Source | Harvard Business Review : By Joseph Grenny
Yan Wang, the former CFO of VitalSmarts, didn’t survive Mao’s China by taking outlandish risks such as questioning those in positions of authority. As our CFO, she did impeccable work with the highest ethical standards. But challenging the status quo was deeply unsettling to her — especially if it meant critiquing the actions of one of our company owners.
She was literally trembling one day when she suggested to my colleague Al that the few dollars he was bringing home from selling copies of our book at public events was hardly worth the time it took our accounting team to process them. She fumbled around the issue until Al said, “So what are you suggesting I do, Yan?” She gulped an enormous amount of air and finally confessed, “It would be smarter to just give them away.” Al agreed. Yan was almost always right. It just took a while to figure out what her opinion was.
YOU AND YOUR TEAM SERIES
Fast-forward a decade. Our company had grown tenfold, and so had Yan. She had become the backbone of accountability in our company. No one, including major shareholders, was off-limits when it came to maintaining standards and creating a culture of fiscal stewardship. Her team was at the forefront of identifying ways to maximize our margins.
Yan’s story is not uncommon. Our research shows that 97% of people can readily identify a career-limiting habit they have. We’re unreliable, lack empathy, avoid conflict, or fear risk. While we’re clear that our weaknesses cost us both personally and professionally, few of us make any progress in turning them into strengths. In fact, managers report that after giving people feedback in a performance review, fewer than 10% of them look any different a year later. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Like Yan, we can make substantial change in relatively short order. The key to improving most weaknesses is to:
Identify Crucial Moments
Chronic weaknesses are usually not due to simple cognitive or behavioral gaps in our abilities. When you’re sitting in your office with a daunting presentation to prepare, and you keep checking your inbox and returning calls instead, it isn’t because you are bad at prioritizing. Rather, you are playing out a deeply habitual and practiced response to feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, or fear.