Too Much of a Good Thing Can Be a Bad Thing

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More is Not Always the Best Answer

If you are not getting what you want out of how you are choosing to live your life, then is continuing to do more of what you are not happy with, the most effective strategy to be happy? Too often we do more of what worked for us once, even when we are confronted with undisputable evidence that we are failing to be successful in achieving our desired goals or outcomes.  It’s tempting to say, “I guess I’m just not good at that anymore.”  When in reality, you may be suffering from too much of a good thing. Overuse or misuse of a personal strength can often appear to others as a personal weakness or limitation.

Know Your Strengths

In my book, “Life Matches: Fire Up Your Life!” I suggest that a great way to uncover and understand your natural, personal strengths is to purchase Tom Rath’s best-selling book, “StrengthsFinder 2.0” and complete the accompanying online personality assessment.

My StrengthsFinder 2.0 ® results revealed that I had the following internal primary motivations:

Achiever-Feels most satisfied with daily, tangible accomplishments.

Activator-A person of action–a doer.

Belief-Hardwired internal values and ethics determine choices and behaviors.

Learner-There is always something new to know in life’s laboratory.

Maximizer-Make the most of the personal gifts you have been given.

Responsibility-Personal commitment to dependability.

In my professional roles as a motivational speaker, human performance improvement specialist, trainer and executive coach, I regularly blend my strengths to perform in ways that successfully meet the demands and expectations of these roles and provide a great sense of personal satisfaction. That’s how it works for me on a good day, when I’m at my best.  On a not so good day, when I’m not able to come up with a winning strengths blend, I tend to choose my strongest strengths by default and things don’t always work out as well. For example, when my achiever-self teams up with my activator-self and desperately want to “just get things started so we can get something done!”  I can appear to others as someone who is lacking in patience, prudence and might be someone who is prone to rushing to judgment.  But, hey man, I am just trying to use my strengths to fire up my life!  What could be wrong with doing that?

A “Life Match” represents the flame of one of your personal strengths and when used properly, they can fire up your life.  When used inappropriately, they can become an overly large open flame in an explosive environment which can cause a disaster.

Too Strong for Your Own Good

Many of my executive coaching clients are often frustrated when their most natural behaviors do not get them their desired results.  For example, an exceptional former salesperson whose strength of persuasive influence provided him/her years of sales awards, might be shocked to have his/her peers and staff described this same behavior as appearing overly pushy, manipulative and inflexible during a 360 degree feedback report of his/her performance as a sales manager.  One’s strength in one role can be perceived as a weakness in another role or situation.

It’s not that one’s strength has suddenly become a weakness. The strength has just been inappropriately used. It was the wrong tool for the wrong job.  Sometimes using 50% of a limited capacity may yield more effectiveness than using 100% of an inappropriate strength.

How do you know if you are abusing your strengths?  Ask people who care enough about you to be candid and brutally honest, which of your behaviors irritate, bother and bug them the most.  As you begin to get a picture of how others view your behaviors, you can then evaluate your motives, desired outcomes and most importantly, your tactics or behaviors that you used to try to achieve your desired outcome.  If you are lucky, your workplace may provide you with an opportunity to participate in a program that offers anonymous 360 degree feedback of our performance.  Your report will typically give you an idea of how others perceive your behaviors.  You can then explore what behaviors and strengths you are using and decide if they are the appropriate ones or if there is an area of limited capacity that you might need to better manage around.

For example, if one of your strengths is the ability to focus your attention for extended periods of time while working on a project it might allow you to produce an exceptional volume of work in a relatively short period of time.  The challenge might be that this focused work might cause other areas of your work to suffer, such as responding to co-workers’ e-mail messages or allowing telephone calls to divert to voice mail.  Your hyper-focus might be perceived by others as negligently ignoring them or as being unresponsive to their requests.  You may not have an actual weakness in communication, but your hyper-focus strength might be so strong that it overpowers your desire to be available to collaborate.

Coaches See What You Can’t

A professional coach is an excellent resource to help someone sort out which of one’s behaviors are counter-productive.   A coach can often see behavioral blind spots and bring them to one’s attention.  Once someone is aware of one’s blind spots, s/he can choose the most effective behaviors in a given situation that are most likely to achieve the most desired results.

It is possible to behave in ways that leave others feeling like someone is too much of a good thing.  That’s a bad thing and can become a limiting factor in one’s career advancement.  Knowing your strengths is a great start to living a fired up life, but knowing the proper strength to use in a given situation and the appropriate intensity of that strength is usually wisdom gained from candid feedback and thoughtful reflection.

If you are feeling ineffective, perhaps using too much of one or more of your strengths is to blame.

Abundant Capacity

Look out! Potential!!

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The Meaning of Abundant Capacity

One of the greatest challenges and rewards of coaching executives is trying to help them uncover or discover their abundant capacities.  I tend to call them strengths, but lately I am liking the words “abundant capacities” more and more.

Abundant means to have an ample or more than sufficient supply.  Basically, whatever you have that is abundant is more than enough to meet your needs.

Capacity means one’s mental or physical abilities.

Put those two words together and you have been gifted with abundant capacities which are more than enough to make you capable of reaching your goals and a satisfying your life’s purpose. Discovering your abundant capacities allows you to live up to your full potential.

Where You Focus Is All You See

Many of the leaders I coach have lost sight of their abundant capacities that make them capable of greatness. They have become focused on their limited capacities that make them incapable of doing what they believe will make them successful. We are all just one failure away from facing our limits.  The question is, will we allow our failures and limited capacities to limit our achievements and pursuit of our destiny?  The most significant leaders do not.

Significant leaders are keenly aware of their limitations in certain capacities and develop strategies to cut their limitations’ impact and surround themselves with other people whose abundant capacities make up for the leader’s limited capacities. Leadership and management guru, Peter Drucker wrote, “All work is for a team. No person has the skills and abilities to do every job. The purpose of a team is to make the strengths productive and the weaknesses irrelevant.”

When confronted with 360 degree feedback from peers, bosses and direct reports, most leaders quickly gloss over their abundant capacities that are readily identified and fixate on anything that is reported as a potential limit or weakness.  By definition you cannot expand a limited capacity.  There is not such thing as 101% of anything. If you only have an ounce of compassion that is hardwired into your being, then expecting to develop 100 pounds of compassion by next Wednesday, may be a bit unrealistic. Yet, I have seen leaders who have been blessed with abundant capacities lose sight of this and constantly agonize over any limit they perceive as a fatal flaw. They begin to foolishly major in minor things at the expense of developing their more abundant capacities.

Life’s Challenge

God does not make mistakes.  He made you the way you are for His reasons. If you develop your abundant capacities and turn them over to His guidance, and direction, then you might get a chance to use them on His behalf. You will become an active participant in God’s eternal plan.  You’ll know if you do, because this will be the most satisfying experience of your life.

A reporter asked Mother Teresa of Calcutta if she had ever wished that she could have done more to help the poor.  She answered, “God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful.” 

Are you listening for your calling and purpose?  Are you ready to test all your abundant capacities in a risky venture that is sure to fail in the end?  We call it living.  And while our bodies might ultimately fail us in death, our significant legacy may live on eternally.

What gifts have you been given in an abundant capacity?  Who can you team with to make your limited capacities irrelevant?

If you need some help discovering your abundant capacities, get a copy of my non-profit book, “Life Matches: Fire Up Your Life!”

I give all the money I receive from book sales to, the national non-profit organization that helps people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD).  My hope is that this organization can help those with AD/HD and those who love them, to find ways to focus on their abundant capacities and not view AD/HD as a limitation.

You have abundant capacities! Using them will make you abundantly capable of achieving your significant goals and will fire up your life! What are you waiting for? Have faith!

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