How to Get Over your Strengths Envy

Recently I ran an 8k cross country race with a club team I am on, sponsored by a local running store. This race was far more competitive than I anticipated. Several of the teams had former and current college and elite runners.

While we were warming up, one of my team members was pointing out some of the elites – a few Nike athletes, some NCAA Division 1 stars, and oh by the way, a two time Olympian.

As we made our way to the starting line, I was planning to run with one of the guys I normally run with during group runs. I ran a marathon three weeks ago, so I wasn’t sure how good my legs would feel.

Moments before the starting gun, I noticed I was right behind Olympian, Andrew Wheating! In what I can only describe as a moment of temporary “no guts, no glory” insanity, I thought;

I’m going to see how long I can run with this guy!

I took off in a dead sprint and was right behind him… for about 40 yards. I quickly slowed, exhausted by my all out effort. As the majority of the other runners passed me, I knew this was going to be a miserable race. I had wasted all my energy on a meaningless sprint.

What was I thinking?

What is Strengths Envy?

Sometimes I get a case of “strengths envy.” Seeing someone who has gifts that I want, causes a level of jealousy. I try to emulate them, forgetting where my strengths lie. Focusing on the things you are not good at, often has negative consequences.

I’m not an Olympic runner, but by “pretending” for 40 yards, I ruined my whole race. Had I run the race using my strengths as runner, I probably could have placed for my team.

Strengths Envy in Business

From time to time we see this in organizations. A classic example is a leader we worked with once who had several thinking themes (Input, Learner, Connectedness, Intellection, Belief). He was a deep thinker and could tackle most problems. The issue came in when thinking into the future. He didn’t want to admit that wasn’t an area of strength for him.

Personally, this happens to me with people I see as highly strategic. Sometimes my Ideation and Adaptability don’t help me get much done. I make lots of plans, with no clear path to completion.

I can certainly function strategically, but it’s not what I’m best at. I have learned the hard way that our whole team is better when we work together and coming up with a plan.

One of the most important things to remember is you are a unique individual. You bring a unique set of strengths to the table that cannot be duplicated or replaced. If you’re not leading and serving with your strengths, you do everyone a disservice.

Here are a few things that have helped me appreciate my strengths, and get over my strengths envy.

1. Understand Your Own Strengths

I used to think Ideation was just another way to say attention deficit disorder. Over time, I have come to appreciate and value this strength, perhaps above all the others.

Not only have I learned the definition of Ideation, but the ways that I personally can use it. A strengths activity like this can really help you understand your own strengths.

I’m great at brainstorming. I’m great at thinking of new ideas for just about anything, regardless of how much experience I have with it. I also use my ideation to solve problems. From business, to personal, to home decor… even traffic jams. My ideation can throw out a lot of ideas.

I have done this for my other four strengths too… Maximizer, Restorative, Adaptability, and Communication.

2. Understand how Your Strengths Work Together

Using the above example, sometimes my strengths can work together strategically. Where others can make quick, in the moment decisions, I need to see more options, and understand what they mean. My Restorative wants to get to the root of the decision, not just make a decision to move on.

I may not specifically have “strategic thinking” strengths, but I certainly use combinations of my strengths to make strategic decisions. It just doesn’t come as quickly.

You probably have a combination of strengths that work like this as well. We often find through the theme print activity and 1:1 conversation that there are “looks like” strengths.

3. Appreciate the Strengths of Others

When you take time to see when someone is in their strengths sweet spot, you can better appreciate just how special that person is.

Until I actually tried to race with a two time Olympic athlete, I had no idea just how fast they really are. Not only will I never try to be him again, if I’m ever in a situation where I need to assemble a team of really fast people, I’ll know who to call.

To see someone doing what only they can do, is beautiful. I don’t (and can’t) compete with that. The great thing about using StrengthsFinder is it helps shed light on the places where you can be you, and others can be them.

4. Find Ways Where Your Strengths and Their Strengths Work Together

Often “strengths envy” comes because you are trying to compete with a member on your team. Maybe it is political, maybe it is rooted in something more personal.

When you are able to see how your unique set of strengths and their unique set of strengths compliment each other, BOTH of you will be better off and the team will reap the rewards.

During a Learning Community 360, two individuals had obvious tension between them. After a lot of discussion and conversation, we came to the realization that the Relator in one person was bumping up against the Woo in the other. This is an oversimplification, but the person with Relator was more reserved, and the person with Woo was more gregarious. They wanted to be more like the other, but didn’t understand that. We helped them see how they could work together, each using areas of natural talent.

It Just takes Time

At the end of the day, the only real way to combat strengths envy is to take time to get to understand your strengths and the strengths of those you envy. By saying, “I want to be like them,” you are missing out on an opportunity to be more of who you already are.

Regardless of whether you or your team know your strengths, take a few minutes out of each day to better understand why those on your team do the things they do. I still wonder about my own team…

  • Why does Dan ask so many questions?
  • How does Carrie seem to never miss a beat? She does everything she says she will, but doesn’t say she’ll do everything.
  • How is Aleasha so laid back, but when a decision needs to be made, she strikes with such precision?
  • Why does it seem like Linda has no plan, then all of the sudden has a great one?
  • Is Brian really ALWAYS thinking that far into the future?
  • Why does Joseph appear to not be listening when I talk?

What you may find is there are answers to each of these questions that may help you realize the tremendous assets on your team. You also may develop a deeper understanding of what you contribute, and how “Dan’s questions” or “Linda’s plans” are exactly what you need.