Have you let your weaknesses hold you back for far too long?
Today, I’m going to challenge your thinking about your weaknesses.
I was emptying some boxes the other day when I discovered an old notebook. As I began to flip through the notebook, this old picture of me from my grad school days fell out.
I showed my husband: “Look how young I look!”
He responded: “Look how scared you look!”
He was right! I was scared. And unsure. And out of place.
I looked into that picture of the younger version of me….
I was wearing my very first business suit, feeling like I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t.
I had never taken a business class before I went to graduate school.
I was a Kinesiology major, former ski bum who ditched the midwest for 3 carefree years in Aspen and yet, I ended up in business school?
I found myself studying harder, preparing more than anyone else to overcome my feeling of being out of place.
And it worked. My career took off.
I earned a fellowship at the most prestigious healthcare system in the world.
I effortlessly climbed the ladder of success. I had the right titles at the right time, the financial means to feed my love of travel and expensive hobbies. I had an amazing friend and family support system.
I never quite felt like I belonged. I loved my industry of healthcare. In fact, I was raised in it with a family of physicians and nurses. I loved the people I worked with and those I served.
But I knew I had something more in me. That I was conforming to what was expected of me and not being authentic to who I really was and what I could really offer.
In my moments of self-doubt I would focus on what I couldn’t do! I wasn’t like the others.
I thought my weaknesses were meant to be hidden away in some dark corner of my mind, never to be discovered by anyone.
In fact, I kept my weaknesses hidden for a long time until a painful and rewarding life experience happened and stripped away any pretenses (for more on that story, watch my TEDx Talk here).
Significant life experiences tend to give us the opportunity to reevaluate.
After caring for my medically fragile son, I took a professional leap from the security of a leadership role within a large healthsystem and I launched a business to serve in a new way.
But in the beginning, I had that familiar feeling of being out of place and out of my element.
Shortly after I launched my own business, I had lunch with a former colleague who said.
“Wow, you are living the dream, I wish I had the courage to take the leap like you did!”
I sat across the table from my old colleague as a reluctant entrepreneur who was questioning who my tribe was and where I fit in my professional world.
And then a flip switched in my mind.
It was then and there, that I decided I was done pretending. I was done showing up as who others expected me to be.
I would create my own tribe.
I made the choice to own my future and my experience of it.
My non-traditional background that contributed to feeling unsure in graduate school was actually my superpower.
Because business is about people. And I was good with people. Really good.
I could read people. I could see what people were actually doing when they were in their element (a new layer of strength). I could see how they were getting in their own way.
I could see the patterns that made them unique and that prevented them from soaring.
I excelled at helping people define what they want and create plans to get it. I thrived on partnering with them on the implementation of those plans and experiencing their excitement when they actually accomplished what they never thought possible.
So I took imperfect action. I declared what I wanted and why I wanted it.
And I relentlessly served my clients based on my unique approach and what they actually wanted and needed, not what some off the shelf process told them they needed.
I decided to face every story of weakness I was telling myself and use it as an opportunity to create impact.
Perceived weakness #1: I didn’t have a traditional background for a consultant or leadership expert. The letters behind my name weren’t the right ones, the ones others wanted me to have.
And yet...my clients who have had countless coaches and consultants in the past report that in a few short months with me their results were beyond expectations. Because I approach things from a unique perspective and intersection of coach, advisor, consultant and mirror. No one gets an off the shelf approach with me because I am not bound by someone else’s system.
Perceived weakness #2: I’m not a clinician and never will be.
And yet….In the first four years of my business, I helped countless physician leaders claim their own leadership approach and find connection and fulfillment in a profession that is eating them up and spitting them out. I bring a fresh perspective and a new skill set they haven’t had the opportunity to learn in their clinical journey.
Perceived weakness #3: I’m not “technical” and not really a great planner…
And yet, I have created an online business and help leaders across all industries create the impact they want through a clear strategy, plan and implementation process. I turned my weakness into progress because I invested in the experts to help me master the areas that I needed to serve.
The moral of the story?
- You are not your weaknesses.
- Your perceived weakness could be the exact thing that makes you good at what you do.
- Your weakness could be the uniqueness that only you can bring to a situation.
What is your weakness?
You are not great at conflict? Great! Neither is anyone else. Use it as a point of connection and openness and see how you create new conversations.
You have no prior leadership experience? Awesome! You bring a unique perspective based on the study of where you excel and where you need to grow and through your growth and willingness to learn, you will teach your team to do the same.
Are you switching industries where you have no prior experience? Excellent! Define every single success you have had and how you will bring the expertise that led to that success into a new industry, with a fresh perspective and without the preconceived boundaries that can exist when you have only worked in one industry.
Your time is now.
How can you turn your weakness on its head and use it as your superpower?
Comment below and let me know!
P.S. I’m working on something really exciting, so for those of you who are looking for a path to create the impact you really want….stay tuned!
Carrie Koh is a TEDx speaker, consultant, executive coach and healthcare executive with a passion for enhancing the way we communicate with one another to ensure efficient and innovative results with greater fulfillment along the way. She is the leading authority on cultivating resiliency and teaching high performing leaders to overcome obstacles to lead teams to new heights. She would love to connect at www.carriekoh.com