When clients show up with a deep frustration in their work, one of the places we look is their top strengths to see whether one of them might be out of balance or, we might say, in overuse. Here are a couple of examples from recent conversations. David,* an internal coach for a government agency, was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by the amount of prep time and post session time he was spending on each client. He described going home exhausted at the end of the day despite loving the work he does. We discovered that David’s number two strength of individualization was causing him to customize each session of the day depending on the individual he was seeing. The solution, once he saw which strength was in overdrive, was to dial it back to a place of balance. He created a flexible framework for sessions that he could use consistently, making his day flow more effortlessly. He dialed up his strength of adaptability to honor preferences of individuals. This was a more sustainable model.
Another client I’ll call Claire* has responsibility as number three in her strengths. Claire found herself taking on way more than a fair share of the workload on her team. When any task that had not been assigned to someone presented itself, she took it upon herself, then became resentful of team members who were not putting in as much effort and leaving the office consistently two hours earlier then she was.
The interesting thing about this situation is that others on her team did not know of her situation and when she let them know what she needed help with, they were happy to redistribute the load in a fair way. Claire is working on not taking on too much. She’s learning to dial responsibility back a bit.
In my own life, one strength that frequently goes into overdrive is ideation. Ideas come so easily for me and I love the brainstorming process so much that I can get caught up in overwhelm and frustration trying to keep all my plates spinning. I’ve asked my team to help me see when I’m doing that and I dial it back and balance that strength with some structure to support me.
Here are a few other examples of strengths in overuse. See if you recognize any of your own:
Deliberative – You may get so caught up in analyzing all the options, that nothing moves forward on your project.
Input – You keep gathering data and doing research to the point where you lose the enthusiasm of the original idea.
Adaptability – You might get so used to having no structure that you lose track of your objectives and get distracted by all the shiny things that call your attention.
Woo – Woo in overdrive might look like scrambling to get to all the events to meet new people, then never having time to follow through with these people and be in a position to collaborate.
When we have a habitual ways of operating individually or in groups—and we all do—it is helpful to acknowledge many of us have specific patterns we repeat in the use of our top 10 to 15 strengths. We gravitate to those we’ve had the most success with and therefore are the most comfortable and adept at using.
Research shows that about 66% of all so-called weakness is actually misapplied strengths, like the strengths in our examples that were being overused. When experiencing frustration in your work, this is a good place to begin unraveling a solution. Often, all that’s required is dialing back one of your most used strengths to create greater balance and harmony between your other strengths and needs.
Every one of our strengths brings amazing potential with it, and it is up to us to keep them in balance, and ask for support when we need it. By being aware of those strengths that go into overdrive frequently, we have more power over our results and satisfaction in work and life.
*name has been changed to protect client’s privacy