Before we get to any discussion of your greatest weakness, I think it’s actually more important to take a look at an inventory of your strengths. Why, you ask? Drawing on past experience, I find that quite often it’s our perceived strengths that become our greatest weaknesses. A strength overused becomes a weakness. In the words of Marshall Goldsmith, "what got you here, won't get you there".

There are several great assessments that help you to take stock of your strengths and determine what, if any, blind spots you may be operating with. It's important to note that blind spots have frequently led to the career derailment of people with the very best of knowledge, skills and abilities. I'm talking about people with incredibly high potential that eventually goes unrecognized due to what could be referred to as a fatal flaw. The toll on those individuals, and the organizations they've worked for, is incredible and for the most part avoidable.

In his book, Working With Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman refers to the fact that we are all being held to a different standard in our working lives. Goleman stated that "the rules for work are changing". We are being judged on a different scale; not just by how smart we are, by the training we've had, or the expertise we have developed, but, also by how well we handle each other and ourselves. This new measuring stick is increasingly applied in choosing who will be hired and who will not, who will be fired, who will be retained and developed, who gets passed over and who gets promoted.

If you haven't already done so and you're interested in determining your own inventory of strengths, Tom Rath's best seller, Strengths Finder 2.0, is a fabulous starting point. To drill down and be able to identify your blind spots requires additional insights. I use a behavioral assessment called The McQuaig Self-Development Survey and an emotional intelligence assessment called EQ-i 2.0 to help my clients uncover and create an action plan that is designed to help leverage their strengths and improve in areas that require further development.

The McQuaig Self-Development Survey will take you far beyond the scope of Strengths Finder 2.0. It's a great compliment to the development plans of the individual contributors within an organization. Working on their own, or with their supervisor, someone in an individual contributor role will be able to identify the strengths they can leverage to build on their successes. They'll also be able to pick two or three areas of development and create an action plan that is designed to mitigate the impact of specific behaviors on the relationships they have with their peers and supervisor.

Let's take a look at how the McQuaig behavioral assessment identifies potential blind spots and sets the stage for individual development.

McQuaig Behavioral Assessment

The Self-Development Survey is a self assessment of four workplace related behaviors. Knowing where you fall on each of these scales provides the insights required to leverage strengths and prioritize 2 or 3 key developmental areas. Self-awareness is the foundation for achieving higher levels of performance.


The McQuaig Self-Development Survey identified two key behavioral traits that this individual had leveraged for success in individual contributor roles. In a selling role, this individual had achieved top performer status in his organization. This was largely due to his unwavering focus on results (competition/winning) and his ability to be flexible and think on his feet (independence).

Areas of Development

The strong push for results, competitive behavior and need to assert himself created issues with collaboration, team building and the ability to listen to others. Working with his supervisor this individual contributor was able to create an action plan that addressed these concerns.
I use the EQ-i 2.0 assessment when I'm working with people in leadership roles as well as with strategic roles within an organization. Based on the Bar-On EQ-i model by Reuven Bar-On, this self assessment helps people understand how well they:
  • perceive and express themselves
  • develop and maintain social relationships
  • cope with challenges
  • use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way

When I think of the most common career derailers, especially from a leadership perspective, much can be traced back to four key EQ-i sub scales. We often see some combination of impulse control, stress tolerance, problem solving and independence as the drivers of career malfunction. When used as a 360 assessment we are able to plot the blind spots a leader has in relation to his or her boss, peers and direct reports. Here's how the EQ-i 2.0 identifies potential blind spots as a self assessment.

EQ-i 2.0 Emotional Intelligence Assessment

The fact that this leader's problem solving sub scale is higher than her flexibility, she was seen as being an independent problem solver that seldom involved her team, or colleagues, in finding solutions to the situation that she was confronted with. With coaching she was able to become more alert to new ideas and methods that may be more appropriate when conditions change.

Because her impulse control was higher than her flexibility, she was often seen as the member of the leadership team that inhibited change that was well planed and positive. With coaching she was able to develop a strategy that allowed for sensible changes to occur in a thoughtful way.

Her stress tolerance was lower than her problem solving which created issues for her when problems took longer to resolve than she felt was reasonable. With input from her coach she was able to develop some coping mechanisms that kept her energized and effective in the long run.

What's your greatest weakness? Let's take stock of your greatest strengths first!


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