Our most dangerous weaknesses…  come from overused strengths!

There’s a lot of talk about strengths and weaknesses. Things you are good at and things you are bad at.  Each of us have certain competencies or natural abilities. These would be considered our strengths.  Our weaknesses are more commonly known as the things we don’t do well.

That’s not what I’m talking about here. We have more tools now than ever to discover our strengths and gifts and natural abilities and it’s a great idea to use them to either recover, discover or uncover our real strengths. The more disturbing problem comes when we overuse these wonderful strengths, because when we overuse our strengths, they can actually become our weaknesses. For example, I spoke with someone recently who is not very good with numbers.  We will call him Bob.  Balancing his check-book is bound to have mistakes and leave him bored and drained of energy.  This is a weakness that he understands.  It’s clear to Bob that he doesn’t like numbers and will never spend the time needed to get good with them. He knows it, and everyone around him knows it too.  When Bob spends time doing detailed budgets the results are not very good and it requires a lot more effort than other people with a numerical gifting (and yes, these people do exist).

A strength of Bob’s is working with people. This is energizing and joyful for him.  He always has a positive response to his efforts and intentions with people. This would be a strength area.  However, when he overuses this wonderful strength, the real problems begin. Spending too much time with people becomes less and less satisfying for him… and them.  If Bob continues to over engage he can then become disenchanted and even begin to question this area of strength. Now we have a real problem because it starts to rot the very foundation under which he normally loves to fully engage and where he finds great satisfaction.

I often see people questioning their strengths because they have been overused. In a world that seems to find more value in quality rather than quantity this can easily happen. I have coached myself and hundreds of other people who are questioning their strengths to carefully consider this simple concept.   Overuse injuries are common in athletes engaging their athletic strengths and the principle is similar for all of us working in our personal strengths..

If you’re thinking about a career change or even how to engage with your current team, I invite you to evaluate how well you are taking care of your self. If you’re running too fast and living under constant stress, I can almost promise you won’t be able to trust your strengths or your judgment about them.  I would strongly encourage you to find a source of objective feedback. A person without any agenda for you, and some connected expertise could change your whole experience. This could help you get back on track so that your strengths become your strengths and you start feeling that energy, joy and delight once again.

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