Is there a part of your work (or your life) where you are overplaying your strengths?  It is useful to consider that what can be a strength in one context can lead to frustration and upset in another. 

For example, there is a time and a place for following procedures to the letter; to ensure standards are met or to ensure we avoid falling foul of regulations.  Some people who have this as a strength are also very methodical and specific about planning and scheduling, but the trouble with life is that it rarely goes according to plan. 

For example, my wife Pam works as an Associate Professor and visiting Lecturer at a number of Universities around the world.  She is a Consultant in Quantitative Statistical Methodology which is a very precise and academic field.  It’s all about setting up and designing surveys that can collect un-biased, accurate and useful information from very large numbers of people.

One of Pam’s strengths is that she is very methodical and meticulous, because if an initial stage of a survey is not done properly it can have a profound impact on not only the data you collect but your ability to interpret it may become impossible. 

A few years ago Pam and I were discussing why she was experiencing disappointment in part of her working life even, though she was very busy.  It became clear that as she was becoming more successful she was planning more (her diary fills up 12 -18 months in advance) and that there was not enough flexibility in the plans.  If an exciting or lucrative new opportunity arose she couldn’t act on it, or if something took a bit longer due to unforeseen circumstances it had a serious knock-on effect.

It was interesting to see how the more procedural and detailed she became the more likely she was to be disappointed.  In fact we discussed how, when one overplays these particular strengths, we can end up miserable!

The antidote

The antidote to disappointment or misery is flexibility.  The world rarely complies fully with our best laid plans and if our motivational strategy is a desire to complete the next step regardless of shifting circumstances, we will be sure to face even greater disappointment.  If there is a lack of ability to zoom out and see the big picture and then identify alternative approaches, we can end up very miserable indeed.

Pam was able to get a very different perspective during our conversation because she was able to pinpoint why she was feeling the way she did.   It gave her the opportunity to think about other areas of her life where she enjoys looking at alternatives and the overview, for example in her creative hobbies.  This meant that she could simply explore a number of ways how she could use a similar approach in her consultancy work.

– Are some of your natural strengths that work in one context causing problems in another?
– Are you or any of your team getting trapped in the procedures and details? 
– Or is your big picture strategic thinking failing to identify the specific ‘What?’ and ‘How?’ that will allow people to implement things effectively?

The key to success is having some flexibility in thinking and knowing how to zoom in or zoom out to the right level of detail required to move things forward and to recognise what level of procedural rigor or flexibility in approach is required to get the results you want.

If things aren’t going to plan and you are feeling disappointed (or even miserable) check which of your strengths may be causing the problems.

Remember . . . Stay curious!

With warm regards