Strengths Coaching Blog

Friday, December 15, 2017

What About Weaknesses? With Dean Jones - Called to Coach S5E37

On a recent Called to Coach, we spoke with the Principal Architect of Gallup's Global Learning Strategy, Dean Jones.





Weaknesses – we all have a lot of them!

What about weaknesses?

  • Gallup often gets accused of not caring about weaknesses and telling people to ignore their weaknesses – that somehow weaknesses don’t matter.  
  • Nothing could be further from the truth.
  • No discussion of strengths is complete without a discussion of weaknesses. You can begin to accurately identify and gauge your strengths without knowing and identifying those areas where you are weak.  
  • Strengths occur against a backdrop of weaknesses. It’s like light and darkness – you can’t distinguish one without the other.  
  • So, ironically, weaknesses are a really important for strengths development. 



At Gallup, what we do say is that weaknesses are an important part of developing your talents into strengths.  

  • You have to be aware of your weaknesses, account for them, and use your strengths to address them.  
  • As we’ll talk about later today, your strengths are your access to addressing your weakness – so strengths and weaknesses are inexorably tied together.  

Want to take a step back and make sure that we are using the same language.  Here’s the language we use to talk about strengths, themes, and weaknesses:

  • Signature Themes – your Top 5 talent themes. These are the themes that you lead with, that you use every day, that we would recognize as your “MO” or your approach.  They are as unique to you as your “signature” or your fingerprint.  
  • Dominant Themes – the themes that you use all the time or most of the time.
  • Responsive or Supporting Themes – the themes that you use occasionally, in response to a particular situation.
  • Non-talents – the theme that never “fire” or only show up very, very seldom. 

Weakness often get confused with Non-talents.  

  • People relate to them as the same thing – and if you’ve done one of our CliftonStrengths courses, you know that we make a clear distinction between the two.  
  • Non-talents are just those themes that rarely (if ever) show up.  There is nothing wrong.  There is nothing to do with them.  If anything, it’s just to notice that they are completely missing.
  • I have Harmony as my #34.  I never walk into a room and automatically notice the degree to which there is consensus.  With all my Influencing themes, I am more “tell them what to think” rather than “do we all agree?”  
  • A weakness, as we define them in our courses, is anything that gets in the way of your success.  
  • So if you needed something that is a non-talent, like Harmony – if you needed to create consensus to be successful, and couldn’t find a way – that would be a weakness.  
  • While Non-talents are not (by definition) weaknesses, I do think they provide some clues to things that may be weaknesses for us.  
  • Knowing that I don’t have talents in a particular area is very helpful – and lets me know the areas where I might need to rely on others or have a strategy in my pocket in order to be successful.  

This is one reason why having your All 34 CliftonStrengths report is better.

  • More is better – gives you a clearer picture of who you are.  
    • Find that people who just have Top 5 are left wondering – why am I that way?  Feels like they are some missing pieces in really understanding why they are the way they are, and do the things they do. 
  • Supports self-awareness.  
    • Mastery is really about self-awareness. We’ve talked in the past about this one – but self-awareness is really everything.  
    • And, awareness really starts from being able to see my themes in action – and to be able to work backwards from my life, and understand it vis-à-vis my themes.  
  • May not change focus, but provides clarity.  
    • You will likely still focus on your Top 5 themes – and if you are just starting out, you should.  It doesn’t change your dominant themes and how you use them.  But it doesn’t provide clarity about who you are and who you are not.   
As a coach, you need the All 34 report for:

  • Non talents
  • Domains
  • Team blend
  • Theme dynamics

We know that strengths develop infinitely.  You don’t develop in areas of weakness. (Weaknesses develop incrementally.)

You don’t “fix” weaknesses - conventional development approach.  Weakness-fixing is not a powerful developmental approach.  Strengths-building results in high performance.  

  • Identify areas where there is a concentration of talent, investing in those areas, and pointing at performance.

So what do you do about weaknesses?  You account for weaknesses. 

Much work of strengths coaches can be helping people become aware of their weaknesses and use their strengths to overcome them.  

Which is a combo of:
  • Being aware
  • Being responsible
  • Using your strengths to manage them and produce results

Awareness issues:
  • Claiming strengths you don’t have
  • Not seeing weaknesses
  • Being unaware of your strengths
  • Being unaware of your non talents 
Being responsible:
  • People who know their strengths tend to embrace their weaknesses. Fatal flaw is believing their strengths apply to everything (Icarus)

Using your strengths:
  • Applying your strengths to what you need to do – Jim Clifton story about teaching vs. selling

Strategies for addressing weaknesses:
  1. Create Open Dialogue and Transparency
  2. Intentionally Leverage your Strengths
  3. Find Support Systems
  4. Build Complementary Partnerships
  5. Get the Ride Education
  6. Set Reasonable Standards and Just Do It
  7. Adjust or Change Roles 

Join us at the 2018 CliftonStrengths Summit to learn more about improving your workplace through strengths. Register today before early bird pricing ends! 

Visit Gallup Strengths Center to browse our myriad of products and learning opportunities for strengths-based development.

Continue the coaching conversation on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a great way to network with others who share a passion for strengths!



Dean Jones is the principal architect of Gallup's global client learning strategy. Dean consults with clients on strategic solutions to address key business issues, including organizational development, performance management, learning and development, productivity and workforce effectiveness. He oversees the direction of Gallup's client learning offerings, the development of the organization's learning consultants, and the growth of Gallup's learning business worldwide, including its public course offerings and learning products.

Dean Jones's top five strengths are Activator, Focus, Woo, Strategic and Relator.

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