Is Your Greatest Strength Also Your Greatest Weakness?

@@Sometimes doing more of what you do well can cause problems.@@ A strength that is carried too far or not balanced with other behaviors can become a weakness. This can be true for you individually or for your organization collectively.

The CEO of an Austin-based software start-up had aggressive goals for growth. Things were on track. He was proud of the culture of openness he and his team had created. The creativity and innovation sparked by employees’ sense that all opinions were welcome helped fuel the growth and excitement in the company. However, as the company grew, that spirit of openness became both an asset and a liability.

Because there was such a strong commitment to openness, people were often hesitant to say “thanks, but no thanks” to new ideas. Team members didn’t have a shared understanding of which ideas were going forward and which were not. Instead of the laser focus that a small company needs, execution became more of a scatter shot. Time and energy were wasted on ideas that would ultimately dead-end, simply because no one was willing to say “no” to the idea.

This leadership team needed to see that their strong commitment to openness must be balanced by an equally strong commitment to closure.

They soon realized that in addition to being open to ideas, they needed to ask for clear and explicit decisions and commitments. By doing that, they improved their execution.

This story highlights one of the most powerful leverage points you have for managing culture—your behavior. If there are elements of “how we do things around here” that aren’t supporting your organization’s success, look at the behavior of your leadership team. Can you see any links between the undesirable patterns in the culture and your team’s behavior? Look especially for strengths that are “too strong” or out of balance. You’ll often find areas for improvement that pay off quickly.

What are your strengths? How do you prevent overuse of those strengths?