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HR Professionals: How to Take Your Weaknesses and Capitalize on Them

By Alan Collins

Wouldn't it be fantastic to have every skill you need for a successful HR career?

Then again, in an ideal world, it would be great to have fantastic hair, zero body fat and a winning lottery ticket in your pocket.

Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world. We all have to face the fact that we're good at some things. Just adequate at others. And horrible at some that are really important.

For example, if you're an HR generalist, it can be frustrating not to be brilliant in areas like: talent acquisition, total rewards, OD, labor relations and every single one of the 5,000 other essential HR competencies.

You probably also would love to be able to constantly dazzle your clients with your brilliance, know the business as well as your CEO, and be the nationally recognized inspirational leader that everyone in your organization envies.

Well, guess what? Chances are you're not. And I'm certainly not. We both have areas we need (and want) to improve. Just like every single one of the other two million HR folks on the planet.

So what do we do? Typically, we toil for years working on and chipping away at our weaknesses until we have them under control. Or we learn to live with them.

And for most HR folks, that's fine and dandy.

But today, I want to offer you another, even better choice.

It is this:

Step 1: Pinpoint your weaknesses.

Step 2: Figure out how to move your weaknesses into the strengths column.

Here are just a few examples to illustrate this process:

Example 1

Are you an HR generalist, but not good at everything?

Instead, be an HR generalist, master of ONE thing.

Find your ONE niche and blow people away with this singular towering talent you have. It could be, for example:

  • Providing insights based on HR analytics
  • Crafting an HR strategy
  • Attracting hard-to-find talent
  • Developing innovative total reward programs
  • Designing training programs
  • Facilitating groups
  • Building competency models
  • Running engagement surveys
  • Or any one of a hundred other high-demand specialty areas within HR

Look for additional ways to demonstrate your ONE chosen talent. This could include amazing others by creating data, training, tools and templates that they can use to make themselves more effective in your area of specialty. Become their trusted advisor or the organizational expert in this area.

Do this while continuing to be the imperfect, jack-of-all-trades generalist you already are.

Hey, just a thought.

Example 2

Not a good presenter?

Be a great intimate communicator instead.

If you aren't good at talking to large groups, why sweat it? Get your work done communicating to small groups or persuading one-on-one instead -- and learn to be really brilliant at that. Speak in ways that connect intimately with people that draws them to you.

Instead of speaking to the masses, leverage your already effective small-group communications and one-on-one skills to get buy-in on your HR projects and as a foundation for building your reputation.

Example 3

Don't have a large client group?

So be more intimate and build stronger bonds with the small group you have.

Only working with small populations of clients? Then, turn them into raving fans and your biggest advocates. Take advantage of the fact that you can really get to know every single one of them deeply beyond the workplace -- their families, hobbies, pets, special interests.

Then leverage this intimacy and trust to hone your HR skills, test new ideas and get things done faster. Be a pilot ground for the larger organization when new HR projects are developed or experimented with. Capitalize on the edge that having a small group (versus a huge one) gives you to get quicker feedback and implement results faster. Look for ways to have fun and take risks with your tiny group of clients, who trust you, in ways the HR folks impersonally serving a more massive number of clients can't.

Example 4

Lack leadership skills?

Launch your own leadership development group and lead it instead.

Pull together a group of 5-7 peers with the objective of building each others' leadership skills. Invite in-house executives or outside leadership speakers to talk to the group over lunch. Have discussions about great books, articles and blog posts on leadership. Scout out leadership opportunities for each other -- task forces, volunteer or nonprofit assignments. Discuss and share key learnings with each other. By spearheading all this yourself…guess what, you're leading.

Example 5

Not organized?

Simplify things.

Look for shortcuts, hacks, templates that simplify things and help you stay organized. Do this so you don't need to organize (if you only have a few things, you don't need to organize them). Be a creative genius instead of a diligently organized person.

Example 6

Not a good writer?

Be a people person instead.

If you can't write a persuasive HR proposal, pitch it to people in person. If you can't write a great report, do a presentation. If you can't write a great article to save your life, do a video instead.

Example 7

Trouble making quick decisions?

Then cherish being deliberate.

Value being more thorough and introspective. Seek out more strategic HR projects and assignments, which require more thoughtful assessments and decision-making. Do this instead of putting yourself in positions where you have to react quickly to a lot of tactical, day-to-day fires.

Example 8

Got a weakness?

Look for ways to serve others with the same problem.

For example, launch a Toastmasters chapter for those (like you) who want to improve their presentation skills. If you're out of work, start a networking group.

There's an old saying: "Aggravation is the mother of invention." If not having a skill you need is a problem for you, you can be sure it's a problem for others as well. Many successful HR careers came about as a result of someone launching an initiative that he or she needed themselves.

So think about ways you can help both yourself and others compensate for your deficiency. Your weakness could wind up leading you to the doorstep of a successful new career opportunity.

Having shared these eight examples, what are your thoughts?

Is this doable?

Obviously, listing all the potential possibilities would be impossible.

But here's the point...

Hidden in your weaknesses are your strengths.

Every weakness you have can be reframed into a strength.

So, as an alternative, stop working so hard at correcting ALL your weaknesses. Instead, accept SOME of them and figure out how to move them into the strengths column. The more you practice this mindset, the better you'll get at it.

About the Author:
Alan Collins is Founder of and specializes in helping HR professionals take their careers to the next level. He has authored three best-selling books: Winning Big in HR, Unwritten HR Rules and Best Kept HR Secrets -- all available on Amazon. Alan was formerly Vice President -- Human Resources at PepsiCo, where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses.