Somewhere in life, someone once said to me, “You need to downplay your strengths and develop your weaknesses.” I was young at the time and took this as sage advice. Of course, striving to develop a weakness into a strength made sense, but I was unclear about downplaying what I was good at. If I was a solitary individual, reliant only upon myself, then yes, working on improving not so good skill sets would be appropriate for survival. Last I checked, I am no Henry Bemis (from the episode Twilight Zone episode, “Time Enough at Last”), so I am surrounded in an active world filled with able people.
Based on years of grappling with this, if I have a strength in some area, I should work towards honing that skill set. I know that there is always someone better in that area; however, within our subject matter expertise there is always room for improvement. For some of the weaknesses…I think that I might not want to spend valuable time on something I might never become proficient in. Using music as an example, I chose to teach myself the banjo. I already know how to play guitar (rhythm not lead), so I have some knowledge / familiarity with that type of instrument. If I decided to play euphonium, that would be a big challenge, as I do not currently know valve-based brass instruments.
If we can build on our strengths, how can we overcome our (real or perceived) weaknesses? Let us now enter the concept of working in a team, where one person does not have to have ALL the answers, nor need to constantly attempt to learn things that are beyond their abilities (not to be confused with stepping outside one’s comfort zone). With the right team in place, each member can leverage each other’s abilities, compliment skill sets, and provide a broader based team to tackle most obstacles. While we know the names of Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, etc., the truth was that these iconic leaders surrounded themselves with people who had the abilities that they did not. Henry Ford is attributed with making the statement, "I am not the smartest, but I surround myself with competent people."
I have been in Project Management for about 20 years. I have had the opportunity to work with programmers, implementation experts, application specialists, and people with business area expertise. While my background is Accounting, it was important to learn other related areas of business and technology. By working in a team, with people who have various skill sets, I have been part of successful teams, both providing my skills and learning others. Not to dissimilar from playing in a band. The guys I play with play different instruments and have different, yet similar, backgrounds. Together, by listening to each other and complimenting each other, we are able to produce something greater as a whole than as individuals.