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Grasping the Role of Weaknesses in Strengths Coaching (Part 2)

Grasping the Role of Weaknesses in Strengths Coaching (Part 2)

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 6, Episode 4
  • Learn the importance of weaknesses as a component of self-awareness, and how as a coach you can help people use their strengths to overcome them.

On a recent Called to Coach, we spoke with the Principal Architect of Gallup's Global Learning Strategy, Dean Jones. This is Part 2 of that conversation. Access Part 1 of "Grasping the Role of Weaknesses in Strengths Coaching."

Weaknesses -- we all have a lot of them!

Don Clifton quote -- "Focus on what's right" -- gets interpreted as Never think about weaknesses.

  • Historical context -- nascent age of psychology
  • Any development journey includes an assessment (an accounting) of what's right and what's wrong, what's working and not working

Important component of growth is self-awareness. Self-awareness is incomplete without an awareness or appreciation of weaknesses.

Six Assertions About Weaknesses to Inform the Discussion

  1. Strengths and weaknesses are not opposites. You don't create a strength out of a weakness.
  • Strengths are based on a repository of talent. When you dig into a weakness, you seldom find a talent -- you typically find an absence of talent.
  1. People often take their talent for granted -- the fallacy of ease. So they are inclined to invest in areas where things seem hard, assuming that mastering them will provide the great growth.
  • They think what comes easily must not be valuable, and what is hard and takes work is better. Work at what comes easily.
  • Mastery is about capitalizing on talent, rather than overcoming the odds.
  • "Rudy" is about a moment of victory, not a lifetime of success and accomplishment. Where could you best apply yourself? In the end, it's a sad story.
  1. You can't "fix" a weakness. There is really nothing to fix -- nothing to work with. You need to be aware of it, account for it.
  • Like driving around a barrier, rather than driving through it.
  1. Weaknesses don't really develop in the same way as strengths. Strengths develop infinitely.
  • They develop incrementally -- they don't have the same return.
  • They don't develop in the same fluid, intuitive fashion.
  • Rhythm to a dancer
  • Mikaela Shifferin -- "just getting started"
  1. Weaknesses get uncovered over time.
  • CliftonStrengths is like a treasure map -- it tells you where to start digging. But experience and application over time give you real understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.
  • You might go back to the map to orient yourself, but you want to focus on the application and experience of talents to develop them.
  1. Weaknesses are relative. As you develop, yesterday's strengths are today's weaknesses.
  • You get narrow. You focus. That is the path to being world class.
  • The best get ruthless -- honest, truthful -- about their weaknesses, so they can keep focusing.

Much work of strengths coaches can be helping people become aware of their weaknesses and use their strengths to overcome them.

Usually that means a strengths coaches need to help the person they are coaching with:

  • Being aware of their weaknesses
  • Being responsible for them
  • Using strengths-based strategies to manage them and produce results


  • Weaknesses can often be in areas that are blind spots
  • People may have a passing awareness of their weaknesses -- but don't really see the impact
  • Awareness-building often happens through a combination of receiving feedback and understanding impact
    • Direct feedback is most valuable
    • Understanding the impact on two levels -- impact on others, and impact on self

Awareness issues:

  • Claiming strengths you don't have
  • Not seeing weaknesses
  • Being unaware of your strengths
  • Being unaware of your non talents


  • People who legitimately know their strengths tend to be more forthcoming with their weaknesses.
    • Fatal flaw is believing their strengths apply to everything (Icarus)
  • You can't make someone be responsible -- they have to give it to themselves. It is a process of taking ownership.
    • Not about finding fault; it's about understanding that "I have a say in the way this goes."

Strengths-Based Strategies

  • It only makes sense that the best way to apply yourself to addressing your weaknesses would be to use your areas of greatest talent.
    • That's why we look to our strengths as the best way to address weaknesses.

Strategies for Addressing Weaknesses

  1. Create Open Dialogue and Transparency
  2. Intentionally Leverage your Strengths
  3. Find Support Systems
  4. Build Complementary Partnerships
  5. Get the Right Education
  6. Set Reasonable Standards and Just Do It
  7. Adjust or Change Roles

This is not about inspiration. This is not about "believe in yourself." This is about identifying and getting clear about your talent -- and then putting it to work.

View Part 1 of the Grasping the Role of Weaknesses in Strengths Coaching series

Dean Jones' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Activator, Focus, Woo, Strategic and Relator.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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