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Managing Around My Weakness: A New Partner!

Pulleys help a sailor to manage sheets and lines that would otherwise have too much force for a normal person to handle.

I believe deeply in knowing our own strengths and weakness, acknowledging them, and deciding how to handle them. Or, as I frame it in my interview question when asking about weakness, “So what are your weak sides and how do you work with them?”. If someone is confused, or not wanting to admit to weaknesses, then I continue, “Because the thing is, we all have them. If we know what they are, we can either work to manage them, or manage around them. It’s when we don’t know what they are, or we don’t admit to them, we have a problem.”

Because the thing is, we all have them. None of us are perfect (no matter how hard we may try to show that we are on social media), and frankly, it is a whole lot easier to work with people who know that they aren’t good at something and work with it, then people who hide, deny, or blame others for their weaknesses. (A side note: Belbin Team Roles are a great way to work with strengths and weaknesses and part of both Be a Better Team and Be Your Best Self for a Better Team, talk to me if you want to know more)

We can work with our weaknesses by trying to improve them. Some weaknesses desperately need this. For me, patience (or lack thereof) has been on my list for years (ever since I owned it, rather than parroting some wonderful response to interview questions that my weakness is that I just want to do such a good job and I try so hard, so yes, please hire me because I am really wonderful). It has also been on more than one evaluation, “Sarah needs more patience in working with others …” I’m actually quite proud that patience hasn’t shown up in a while, but maybe that is because I am self-employed and haven’t had an employee evaluation for a while.

All jest aside, I know that patience is a real weakness of mine, and it was limiting my effectiveness as a leader. Particularly as I moved from doing things myself, to enabling others to do things. I often micro-managed, or would take over tasks when they weren’t done with the speed and quality I wanted. I’m ashamed to say I actually caused someone to go on sick leave because of my lack of patience with them. If you worked with me in my 20’s and 30’s, please accept my apologies because I probably lost my patience with you at some point.

However, when I tell that to teams that I have worked with recently, many are surprised as they see patience as a strength of mine. This has been due to hard work on my part, good feedback from colleagues when I am not, and also the trial-by-fire for patience of becoming a mother.

Patience is a trait that a good leader must have. So I needed to work with it. I needed to manage my skills with it, and I need to manage myself in situations when it is pressed. I don’t think I have lost my patience at work more than a handful of times over the past years. My daughter on the other hand, can push my buttons multiple times within a day. I’m still working on that.

The other strong weakness that I have, particularly when it comes to training and teaching, is teaching through play or activities. My natural teaching style is storytelling, and I love piling on a lot of research and interesting findings, together with stories and metaphors to strengthen it. If you know me well, I have probably lost myself and time in lecturing you on a topic I am quite passionate about (culture, inequalities and impacts of them, how the brain works, etc). I might even have forgotten where I am in traffic a time or two, telling a story or sharing a theory, and then wondering why I am where I am (thank Volvo and Aptiv for my wonderful safety system).

However, there are all different styles of learning, and as I learned in a recent facilitator training, people learn by doing. So while I may enjoy and be quite good at explaining cultural differences, why you react emotionally to some topics, or telling a story about a mistake I made in giving feedback across cultures, my strength hasn’t been to let you learn it through doing or simulating. I do have exercises, case studies, and practice, but if a team wants to have fun and play while learning, I have so far called in someone else.

That was why I was so excited last week in the Group Development Questionnaire (GDQ) Annual Conference, when the conference opened up with a game called Miki Island that creates a simulation game that people play in a team. The game is based on the GDQ (a model of group development) that assesses what level a team is performing at, and thus identify areas for improvement. While I have worked with the assessment, and it is a key part of Be A Better Team, the game provides a safe environment for addressing the types of behaviours and actions that hinder a team, as it is an abstraction (but accurate simulation) of the situations encountered at work.

This was ideal, it filled the major gap that I have in my portfolio of offerings for working with a team. I have worked with teams to define and outline their goals, I use the Belbin Team Roles tool to drive self-awareness and also a great way to identify and discuss roles within a team, I am knowledgeable and have a great intercultural/interpersonal class available both on video and on demand live, and I have used the GDQ to measure where a team is an identify actions. But while my theory and tools (and I hear, even my stories) are good and memorable, now I have the chance to offer a way to have fun, while identifying and working with the team. I see this as a significant advantage in working with software teams, where gaming and gamification is essential.

Over the past week, the developer of Miki Island, Aeqlia (an educational development company based in Singapore) and I have been in discussions, yesterday we signed a contract, and during the first week of October, I will go through the certification to work with Miki Island.

After that, I look forward to offering Miki Island together with my Be A Better Team class to you.

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