I’m coaching a bright and skilled new entrepreneur. He is smart, capable, and willing to take a risk on his new venture. Yet our conversations are peppered with apologies. I consistently hear:
“I’m not very good at…”
“One of my faults is….”
“I’m sorry, but I’m terrible at….”
The more we worked together, to more I noticed that for every fault he described, there was a complimentary superpower.
- He was not good at simplifying the complex; but he has an amazing skill for complexity and detail.
- He struggles with confidence, but his humility is a gift.
- He lacks organizational political savvy and is blessed with the ability to relate deeply with floor workers
Our conversations got me wondering. What if, when we are fretting about our flaws, faults, foibles, and things we are lacking, we asked what the complimentary superpower might be?
None of us likely wear a cape, but we still have superpowers. There are things you do, in your own quirky way, that come so easily to you that you can’t imagine others struggling with that same thing.
Perhaps you can organize things faster than a speeding bullet. Or are as powerful as a locomotive when it comes to pushing through some really tough situations. Or can engage people to achieve what they could not alone, leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
Because our superpowers seem so effortless to us, we can tend not to see them. Not seeing them, means we lose some of the potential they have for us and for others.
Read through this list and see if any might describe your superpower:
- Organizes complex information in helpful ways
- Creates order out of chaos
- Casts big vision and engages others in achieving it
- Easy to connect with, a magnet to strangers
- Puts words and thoughts together in compelling ways
- Develops complex algorithms and ways of understanding the world
- Multi-talented – doing many things well
- Singularly gifted – having one super-sized talent
- Coordinates and moves multiple efforts forward simultaneously
Most of us can more quickly identify our Achilles heels or vulnerabilities. As a primer, here is how ChatGPT* describes Achilles:
Achilles is a character from Greek mythology and is considered one of the greatest heroes in ancient Greek culture. He is best known for his role in the Trojan War, which is a legendary conflict between the city of Troy and the Greeks. According to legend, Achilles was a warrior who possessed incredible strength, speed, and fighting skills. He was said to be invulnerable, except for his heel, which was his only weakness.
We all have superpowers and we all have vulnerabilities.
My supposition today is that there is a strong relationship between our areas of strength (our superpowers) and our challenge areas (our Achilles heels). For we tend to over-use our strengths until they become weaknesses. And we obsess over our weaknesses, failing to see the gift within them.
For me, I have the superpower of simplifying the complex, especially with people and groups of people. I can observe and quickly draw some pithy explanations about what is going on. Yet, at times, I am too quick to assess. My Achille’s heel is that at times, I can get frustrated with situations that require complex, timely, and detailed analysis – and can misread some situations because of it.
Ask me to work with a group to discern the challenges they face working together and I shine. Ask me to write a complicated and detailed analysis of that same situation and I struggle. I can do it, but it takes a toll on my energy to hold my focus for that length of time without any people interaction.
My colleagues that have the superpower of deep analysis and attention to detail are wonderful compliments to me, as their Achilles’ heel is knowing when they have enough data (and it often is less than 90% -sorry) – drawing helpful conclusions, and taking action.
I have another colleague who has an ability and facility with words that is rivaled by few. On the stage, he is fabulous. I could listen to him all day long. Yet in a one-to-one conversation, I walk away drained and feeling invisible. As you might guess, he is a conversation hog. His Achilles heel is the ability to listen, a skill just not in his repertoire. For he can talk and talk and talk – and then talk some more. Great skill on the stage; but an Achilles heel at other times.
This notation that there is a strong correlation between our gifts and our challenges, can provide personal insights that can help us:
- See when we are overusing an area of strength, making it a liability
- Using our challenge areas to find hints to our gifts
- More generally, be more self-aware and use both our strengths and challenge areas more wisely
I challenge you to notice all the times you are berating yourself for a misstep, a fault, or something you are not very good at. Pause and ask if this is a clue to a strength? Alternatively, observe the times you are in your “superpower” zone. Pause and ask if there are times that you rely on your superpower so much that it begins to work against you. Once you see it, you can work with it!
And a shameless plug: one of the benefits of a coach is that, as a neutral outsider, they can help you uncover your strengths and challenge areas more quickly. If you’d like to explore engaging a coach, just reach out. We have a great group of talented coaches – and ensure that you’ll find a match.