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I have been feeling a bit of a fraud with strengths recently. Another way of putting that would be to say that I have been doing some deep learning!!

The lightbulb was when I was reading Brenee Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, and the section on perfectionism. About how unhelpful it is, (I knew that already!) but more importantly, she offered a different way of seeing things – about it being to do with how we engage with the expectations of others – and things you can do about it.

This started me thinking about when I had been working with one of the strengths tools that I am qualified in. (Please note – this is my reflection on how I have been working with the tool – and not necessarily a comment on the tool itself, it’s likely that others use it differently.)

I had been doing a marvellous job of helping others (and myself) or so I thought – yes, of helping people see their energising strengths, but also helping them counter their learned behaviours (which are draining) and their weaknesses (also draining) by using their strengths.

I did a great job at it – fantastic feedback from clients. However, and this is a BIG however, reading about perfectionism helped me to see that there was a risk. The risk was that I was helping others to keep an energising front at all times. I did this by encouraging them to substitute a strength for a weakness as a workround. That’s all you had to do I thought, almost to eliminate, or at least eliminate the impact of, your weaknesses.

My fear became that a result of working this way, it could be a way of continuing to look good at all times from the outside, i.e. I’m still perfect, and can present myself to you in this way, as I have work rounds for all my weaknesses!!

It could then run the risk of being like wallpaper – covering it all over, looking nice from the outside and not really looking inside and learning how to operate from an inside out, energising, personal basis – where you are genuinely thriving and not covering up!

So it’s back to basics for me – what is genuinely thriving and energising for me – not just a way of using strengths to present work-rounds and perfectionism to the outer world, to get any task done!

What are the tasks I genuinely want to put down, rather than find a work round for, so that there is more room, space and time for the thriving stuff? Where the inner core of my most genuine strengths will genuinely have more outlet?

Ugh – as ever, honestly, courage, self awareness needed here. What else? Oh yes, action! And telling people what I want to put down, so there is more room to thrive.

Easy then! How can I start?

Gill How

Helping leaders grow, step up and deliver outstanding results

One Comment

  • annah11 says:

    This is all about purpose. Just as the difference between motivation and manipulation is intent, so it is with strengths.

    If your purpose is self fulfilment – finding what you love and avoiding things you don’t like, then all will be well.

    If your purpose is self promotion, then problems will arise: you will use any tools which come to hand, including strengths, to create a flawless image to present to the world. This is where papering over the cracks becomes an issue. You are using your strengths to compensate for weaknesses, which may or may not work, but more importantly, you are not using them for you, but to impress others. It is here that congruence becomes an issue – are you being true to yourself, or trying to be what you think other people want or value. More important, are you trying to deceive yourself, as well as others, with this constructed facade.

    This has nothing to do with strengths, really, and everything to do with being comfortable in your own skin, and honest with yourself. From this state of congruence you can still use your strengths to best effect, and some may well compensate for weaknesses – there is everything to be said for being the best you can be, but that’s because you really want it, not because you think others will.

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