When your greatest strength is your greatest weakness

I saw my doctor yesterday. Sensitive, intelligent, considerate, thoughtful and understanding, he is as kind a man as any I have met.

But I have a problem with him.

So kind, sensitive, intelligent, considerate, thoughtful and understanding is he that he always runs over time. While he attends to the patient he is tending, the patients in the waiting room wait and wait and wait. This can be most annoying.

In this way, what pleases me most about my brilliant doctor is what annoys me most.

Do you see what I mean?

A few years ago, we employed a graduate who wanted to be in advertising. She was (and, I guess, still is) kind, sensitive, intelligent, considerate, thoughtful and understanding. She loved her work and we loved working with her. On discussing any issue, she always ‘got it’ and made smart, useful contributions to the debate.

Further, whenever discussions were over, and she wrote the meeting notes, not only did they accurately reflect what had been said but she would add a little bit more, something extra, to the matter at hand. Often, this was something that she had been to shy to say face-to-face.

Shy? Yes, she was shy. In fact, so kind, sensitive, intelligent, considerate, thoughtful and understanding was she that when I asked her to get things done, she would shy away. She would rather do something herself than get other people, especially suppliers, to do things for her, especially if price was an issue.

In this way, her kind, sensitive, intelligent, considerate, thoughtful and understanding nature was the very thing that frustrated us most when we depended on her to get things done on budget and on time.

Do you see where I’m heading?

I hope so because things are about to get more serious.

Not long ago, I worked with a guy who turned out to be a crook. Of course, when I started working with him, I did not know he was a crook. But now I know what I know, I am going to remember this theme and keep my eyes open for people like him.

What do I mean?

Well, it emerged that this guy was an expert at reading contracts. You may not think this a particular talent. But it is. In fact, there are people whose entire careers involve the insertion of sneaky traps into wordy, tedious legal contracts. The most obvious example is a sneaky clause, hidden in the small print of a big document, that says if you don’t do this by then, the contract becomes null and void and the other side gets all the money.

Well this guy I worked with was very good at spotting these sneaky traps. It was a particular strength of his. And, of course, that which made him identify sneaky clauses in contracts was that which enabled him to insert sneaky clauses into contracts himself. In this way, he squeezed much more out of our client than the client thought he was giving us – none of it to do with the quality of the work or the results we achieved. Just the way the contract was written. And this guy had drafted it.

You can guess what happened. Yes, not only had this guy slipped sneaky clauses into our client contract, but he slipped a sneaky clause into his contract with me which directly contradicted what we had agreed. Trusting as I am, I had overlooked it. Luckily, I found him out after he had stolen money from me and the dishonest contract was nullified. Phew.

In this way, what this guy is good at makes him very bad news for the rest of mankind.


Not easy are they?

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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