Consider a few typical strengths a leader may have: say they’re a good delegator, a great relationship-builder, results-oriented, decisive, etc. Interestingly, our strengths become weaknesses when we overuse or misapply them to the situation.
That’s why I often hear my clients’ colleagues say, “It’s his strength, but also weakness at times…”
So it’s important to know which of your own strengths tend to become weaknesses, and what triggers that to happen. Once you know your pattern you can catch yourself, and turn it back around to a positive. With a little help from those you trust, which I describe later in this post, and your willingness to notice and respond (rather than react) to the triggers that can make you overdo a strength, you will make significant progress on achieving your best in most situations.
Here are quick summaries of the seven most common strengths that become weaknesses, and links to more in depth articles related to each one:
- Strength: A good grasp of details. When taken too far: “Spends too much time in the weeds” or is “Overly controlling” or has “trouble delegating” or “gets involved in things way below their pay grade.” (For a deeper look at this topic: 7 Powerful Ways to Know When to be Hands On or Hands Off)
- Strength: High standards. Taken too far: Perfectionism—overly demanding of self or others; drives everyone too hard for diminishing returns. Has to have that last detail just right, even if it takes everyone down. (For a deeper look at this topic: Three Steps to Managing Perfectionsim’s Side Effects)
- Strength: Great relationship-builder. Too far: “Flies at too high a level / lacks focus on getting the job done.” (For a deeper look at this topic: 10 Areas to Upgrade Your Effectiveness)
- Strength: Results-oriented. Taken too far: “Leaves a trail of bodies behind them. Uses people up, then moves on.” All about tasks and not humanity or people or relationships. (For a deeper look at this topic: 5 Ways to Know if You are an Efficient or Effective Leader)
- Strength: Strategic thinker. Too far: “Gets us into analysis paralysis,” and “More interested in discussion than action” and “Spends too much time on PowerPoint. not so great on execution.” (For a deeper look at this topic: Getting it Done! An MRI for Your Project or Business)
- Strength: Decisive. Too far: “Overly-controlling /dictatorial” and, “Needs to be the alpha in the room.” (For a deeper look at this topic: 7 Powerful Ways to Know When to be Hands On or Hands Off)
- Strength: Confident. Too far: Arrogant / egotistical / narcissistic. “It’s all about her, so make sure you’ve got plenty of time.” (For a deeper look at this topic: Self-aware Leadership Watch: Is Your Ego Your Amigo?)
Overusing or misusing a strength is usually a blind spot issue, so it’s jarring to learn about it. It’s like someone noticing you’re way too loud; plain for them to hear, but not obvious to you, unless you ask, and/or they tell you.
That’s why there’s no better way to learn of your strengths-become-weaknesses than to ask for a bit of feedback from people around you, like colleagues, clients, or family. You can ask:
“Which of my strengths become a (problem / issue / weakness) at times?” and “Do you notice a pattern to when or how that happens?”
Be prepared, though, because you may take a hit to the ego as I suggested above.
Often leaders say to me “Yah, but this is how I got to where I am today.” I respond that they got there becauseof that great core strength, and despite the times when they misuse or overuse it. The voice is there, and that’s indeed great, but it’s important to be able to set the volume at the right level to let it be a positive.
Practice takes a commitment to change thinking and actions alike, and holding yourself accountable to notice and moderate the behaviors you tend to over-emphasize.
Being gentle yet firm with yourself about your development areas is a good start. Also, those same colleagues, friends, and family can be a great help in ratcheting your weaknesses back into the strengths contained within them — you can make that happen by checking back with them from time to time, remind them what they noticed when you asked originally, and request any further observations from them. It works.
I guarantee you if you don’t check your blind spot for your own blend of strengths-cum-weaknesses, you’ll be falling short of taking your A-game to the field every day, so why not give it a try?
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