You know how it goes: you’re in a conversation and you’re in the zone, using one of your strengths.

You’re feeling great so you use some more of that strength.

But something’s off. Things aren’t going quite as you expected.

So you apply a little more of that strength because it works so well for you. Usually.

But still people aren’t responding in the manner you’re hoping for. Actually things feel even worse. Why are you getting unintended negative consequences?

Because your strength is in overdrive. You’re over-playing it. You’ve over-cooked it. And it’s beginning to look & feel a lot like a weakness…

In other words, you’re using your strength too much:

  • with the wrong people; or
  • at the wrong time; or
  • in the wrong circumstances
  • or all three!


And as a result, you’re getting the opposite reaction to that which you wanted.

Does this resonate with you? Which of your strengths goes into overdrive?

I know this feeling well. My top 3 energising strengths are Developing Others, Collaboration & Relationship Building. They can all veer into overdrive at any time:

  • Developing Others: I sometimes forget that some people haven’t asked for my help in developing them. So, pointing out how they could improve their performance can land on deaf (and occasionally offended and / or angry) ears. Message to myself: keep my Developing Others strength for those that have explicitly asked for it.
  • Collaboration: One of my family members has a strength in problem solving and can’t resist it; and this can clash with my drive to collaborate. I suspect a good script writer could make a great comedy out of our conversations when both of our strengths are in overdrive! Message to myself: Use Empathy to consider: are they wanting to collaborate too…or can we do this in a way that works for them too?
  • Relationship Building: I can barely resist creating relationships (business, friends etc) with everyone I bump into. In the past I’ve found myself in “accidental relationships” with people I don’t actually want any relationship with; and others who don’t want one with me. I’ve just been in mindless relationship building mode! Understanding this has been a real journey for me…and I’m still learning. Message to myself: Be friendly, be open to new relationships…but go cautiously. It’s much less confusing for everyone that way!


Which of your strengths is most likely to go into overdrive? And which is already doing it? And what do you do about it?

  • Acknowledge it: My experience is that once people hear about the idea of a “strength in overdrive” they understand it and can quickly identify their strength that’s most at risk.
  • Monitor what happens when it does go into overdrive: As the saying goes “Don’t just do something. Stand there!”. Watch, observe, listen, learn. What triggered you into overdrive? What were the early warning signs you missed? What impact did you intend to have; and what did you have? What would have helped you keep that strength at the right level?
  • Pick another strength to use instead: which of your other strengths could you call upon when you recognise you’re about to let another one veer into overdrive? For me, I call upon Empathy as it helps me to remember – when I’m about to mindlessly over use one of my strengths – to consider what’s going on for the other party and opens out other options for me.
  • Experiment: notice what happens when you mindfully deploy another strength instead of over-using your favourite one. And if you seem to have kept that strength in check and your impact has been positive…
  • Congratulate yourself on a job well done.


Knowing your strengths is important but you can – all too easily – allow your favourite strength to veer into overdrive. Take a moment to consider which of your strengths is at risk; and take action before it becomes a weakness.