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Place your flaws front and center

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in Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers,People Management

Don't hide flawsHorst Abraham, 94, coaches top athletes. From his experience as a ski instructor, he has noticed that champions focus on their flaws rather than deny them.

When you confront your imperfections head-on, you’re eager to listen and soak up new ideas, techniques and information. And that requires an openness to learn what you don’t know, even if you’re already a recognized expert in your field.

Abraham admires elite competitors who are “positively energized by their imperfections.” They readily admit that they need to improve, and they work diligently to address their failings.

Fixing their flaws does not happen overnight. They may carry around what Abraham calls “chronic discontent” for years—and it motivates them to keep improving.

When you notice a defect in your skill set or outlook, observe it without judging it. Rather than try to bury it, discuss it

with your colleagues and seek their feedback. Take steps to address that imperfection or at least examine it more closely.

On a broader level, some organizations admit their flaws and work to fix them in an open, earnest way. Others suppress any sign of weakness and use hierarchy and authority to silence those who wish to learn and grow.

That’s a key difference between a “learning organization,” where everyone looks to keep getting better; and a “knowing organization,” where senior executives think they know all the answers (and shrug off any imperfections).

Some of the most profitable companies search out every flaw and hold it up to the light. Teams proudly admit their failings, investigate cause-effect relationships and explore solutions. Employees in these organizations expose vulnerabilities without fear and freely say, “I don’t know.”

— Adapted from “Nutritious Imperfection,” Robert Quinn, www.thepositiveorganization.com.

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