Hold the Phone!
Strengths overused become weaknesses?!? What?!?
It’s easy to get derailed by all the advice we are given about how to evolve our leadership. Work on my weaknesses. Work on my strengths. Don’t let my strengths become my weaknesses. As we think about it – knowing our brains are always looking for shortcuts – it can become perplexing.
Metaphors are useful in this case. Well-spaced rain falling on crops helps the crops to grow. The deluge of rain occurring in California right now has the opposite effect. Crops are failing.
I coached a client who “grew up” in a tightly regulated system which had little room for error. The leadership she had learned was Command and Control. She was excellent at observing, identifying problems, and taking action to fix them. Then she was promoted. The strengths that she brought with her and applied with the same diligence to the new job, were seen as micromanaging, disempowering, and perceived as a lack of trust in the capabilities of her team. The strengths that had gotten her promoted became weaknesses in her new role.
This called for a reassessment of how she used her strengths. For example, observing and identifying problems gave her the opportunity to coach and mentor – increasing the capabilities of her team members. Focusing on creating relationships laid the foundation for creating a culture of trust and support. The list goes on.
It takes conscious thought to notice where and how we use our strengths, and whether we are having the impact that we desire. Not only should we look at whether we play to our strengths, we should also look to see if we overplay them. Spoiler alert: All of us have, and we can do better next time.
This Week: Do you have a good sense of your strengths and how you use them? If you do, take time to thoughtfully replay the past week. Where did you use your strengths? How effective were you? How might you have used them differently? With what results?
If you don’t have that sense, jumpstart your strengths exploration by phoning a friend or family member and ask them. You can also take the free VIA strengths assessment at https://www.viacharacter.org to see what shows up there.
P.S. Went to see Avatar: The Way of Water after writing this blog. My favorite quote came from Jack Sully – “That was our greatest weakness, and our great strength.”
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