In the 1950s film, Some Like It Hot, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis have been on the run from the Mafia for most of the film dressed as women in an all-female jazz orchestra including Marilyn Monroe. They end up in a hotel full of retired millionaire widowers on the make for pretty girls.
One such guy, Osgood, is infatuated with Jerry (Jack Lemmon in drag). The famous last line occurs after Jerry, trying his best to deter Osgood’s advances, finally removes his wig and yells, “I’m a man!” prompting Osgood to reply: “Well, nobody’s perfect!”
I’m sure you have come across many people at work who would never admit to being less than perfect. They maintain a facade for all kinds of reasons including to maintain power over others, to demonstrate strength (in their eyes), or as a form of self-protection, particularly in a culture where development is seen as remedial or where second chances are rarely given.
This could get you down and I have known organizational cultures where this is the norm. To show weakness doesn’t get you very far in these places. The very word weak implies some notion of survival of the fittest, which is why more benign organizational cultures prefer phrases like areas for development.
Large organizations usually have internal systems and processes for appraising your performance. You may or may not find they are linked to development in your role and career path.
In some businesses, you are expected to arrive as the finished article, able to hit the ground running using the technical capabilities for which they recruited you. Or, you might be recruited more for your potential, put on a development programme or given a coach or mentor to accelerate the process.
In some places, the standards of performance and what is expected of you are clear. In others, they can be a bit fuzzy or completely absent.
The emphasis in much of today’s workplace is still on trying to eradicate the weaknesses, fill the holes in your capability and fix what is ‘wrong’. Accountability in hierarchical organisations can lead to distorted behaviour if your boss’s neck is on the line. It can be a negative, critical and sometimes judgemental starting point.
So, we could spend a lot of our time and energy on all the myriad things with which we struggle. We may eventually make some improvements, but many of us don’t. Why is that?
Well, it can sometimes feel like Sisyphus, a king from Greek mythology who was condemned to push a heavy rock up a mountain only to see it fall down and repeat this action forever. Wouldn’t it be easier and more natural to push it on the flat or down the hill?
None of us can be great at everything so it makes sense to invoke the 80/20 rule (The Pareto Principle, named after an early 20th-century Italian economist) or ‘the law of the vital few’.
An example from the business world would be identifying which 20% of your customers account for 80% of your profits. Try applying the principle to your personal strengths and challenges:
- From experience and feedback, which 20% of your strengths have given you 80% of your success?
- Which 20% of skills, knowledge, attitudes or behaviours cause 80% of your challenges or blockages in getting a job and becoming more employable?
Who do you know personally or admire from afar for overcoming a weakness or a limitation and demonstrated strength by being vulnerable? Use it as inspiration to show your own strength of character to an employer and, remember, nobody’s perfect.