Understanding The Good and Bad of Strengths

In our work as consultants, we often hear people referring to Themes of Strength with “good or bad,” “positive or negative” type of language. There is a misconception that certain Strengths are better than others.

We are always pushing back on this type of thinking, and instead, seek to help people understand that Strengths are character neutral – they are not good or bad, but entirely individual to the person who uses them.

The Good and Bad in My Strengths

The StrengthsFinder tool comes from the world of Positive Psychology which focuses on what is right about you. Instead of focusing on your weaknesses and trying to fix them, Strengths help you leverage what you do best and gain even more results from your Talents.

When we work with clients, we often hear comments like, “It must be hard to have [Strength].” Or, statements like “I am glad I don’t have [Strength.]

To help you begin thinking about the good aspects, as well as the challenges of your Strengths, appreciate the Strengths of those seemingly opposite from your own, here are some examples. This isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but rather, to show you both sides of my five Strengths and challenge you to think on your own.

Focus:

The good: My StrenthsFinder Theme of Focus helps me block out distractions and get the most important things done. Prioritization is a big deal to me, and I am constantly reprioritizing my daily to-do list based on what needs to get done at the moment. These are all positive aspects of this Strength for me.

The challenge: Focus can make me so locked into an activity it can be hard to see other things going on around me. Sometimes I can be seen as aloof, but I am probably just focused on something else.

Achiever:

The good: My StrengthsFinder Theme of Achiever helps me get things done. Every day I wake up and think to myself, “What do I need to get done today?” This happens whether I am going to work, staying home with my kids, or even on vacation. The “To-Do’s” show up on lists and work with my Strength of Focus to prioritize what will happen for me today. I love having the Strength of Achiever!

The challenge: Achiever never shuts off. Sometimes no matter how many things I get done, there is always more to do. It can be overwhelming to those of us who have the Strength of Achiever. Proper boundaries are essential for this Strength not to burn us out.

Competition:

The good: I always know where I stand because of my StrengthsFinder Theme of Competition. Scoreboards and precise measures of performance are essential to help me perform well. I also try and help my teammates know where they stand as we work together towards goals.

The challenge: The relentless pursuit of winning and knowing where I stand can also be exhausting. How much is too much? When do I compete? When do I let it go? What is not winnable? Again, managing this Strength comes with its greatness and challenge.

Woo:

The good: Connecting people who should be connected is a passion of mine. It is easy to see who will get along with whom in social situations. Building an extensive network of people to resource one another comes natural to me and gives me energy. This is my StrengthsFinder Theme of Woo at work.

The challenge: We want to be liked. If I am having trouble connecting with someone, my Strength of Woo can make me focus on being liked too much, when maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. We are very aware of any social miscues, and those can be hard to let go.

Significance:

The good: My StrengthsFinder Theme of Significance makes me want my life to matter. I want my vocation to be a way of life, not just a job. My life has to matter, or I quickly will lose interest. I also want other people to be successful and their lives to matter as well.

The challenge: I want to do important things that make a difference. Dealing with things that get in the way of that can be tiresome for those of us with the Strength of Significance.

What about you?

What are the great parts of your Strengths and what are your challenges as you navigate through life with your unique wiring? Use the following reflection activity, alone or with a group, to better understand your Themes of Strength.

  1. Reflecting on your Themes, write down 1 – 3 things about each of them that are positive.
  2. Reflect on the 1 or 2 challenges of each Theme.
  3. Find someone who knows you well, (ideally, who has also done this activity) and share one example each.
  4. Reflect back to each other.
  5. Repeat steps 3 – 4 until you’ve completed all five.
  6. Discuss any big ah-ha moments.

The point of this activity is first to understand your Strengths, and once you do, begin to understand the Strengths of people around you. Self Awareness needs to come first quickly followed by group awareness of Strengths.