Whether we want to admit it or not we all have a fatal flaw – one trait that, left unchecked, can drag us to our doom, or send us into a destructive spiral. Often our flaws can masquerade as a virtue: a trusting nature, a stubborn streak or, if I apply the theory to my own life, a blunt and direct manner of speech that has kept me in league with corporate “big boys”.  

I make decisions quickly… and then change my mind later. I have high expectations of myself and others to the level of perfectionism. All of this has fueled me in running a successful coaching business, in raising two confident, compassionate boys as a single mom and in keeping solid friendships across four continents. However, I have to acknowledge that this trait can also be a spark for stress, both in myself and in others.  

My biggest flaw is summed up on a fridge magnet my 9-year-old gave me for Christmas: “I’m not bossy, I just have better ideas”. It’s true, I am bossy! I also have good ideas. Hmmm… but when I really sit down and think about what are the flaws that block my happiness, block the relationships I want to thrive, block the career success I am yearning for, there are more than one. Now there’s no need to start a huge list beating yourself up. But self-awareness and self-reflection are critical to personal growth. 

It may sound negative at first to give more attention to our fatal flaws… but as an executive coach, I have spent decades helping people discover insights about themselves, unpacking their blockages to happiness, success, and achieving impact. This can steer us towards being externally focused, on other people, circumstances we consider outside of our control. But are they? Or is it something inside of us that is our block?  

As a career coach, I encourage people to celebrate their skills and write sparkly accomplishment statements that big them up against the competition. I help others to focus so much on their positive competencies, but at the same time, it strikes me that ignoring certain flaws could, in fact, be holding them back. So what can you do to embrace and then leverage your own fatal flaw(s)? Here’s my 6 steps for you to take on this month: 

A 4-week plan 

  1. Decide on the one flaw that is holding you back from reaching your goals (career, relationships, personal etc). 
  2. Spend 2 weeks writing down at least 6 events that happen when that flaw pops up. 
  3. At the end of the 2 weeks, write down one thing you learned about yourself. 
  4. Write a mantra about what you could do differently for the next 3 weeks. 
  5. Write a sticky note reminder of your mantra and put it on your bathroom mirror or car dashboard. 
  6. In 2 more weeks, reflect on what you did differently, how you feel about this improvement, who else benefitted from it. 

“There is crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in,” sang one of my favorite singers, Leonard Cohen. So, with that in mind, here’s to a summer of personal journeys, growth and happiness.   

Shannon Houde is a leadership coach and founder of Walk Of Life Consulting. Shannon will be a Meta Coach on Daniel Goleman’s new Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification course this year.  


  • Shannon Houde

    Propelling global change-makers and resilient leaders forward in CSR, sustainability, and impact investing

    Walk of Life Coaching

    I find that most people and organisations are not achieving their potential because they are not connected to their purpose - the Why!   My team and I provide the tools, perspective and challenge to enable change leaders to connect with their purpose and achieve substantial impact for their people, the planet and profits.   What do I do? - Coach leaders and executives on being more visionary, empowering and effective - Design pioneering learning initiatives - Assess leadership competencies of emerging talent & teams   What is my impact? - Convince cross-functional global teams of the value of the SDGs - Shift organisational culture towards innovation - Enable impact practitioners to gain buy-in from the Board - Bring mindfulness practice to the C-Suite so they can lead with resilience   What am I proud of? - ICF ACC certified executive coach - Accredited in the Game Changer Index® - Selected by the EIT / InnoEnergy for the "Game Changing Impact Programme" - Designed pioneering five-step Mindset Shift Model™ and the Shared Value Cycle™ - GreenBiz Columnist - "Purpose & People" and "Dear Shannon" - Published contributor in HuffPost, The Guardian, CSRWire, and 2DegreesNetwork   What has my journey been? - 15+ years shifting mindsets in sustainable business - Coached 1000+ clients, 3000+ hours, 40+ countries - Speaker at leading industry conferences including Hitatchi, GreenBiz, BSR and Net Impact - 20+ years in technology, recruitment, consulting, and NGO sectors - Deloitte, WWF, Barclays, Adobe - Advised FTSE250s and Fortune500s as management consultant   I am multi-lingual in French and Spanish with rusty Italian. I have followed the quiet of the mountains living in the Rockies (Boulder, CO), the Sierras (San Francisco, CA), Patagonia (Chile) and the Alps (Geneva, Switzerland).   I enjoy hiking and skiing with my two boys, practicing yoga under a tree, and riding my road bike through the countryside. Oh, and meditating and being mindful too!