All of us have strengths we rely upon to operate in our personal and professional lives. They are an essential part of who we are; however, our qualities when overused can becomes handicaps. The problem is that it is often difficult for us to realise when this starts happening. Only with deep self-reflection, awareness, and observation or with the help of a coach can you understand which strength of yours is not serving you in certain situations.
I have a client who is excellent at problem-solving. He is always questioning how to do things better. When things go wrong, what could he or his team have done differently? While analysis and solution-ing are helpful, when he starts this thought pattern, he ends up blaming either himself or his team members – most of the time himself. The constant barrage of self-deprecation and blaming stem from a place of lesser self-compassion. He realised that he was too harsh on himself. While the strengths of taking responsibility, being prepared, and preventing mistakes in the future are good, but by overusing them repeatedly, he was stressing himself out. This stressful attitude was reflecting in his interactions, in meetings or unpredictable scenarios. Acknowledging this itself was a huge win.
I had another client for whom relationships were vital. She took good care of her team, and it mattered to her how people felt about her. Because of this reason, she often could not speak up and give people the difficult feedback and hard truths they needed to hear. Due to this, she was trampled all over by her team members. Management started perceiving her as weak. While empathy is an excellent leadership quality and strength, taken too far, it may hinder your perception as a leader. It must be balanced with enough confidence and communicating your seriousness in not tolerating unacceptable behaviours. In her case, we needed to do some reflection on how she could continue to maintain good relationships while standing firm as a manager to her team members.
Focus is another credible strength, we usually applaud. However, I have come across many clients so focussed on their jobs and completely ignoring other areas of their lives – resulting in feeling lonely or socially disconnected or burnt out. Dialling down this focus only on work and shifting it and actively applying to maybe building relationships or pursuing hobbies can significantly prevent you from the drawbacks of overusing this strength and leveraging it in a more balanced manner.
A point I desperately want to highlight is that often there are several traits that we blindly accept as virtuous either as an individual, social group, society, or nation. However, it is crucial to always step back and be open and question these so-called universally-accepted facts and discover whenever they are harming you in the context of your current situation.
A great way to overcome this is to identify what your strengths are first. You can take a free strength finder test called VIA Survey, based on Positive Psychology, which I often recommend to my clients to uncover their real strengths. Look at the top five strengths then question if you are leaning too far into them to your disadvantage?
This exercise is extremely personal and will vary from person to person. Like they say one man's food is another man's poison. Clearly understanding when your food is becoming your poison is a true leadership quality.
Views are personal.
The author is the founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners a global Leadership Development company based in Bangalore. She is a Leadership Development Specialist, an ICF Certified Executive Coach [PCC] and author of the book - Team Decision Making.