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Mindful Strength
March 03, 2015

Welcome to Business Leadership

Minding Your Strengths

Like minding your manners, minding your strengths is paying attention to respecting yourself and others. Many articles have addressed developing strengths, regulating strengths and working from strengths to be more energized and engaged. To add new information to the discussion, this post explores your use of strengths within systems.

Most of us are part of several systems, family, friends, work and professional groups, among others. Each system has a unique dynamic that calls on us to adapt our use of strengths to that dynamic. Sometimes in coaching, the client reports over using a single strength to the point of exhaustion. That can happen because organizations are good talent scouts. Bosses recognize which people will always produce, whether that comes from Achiever, Responsibility, Competition or any other strength. Once the boss spots you, you become the “go to” person. So far, so good

When using strengths in an organization, remember two caveats from the world of manners:

1. Not everyone learned the same manners you did
2. People who learned the same manners as you don’t always use them

Initially, being the “go to” person can be energizing. You are given new challenges and opportunities. You can fully unleash your strengths and it feels great. However, over time, being the “go to” can become downright exhausting. This is where rules number one and two come into play.

One, unless your organization has applied strengths throughout, your boss may simply be unaware that you’ve reached strengths exhaustion. Here are tips to address that:

1. Be mindful of yourself. Identify the source of your exhaustion. Are one or two strengths called on far too often and others too rarely? Are they called upon only at work or are your other systems tapping their energy as well?
2. Identify ways to rebalance. Does the balance need to come from adjusting work or from other sources? Have you reached the point where EVERY system you are a part of draws heavily on one strength? If rebalancing needs to be at work, what are the paths forward that consider both your needs and your boss’ and the organization’s?
3. Have the conversation. Where feasible, set boundaries. Have the conversation with everyone who is over-tapping your strength.

Two, if your boss has learned strengths but isn’t practicing strengths conversations and feedback, it may be time to initiate the conversation and learn what is behind your boss continuously tapping you as the “go to” person. Once you’ve both identified the root cause, you can create a plan forward. Perhaps you or another team member has the Developer strength and would be delighted to work to bring others up to speed. Perhaps someone has Analytical and would be energized by creating a new workflow.

Remember, neither of you wants you to topple over from imbalance. When that happens, people forget their manners and begin to label. Command becomes “bad cop.” Responsibility becomes “playing the martyr.” Empathy becomes “pitiful me.” No one wants that.

Minding your strengths can keep you and others on the balcony where you started rather than wondering how you ended up in the basement.

Clare Novak Certified Coach

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