• Should you beware of your strengths?

    We all have different portfolios of strengths and weaknesses. Several best-selling books focus on developing and using your strengths. Sometimes, though, focusing on those strengths can lead us astray and even undermine our success.

    Be aware of your strengths

    We need to be acutely aware of both our strengths and our weaknesses, and I’ve always been a believer that we should put more time into developing our strengths than improving our weaknesses. Leaders are people who have distinguished themselves through their strengths, having maximized their natural skills. Of course, we all have weaknesses, but if we focus on our weaknesses, we won’t have the time or energy to excel at our strengths. Now, that doesn’t mean we should ignore our weaknesses. Rather, we should be aware of the circumstances during which they will significantly limit our ability to accomplish our intentions, and focus on our strengths the rest of the time.

    Now I am going to state something that may seem counterintuitive:

    We are more likely to get into trouble by misusing a strength than by stumbling from a weakness.

    When faced with a difficult situation, we are likely to return to the strengths that have served us well in the past. Like overusing a muscle, reverting to these strengths becomes a knee-jerk reaction. In many cases this works for us, but occasionally we misuse a strength—that is, the strength has no relevance to the situation, but we employ it anyway out of instinct. Before we are aware of it, we’ve made things worse. Unaware of what is happening, we might even respond by drawing on the same strength again, only to dig a deeper hole. Look behind the story of one of your work failures, and I suspect you will find a misused strength.

    When the going gets tough, be aware of your instinctive response. Don’t get me wrong—your strengths are what set you apart. But examine each situation carefully and make a conscious decision as to what actions are appropriate and productive before you react.

    Pushing Your Thinking

    • Do you know what strengths distinguish you? How have those strengths served your success in the past?
    • Can you remember a situation when you employed the strength out of instinct and found yourself in trouble?
    • Why did that happen? What might you have done differently?

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