Finding windows to work on your weaknesses

Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.

What are your weaknesses?

Outside of a job interview, it’s not a question we’re often asked to face. Indeed, we are often schooled in the art of hiding our weaknesses, of avoiding the issues that are holding us back. Pro athletes, for example, are known to hide injuries. They’ll adjust training, rely on their strengths and try to skirt the problem area without attracting any attention.

In the business world, that kind of approach may ultimately prevent you from reaching your true potential. By being introspective and examining our weaknesses, we can find ways to fix or work around them in a sustainable way.

In this time of crisis, as many of us continue to work from home, there are new challenges in juggling the dual and borderless responsibilities of work and family, but there may also be some new windows of time — when we’re not on a commuter train or out in a social setting with colleagues or our external networks.

Even if it’s only for a few minutes a day, let’s take this opportunity to look within and consider: What are my weak spots and what can I do about them? Do I lack a skill that could help me advance? Is there an area of my business in which I’m not well-versed?

Taking action is the next part of this process. Be humble, identify your weakness and then ask yourself: What should happen next?

Perhaps you could seek out a book or online course to help you learn a new skill? There are many trusted institutions like Harvard, my alma mater, that offer free online courses and e-learning opportunities. Could you brush up your language skills? I’ve encouraged employees in Japan who are not satisfied with their level of English to try and make some more time to study. Same goes for those who would like to better understand programming or acquire a new engineering skill. Perhaps the advice of another individual would help. How could you find a mentor or teacher to discuss your weakness and how it can be overcome? You may be surprised by how willing others are to help when you’re genuinely open to them.

However you proceed, it’s important to frame the process in a positive way. Spotlighting your weaknesses is not about beating yourself up over perceived shortcomings. On the contrary, this is about investing time to work on yourself and set yourself up for future successes.

Seize the opportunity these new windows of time may afford you. Develop a plan, whether it be modest or ambitious. We all have the potential to emerge from our current crisis better equipped to tackle the future.

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