Recently, I worked with a group using the book Strengths Finders2.0. The premise is that people should be working on their areas of strength because that's where they'll get the most return. Throughout the session, I used the caveat that I think this is true, except in the case of fatal flaws. Later that week, an Associate started asking me about fatal flaws. My answers were lame, so I started asking around and forming some better thoughts.
All these tests, books, mentoring and other tactics to figure out what you're strengths are, should be aimed at finding your comparative advantage. What can you be the low cost producer of? If we're talking about a sweet project, then are you the low cost producer of that project's output. The thing about comparative advantage is that there needs to be a comparison. What are you being compared to? If it's a project given to a particular team, then the decision maker is going to pick team member with the lowest opportunity cost from those sitting around the table.
A fatal flaw is something that prevents you from sitting around the table again and again. If you have a trait, lack a skill or something that systematically prevents you from even being considered in the comparative advantage conversation, you may have a fatal flaw.
Here are some things I brainstormed:
- If you struggle with gossip, then despite being productive leaders may be reluctant to put your name on projects that require discetion.
- Someone who lacks basic communication skills will not be called to table to work on opportunities with outside vendors/customers.
- An employee that is "too nice" and doesn't give the tough feedback to teammates may not get their name on the list when leadership considers new managers.
What do you think about the way I defined fatal flaws? Do these examples make sense? What would you tell an inexperienced employee who is worried about having a fatal flaw?
Thanks to Ben, John, Andy and Holly for contributing to or inspiring this post.