We all have strengths and weaknesses. We tend to separate these two in a very black and white way. We promote our strengths while we hide our weaknesses. We take on tasks and projects that will showcase our talents and continue to develop our strengths. While our weaknesses, we take in stride and plan to work on them in our “spare” time.
Yet with so much attention on our strengths is it possible to over use them? Is it possible that they could become our liability over our actual weaknesses? Is there such a thing as a dark side to our strengths?
Glain Roberts-McCabe, Founder and President of The Executive Roundtable, believes that there is. In a recent DeGroote Executive Education Women’s Breakfast Seminar that I attended, Glain took each of the audience members through a simple but effective exercise to see if this theory proves true. We were handed a list of “strengths” to consider. Upon marking those we identified with, a flip of the paper showed how those strengths can quickly be turned into our weaknesses.
Taking a hard look at my own negative strength behaviors quickly convinced me that this may be one of the most valuable bits of advice I receive in my career. Perfectionism leading to inability to delegate and work with a team, Innovative ideas becoming confusing to others by constantly changing concepts, or being great with details causing time “wasted in the weeds”.
Upon reflection of ourselves the audience and I quickly realized just how many of these strengths we were overusing.
Here’s a list of some of the strengths and their derailing behaviors that Glain shared with us:
So once you’ve identified your strengths and their dark sides, what’s next? How do we move forward? Of course the positive thing is, admitting that one has a problem or fault is the first step on the path to victory. By now realizing and acknowledging where we falter we can begin to correct the issues.
Glain’s method for overcoming these derailing behaviors:
- Identify the behavior and think about how you’d like to be seen as instead.
- Ask for suggestions and ideas from those around you. (Co-workers, Managers, Staff, Friends, and Family).
- Listen, thank, and record their suggestions.
- Implement changes and track your progress.
- Ask for feedback on your progress.
I believe that the strengths you are hired for can become the very weaknesses that you are overlooked on a promotion for or even fired because of. It’s important, as in all things, to keep balanced so we don’t overuse our “superpowers”. Speak with those around you and set “check in” reminders for yourself to help nurture your “new behavior” characteristics to ensure we are being seen the way we intend to and strive to.
So did any of these strengths and their possible weaknesses resonate with you? Any suggestions on overcoming the negative attributes?
Glain Roberts-McCabe is Founder and President of The Executive Roundtable Inc. (www.theexecutiveroundtable.ca), a membership-based leadership organization for mid-career leaders on the fast track. The Executive Roundtable programs combine mentoring and peer to peer coaching to help driven leaders succeed. We connect them with others who’ve “been there” and know the practical realities of what really works.