How to convert your biggest weakness into your greatest strength

How to convert your biggest weakness into your greatest strength

During most evaluation conversations, we are often told to keep on working on our weaknesses. Our talents are quickly touched upon but the main focus lies on what can we do to improve ourselves. We are sent to different training courses, coaching programs, etc. Then we go off and work hard on ourselves, improving our communications skills, empathy, assertiveness, presentation skills or whatever else that is required from us to do our job.

What often remains neglected in those conversations is that our greatest weaknesses actually point us in the direction of our biggest strength. We often do not realise that both our talents and weaknesses belong to the same “coin” and represent both sides of it: there cannot be light if there is no darkness, there cannot be good without evil and there cannot be empathy without egoism,

Core Quadrant methodology

A  theory that illustrates this phenomenon really well is Daniel Ofman's Core Quadrant methodology. We are all born with a great many qualities that we call talents or strengths, which we develop throughout our lives. However, if we take those qualities to extremes, we will miss the mark and land in our trap, referred to by Ofman as a "pitfall." 

For example, if your core quality is being well-organised, and you overdo it, you risk becoming overly organised and rigid. If your talent is caring for others but you do too much of it, your pitfall might be self-sacrifice. In essence, the pitfall is us doing too much of a good thing; simply overdoing it.

As our brains are geared towards quickly spotting dangers and negativity, we tend to notice our weaknesses (pitfalls) quicker than our talents (strengths). However, in order for us to work on ourselves in an effective way, we first need to realise that our weaknesses cannot exist without our strengths and understand that it is not about purging our weaknesses, but learning how to use our strengths to help us to grow.


Challenge and allergy

Ofman’s theory goes further. On the opposite (positive) side of pitfall lies our “challenge” - a quality that is complementary to our own strength. So, taking the example of being well-organised, where the pitfall is rigidity, the positive (opposite) side of it could be flexibility. But also, the challenge (which is the positive quality) if taken to the extreme can become one’s weakness. Ofman calls this type of weakness “allergy” as it is often a certain behaviour / trait of others that irritates us.

Following the above-mentioned example, if a person takes flexibility to extremes it can become chaotic and messy. To close the circle, if you are an organised person, the people who irritate you will be the ones that are chaotic and messy, but those people will regard you as rigid and inflexible.

Our flaws are merely the shadow sides of our greatest strengths

We are often not willing to work on our challenges, as we are worried that we will become our own "allergy." This, however, will never happen as our talents prevent us from doing that.

What can you do?

So how can you apply the knowledge of this methodology to your own development? Below are a couple of points that can help you:

  1. Write down all your talents and think about the shadow side of them - which of your strengths got out of hand?
  2. Think of the ways to "dose" your talents - what mechanism do you need to put in place to keep on standing in your strength and avoid falling into a trap?
  3. Make a list of your shadow talents, and analyse the direction of which core positive qualities they are pointing at.
  4. Make a list of your allergies - the easiest way is to simply think of what type of behaviour irritates you in others, then analyse what this says about your challenges, pitfalls and core talents.
  5. Think about how you can embrace your talents and challenges at the same time.

So now I am curious: what have you noted as your biggest talents and allergies? How can YOU turn your weaknesses into your strength? Share in the comments below!

Dorota Klop-Sowinska


Dorota Klop-Sowinska

Official Member of Forbes Coaches Council. I specialize in international career and expat coaching. I am the author of the book Career Jump! How to Successfully Change Your Professional Path...

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