to resolve any issues they may cause.

3.     Check weaknesses against the role description of your current and next roles

Strengths and weaknesses are relative to the role and context.  So let’s only concern ourselves with the ones that matter.  For example, John thought he was not creative, but when we analysed the skills his role in risk management demanded, creativity was not among them.  This meant he didn’t need to treat it as a weakness he needed to develop.

Looking at your current role description, what are the tasks you’re expected to master?  What skills will help you to be successful in the role?  Do this assessment for your ideal next role as well.  This is about your career development and you need to think longer-term.

Identify those tasks and skills where there is a gap between your ability that that required in the role.

4.     Is there a work-around that resolves the situation?

No-one can be good at everything, which is why we work in teams or groups.  Are there any tasks that someone else could do effectively, efficiently and economically? Could someone else do the task, or is your ability to achieve your goals and outcomes compromised? If acceptable, is this a task you could delegate, or negotiate a change in responsibility?

When you can find an alternative solution and you don’t need to master this task to develop your career potential, then this is often the best option.  It may provide a great opportunity to develop someone in the team.  Or it could be an opportunity to review a process and improve it, so that it works better for all. Perhaps you could automate a task by using your systems more efficiently  or maybe outsource it.

5.     Is the weakness a task or skill you need to learn?

When your analysis shows that this task or skill is one that you need to master if you want to further your career, then you’ll need to identify how you can best learn it.

1. Establish the goal

What will you be able to do?  There may be levels of mastery in this skill and you only need to achieve the foundation level, or maybe you need to achieve great expertise. This will make a BIG difference to how you go about developing your capability.

How will you know you are successful – what measures will indicate that you are making progress?

When you know what you want to achieve and you know your existing level of ability, then you can explore how to close the gap.

2. Identify suitable ways to learn

Have you heard of the 70:20:10 learning model?  Research shows that we learn about 70% of work tasks and skills on the job, 20% through coaching, mentoring or similar learning through others and 10% through formal learning programmes.  With this model in mind how could you learn this task or skill?

70: ideas for developing through experience

  • Generate ideas on new ways of doing things and take a role in testing and implementing
  • Job-shadowing or exposure to other departments or roles, internally and externally
  • Volunteer for a project or task and learn by doing.  Perhaps take a leading role
  • Community activities and volunteering, within the organisation or externally
  • Ask your manager to delegate a task to you to support your development
  • Stand in for your manager in meetings with senior management
  • Request increased authority for decision-making
  • Day-to-day research, web or resource browsing
  • Arrange role swaps or secondments
  • Champion and/or manage changes
  • Ask for a stretch assignment
  • Cover for others on leave

20: suggestions for learning through others

  • Seek advice and sound out ideas with experts
  • Coaching or mentoring from managers /others
  • Learning through networks /external contacts
  • Work/project reviews and feedback
  • Professional association membership
  • Membership of personal development clubs (e.g. Toastmasters International)
  • Action learning sets

10: methods for formal learning

  • Internal courses, workshops, seminars
  • External courses, conferences, seminars
  • Professional qualifications /accreditation
  • Higher education, part-time or full-time
  • Online learning

3. Assess for suitability 

Once you have identified suitable methods for learning, you need to check them out for feasibility and cost.  This includes a realistic assessment of how much time and effort you can invest in this development.  How motivated are you by each method?

4. Commit to your development

Decide on your development plan and commit to taking the action required to master this skill. Enrol the support you need – both at work and at home – to enable you to focus on this learning.  Plan the learning into your schedule.  Establish milestones to indicate progress along the way and make sure you reward yourself for your achievements and celebrate these milestones.


Weaknesses are relative, so make sure what you perceive as a weakness is relevant for your career.  If it is think through a learning plan and commit to developing the skill.  Make sure you have the support you need to invest in your development, whether that is at work or personal support out of work.

Ensure you are in control of the skills, qualities and experience that will make you successful in your career.

If you have any questions or comments, please note them here or contact Amanda directly.

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