Can our strengths become our liability?


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:


This list has been posted with permission from The Executive Roundtable  Please do not distribute without further permission.

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:

  1. Identify the behavior and think about how you’d like to be seen as instead.
  2. Ask for suggestions and ideas from those around you.  (Co-workers, Managers, Staff, Friends, and Family).
  3. Listen, thank, and record their suggestions.
  4. Implement changes and track your progress.
  5. 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

Glain Roberts-McCabe

Glain Roberts-McCabe is Founder and President of The Executive Roundtable Inc. (, 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.

ERT logo
The Executive Roundtable is the partner of choice for organizations seeking to engage and retain their most “mission-critical” leadership talent. Pepsi Canada, WIND Mobile, Torstar Digital and CAA South Central Ontario, are just a few of the clients turning to The Executive Roundtable to help accelerate their top leadership talent.

10 thoughts on “Can our strengths become our liability?

  1. I can almost hear your key-note speaker voice as I read through the article! Very true: delegating clear instructions is absolutely vital to great leadership and professional development. Ive learned the hard way in my work and volunteer life.

  2. It’s funny, because I come across this problem when I’m having an interview. Whenever I’m asked about my strengths and weaknesses, I have difficulty naming my weaknesses because we tend to think more about what we’re better at. And then when I do name my strengths, I’m careful because I don’t want to seem that I’m coming off too strong, when I know our strengths can sometimes play against us. I think, just like the title of your blog, that it helps to be balanced. Have a clear view of both your strengths and weaknesses, and be committed to working on them so you can be a valuable team member in any situation you encounter.

    1. I do agree and it’s something to consider while you’re in an interview. You may think naming a strength will prove you to be a strong candidate, but the interviewer could flag it for it’s associated risks. Good thought, thanks for the comment!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s