Your Strengths Are Killing You

I’ve always been a huge fan of adult learners ignoring their weaknesses and focusing on bettering their strengths.  This goes against almost every single OD department in the corporate world – where employee weaknesses have to be improved at all costs!  Adult learning studies have proven time and again that after a certain point in a person’s life (usually once reaching adulthood) – focus on improving a weak skill will still only slightly improve even with focused training.  But, you can see better increases when focusing on bettering an adults strengths.  Let me give you a personal example – I’m terrible a grammar – always have been – I see grammar rules as something that are only important to high school English teachers. But, I love to write! Now, I could spend hours on improving my grammar – or I could spend those hours on writing better creative content – then hiring an editor to fix the crap I write.   Seems simple enough – hire an editor – Bam, people will think I’m a better writer.

But what happens when you overuse a personal strength?

I know quite a few people who have been told and given performance feedback that you have “great attention to detail” (by the way I love these folks – I hire them on my team – because they help catch my grammar mistakes!).  You get told this – you take pride in it – you now “really” focus on it – because that is what you’re known for.  Your company has a big project – really important – everyone needs to deliver – time crunch – you get the deal.  You become involved because you want every detail perfect – you want to ensure nothing leaves with an error – seems good, right?  Except for the fact that you can’t deliver on time because nothing is good enough – you keep sending stuff back to get better – to get perfect and you miss deadlines.  One small example in our normal corporate lives – but it shows how a person’s strength, something they are applauded for, can become a weakness.

Do you know what your personal strength’s are?  I bet you probably do – but do you know if you are relying on these strengths so much, they are becoming your enemy?

I’ve been told a strength of mine is that I “will tell it like it is”.  Not a bad strength to have on a leadership team – until it is.  There are times and places where “telling like it is” is very valuable, and their are times “when telling it like is is” is very dangerous.  Remember, not all of your strengths will always be strengths!


One thought on “Your Strengths Are Killing You

  1. I agree with your observations on overuse. The people I see in an OD position typically don’t have weaknesses per se, they just struggle to rein in their strengths – the glib person who pushes it into phoniness or the analytical type who goes off into analysis paralysis. The best antidote is if they are able to find someone with your strength, telling it like it is, and get some value from honest, multi-point feedback.

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