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.
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.