In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about strengths and weaknesses.

They define how to identify, if your mindset, is set to say “I am really good at this, I’ll keep doing it” or “I am bad at this, I am going to get better”. They also look at how strengths and weaknesses can affect your employees and business.

While strengths and weaknesses, can be a useful tool to assess our own or another person’s skills. They are most useful, when paired in some way with an outcome. So if you want to be an athlete, you will have to train towards being the best and if you are in business you will have to hire to achieve your business outcomes.

Tune into this week’s episode of The Startup Chat to see how strengths and weaknesses tie in to your life & business, If you are motivated to double down on one or fix the other. Steli and Hiten, also share some interesting insights into how to move forward from the strength and weakness paradigm within your business, to build and work with the best team possible.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:43 A question from a friend.

02:16 Defining the weakness focus.

03:10 Defining the strength focus.

05:02 Where to focus?

06:03 Interesting questions on strengths & weaknesses.

06:30 A system for working with employees.

07:52 About change and expectations.

08:43 Change within business.

10:21 In the choosing the right people business.

14:59 The difference between not wanting to and not being able to.

3 Key Points:

  • No one can be good at everything.
  • You are looking for that person who has that drive; on learning, on changing, on improving.
  • Strengths and weakness are just the beginning, not the end.


Steli Efti: Hey, everyone. This is Steli Efti.



Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah. On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about strengths and weaknesses and how to coach either yourself or somebody else on your team or even a friend about strengths and weaknesses. I think it’s a super fascinating topic. I know you brought it up, Steli, and we jumped right into it. Why don’t you give us some context on the framing of where this came from?



Steli Efti: Yeah. A founder friend of mine, a very young person, very successful, hired his first few employees, and he sent me a WhatsApp message, an audio message, basically asking for advice because he hired this person that’s incredibly talented and has proven that he has amazing abilities in certain areas, but has some real weaknesses as well. My founder friend was basically saying, “Yo, Steli, what should I do here? Should I … The weaknesses are, they are annoying me, but I really love this person’s strengths and so I’m now thinking should I focus my energy on coaching my employee out of those weaknesses? Or do I just need to find work arounds or do I need to take that type of work off his plate and just focus on encouraging him to do the things that he’s doing really well even better? Basically, should I focus on my employee’s weaknesses or strengths? How should I coach him? How should I approach this situation?” I know that … It seems like an age-old debate. Should you double down on your strengths or try to make up for your weaknesses and be well-rounded? I thought it would be an interesting discussion to have between the two of us. I’m actually curious to hear what you say about this, although, I have a hunch.



Hiten Shah: You know what? I think it actually depends on who you are and what your personality is like or what you really believe about yourself. There are some people out there that are like, “Oh, I suck at that. I’m going to get better at that and I’m going to get better at that just because I know I suck at it and I really want to get better at it.” That is a drive that I would say, a weakness based drive. Right?



Steli Efti: Right.



Hiten Shah: What drives you? Something where you’re weak or something where you suck or something where you really get that drive to make yourself better? I think those are … A lot of that is like the athlete’s mentality in a lot of ways because like as an athlete, you do suck coming in. You are a beginner at that point. I don’t want to say that the answer is “Oh, just always focus on one or the other” ’cause I don’t think it works like that in my experience working with people, working with myself, too. The other side of it is the people who are like, “Oh, I’m really good at this so what I’m going to do is I’m going to keep doing this and continue to be the best in the world at this or one of the best in the world at this and not worry about things I’m no good at.” Part of this, to be honest, I don’t bring this stuff up a lot, but it does matter. I think and I hate to believe this, Steli, this is one of those effed up things really, but I think that over time as every decade that goes by that you’re alive, you end up actually deciding that you should focus more on your strengths than your weaknesses. I don’t know if it’s ’cause you’re lazier. I don’t know if it’s ’cause you’ve spent so much time perfecting a certain skill set that you might have, but I believe that’s what happens to humans. Over time, they get less and less focused on their weaknesses and more and more focused on their strengths. I think that’s ’cause over time, you develop some strengths. You start realizing what gives you energy and what doesn’t. You start realizing what you’re great at and what you’re not. That’s why I didn’t want to say that hey, it’s one or the other ’cause there’s some people who are like, “My strength is that I can find things I suck at and get good enough at them really quickly.” That’s a strength in itself. Right?



Steli Efti: Yep.



Hiten Shah: But that means you’re finding weaknesses and getting better at them, but at the same time, it’s like, “How much is there possible that you can do in the world?” A ton. The possibilities are endless so then it becomes like, “Well, what’s a strength? What’s a weaknesses at the end of the day?”



Steli Efti: Yeah. You push it to a very philosophical degree at the end of the day, but you know what I love? Is that I knew your answer would be “It depends.” In one way or another, I didn’t know how you would say it, but I was guessing that your answer would be “It depends.” That’s one of the reasons why I love you because most people would have a opinion one way or another. They would be like, “I think you need to always double down on your strengths. Strengths, strengths, strengths. Forget about your weaknesses. Who cares? Strengths.” And some people are like, “Well, you can’t afford to have … Really big weaknesses. You need to be well-rounded; generally good in many areas.” Context truly matters in this case. I do agree and I do think that over long periods of time, people tend to focus on their strengths. I don’t think that that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s interesting to ask why that is. I think an easy and convenient theory would be just to say, “Well, people focus on their strengths because over time … They realize that focusing on your strengths pays bigger dividends in their eye. There’s a lot more upside potential in improving what’s already strong than in trying to fix all of the things that are wrong. Nobody can be good at everything, but I like the question of like, “Huh, is this because we get lazier? Is this because we’re less curious?” Maybe it’s because we’re less optimistic about our ability to truly change. We get more cynical as we accumulate more experience. We get more heartbroken because we try to fix all these weaknesses and failed at it so we just subscribe now to the philosophy that we should just ignore our weaknesses and focus and double down on our strengths. I think when it comes to … In this specific situation, my first response to this founder was “Well, first of all, it might be time to step back and ask yourself if you knew what you know about this employee today, if you knew that before you hired him, would you have still hired him for this position?” Because what he’s really good at and what he’s really bad at, it depends how much that matters in terms of what your company size is, what work really needs to get done. Maybe this person’s really amazing in an area that will be important down the line, but today, right now, where you’re just three or four people, it’s not that important. The thing that this person’s really weak at is the most important thing you need right now so it truly depends on what those weaknesses are and strengths are on what you have to focus on and what you can afford or not afford. The other thing is also what level of awareness does this employee have about his weaknesses and strengths and what willingness and motivation and inspiration does this individual have to double down on one or to fix the other? Because … The one experience that I’ve had, Hiten, over many, many experiences with people, coaching people, mentoring people, working with people is that changing people is hard. Changing yourself, I think, in the right moment can be really easy and I think a human being can change in a second. I don’t truly believe that it takes years to change. I think often times it takes years to get ready for change, but once you’re ready, a human being can change in a heartbeat, but a human being ready is not just about them being willing, it’s not just them wanting it, it’s them being ready. Often times, people want to change, but they just aren’t ready for change. In some cases, there’s decades of them being … willing to change and not ready. Just because you think somebody should change doesn’t mean that they want to change and just because somebody tells you they want to change doesn’t mean they’re ready to change. I’ve wasted a lot of time and energy on people that wanted to change, but they’re not quite ready yet. It can be a very heartbreaking experience for both sides and very frustrating experience for both sides. Today I’m much more cautious to be like, “Do I really want to be in the changing people’s business or do I want to be in the picking the right people business?” I’d much rather bring in the right people to work with then bring in people because I think they have “potential” and then wanting to change them so they become who I want them to be. That’s number one, but then also number two, if somebody comes to me and says they want to grow or change in one way or another and they want my help, I’m still, I believe in humans. I’m excited about their journey of growth, personal and with others, but I’m much more cautious to not just take their willingness as the only ingredient that’s necessary. There’s a lot more to it and I’m not quite sure what all those ingredients are to be honest, but a lot of this, it truly matters. Okay. You hired a person to do a job. Now you tell me this person’s doing some thing’s really well and some thing’s not. Well, if you knew who this person is, would you have hired this person three months ago? Are the things that they’re really good, are those the most important things in your business today? And the things that they’re really bad at not that tragic just inconvenient? Or vise versa. All that truly matters. If it is somebody that has strengths in an area that is not crucial today and has weaknesses that really bother you or that really hurt the business, I would part ways no matter how talented the person is.



Hiten Shah: I think choosing the right people is the business you should be in. Always. I think that that could include somebody that you feel like can learn fast. For me, … I know this gets into strengths and weaknesses is really about people. Previously, we talked more about just yourself, right?



Steli Efti: Yeah. Yeah.



Hiten Shah: I think you’re really talking about other people, how you think about their strengths and weaknesses, which I love as a topic. It’s probably one of my favorite topics. My take is that especially when you’re looking at a business and hiring people, you always want to find people who can learn fast. It doesn’t matter if they can learn something new that they’re not … What I mean is it doesn’t matter if they’re in sales or marketing or product or engineering or any category or any part of your business, if they can learn fast, that single characteristic will make them successful anywhere, if they just can learn fast. I know that sounds really crazy and there’s a lot of other factors to someone working out well, but to me, it’s not about strengths and weaknesses when it comes to choosing the right people. It’s actually about can they learn fast? An example would be pushing them and saying in a interview like, “What are your strengths and weaknesses? How do you describe them?” What you’re looking to see is how they’ve overcome some of them. We need weaknesses and also often times, it means overcoming your strengths, too, because the thing that a lot of people do is their strengths is what they keep falling back to when they don’t know what to do and if those strengths are limited, then they’re going to fall back to a limited mental model, a limited mentality about how to solve a problem or how to do something. My take on this is it’s actually about can someone learn? Can someone change? Those things are so much more valuable when you’re choosing the right people than just looking at their strengths and weaknesses that exist today because, by definition, if they can learn and change, they will be able to learn and change. They will be able to augment their weaknesses and their strengths. To me, assessing strengths and weaknesses is super important to figure out where they might need to change and improve and learn and then making sure they’re someone who’s willing to change, improve and learn.



Steli Efti: And how do you know? How do you determine that?



Hiten Shah: You ask them. Straight up. I just ask people like, “I mean do you like to change? How do you feel about change? How do you feel about learning? How fast do you think you learn new things?” The answer is counterintuitive. Usually you want the person that says, “I don’t actually learn new things really fast.” And you’re like, “What do you mean by that?” Then they start telling you how frustrated they get when they can’t figure something out fast and you’re like, “Okay.” ‘Cause fast is a relative word. To me, the people who say they can learn fast, they tend to be actually, in my experience at least talking to people, they tend to be much slower at learning than people who say, “I don’t think I’m fast enough at learning.” ‘Cause you’re looking for that person that has that drive on learning and changing and improving. That’s my take on it because I don’t think strengths and weaknesses are as important as we put it out to be because you want people who can learn. You don’t really care so much about where someone is at today except for the fact that wherever they’re at today, you’re hiring them so they can get better. You’re not hiring them so they stay the same. To me, assessing their ability to improve, ability to change is so much more important. Strengths and weaknesses are a key part of that, but they aren’t the only thing. That’s why I hate it when people tell me “Oh, this person’s good at that and they stuck at that.” I’m like, “Yeah. Okay. That doesn’t tell me anything. That tells me what you think about them, but it doesn’t really tell me in the future, are they going to be able to improve those things?” ‘Cause that’s really what you’re looking to figure out. Can they get better at what they suck at today? Even in addition to that, whatever strengths they have, are they good strengths for the role that you’re hiring them for? Are they important? ‘Cause I have people I’ve hired, senior people, and I know them really well in terms of strengths and weaknesses often times better than they know themselves. Then what happens is you’re not putting them in certain scenarios and you’re asking them honestly like, “Do you want to get better at that?” And they tell you, “No. I don’t want to get better at that,” that’s awesome, as long as there’s somebody who can get better period. I have a person I work with, pretty closely. They tell me that they don’t want to do X, Y and Z, these things. “I don’t want to be manager.” That’s a good example, I think. This person tells me that. “I don’t want to be a manager. I suck at being a manager. I’m not good at being a manager.” I stopped this person right away and say, “Wait. You know if you wanted to be a manager, you can get great at being a manager, right?” They’re like, “Yeah. Of course.” I’m like, “Okay. Then stop saying that you’re a bad manager. You’ve never even tried it. You don’t want to.” Not wanting to get better at something you suck at is different than not being able to get better at something you suck at. Sorry for my rant, but like this thing’s like-



Steli Efti: I love it.



Hiten Shah: It just inspired me to think about like, “Oh, man. This is about hiring people and assessing people.” Strengths and weaknesses are just the beginning, not the end.



Steli Efti: I love it. That’s the quote. “Strengths and weaknesses are just the beginning, not the end.” Boom.



Hiten Shah: Not the end. There you go.



Steli Efti: That’s it.



Hiten Shah: There you go.



Steli Efti: That’s it. There you go. There you have it. That’s it from us for this episode and we’ll hear you very soon.



Hiten Shah: See you.


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