Balance “Play to Your Strengths” with “Push Your Edge”

I love the idea of knowing my strengths and spending most of my time there.  When we are in the zone, it’s a place of comfort, ease, and increased energy.  Acting outside our areas of strength can come across to others as awkward and usually feels emotionally draining.  According to the StrengthsFinder assessment (, my strengths are Learner, Relator, Responsibility, Input, and Strategic.

I’m practically in heaven when I’m in the process of supporting a few close client relationships rather than attending a large networking event with people I don’t know.  However, when I overuse my strengths, they can work against me and decrease my flexibility and effectiveness in diverse situations.   If I only focus on my strengths, then I am leaving out some significant skills and behaviors that I need to be successful…there are only so many behaviors and skills I can delegate to others.  When I work with managers whose strengths don’t even come close to relating to people, they can’t afford to ignore developing some core EQ and interpersonal skills just because it’s not a strength (assuming they want to keep their position).

There is a natural learning curve that occurs for people, e.g.:

  • Unconscious incompetence: We don’t know what we don’t know (a pretty comfortable place)
  • Conscious incompetence: We know what we don’t know (can be pretty uncomfortable)
  •  Conscious competence: We know, but have to think about it consciously (still uncomfortable)
  •  Unconscious competence: We know, but are now able to do the skill or behavior without thinking about it (pretty comfortable)

We can get competent, even unconsciously competent, in areas that aren’t naturally our strengths.  We develop that competence through consistent practice.  We don’t necessarily perform that strength in the same way that a “natural” would do it, but we put our own flavor on it and add it to our arsenal of tools and skills.

What I’ve found is that it’s not an either/or, but a both/and.  Discover your strengths and find ways to use them often and effectively.  At the same time, learn about skill gaps and behavioral patterns that could be sabotaging your success, then push your edge to develop new levels of skill and comfort.

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