Personal improvement experts have been advising us for years to focus most of our time on improving our strengths and managing our weaknesses. However, in working with Strengths Partnership, I have learned there is a third and much overlooked aspect of human performance we need to guard against — strengths in overdrive.
If Superman used the same strength to shake your hand as he did to stop a moving train, your crushed hand would be the result of a strength in overdrive. For myself, Enthusiasm is one of my productive strengths. Not unlike Superman can crush a hand, my Enthusiasm can sometimes crush a spirit when in overdrive. Upon some poignant reflection, I recently realized the impact of that on my own family.
The other day I called my father and asked him to do me a favor while he was out running errands that day. He returned having accomplished his errands and mine as well. You figure I would be excited he was able to help me on a day when the rest of the world seemed to need me for everything else. But my enthusiasm quickly went into overdrive once I learned that he didn’t do exactly what I wanted. Enthusiasm in overdrive looks like this: your enthusiasm can be seen as too emotive or overwhelming sometimes making others feel their views are not valued or appreciated. Perhaps my Self-confidence played a role in it as well; coming off brash or arrogant when in overdrive. The other thing working against me in this situation is that Flexibility is one of my weaker areas and when things go exactly as planned, it’s draining. Unfortunately, I ignored my own triggers of expectations and became enthusiastic in a negative way. This ruffled family feathers in a way that, needless to say, I am not proud of. I later gathered myself and apologized to my father, but unfortunately it was still hurtful when all he was trying to do was help.
Fortunately Self-improvement is also energizing for me and from this experience I have learned a lot. First, be aware of your productive strengths. There are many ways to discover them including asking others, reflective thinking and journaling, and even taking a strengths inventory assessment like the Strengthscope. Next, take the time to identify the triggers that push you to use your strengths in a way that is harmful to yourself and/or others. The key to preventing overdrive is to know how to keep from going there in the first place. It comes down to knowing he triggers that put you in overdrive, because once you cross the line, it is too late! Asking questions of yourself like “Am I going too far?,” or “Am I coming off too strong?” can be a helpful and intentional way slowing down and staying in your peak performance zone.
Our strengths can be our greatest asset and natural resource that we can draw on to build confidence, resilience, continue to develop, and perform at the highest levels. While strengths can be developed infinitely, knowing when to dial-up and dial-back strengths is a critical part of individual and leader agility. Strengths in overdrive can move you past peak performance and disrupt relationships, even with those close to you. Finally, be patient with yourself; growth is always a journey, not a destination.
Greg Smith is a leadership specialist with a passion for entrepreneurship and building great organizations. Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, Greg is a natural entrepreneur raised in family-owned construction and manufacturing companies. He has vast experience with teamsters, unions, and a staffs of over 150 individuals. Currently, Greg serves as the Chairman of Compco Industries (steel fabrication), the President of Ray Simon, Inc. (art and photo-realism), President of 1080 Media (print/video/web design), and Principal for Achievers USA. Greg has an MBA in Executive Leadership from University of Nebraska-Lincoln/Gallup University and a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Marketing from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Greg resides in Poland, Ohio, with his wife and four children.