Why do managers fail? - Pt 3

Weaknesses parading as strengths

Managers, myself included, often refuse to acknowledge that our personalities are defective; or at the very least that we have traits and attitudes (that are in essence weaknesses) but that we have become comfortable with and have grown to accept and even like.

We often see this in interview when candidates are asked about their weaknesses. The response is usually to identify a weakness that can equally be perceived to be a strength; to wit: “I am sometimes too detailed orientated.” This is just another demonstration of how misguided people can sometimes be. The sad thing is, the candidate parades the ‘weakness’ only because they know some people might see that as a weakness, but deep down they do not really believe it is a weakness. I have interviewed 100s – and I am not exaggerating here – and I have NEVER met a candidate who has answered the question with anything that can remotely be considered to be a realistic and truthful representation of a meaningful weakness. (I don’t think it is a very good interviewing question, but became intellectually curious about how people respond, and hence continued asking it in various guises.)

As soon as you don’t recognise a weakness for what it is, you are opening yourself up for attack (at worst) and setting yourself up for failure (best case). If you don’t recognise it for what it is (a weakness) then you fail to deal with it. And failing to deal with it is dealing in failure. There is probably a deep underlying psychological cause (rationalisation?) but it is nevertheless very dangerous.

Some examples are:

Judgemental attitudes >> Translation: “I am just very critical”.

Anally retentive habits >> Translation: “I am just a bit of a perfectionist”.

Lack of empathy >> Translation: “I am very focussed on the outcome.”

I think you get the picture. The world is full of arseholes, but no one has ever admitted to being one. AA teaches us that the first step to recovery is: Admission :-)