Too Much of a Good Thing

Alan Jackson once claimed that too much of a good thing is a good thing and Sam Smith more recently argued that too much of a good thing won’t be good for long. We all have our own version of the maxim, but it does raise a paradox we often take for granted: If something is inherently good, how could there possibly be too much of it? Aren’t we all in pursuit of all good, all the time? Isn’t that a better world? And yet, it’s possible to have too much of pretty much anything.

We get caught in this logical fallacy at work when we think we should discover and maximize our “natural” strengths and then turn our “weaknesses” into strengths. It’s true that some weaknesses are weaknesses; you may struggle to tell a succinct or clear story to your colleagues–and that has real, sometimes dire consequences. But there is almost always some counterbalancing reason for that weakness. 

You may struggle to tell a clear and succinct story because you see potential pitfalls and key details that others perceive as minutiae. If you turn your storytelling weakness into a strength by trying to see things the way others do, you may lose out on the underlying strength of holding a complex, complete conceptual model in your mind. You may also fail to see nuances that have a substantive impact on good decision-making. Worst of all, you may, in trying to establish highly valued strengths, become more like your like-minded peers and lose out on the inherent value in diverse opinions and perspectives.

In other words, many weaknesses are the consequences of an extraordinary strength overwhelming its surrounding competencies. Rather than viewing weaknesses as independent problems, consider evaluating what their counterbalancing strengths are and identifying ways to create value with those strengths. Further consider whether your self awareness around your own weaknesses is strong enough to guide you in the right moments to step back and let colleagues with complementary strengths turn on their own super powers and step into important leadership roles.

Ongoing personal development and growth are critical to both your success at work (and in life) and also to your continued engagement and ability to find meaning and value in your work. But rather than seeing yourself as deficient and in need of constant improvement, consider seeing yourself as whole, complete, and evolving.