What would you say is your area for improvement?
I’ve been asked this in countless job interviews, and still I have no appropriate answer.
“Well, I can be disorganized. I mean, not at work. Like, I get all my work done, but there is a pile of laundry on my son’s bed that hasn’t been folded for three weeks. That kind of disorganized. The kind that prioritizes well enough to know which tasks HAVE to be done and which tasks would be nice to have done. By someone else. Or by me in several years. But seriously you should hire me because I am an amazing employee who totally follows through on tasks.”
Or maybe I should say, “I’m honest. Like brutally honest about my failures and successes. And I will tell you if there is something that is bothering me because I don’t like conflict. Oh yeah, that too. I decided a long time ago that conflict affects my overall health and well being so although I am naturally a conflict avoider, I have learned to be confrontational in what I hope are loving and kind ways.”
“Also, you should hire me because I am an amazing employee who gets along with everyone.”
And then there is the very honest answer of “Well, to be honest Leonard, I would say that every area is an area for improvement. I’m exceptionally hard on myself, so hard on myself that very often I don’t even start a project because I’m so afraid that it won’t be good enough. So I end up paralyzed and anxious. Also, I’m an amazing employee. Who gets things done. And you should hire me.”
A few years ago I was in a team meeting with my twenty coworkers (yes, despite all of the above, I still can sometimes manage to get hired). It was around the holidays, and our boss was giving us a present. She spoke to us about the changes that had taken place in the organization, and about how those changes had necessitated changes in our coaching practice, and as was to be expected, this led to insecurity and fear about our competency and our value.
Then she told us that she wanted us to know that we are all there because we are incredible coaches. And that it is alright not to be perfect. It’s OK to be OK. In fact, she wanted to give us permission to be just OK, and to keep showing up and keep doing the work even if it was just OK.
So she gave us each an ornament that said, “Okayest.”
We were the okayest group of coaches.
I was thinking about that ornament this week when my stress level was rising and the list of tasks that needed to be done was growing and I was feeling like the worst version of my disorganized self and my non-confrontational self, with my honesty working to beat up by brain.
I sent a text to my friend to say that I was DROWNING and could she please send me all of the love and a life preserver through her phone.
And she wrote back, “Start with the fun thing. Create it. You want it to be perfect and that’s why you’re in your head.”
It doesn’t have to be perfect.
It can just be ok.
OK is OK.
Which, I think, is what I should say next time I’m asked that question at a job interview. Something along the lines of, “Well, there are a lot of areas for improvement, too many to list here, so let me instead say that I promise to be the okayest employee you have ever had.”
I mean, I probably won’t get the job, but the other answers weren’t any better.
In the meantime, I will be trying to be the okayest version of myself today. Imperfectly and average and enough.
Time to get started.