how to fix your weaknesses
(and a rather random claim to fame)
Hello dear reader,
I have quite a unique Gymshark claim to fame. Our pup, Pax (pictured below for no reason at all) is related to the founders – we bought her from members of the extended Gymshark family.
She is, without doubt, doing her best to live out the Gymshark values in our home:
Be human. This one is tricky, being a dog, but she does her absolute best to convince us that she is in fact a human, and lives out the rest of this value by being more human than most humans – accessible, inclusive and humble.
Give a s***. I mean this is tantamount to being a dog. It’s why I have poo bags in the pockets of every item of clothing I own. But, being less literal, she does care about those around her and wants to be a positive influence.
Do the right thing. Always honest and genuine. Doesn’t *always* do exactly the right thing.
Find the Gymshark way. Yes, she is, for sure, the most agile and disruptive member of the house. Ambitious? Maybe less so.
Put family first. Unconditionally. This one, easy.
Anyway, I love the Gymshark story. I grew up miles away from the founder, and I have to say when I hear Ben on podcasts and so on, I love the fact that he has proudly not lost his regional accent, and sounds very much like I do. I love the story of the humble garage beginnings, the hard work, inventiveness, and risk taking. I also love the fact Ben Francis comes across like a thoroughly good person. And proves that it can be done – treat people with respect, and create something world-class and successful.
The story in short: Ben Francis is as I write only 29, having set out to build the Gymshark brand in his early twenties. He’s the founder and CEO, the company is now worth billions, employs 900 people, is an iconic UK brand that is well on the way to becoming an established global brand, and both Gymshark, and Ben himself, appear to have maintained their integrity and principles.
But the key aspect of the story that I want to focus on today, and that you need to hear and reflect upon, is that Ben Francis clearly knows his strengths. He doesn’t just know his strengths, he intentionally focuses on them, develops them, AND uses them to develop his weaknesses, too.
Let me explain.
In the early years of Gymshark, Ben turned his hand to whatever was necessary to achieve the aims of his fledgling company. And as you listen to him talk, he was in fact leaning into his strength without even realising that was what he was doing. Now, I don’t know Ben but the one strength that is clear to me that he has, is Learner. He is an out and out learner – I don’t mean academically as such, but a question asker, a knowledge finder, an expert seeker. As you listen to him talk, at every point he has insatiably learnt, leaning in to the strength of others around him. He’d hunt people down in the gym, after finding out what they did for a living, and asked them questions. He’d learn everything there was to know about the challenges facing his business. He would ask questions and then apply that learning at every opportunity.
As time went on, and Gymshark grew, the understanding of his strengths seemed to move from the unknown to the intentionally known. What I mean by this is, in his early 20s he was just doing what came intuitively to him, that is to learn and ask questions. As time passes, he realises that that isn’t what everybody does and that this desire to learn and grow is a key strength of his. Coupled with a strong sense of creativity and innovative thinking, (think Ideation or Strategic) he realised what the key contribution that he brought to Gymshark was, this was centred learning and brand development. The company was at a crucial growth period and he made a very brave decision that most founders would not even consider. He demoted himself to Head of Brand Development and brought in a CEO to replace him. He knew what he needed to do, what his best contribution was, and at this point he did not have what was needed to take Gymshark to the next level. When I heard this I was incredibly impressed, and could see how this was a defining decision in the success of the brand.
What are you trying to do that’s just not your strength? What are you holding on to that someone could lead or develop in a way that you just can’t? How are you spreading yourself too thinly so that your good and best gets diluted to average?
But the story doesn’t stop there. Around this time he also received some pretty brutal 360 feedback from his team (more on this next week). He had some significant areas of weakness – both character and talents (namely arrogance and inability to speak publicly). These were going to get in the way of his progress, and so could not be ignored. So, what did Ben do? He used his Strengths to find a way to grow. He activated his learner as a solution. He asked questions, he went on courses, he learnt about himself, he took on the feedback. His strengths were also the solution to his weaknesses.
What is getting in your way of progress? How can you use your strengths in order to find a way through?
A few years down the line, and the then CEO tells Ben he feels he is ready to step back into the shoes of CEO. Ben resumes the role, and not only does so with the knowledge and experience of someone who has learnt and grown and listened, but also without the ‘hurricane Ben’ moniker that came with his earlier way of working – he’s now described as ‘humble, introspective and self-aware’*. What a turnaround.
So, the question for you today is this. We are all on a self-development journey – it’s why you read these emails. Don’t get caught up in the fact Ben is operating on a stellar scale – it’s not important. What does this principle look like in your life? How can you apply it?
I’ll summarise it for you:
Know your strengths
Invest in your strengths
Identify your weaknesses
Use your strengths to develop them
Eliminate fatal flaws
Grow your character and integrity
Happy Wednesday everyone,
P.S. There’s too many brilliant principles from listening to Ben Francis that I can’t fit it in to one blog. More to come next week.
*Quoting Steven Bartlett (latest Dragon to join the Den)