How overdone strengths can be avoided through better collaboration

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Overdone strengths (when strengths are overused or used in the wrong way leading to negative performance) are one of the greatest sources of risk to effective performance and career success.

Yet, our research and experience indicate that most people are completely unaware of what happens when their strengths are overplayed and are therefore tripped up by these unintended “own goals” time and time again.

Fortunately, help is close at hand as your co-workers are one of the best ways to avoid overdrive behaviour. Specific ways you can access their help include:

Invite regular feedback

For most people, overdrive behaviours are ‘blind spots’ that they are unaware of because these are habituated patterns of behaviour learned over many years or even decades. For example, someone with a Collaboration strength might over-consult, even in situations when a quick or straightforward decision is appropriate. Similarly, a person with a Flexibility strength may decide to change course mid project, even when there is no good reason to do so. By sharing your top strengths with co-workers and inviting feedback on areas where you suspect you might be more at risk of overdrive behaviours, you will be able to target unproductive behaviours more rapidly and effectively.

Partner with people who have complementary strengths

To ensure your strengths are used in moderation and not overused, it is always wise to call on co-workers who have different and complementary strengths to your own. For example, if you are detailed oriented, find someone who is more strategic in their approach to avoid getting “stuck in the weeds” and becoming overly perfectionistic if this is something you are prone to. Similarly, if you are super optimistic, find a strong critical thinker to play devil’s advocate and help you avoid the Pollyanna syndrome. Studies show that cognitive diversity is crucial to effective decision-making and innovation so put any biases you have about people who are different from you to one side and engage them to help ensure your strengths are optimised and don’t tip over into the overdrive zone.

Get a coach and/or mentor 

Effective coaching and mentoring can help smooth the sharp edges of your strengths by exploring situations where overdrive might be getting in the way of effective outcomes. For example, one of my coaching clients had a very strong Critical thinking strength that was showing up as a negativity and unhelpful challenge in his project and management team meetings. Rather than enhancing problem-solving, clarity and outcomes, it was undermining both his relationships and results. Through coaching from myself and the person’s manager, we helped the leader understand the importance of dialling back on this strength when the group was generating and exploring ideas and creative options. We also helped the leader use his Critical thinking strength in more effective ways by signposting his “devil’s advocate” role in meetings and adopting more inquiry-based critique using powerful questions. This led to a significant improvement in his effectiveness and a sharp fall in negative, overdrive behaviours observed by his manager and colleagues.

Improved collaboration can help people at all levels become more aware of their overdrive risks and reduce the negative effects of these through regular feedback, coaching and improved teamwork based on cognitive diversity and complementary partnering.

However, the starting point is to ensure leaders and employees have a straightforward and scientifically proven framework to discover and optimise their strengths, but also guard against their overdrive risks. Strengthscope® is one of the most extensively used and researched strengths profiling systems on the market today and is accompanied by a comprehensive handbook containing detailed information about each of the framework’s 24 work-based strengths and behaviours to watch out for when they are overused or used ineffectively. For more information on how Strengthscope® has helped organisations go from good to great all over the work, click here.

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