My wife hates making decisions, and it used to really bother me. I was repeatedly frustrated that she didn’t have a plan for dinner that night, or even a mildly strong opinion about it. Or what we should do for a vacation outing. Or what movie we should rent on Saturday night. Or what time should we tell our daughter to be home. Or how much should we let each kid spend at the school book fair.
I was a fool for being frustrated by this indecision.
Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a constant problem, more like a 10%-of-the-time problem. And we’re not talking about a habit that’s abusive or harmful, just something I considered a personality flaw. In my state of annoyance, I would sometimes hold a mental pity party. “I’ve had a stressful day at work, giving input and making executive decisions all day. Can’t I get a break at home?” I think I’m a pretty smart guy, but it still took over a decade of marriage for me to realize the answer was, “No, you can’t get a break at home!” With that answer, I came to some conclusions:
Expecting people to do things that go against their core personality traits and values is a losing battle. My wife isn’t decisive and likely never will be. I could expend a lot of effort getting her to make decisions without me, and it would make us both miserable. Or I could recognize that this isn’t a flaw at all. To borrow a phrase from my software developer friends: It’s not a defect, it’s a feature. Everyone has perceived flaws which we should really consider strengths. My wife may be indecisive, but this is largely the flipside of her strength in being flexible and caring. 90% of the time, that means we’re an ideal fit (and also that we never fight over the remote!). Rather than focus on feeling frustrated about her ‘flaw’, I should be celebrating how often her strengths make me happier.
In all of our relationships, a small shift in mindset could make a huge difference. The story above is about my personal life, but it applies in business as well. If you have a great colleague who happens to repeatedly do something you find annoying, pause and ask yourself if you simply aren’t seeing their strengths properly. If you’re in a leadership position and you embrace this philosophy of seeing strengths instead of weaknesses, you’ll probably keep good people around much longer, and you’ll have them engaged in the right roles. You’ll build teams that are better balanced. You’ll feel a different vibe at the office.
Introspectively, this philosophy has merit when business leaders think about brand marketing, or even when individuals consider their personal brand. Identify and communicate your strengths. Don’t change your core values in an attempt to win over others. Authenticity matters. When you try to break into a new space, there’s always some temptation to make changes that aren’t right. Be smart in how you adapt, but don’t be afraid of not having a perfect fit with everyone. Stand out in your own unique way, and show the masses how you can fulfill their needs by emphasizing your positives. You can’t be all things to all people, and those who try it always fail. Being weak in one area is the reason you’re strong in another. Embrace it.