The unexpected result of overusing our strengths
Too much of a good thing can, in fact, be bad for you. The same goes for our strengths. Like all good things, when we overuse our strengths, it can hurt our leadership instead of helping us be better leaders.
It’s not unusual for us to think of our strengths only in favourable terms. Like many others, I’ve always thought of my strengths as my secret weapon. After all, they have served me well. My strengths have helped me succeed in the past, and they are my stepping stones towards future success. So you can imagine that I was more than a little disconcerted when I realised that, at times, a reliance on my strengths worked against me.
It’s the instances when we’re not mindful of how we’re using our strengths, or when we’re using them to the extreme, that can negatively impact our performance.
Confidence is a highly desired trait and seen as a strength. But many of us have also experienced what it’s like to work with a leader whose confidence has made him arrogant and a bit of a know-it-all. Arrogance makes for poor listeners and even weaker collaborators. What should be a strength that supports your success journey now becomes a blind spot which, if left unchecked, can negatively impact your future performance.
Another instance when our strengths can work against us is when we’re stressed. When we’re dealing with unfamiliar and challenging situations, we revert naturally to our strengths to help us cope. But again, if we’re not mindful, they can damage your reputation and limit your effectiveness.
A long time ago, I worked for a manager who had a high attention to detail. But when the pressure was on, she would hover over us, quite literally looking over our shoulder to micromanage our work. I’m sure she had good intentions. She wanted to ensure that despite the tight deadlines, we submitted high quality proposals to our management. The effect, however, was disempowering and demotivating.
I continue to advocate that we should build on our strengths to find meaningful success. But I’ve also learnt to pay closer attention to how and when I’m leveraging my strengths, and to be careful not to let my strongest qualities also be my downfall.
Make an inventory of your top three strengths and note instances when you overused your strengths to your detriment. You may be surprised by what you learn about yourself.
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