Like in every large company, once a year I was asked (well, told) to fill my self-evaluation form. I wasn't sure if anyone ever reads it, and felt that it was mostly used as CYA. But I did it anyway, and I filled it to the best of my knowledge. 

After filling in my name and other identifying information, the first field was "strengths." I wrote "innovation, entrepreneurship, strategy, and industry relations" (I represented the company on a few industry boards, such as the Wi-Fi Alliance). So far, so good.

Can you guess what was the name of the next field?

Wrong! It wasn't "weaknesses." It was "areas for improvement."

But instead of listing areas I was weak at (and thus needed improvement?) I listed the same four: "innovation, entrepreneurship, strategy, and industry relations." I completed the form, and believed that would be the last time I see it. 

Wrong again... I was called to the Human Resources office. "You didn't fill this form correctly," I was told, "you filled the same list for both 'strengths' and 'areas for improvement!'" "And what's wrong with that?" I inquired. And the answer: "in 'areas for improvement' you need to list the areas that you are, well, not strong at!"

"You mean 'weaknesses'?" 

We don't like using the word "weakness" here. We are far too politically correct than to use such a derogative, demotivating, humiliating word. 

"You should have used the word 'weaknesses' then!" I insisted. "I know I have weaknesses. Quite a few of them, in fact. If you named this field 'weaknesses', I would tell you what they are. I'm not ashamed of them. But you asked for 'areas for improvement.' I want to improve the areas I'm strong at and become great at them, rather than takes the areas I'm weak at and become mediocre at them."

Which brings us to the two reasons to ignore your weaknesses:

  1. You have a limited amount of time and energy for self-improvement. If you spent your time and energy improving your weaknesses--you will never be more than mediocre. You just can't turn a weakness into a strength. You don't care about it, and certainly not passionate about it (which is why it is a weakness to start with.)
  2. If you spent your time and effort on improving your strengths, you might just reach greatness! You are already passionate, excited, and love your strengths. Otherwise you wouldn't list them as such. 

That was my answer, and I'm sticking to it!