Marie-Hélène Budworth

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, specializing in learning, development & motivation.

Marie-Hélène Budworth

Overdoing your strengths

April 29th, 2014 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

Last week, the School of HRM hosted an event where Glain Roberts-McCabe of the Executive Roundtable shared her ideas about leadership – and she has a lot of them!  As the president and founder of this leadership development firm, Glain has worked with all kinds of leaders from a range of firms.  I asked Glain to comment on the ‘big errors’ otherwise smart leaders made regularly.  I found one of her answers particularly interesting.

Glain has observed that many leaders overplay their strengths!  This was interesting to me because of my focus on strength based interventions.  However, you can have too much of a good thing.  If we rely too much on our strengths, we can develop blind spots.  While on the surface this might seem obvious, it does lead to questions around striking the balance between leading through our strengths and developing our weaknesses.  

Strength based performance management interventions should complement existing feedback systems.  With these two structures in place, individuals will develop an understanding of what they do well while gaining insight into areas where they lack skills will have the best chance for success.  

Have you observed leaders overdoing their strengths?  I would like to collect examples of this phenomenon.  



3 Comments so far ↓

  • Cindy MacDonald

    Being recognized and thanked for a job well done is suppose to motivate an employee to feel good about their workplace and their job; however can you be over-thanked, so that it can negate the purpose of the thank you and make you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed?

    I’ve encountered this behaviour with several senior leaders; overdoing their strengths with employee recognition and gratitude for a job well done. After awhile it can be viewed as disingenuous and patronizing behaviour. Furthermore, it’s difficult for an employee to differentiate between satisfactory, superior and exceptional job performance.

  • Tania Carneiro

    Is there a line in which one cannot cross between employer and friend?
    In my opinion yes, while they are viewed as a great leader at one point, when the relationship hits a rocky road the employee feels betrayed by a friend and no longer has any regard for the employer or respect for their leadership.

    The leader played on their strength of outgoing personality to gain respect however a line was crossed that in turn backfired and they no longer had their key strength to support their leadership abilities. Had they balanced not just their strengths but their business accumen (not identified as a key strength) to gain respect, the loss of trust in their leadership abilities could have been mitigated.

  • budworth

    Submitted by Sukh Bassi: Strength based performance management interventions has been researched to be a greater potential for growth and development as by highlighting how strengths can generate success on the job motivates employees to intensify the use of their strengths to produce even more positive behaviours and results than the tradition weakness/based feedback systems (Herman Aguinis *, 2012).

    Leaders and leadership theorists universally agree that knowing yourself is a crucial element in an executive’s ability to lead effectively (Thomas, 2014).

    On a personal work experience at a previous employer, the leadership team was an advocate of implementing strength based systems in the organization. As such, a strength based program (Program) was sourced for our leadership team (including Supervisors and team leads) as well as our infrastructure team with the thought that all staff would be participating in the Program within the year. The premise of the Program was for attendees to consider that their weaknesses are actually strengths that they do not want to make use of or do not find value in using. The program was held in the form of a three day seminar including group exercises where results of each individuals profile were shared with all attendees to help understand and build a better working relationship. Although attendees that had participated received certification in the program and an implementation program over a one year period was provided, a leader of the organization continued to overdo his/her strengths to remove the limelight from his/her perceived “weaknesses”.

    Leaders are to lead by example however it is unfortunate when they do not recognize, even for themselves that a “weakness” does not have to be perceived as such and can be realigned into a strength with the appropriate tools. The impact a leader overdoing his/her strengths can impact not only his/her working relationships with his/her colleagues but cascades across the organization. This can cause friction amongst teams and an inconsistent messaging of expectations across the organization. As this may be do a lack of self-reflection, appropriate coaching is suggested as it is crucial for leaders to walk the talk and lead by example.

    Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses. – Marilyn vos Savant
    (Savant, 2014)