Is your strength also your weakness?
How to prevent our natural strengths from becoming a hindrance in the workplace
Everybody has a natural strength that leads them to the role they play in this world. It is naturally how they are every day and in almost every situation. Whether we realize it or not, this role is our gift, but if not optimized it can also be what holds us back.
For example, Derek is a calm and wise manager. He has been with his organization for many years and has worked his way up to senior management. His gifts are his wisdom and his ability to act as a “stabilizer” who holds the organization together. He is the advocate for the organization and would do anything to ensure its success. In recognizing his strengths, he helps those around him in many aspects of their day-to-day work, and this has truly helped the organization to become successful.
But at this point in his career, he feels that the role he has played is now holding him back. He is so busy helping others, he can’t focus on the higher-level strategic thinking that is required in his new position. Here is how he learned to manage his strengths so he could stop them from being his weakness.
• Gaining insight: In talking with Derek about his strengths, he started to discover where he was focusing too much of his time and energy. He visualized himself as a plate spinner, running from plate to plate to keep them spinning. There were other people in front of the plates as well, and once in a while they would help keep the plate spinning, but usually they stood by and watched while he did all the work. After realizing what was happening, Derek decided he was ready to take action.
• Explore what is keeping you there: There are misassumptions that we all create through our life experiences. These often include things that we don’t consciously think of or connect to, but our decisions and our actions are tied to them. In Derek’s case, he felt that if he didn’t help everyone with their job, the organization would look bad. He created an assumption that if something went wrong he was fully responsible – a misassumption that not only caused him stress but also made those around him reliant on his help. They didn’t have confidence in their abilities because they thought he could do everything better or they were afraid to disappoint him.
• Design what you do want: Creating the vision of what you want is imperative. Ask yourself questions such as: If I could have this be different, what would it look like? What role would I take on? What level of my strengths do I want to use? What would it feel like if I was already where I want to be? Instead of being responsible for spinning the plates, Derek wanted to teach each person how to spin their own plate. He wanted to allow them to let the plates drop and then help them figure out what they could do differently next time. He would still feel useful to the organization, but he would not be stressed about each and every detail.
• Start small and build: Derek started by making the commitment to allow others to do their job. To do this comfortably, he had to talk to each person and ask them what projects they wanted to master. He would then work with them to develop the clear goals needed for the projects and ask them questions about what they would do and then explore the reasoning behind it. He actually started to do more of the strategic pieces in his job, which meant he was out of the office more and more. Each small step gave him and his team with more confidence. He fulfilled his natural role as the wise, stabilizer for the organization but he did it in a way that allowed him and those on his team to grow.
So this month, I challenge you to explore your strengths. Take time to realize your unique role and gifts that you provide. Notice if you are focusing too much on them by gaining insight on where you are and defining any misassumptions you have. Work on the vision of what you want and start taking small steps toward managing your strengths so they don’t become your weakness. I look forward to hearing how it goes.
Heather Ramsey of Bedford-based Sojourn Partners can be reached at 603-472-8103.