I consider myself a pretty successful person. I am proud of what I have achieved academically, professionally, athletically and in my personal life.
While working towards my achievements over the last 40+ years I have displayed some of the following strengths:
- Focused and highly goal oriented
- Very structured
- Single minded
At times I also have been guilty of overdoing my strengths by showing up as
- Too Rigid
- Inflexible and loosing sight of the big picture
A lot of us have been told that we shouldn’t spend too much time on improving our weaknesses but rather get them to an acceptable level and then focus on perfecting our strengths. The logic behind this thinking goes something like this: you will never be really good at your weaknesses. Get them to a good enough level and then surround yourself with people who are strong where you are weak. Use your energy to move your strengths from excellent to world class. Become outstanding at one thing vs. being slightly above average at a few things.
While I agree with the notion of focus and becoming outstanding at a few select things, there is a key point missing in the above argument:
By relentlessly focusing on further enhancing our strengths we often neglect to realize that we can indeed (and very often do!) overdo our strengths! Remember my own example above. It is easy for me to go from being highly driven, goal oriented and focused to too single minded and inflexible!
So here is one of the few absolute truths I believe in and frequently quote in my leadership coaching:
Every weakness is a strength overdone.
I am focused and structured. When I overdo it, I am becoming inflexible and rigid.
Your boss might be highly empathetic and sensitive. When overdoing his strengths, he looses sight of the business agenda, or worse, becomes a pushover.
Your direct report is self confident and a strong presenter. She often overdoes her confidence and comes across as arrogant.
- What is my biggest strength both in my personal as well as my professional life? How might this strength overdone show up as a weakness?
- What is the first step I can take today to address my ‘strength overdone’?
- *And if you are as brave as our coaching clients are, you will also ask someone who knows you well and be willing to tell you the unvarnished truth.