Can You Overuse Your Strengths?

Recently, I joined Adam Grant on stage at the Wharton Analytics Conference and he posed the question: Can you overuse a strength?  With many talent strategies switching to a strengths-based approach to the employee experience, it’s an understandable question – and because of my research, it’s a question I’m very familiar with.

Although the question sounds complicated and nuanced, the answer is incredibly simple: No. A strength is morally neutral – not good or bad – it’s merely an activity that strengthens you. You cannot overuse it; but you can use it poorly. When a strength is applied unintelligently, the desired outcome can’t be reached. You can, however, collect reactions to situations where you may have misused a strength and use them to help you refine your strength, so you can use it to your advantage the next time. You can never have too much of a strength, but you can use it poorly. Click To Tweet

The alternative of fine-tuning your strength might be people telling you to turn your strength down – which is essentially saying ‘be less of yourself’. That’s not reasonable, and it will never lead to higher performance. Instead, start channeling your strength to be more productive. Own your strengths, lean in to them, and use them responsibly — that’s the foundation of using your strengths and using them wisely.


  1. Karren Hodgkins October 8, 2019 at 3:40 AM - Reply

    Brilliant. Thank you. Just love the ‘chanelling’ idea, its really helpful!

  2. Marvin G Ferguson October 8, 2019 at 4:24 AM - Reply

    As you were giving Adam his feedback, I thought of Balcony / Basement ? Marcus does this apply ?

  3. Scot Baddley October 8, 2019 at 6:00 AM - Reply

    Incredibly smart, yet simple perspective for leaders to bear in mind who strive for efficiency and productivity! Thanks for the discussion!

  4. Erin Blodgett October 8, 2019 at 9:24 AM - Reply

    Super clear and powerful distinction, Marcus! Loved your response to Adams’ question.

  5. Peter D Slaughter October 27, 2019 at 5:48 PM - Reply

    Hi and I found your book ” Go Put Your Strengths to Work ” and all the links might be old or just exspired.So can you email a link with all the latest updates and where I can take that strength test.

  6. Marie Letellier November 13, 2019 at 2:25 PM - Reply

    I am trying to find the video of the ballet dancer he showed at a presentation about him being burned out. I have been looking for it since I got back from San Diego

  7. Greg Basham November 14, 2019 at 10:01 PM - Reply

    Very well stated and the context of using a strength poorly in this article doesn’t come across as criticism but more along the lines of challenging people to look how they use their strengths. Few people hear the term “constructive feedback” and actually think it’s constructive as much as it’s often judgmental and criticizing. I have long subscribed to the notion put forward by management consultant Dr. Paul Mok relating to “over-extended strengths” however I do see how your view makes sense as it puts the onus on the person to look at how their strengths can be used more effectively.

    What Paul Mok’s workshops had participants doing is look at the strengths of their communicating styles and identify how it could be seen as ineffective if “over-extended” (or better still, used poorly).

    As a senior mens’ soccer coach working with athletes the most successful approach was to put players in roles and positions that utilized the strengths they have versus trying to coach them to do things they were less likely to be successful at.

  8. Denise Smith November 16, 2019 at 2:06 PM - Reply

    Nine Lies About Work-

    Has there been any thought around turning this book into a certified training course; when duplication can be realized?

    Also any best practices outside of the facilitators guide around a book club?


  9. Jerry Busone January 21, 2020 at 5:39 AM - Reply

    I have a question … as a srtengthfinder trainer and a TMBC certified facilitator Im wondering does what you love to do change ver time ? I recently had an experience where a passion of mine that I was still good but not passionate about got in the way of what I am currently passionate about . I don’t know if you all read the comments but reach out for sure …I’m a master story teller and love ignitging people to use and leverage what they love they love to do …

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