Strengths in overdrive – too much of a good thing?
When I first started my strengths practitioner training about eight years ago, I had a major lightbulb moment. Well, to be honest I had about 164 lightbulb moments but this one would make the top 20.
Our strengths (the things that energise us) can go into overdrive. Roughly translated, that means we’re overusing them. Sometimes that might look like using them in the wrong situation, or perhaps with people who it clashes with. It can also be a combination of a couple of your strengths working together that becomes too overpowering as well. When these things happen it be particularly potent and draining for us.
I realised some of the negative feedback (there was nothing ‘constructive’ about it) I’d been given wasn’t actually stuff I couldn’t do or had a gap in. I could (and can) pinpoint it all back to something that either I, or those around me, would describe as something I’m usually good at and energised by.
I’ll share an example to bring it to life….
I have a compassion strength so I’m all about deep and genuine concern for others. I get energised by being able to operate in this way. Another of my strengths is empathy, so I readily see things from other people’s perspective. In short, I can take it all on my shoulders. They’re quite the combination, particularly as a coach. These strengths have been with me way before I started running my business. I was reading my old school reports recently and I kid you not, this was outlined when I was eight!!
So, when these two kick in – separately or together – I can achieve some peak performance and great outcomes. It helps me build genuine rapport with people, I’m really good at getting people to open up, (awkward self-praise? You better believe it!) and I’m really invested in helping others. In overdrive and, quite frankly, at their worst they resemble an absolute hot mess. I question my boundaries, I’ll help somebody at any cost and let somebody else consume my time and energy. And (usually) they don’t even know it.
What does this mean then?
Well, for starters strengths in overdrive are totally normal. I don’t use that word lightly or willingly to be honest because what does that even mean?! Strengths in overdrive happen to most of us. That story I’ve shared of how it shows up for me is understandable, common even. I work in an arena very close to my heart and I’m a natural born empath. The writing was on the wall. However, the negative impact for me means that I need to head it off.
Let’s talk tactics
Dial something else up.
In short, what are your other strengths that you can flex to counteract the ones that are going into overdrive? In my case, I also have a strength in strategic mindedness which I activate that bit more. If I’m throwing out offers of free work or saying yes to something that doesn’t align to my values it’s time to have a shuffle. I remind myself of what my mission is, what Power of the Parent is all about and what is going to get me there. What that allows for is saying ‘yes’ to the right stuff for me, and actually allows for some pro bono work along the way too.
It’s important to know what triggers your strength going into overdrive. Mine is often a volume thing. I know that I need to have some boundaries around the amount of 1:1 coaching I’m doing in particular. There are other things too – a very close to home story or experience. In these instances, I’ve started to refer work on to other coaches.
A new habit
Finally, and a bit of an extension to the previous point. Knowing my compassion and empathy are likely to go into overdrive when I’ve got high volume of coaching sessions I plan accordingly. I pepper my time with breaks and total changes in projects that get my attention. To play to my strategic mindedness strength I’ll do things that support my development to keep my coaching practices and techniques up to date.
Remember progress over perfection
I’m by no means the finished article in this space and I’m also not aiming to be. My strengths haven’t changed hugely over the years but there have been some swaps and the way that they show up has shifted depending on the job I’m doing. So, basically keeping an eye on my strengths in overdrive is a lifelong commitment. I’m going for consistency over intensity!
I hope that’s given you some insight into strengths in overdrive plus some tactics to help when it does happen. I’d love to hear your take on this! Please do get in touch by email firstname.lastname@example.org to carry on the conversation.