You can do it if you really want…

In our last post we talked about the danger of overdoing your strengths; using your personal strengths inappropriately or excessively to the point they are perceived as weaknesses. We concluded if things aren’t going well you should perhaps tone it down.

But how do you do that?

It’s actually quite hard to do less of something, particularly if it’s something you’re good at and usually serves you well. They are your default behaviours and you naturally turn to them when things are going badly. Being told you’re overdoing it doesn’t help either; “Stop being so confident/supportive/principled” is wholly unpersuasive.

So what can you do?

Instead of trying to do less, try to do something else. In virtually every area of human interaction the most effective way to change behaviour is to substitute the inappropriate behaviour with a more appropriate one. If you want to talk less, ask more questions; if you want to be less controlling, ask others for their proposals.

On the surface it’s pretty straightforward but when it comes to personal strengths there’s another challenge. Your top strengths are central to your personality, driven by your core motives and your sense of self-worth, how do you use a strength that doesn’t come naturally without appearing false or insincere?

Borrowing strengths

It’s a skill we call borrowing strengths, using a bottom strength, one we wouldn’t naturally turn to, to avoid overdoing your preferred behaviour. Everybody can use strengths they are uncomfortable deploying and, and here’s the good news, they can do it without that feeling of discomfort.

Your reason why

The key is our motives, the underlying reasons why we do what we do. If you can find a reason how and why deploying a bottom strength supports your motives you can then use that strength sincerely and convincingly. Because you are following what really drives your behaviour you can take a strength you wouldn’t normally turn to and use it well.

For example, I have a colleague whose top strength is quick-to-act and whose motivation is directive and concerned with performance, which is perfect for her role as Head of Sales. However, when she changed jobs, moving to an organisation whose products and services she was unfamiliar with, she was quick to realise diving straight in was not the best way forward. She needed to get behind the skin of her new role; to deeply understand the solutions, processes, markets and clients she now had to deal with.

That meant deploying her Analytical strength – despite it being one of her bottom strengths, one she would usually avoid. And she did it, effectively and comfortably, quickly assimilating the in-depth knowledge she needed to get on with the job. How?

Remaining authentic

Because she is motivated by performance. She realised to achieve the results she wanted, she had to deploy her Analytical strength first. She had an authentic reason to use one of her bottom skills – to enable her to hit the performance targets that are central to her self-worth – her motives.

So, we can all use our bottom strengths, easily and confidently. We just need to identify a genuine reason for doing so.

If you would like to discover how to achieve your desired outcomes by deploying the appropriate strengths at the right time, please contact Personal Strengths on 01780 480102.

Lisa Graham, Director of Client Relationships
Lisa has years of experience helping clients to implement and sustain performance improvement projects on a global scale. Her areas of expertise include, leadership, team management, relationship management, conflict management, culture change, sales and negotiation. She works closely with her clients throughout all the phases of the training cycle.


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