Mae West famously shared that, “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” While that worked for the notorious movie maven, as a strengths coach, my observations have been different. I often hear from clients about obstacles created when we “crank the volume up too loud on our strengths” – turning them into hindrances that can drown out our own productivity and the appreciation of those around us. Even the best song can be spoiled if the volume on the stereo is turned up to excruciating decibels. In the same way, our talents (our greatest source of potential success) can work against us if we’re unaware that we’re overusing them.
An incredible researcher thirsty for new knowledge but never recognizing the tipping point to start sharing relevant knowledge. Like a sponge soaking up water but never releasing any, this individual talented in Input can become “moldy” without application of the information.
A talented event planner with any eye for perfecting every detail who walks into a setup and starts a verbal to-do list of every detail that needs to be improved. This individual talented in Maximizer risks leaving her team feeling defeated and unappreciated without pausing to recognize achievement or complement existing excellence.
A gifted family counselor with a natural knack for perceiving the feelings and interpreting the unspoken emotions of his clients who goes home every day exhausted, carrying every client’s burdens out of the office door as his own. This individual talented in Empathy risks burning out quickly if he can’t invest in tools to manage his ability to see himself in others’ situations.
It is fairly easy to recognize the “misuse” of strengths when reading hypothetical examples. What’s more difficult, however, is to read the label from inside the bottle. How do we know when our own strengths are cranked up? How to we recognize the times that we must turn down the volume?
This lesson in self-leadership begins with understanding potential misperceptions of our own strengths and talents and envisioning scenarios when their volume might get turned up too loud. Ask yourself, what would someone with “too much” of this talent look like? Imagine the extreme of a talent descriptor. Better yet, brainstorm these answers with someone you work closely with on a daily basis. Ask for 360° candid feedback about times your strengths drive other people crazy. This will provide some context clues or telling indicators about times when you need to adjust your volume.
The second piece, to follow self-awareness, is to develop strategies to turn down the volume when necessary. This is where a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach can come in handy to openly evaluate your strengths and unpack how to redirect them to be assets, not liabilities. Recognize (and red flag) clues from the situation and others around you that your talents are drowning someone out. Choose effective techniques to then turn down the volume and broadcast the best of your strengths in a more appealing decibel. While Mae West’s perspective seemed fitting for her, I’d instead offer the opinion of the famous author of fables, Aesop, “It is possible to have too much of a good thing.”
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