When Playing to Your Strengths is Not Always a Good Thing

When Playing to Your Strengths is Not Always a Good Thing

Hammering an egg

Do you know when you’re overplaying your strengths?

Strengths and weaknesses are concepts we learn about from a young age. You’ve probably heard that you should ‘play to your strengths’ – but is that the truth? Is it possible to overplay our strengths?  

We know that when we work to our strengths, we tend to experience benefits such as boosted productivity, increased confidence, and even extrinsic motivation from recognition and appreciation from peers. 

So, how could using your strengths be ‘bad’? 

When everybody’s talking about benefits like those, it’s hard to believe that pulling back on your strengths at the right time can be just as beneficial as using them when the time is rightSometimes your strengths have a place and other times they may not. However, overplaying your strengths can be a pretty common problem for busy and passionate professionals. So common, in fact, that I think at least one of the points below is going to give you a ‘light-bulb’ moment. 

Here are three ways to tell if you’re overplaying your strengths, and why that could be damaging. 

They become learned behaviours 

How could a strength turn into something else? A strength is just something that you’re good at, right?

Well, not exactly. Sure, strengths are areas you perform well in, but they have another key factor to them – they light you up. All of the benefits like productivity, motivation, confidence, and momentum that come along with using strengths are what differentiates them from learned behaviours.  

Learned behaviours are things that you’re good at but that often also drain your energy. They take longer than they should, you put them off to the last minute, and you may simply dread the thought of these activities. For example, you’re great at keeping the attention on you to communicate your key points when you’re leading a meeting, but you don’t really like being in the spotlight. We already know that being good at something doesn’t mean that you like doing it!  

A strength can go from lighting you up to dimming your energy when you overplay it. 

That switch into learned behaviour means the thing you’re good at is no longer an intrinsic motivator. In this case, overplaying your strengths can lead to you feeling unaligned and unsatisfied with your career. 

You begin to use them in the wrong situation 

Sometimes we have to adapt the way we think and do things when we’re part of a team. Overplaying our strengths in the wrong situation could mean we leave a bad impression, or accidentally alienate the people around us. 

Two strong examples of overplaying your strengths in a way that could affect the way others see you are humour and honesty. If you’re used to making light of tricky situations with a giggle, others might find you to be insensitive, or feel that you’re not taking the situation seriously. If one of your strengths is honesty, others might view your ability to say what you think as you being overzealous or pushy. 

Of course, the people in your life know better than that! But playing your strengths correctly can mean taking the time to read a room or get to know others on a deeper level before bringing out the big guns. 

You miss out on development opportunities 

We use our strengths to compensate for our weaknesses, which is a good thing! However, constantly adapting things to suit your current set of strengths could mean that you miss out on unlocking new ones. 

New strengths? Yes! Unrealised strengths. Often when we think we have the most efficient way of doing things, we close the door to new possibilities. Did you know that most of us have a key set of unrealised strengths? These are things we’re great at and that light us up, but we just haven’t been in the position to use them enough to realise. 

Overplaying your strengths can be a bit like going to the same cafe for every lunch break. Sure, you know you’ll be happy with the order, but you’re probably missing out on something fantastic just a few doors away! 

What to do when you’re overplaying your strengths 

Take a new approach to your work 

If your strengths have started to tire you out, then it might be time to delegate the tasks that consist of using them. Look at them as learned behaviours that you simply need a break from. Your learned behaviours can always ‘rank back up’ to strengths once you’ve found a new way to apply them! For example, why not take a team-based approach to your work so that you can still use your strengths, but they’re not the be all and end all of the task. 

Use your unrealised strengths 

If you’re looking to reignite your passion, or you’re simply looking for strategies to keep your current momentum going, then incorporating your unrealised strengths into your routine might be the answer you’re looking for. 

If you need help unlocking your unrealised strengths, I can help you! I’m a Cappfinity certified Strengths Profile Coach. I can get you started with an easy test to determine your top strengths, unrealised strengths, learned behaviours, and weaknesses. Once we’ve unlocked these insights, I help you decode what they all mean and empower you to leverage them.  

Anyone who schedules their free discovery call and mentions this article will receive a complimentary Strengths Assessment and debrief session when they book a coaching package with me! 

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