Dare to know yourself and your weaknesses

Dare to know yourself and your weaknesses – Becky Blalock

Dr. Peter Buckley, the dean of the School of Psychology at Georgia Regents University, told me “the ability to improve your attitude and confidence is directly tied to self-awareness.  Having a clear vision of what you want, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and having the ability to hear and be open to feedback are essential elements of a confident attitude”.

The trouble is that most of us know much more about our strengths than we do about our weaknesses.  I taught a class recently in which I asked students to think about their two greatest strengths.  Most could identify them instantly.  Then I asked them to identify their two biggest areas in need of development –their weaknesses.  I promised I wouldn’t ask them to share their weaknesses with the class, I just wanted them to raise their hand if they could immediately identify two weaknesses.

Not a single hand went up.  They were stumped.  They either couldn’t think of two weaknesses or weren’t willing to admit they had them.  I assured them they had weaknesses –we all do, and they needed to find out what theirs were.  The reason is if you are not aware of them, they can hold you back.

I have consistently been amazed at the number of mid-career executives who have never been told about, and are not aware of, the things they need to work on.  Even more astounding is the fact that they themselves have not been actively seeking input and feedback.

I have had the pleasure of interviewing many C level women for my new book, DARE.  Each of these women were very self aware and able to tell me about their weak areas.  They knew what they were and could articulate how they were dealing with them.  Many of them spoke about having team members to supplement their weaknesses.  For instance, Veronica Sheehan, Senior Vice President of Global Network Operations and International IT for Turner Broadcasting System, told me, “My direct reports have a certain technical aptitude that I don’t.  I would be a poor example of a leader if I were too proud to capitalize on their strengths.  Nobody has all the answers, and you cannot solve complex business problems alone.”

The women I interviewed were also able to tell me about people they trusted who were on call to help coach them in dealing with their developmental challenges.  These women don’t take “negative” feedback personally.  They embrace it.  As one woman told me, “I’ve learned it is only people who really care about you who will call you aside and give you critical feedback.  This feedback is absolutely essential if you are going to continue to grow and develop”.

Don’t let some undiscovered, uninvestigated issue keep you from reaching the top rung on the corporate ladder.  It’s a cliché because it’s a fact: we all have faults.  You need to be aware of your weaknesses and know them at least as intimately as you know your strengths.  They can sabotage you and hold you back if you don’t.  Own your weaknesses so that you can conquer them – or, at the very least, learn to work around them.

Consider this: it is not awareness of our weak areas that erodes self-confidence; it is our fear of the unknown.  Understand your personal assets as well as your liabilities, and you will be enabled to act with the assurance of self-knowledge.

 

From Becky Blalock, a veteran Fortune 500 executive, how women can reach and succeed in top leadership positions

Though women hold a majority of the managerial and professional jobs in the workforce, they occupy a mere 14% of C-suite positions at Fortune 500 firms. To break through this stubborn glass ceiling, women must learn to take bold steps when career-defining moments arise. During her 33-year career at Southern Company, a Fortune 500 utility company, Becky Blalock rose to become CIO in a traditionally male industry. Now she offers her own hard-won advice, as well as that of 28 top female executives, to show all aspiring women how to dare to reach the highest tier of leadership and C-suite positions. Dare is must-needed guide for women everywhere, at every level, striving to develop the character, skills, and relationships that deliver greater success in the workplace.

 

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Becky Blalock (Atlanta, GA)is the author of DARE: Straight Talk on Confidence, Courage, and Career for Women in Charge (Jossey-Bass, 2013).Blalock is the former SVP and CIO of Southern Company where she worked for 33 years before retiring in October 2011. Under her leadership, Southern Company delivered over a billion dollars in new technology initiatives and was recognized as one of the "100 Most Innovative Companies" by CIO Magazine and one of the "100 Best Places to Work in IT" by Computerworld Magazine.Today, Blalock is a partner with Advisory Capital, where she provides strategic consulting, and is on the board of Emory Healthcare, the Georgia Health Sciences University, CSI Laboratories, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Ideastring, and the business School of Mercer University.Blalock also speaks regularly before large audiences. She was Women in Technology's 2011 Legacy Award winner, Energy Biz Magazine's 2009 CIO of the Year, the 2009 Chairman of the Board of Leadership Atlanta, Computerworld Magazine's "100 IT Leaders," and Atlanta Woman's 2006 Power Woman of the Year.