12 Guiding Principles for Business Success – No.5 – Know your own strengths and weaknesses


Following from the ‘People skills’ theme of principle number 4, It’s about people and relationships,  we now turn to the need for a little self-analysis.


Know your own strengths and weaknesses, then use that self-understanding to build a balanced team around you.

  • Build a team around you that can complement your skills and cover your weak spots.


We all have things we are good at, and some we are less good at

So, if you genuinely believe that you are the perfect human being and you will never put a foot wrong on anything business wise, then you need read no further.

Still here?

Good, thought you might be, welcome to the world of being human. It’s a fact of life that we all have strengths and weaknesses, things we are good at and things we are less good at. Broadly speaking, life has a habit of getting us to gravitate towards the things we are better at, the things we are more comfortable doing. Equally we tend to shy away from for the things we are less good at. Although that’s not always universally true, I bet you can think of at least one example of somebody who appears to really like doing something they are clearly not too crash hot at!

The trick is developing sufficient self-awareness to understand yourself and know in what areas you thrive, and then in what areas you may be better off letting somebody else take the lead.  That all requires a certain level of self-understanding and self-awareness, themselves traits we are not always naturally imbued with, so gaining this self-awareness is something you sometimes have to consciously work on.

Building a balanced team

To a great extent the understanding that we all have areas of natural focus and capability is embedded in our business culture. We look to get input from the experts in a given field, or to hire the person who has the right relevant experience.  Few people offer themselves to the market with the message ‘I am good at everything’, we live in a world where to have your niche is the accepted way. This rationale, especially with regard to yourself, needs to drive your thinking and decision making when choosing who to work with and who to hire, especially for really key roles. How do they balance and match against your strengths and weaknesses as the founder/leader/ boss of the team? The more balance you can build into your team, especially a senior team, the stronger that team will be.

In my own experience when building up my IT business some years back I was lucky enough to have in my senior team a great mix of key skills. I had a sales guy who was a way better salesman that I will ever be, and I had a technical guy who was a commercially aware technical whizz who was worth ten regular coders any day of the week. Actually when I say ‘lucky enough’ that may not totally true, yes I was lucky that I was able to persuade these great people to work for me, but if I am honest there was a bit of engineering in it. I knew and had worked with these guys previously, so when I came to build my team, they were already top of my list.

Some years in, when we were established and enjoying a little success, we were asked what the secret to our success was as a management team. It was my sales guy who gave the answer with the insight, to paraphrase what he said; “We each know our own area of expertise, but we also each know just enough about the other’s areas so we can have proper discussion. So we get debate and balanced decision making, but we also know when to defer to the person whose area of core expertise we are in”. I always thought that summed it up rather neatly. Sure, there was just the odd occasion when I would pull rank and use my authority to make a final decision, but those occasions were pretty rare.

The Hipster, the Hacker and the Hustler

Today this little phrase is used to capture that very three way dynamic of the founder/leader with the vision (the Hipster), the technical driver (the Hacker) and the sales guy (the Hustler). Looking back that is precisely what we had, although that would make me the ‘Hipster’, an idea that those who know me will find very amusing!

The key though is back to that understanding of strengths and weaknesses. While the ‘Hipster, Hacker, Hustler’ is the classic model there can be many variations. A common delineation is the ‘doer’ who is great at doing their thing, but may be lousy at the paperwork so needs somebody strong at Admin to back them up and keep the wheels of the business turning. Some are great at painting the big picture but then need a detail person to come along and ensure proper execution.

Your business will almost certainly be best served if you can amplify what you do well by focusing your time, effort and energy on those things, but still making sure that those other critical functions, the ones you know you are less good at, are covered by others.  Whatever it is for you, having that self-awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses is the starting point.

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