The Flip Side of Weakness is … Strength?

Confession: I am not perfect.  There are some things about me that I consider weaknesses and wish I could change.  … or do I?

Press the rewind button and set your clocks back about 14 years to my retail management career.  I liked my job most of the time.  I was regarded by most of my peers and my district managers as successful; but, there were a few management scenarios that I just didn’t seem to handle very well.  After resolving some issues in a manner I felt was ineffective, I decided that the problem was me.  So I set out to “change myself.”  Instead of being the Friendly Manager that everyone could talk to, I decided to try on the Drill Sargent Manager persona, that everyone would obey and fear the wrath.  I would alternate personalities based on the situation at hand.  When assertion is needed, I’d put on the Drill Sargent hat.  When it wasn’t, I would go back to my “normal” self.

A few issues got resolved, but the cost was very high.  Trying to adopt a personality that is not your own takes a lot of energy.  I was burned out more than usual, my staff was completely demoralized, and I could even tell my customer satisfaction was starting to slip.  What went wrong?  Why is it I am not able to be both the Friendly Manager and the Drill Sargent at the same time?

I recently read a book by Parker Palmer titled Let Your Life Speak.  To sum the book up in a single sentence: be true to yourself.  One of the great things Palmer points out is the parts of our personality we regard as weaknesses are usually the natural consequences of our greatest strengths. For example, the person everyone regards as a great listener, is probably not going to be the extraverted “life of the party” in a social setting.  In my own case, naturally being the compassionate manager meant trying to be an authoritarian manager was just too much in conflict with my inherent personality.

Were there better ways of handling the situations I had 14 years ago that would have worked without trying to change my personality and my management style?  Absolutely.  But trying the personality change was a great lesson learned.

What’s the flip side of that weakness you are so concerned about?  … are you prepared to lose one of your greatest strengths in the process of trying to shed a weakness?  If the flip side of the coin is a strength, is it really a weakness, or just part of who you are?

Shakespeare said it best through the character of Hamlet:
This above all: to thine ownself be true.


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