Strengths are often hard-earned. They must be recognized, developed, and then deployed in a precise manner to make them useful. Regardless of the path you took to embrace your strengths, it took time and effort and has likely since become a foundational part of your success as well as your way of overcoming challenges. Your strengths may also be a big part of how others value your contributions.
However, your hard-earned strengths can become your weaknesses as well. It is all too easy to slide into the habit of turning to personal strengths to solve every problem that comes along, regardless if it’s the right tool for the job. For example, decisive people often charge ahead in the quest for a solution. But, sometimes a more measured approach that involves taking the time to confer with others and weighing options is called for instead. In other cases, salespeople who are excellent at pitching may be too focused on crafting a narrative that they miss out on client reactions, which may cost sales or clientele.
So, how do we keep strengths from becoming weaknesses?
1. Take a Moment Before Taking Action
The ability to make quick decisions and having a bias toward action are valuable strengths that can move a company forward and accelerate growth. On the other hand, they can also make it impossible to receive feedback on decisions, or to consider other options, which can be costly in productivity and company morale. Before making a significant decision, or making a decision that will affect others, take a moment to invite feedback and listen to options before moving forward.
2. Acknowledge the Strength Gap
Having a specific strength, as an individual, a department, or even an entire company, isn’t a weakness in and of itself. However, it may imply that there are other strengths that you are missing, or that could be significantly improved. For example, if the majority of your team excels at things like research, due diligence, and fact gathering, there may be a strength gap in something equally important, such as compelling and concise communication. Identifying existing strengths is a vital first step to bridging those gaps.
3. Don’t Get Too Comfortable
Unless you make it a priority to recognize and work on your weaknesses, your strength may become a crutch. It can blind you to other options and make you hesitant to appear vulnerable or to ask for help. Getting out of your comfort zone can help keep your strength from becoming the only tool in your toolbox.
4. Approach Problems Creatively Instead of Reactively
A common way that strengths become weaknesses is when a leader uses their abilities reactively, instead of as a source of creativity to address the problem. For example, leaders who are expert at getting things done might have the instinct to steamroll their way to the bottom line of a project, taking control and pushing the entire team forward. However, a more sensible approach might be to use that ability to delegate effectively.
7. Help Others Develop Your Strength
It’s natural to want to take every opportunity to practice what you’re good at. However, as your career grows, it’s likely that those chances will become fewer and farther between. A way to maintain your strengths at the same time that you are keeping them from becoming a weakness is to help develop that strength in someone you can mentor or coach. This will not only help others; it will keep you from always having to be the go-to person, freeing you up to elevate in your career.