At the hotel spa in Fiji where I’m currently on holiday, they offer a great deal. Its $365 for as many massages as you can handle within a three-day window. Want to fit in four massages on day one? Go for it. Six on day two? Knock yourself out.
Wrong. It’s just TOO much. A bit like the McDonald’s super-size version of massages, you’d end up getting way more than you ever needed or wanted.
While the ‘have as many massages as you can handle’ deal sounds great, there is a risk that one of my life’s greatest indulgences that I enjoy would become a chore, and that would be a damn shame.
I don’t know about you, but anything more than two massages in one day and I’d be an oily good-for-nothing puddle of sludge.
Your strengths can be like that massage deal.
Your strong points used well and purposefully in the right situation and to the right level is recommended for any leader. Cultivating your strengths is both commendable and advisable in business.
But when you’re only focusing on your strengths, you can fall into a trap – boom – your strength has just become your weakness. Hello ‘overused strength’.
Are you great at contributing in meetings and speaking up? Tick.
Do you over-contribute and don’t shut up and listen enough in those same meetings? Overused strength.
Are you seen as having a critical eye, being detail focused, and possessing a never-give-up approach to problems? Handy.
Always wearing the black hat and adopting a dog with a bone approach to details that don’t matter? Overused strength.
Too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Whether it’s a massage or a personal strength.
It’s not just individuals who can fall into the ‘too much’ trap. I’ve seen organisations over rely on a strength within their culture to their detriment.
One organisation I work with is renowned for innovation and having a fluid, no rules culture. But at one point they went too far with this strength and rejected any form of hierarchy, structure or process. They realised that a rejection of structure, processes or rules was like a human body without a skeleton. They had taken their cultural strength and let it go too far in one direction. They had adopted the ‘many massages in one day’ mistake.
So how can you avoid the too much of a good thing trap?
Get to know what others see as your strengths and weaknesses. But don’t stop there, ask your coworkers “is there anything I overdo in terms of my strengths in XY or Z?”
If you get a particularly high score in rated feedback, 360 or otherwise, simply ask yourself the question, “am I overdoing it? If I was, what might that look like? What would be the downside of overplaying this strength?” We have mental models that say a high score in a leadership trait is a positive thing but pay attention to extremes regardless. Merely being aware of the overuse of a strength can be helpful to avoid it.
Ask “what is needed in this moment?”
When it comes to group situations. Often the situation or team may need something different than what the groups’ strengths are (regardless of your own personal strengths).
As a hard-hitting results-oriented leader, the moment may need more empathy and understanding. Conversely, you (and the team) may have a strength for focusing on relationships, but what is needed is a greater drive for results and an analysis of the task components of a poorly performing project. Being aware of overused group strengths is also a leader’s job.
More is not always better, so this week on holiday I’m passing on the Fiji massage deal. I’m going for balance. I’ll take a couple of massages by the beach and enjoy being indulgent for many more years to come.