Problem Personalities: Achilles's Heels in Careers
Like all myths, the story of the Greek hero Achilles shines a light on a deep aspect of human nature – in this case, the fact that no matter how strong and well prepared we are, we all have some weakness that can cause our undoing. Even more to the point, Achilles' fatal flaw was not his head or his heart or some other vital organ. It was the last place you'd expect: his heel.
All of us, like Achilles, have certain characteristics that can prevent us from reaching our full potential – or even threaten to ruin our careers.The following types of career “Achilles' Heels” is certainly not an exhaustive list; to catalogue all the ways we have seen people's careers go off track would take a very long time. We do think, however, that these 12 types cover perhaps 90% of the major problems we have encountered in our years of working with business executives and other professionals.
As you probably already know, a person’s greatest strength can also be his greatest weakness (or can become so under certain circumstances). Single-minded determination to achieve a goal at any cost; selflessness as a team player; willingness to do anything for the customer; perfectionism: all of these are fine qualities that, in some cases, can paradoxically lead to ineffectiveness. Often the same qualities that help people early in their careers can be their downfall later on, when they reach higher levels in an organization. Good qualities usually become problems when they are (1) extreme and (2) blind spots; that is, when the person is unaware of these characteristics and of how they affect others.
Look at the types of "fatal flaws" listed on the links below. Then think about your own strengths, and whether you may lean toward extremism with of any of them. For example, have you received feedback from others along the lines of, "It's great that you're ..., but it would actually be better if you were a little less ... or were a little more flexible in terms of..."?
The key is to look carefully at yourself, using all the sources of information open to you, both external and internal. Don't gloss over these issues too quickly. Spending a moment checking the oil and coolant in your car before heading out on a cross-country trip can pay off by preventing a breakdown in the middle of Death Valley. We suggest you take a few minutes to "check your 'heels'" as you take off on the next leg of your career journey.
Sometimes we think we're strong in ability – but no one else would agree. For example, you may know someone who thinks she's an excellent listener, but everyone else knows otherwise. Or someone who would say that he's a really hard worker, but his managers and co-workers – or teachers and peers – would disagree.
Your assessment of your abilities is only as valuable as it is honest and objective. So if one of these "types" sounds uncomfortably like you, but you think your abilities are just fine, take a minute to consider whether you really are as good a listener (or some other trait) as you marked yourself.