Are your strengths turning on you?

Posted by on Feb 7, 2016

Day after day, Bill sticks to his work routine like few people can. Co-workers tease him for his same-time arrival and departure each day, but they mean it as a compliment. They’re awed by his ability to do the same job over and over with little comment, no complaints, and consistently high quality. Says a co-worker: “The guy’s a machine.”

This is good, right?

To a point.

It’s easy to love the solid work ethic, predictable performance, and steady productivity. But too much self-enforced routine can move the mind to autopilot and render a person’s creative powers pretty much useless. That positive predictability can become a groove that turns into a rut that keeps Bill from ever seeing new ways of doing things that could produce better results.

Call it too much of a good thing. When a strength is overused and used exclusively, it can become a liability.

Look around and you’ll see plenty of examples.

That skillful analyst who revels in data and spreadsheets? She brings objectivity to the decision-making process, which is great. But she often gets stuck in an endless loop of over-analysis. She seeks data and only data for every decision — even for decisions that call for experience, intuition, and anecdotal information.

That creative type who’s always coming up with new ideas? He’s energy personified, and his presence adds spark to every meeting. That’s fantastic. But with his creativity running full tilt all the time, he zooms past the part where you’re supposed to focus on just one idea, develop it in detail, and get it going. The ideas keep coming, but nothing gains traction.

Responsible Robert? He ends up taking on so much work that he can’t do any of it well. Organized Olivia? She’s so organized that she’s one file folder away from being a control freak. Empathetic Edward? He spends so much time listening to people and their problems that he’s worn out.

What about your greatest strengths? Are you using one of them so constantly and exclusively that you’ve taken it to its counterproductive extreme?

If the answer is yes, here’s great news: As soon as you ease back on that one overused strength, you’ll give all of your other strengths more room to step forward and go to work.

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By Tom Terez • Contact