The Way Up drawing‘The way up and the way down are one and the same’. This was coined by Heraclitus the Obscure. No, not a rare scalp condition but a pre-Socratic philosopher and one of my favourites. Why? Partly because quoting him managed to bag me an extra couple of marks in one of my university exam papers. But also because he has something to offer Leaders in 2015.

Most of us have been psychometrically sussed at some point and few people inside organisations will not have enjoyed (?) development discussions involving the identification of their strengths and weaknesses.

But I am not convinced that treating any aspect of personal development as weakness is productive or helpful. Sending me out on a life-long quest to become the perfect human being doesn’t leave much time to get the job done.

Through my coaching experience, I have found that people respond far more effectively and quickly to the consideration that their behavioural weaknesses might simply be overplayed strengths. This is not the case when it comes to task skills or knowledge. If the person about to pilot your plane has never had a flying lesson, that’s a BIG weakness. They need to get that fixed before you fasten your seat belt or you’ll never make it to the free nuts.

But it is different when it comes to behaviours.

For example, are you a very sociable person, willing to talk and take part in others’ activities? But are you so sociable that you become overbearing, dominating the conversation and getting too involved?

Or perhaps you are strategic in your thinking, creating long-range, far-reaching plans. Does this lead you to being told you are not grounded – you are SO strategic that you underestimate what is needed today?

Or maybe you are cost-conscious, very judicious with resources and always keen to get a bargain. Does this lead you to being told you are ‘short-sighted’, so cost-conscious that you miss out on wider potential benefits?

So next time you are told you have some kind of behavioural weakness, try this.

Visualise a see-saw. Place the ‘weakness’ you’ve been given onto the left hand seat (e.g. ‘Annoyingly Exuberant’). Now place whatever you see as the very opposite onto the right-hand seat (e.g. ‘Downright Miserable’). Now ask yourself what would be the positive opposite of ‘Downright Miserable’ (e.g. ‘Happy Disposition’) and place this in the middle of the see-saw. This is your real strength but you are overplaying it. How can you take your foot off the gas a little to pull back to Happy Disposition? You see. The way up and the way down really are one and the same.