COLUMN: Know Your Strengths So You Can Address Your Weaknesses

CRN Executive Editor Jennifer Follett says the true ‘power’ in knowing your superpower is perhaps that it sheds light on your weaknesses and helps you build a team accordingly to fill in the gaps.

A presentation my seventh-grader did recently for school on comic book auteur Stan Lee -- creator of legendary characters such as Spider-Man, Hulk and Captain Marvel -- got me thinking about superpowers.

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to attend one of our Women of the Channel Leadership Summits, you’ve probably been asked at least once to identify your personal superpower and how you use it in a business context. It’s an interesting exercise for anyone to explore, particularly when you compare your self-identified traits to the ones that your colleagues and peers would pick when they think of you.

We even asked the question of the applicants for the 2023 Women of the Channel list, a sampling of which can be found in this issue. You can peruse everyone’s answers in our online project database, but I found a few common themes, particularly among our Power 100 vendor executives and Power 80 Solution Providers.

A number of the women identified resiliency, perseverance or persistence as their superpowers, traits that came to the fore in both our professional and personal lives in ways we couldn’t previously have imagined during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of my superpowers is impatient persistence. I am not afraid of a long-term challenge and can apply tremendous persistence to keep going in the face of obstacles, distractions and objections,” wrote Chari Rhoades, vice president of Americas channel sales at Proofpoint. “The impatient part is what keeps me pushing for progress along the journey.”

The ability to forge connections and build close relationships was another popular answer, which of course makes sense for people working in the channel, a business construct whose very foundation lies in the concept of the trusted adviser.

“My superpower is being a connector. I am constantly connecting people to people or to companies or to opportunities,” said Heather Somerville Gonzalez, global channel sales director at Morpheus Data, in her application. “I love being able to open doors and help people navigate their journey through my connections and through my network.”

Some honorees said they keep calm amid the chaos, even thrive in it.

“I find my sense of calm in moments of chaos. It not only helps me, but also those around me,” wrote Denise Millard, senior vice president of global alliances at Dell Technologies. “Whether it be personally or professionally, it’s a trait that has served me well and I believe has made me a better leader.”

My favorite answer to our question -- “ What is your superpower and how has it helped you build your career?” -- came from May Mitchell, chief marketing officer at Ontinue, the MDR division of Open Systems.

She wrote, in part, “Just one?”

It’s important to know not only your own strong suit but also those of your teammates. The true “power” in knowing your superpower is perhaps that it sheds light on your weaknesses and helps you build a team accordingly to fill in the gaps.

Who wouldn’t want to be the salesperson who can win over a room with big ideas and charisma? But you still need someone paying attention to profitability and the minutiae of contract details to have a thriving business.

The idea of filling in the gaps is one of the key reasons why so many companies in the channel are now focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion. Despite the progress being made, the dichotomy of experiences is still quite stark.

For example, recent research from CRN parent The Channel Company showed that 49 percent of channel women believe they have been passed over for opportunity or advancement because of their gender, compared with only 9 percent of channel men.

I’ve read commentary from some who describe DEI initiatives as “woke,” “toxic feminism” or even “just another form of racism.”

I wonder if viewing them instead as a mechanism for tapping into different perspectives -- a way to cover your blind spots -- might make more sense.

After all, a team with diverse superpowers is much more difficult to defeat.