Do You Know What Your 3 Greatest Strengths and Weaknesses Are?

I was helping out our Career Services team last week by
being an interviewer for some of our soon-to-graduate senior business majors.
Although I have
own preferred way
on doing selection interviewing, I was
provided with a list of standard questions and was asked to stick to the

Two of the questions were:

1. What you’re your greatest strengths?

2. What are your greatest weaknesses and what are you
doing to overcome them?

One of the student candidates nailed them both! She had
very specific and authentic answers for each question, along with a story to
illustrate each strength and weakness. The strengths were highly relevant to
the position she was interviewing for. The weaknesses less relevant, but she
skillfully used the question to show humble self-awareness and the desire to
develop and improve.

The other three candidates didn’t do so well with the
questions, which somewhat surprised me. I always thought those lame questions
were two of the most overused interview questions used by inexperienced hiring
managers. Anyone in the job market,
or soon to be in the job market, should at a minimum have answers for those
questioned memorized and rehearsed. They paused, they stumbled, and they
rambled on, and eventually were able to sweat their way to the next question.

I was happy to give them constructive feedback. (-:

However, as I think about the work I’ve done with very seasoned
successful executives, maybe I was too hard on those 20 something year-old students.
When faced with the results of their 360 degree assessment reports and
feedback, I’d say at least half of the executives I’ve coached didn’t have a clear
handle on what their greatest strengths and weaknesses were. Or, even if they
thought they did, there was a mismatch between the person they thought they were and how they were perceived by others.

Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses isn’t just
important in acing interviews and landing a spot on a television reality show.
It’s also important in order to be a successful leader. “
Blind-spot” weaknesses,
often manifested as
that may have served as leader well early in their
career, will most likely derail a senior leader if not identified and
addressed. Attention to detail turns into micromanaging; confidence turns into
arrogance, and being a good problem solver leads to an inability to delegate
and develop others.

How aware are you of your strengths and weaknesses? If
you haven’t already, could you answer the two questions about greatest
strengths and weaknesses any better than our students did?

I could have two years ago when I was interviewing for my
current position, but if I had to honestly answer the same questions today, I’m
sure my answers would be different.

So here’s what I think we need to do:

At least once a year – about as often as we should get an
annual performance review and be updating our resumes – take a few moments to
answer those two questions. Then, if you have a weakness or overused strength
that’s hindering your performance as a leader, create a development plan and do something about it. If you’re not
sure what your strengths or weaknesses are – or want to verify your
self-assessment (which in most cases is pretty inaccurate), get a 360 degree
assessment and engage an executive coach to help your sort out the results and
create your development plan.

If you can’t do a 360 or afford a coach, then at least
ask others – your boss, coworkers, and employees – for their feedback. That’s
what the most successful leaders do – they are always on the lookout for blind spots, and know when and how to
adapt their behavior to the context of the situation they are faced with.

Don’t wait for that next job interview to take stock of
your strengths and weaknesses – do it on a regular basis, as a part of your
ongoing development as a leader.