How to turn weaknesses into strengths

Photo credit - Teddy Kelley via

Photo credit – Teddy Kelley via

How do you turn a weakness into a strength? Do you recognise your own shortcomings? Research suggests that you probably do, but that you are unlikely to do anything about them. Want to change that? Read on.

Can you identify your career-limiting habit or weakness?
Is it that you are unreliable? Lack empathy? Avoid conflict? Fear risk? Research suggests that 97% of people can readily identify their own career limiting habits. Despite that, few actually address them. This post provides a three-step plan to do that.

Three-step plan to turn weaknesses into strengths
The three steps proposed to turn your weaknesses into strengths are:

  • identifying crucial moments
  • designing deliberate practice
  • developing emotional competence

What are your crucial moments?
Can you identify the nature of the moments that provoke your ineffective responses to things? To do this, think about the times, places, social circumstances, moods, physiological states, or risk perceptions that underlie the moments when you act in ways that lead to bad results. Joseph Grenny (2017) suggests these are your crucial moments

By identifying your crucial moments, you can identify the moments when you need to be vigilant. That may mean it comes down to some critical minutes rather than an ongoing surveillance of your own conduct. Identifying crucial moments helps to minimise the time to focus on, perhaps to a few minutes, and as a result helps to contain the issue to a manageable time frame.

Engaging in deliberate practice
Deliberate practice is when you bring your focus to practising a skill under relatively real conditions. Engaging in deliberate practice results in our learning curve steepening (according to Swedish psychologist Anders Ericsson). Deliberate practice coupled with feedback accelerates learning. It acts as a kind of rehearsal with an appropriate balance of safety and challenge.

The key to effective deliberate practice is to focus on a discrete skill that is relevant to changing your behaviour. By doing this you develop confidence in only attempting to address one thing at a time and being able to focus on the effect it has.

Developing your emotional competence
Addressing weaknesses may mean forcing yourself to confront behaviour that makes you feel uncomfortable. This means you may provoke unpleasant emotions that will only encourage you to avoid them. The solution proposed is to develop a tactic where you make an unpleasant act pleasant. It is a mental re-framing exercise but it helps to retrain your brain so that it doesn’t default to the undesired behaviour. We want to retrain the brain to change its “formula” for how you respond in those crucial moments.

What does that mean? It may require you to take a moment to be more mindful of the situation and how you choose to respond to it.  The idea is to “take a moment” to centre yourself. It may mean taking some deep breaths to calm things down before thinking about and choosing an action. It may mean “taking a moment” to ask yourself what you really want from a situation and the best approach to take.

Taking this mindful approach helps you to be more aware of your emotional state and the choices you are making in your actions. Perhaps you have already done this? Would you care to share your experiences here?


Grenny, Joseph. 2017. A 3-Step Plan for Turning Weaknesses into Strengths. Harvard Business Review. 26 January 2017.

Share your comments here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: