State Weaknesses in the Past Tense
Knowing yourself as a leader necessarily includes an in-depth understanding and acknowledgment of your weaknesses. If you can’t state your weaknesses with the same clarity and detail as you can for your strengths, you aren’t self-aware enough to create the personal change necessary to become better.
Leaders who want to grow and make strides in personal effectiveness understand the gap between who they are and who they want to be. And, they have a game plan as to how to close the gap. This plan always includes setting higher expectations as to how to do better in the future through specific choices, behaviors, and actions.
To make the fastest gains, the best leaders know that, in addition to accepting the present reality and striving for a more effective future, they must add another feature to the formula. They insist on stating their weaknesses in the past tense.
Conquering your weaknesses requires you commit to a new future where they don’t exist. By expressing a weakness in the past tense, we rob it of its power to intrude on our plans and intentions.
Let’s compare the approaches.
First, here’s the wrong way to state it: “I avoid conflict. This allows problems to fester. But, I’m working to correct this tendency.”
Instead, the best leaders might say, “In the past, I avoided conflict, which allowed problems to fester. But, I’ve learned my relationships are better when I tackle conflict before it escalates.”
Stating a weakness in the past tense usually includes a current commitment that overcomes the flaw. We don’t deny a weakness when we state it in the past tense. We reframe it with a solution in the present. This commitment forward allows leaders to make more progress.
The best among us do everything in our power to live up to the new standards we have set as we march toward making personal change. The past is not a friend in this process — unless we use it as a reminder. The best leaders use the past to describe what they used to do as a way of reminding themselves of what they are committed to. You used to think about this differently.