The Problem Strength

As a strengths coach, I love all of the strengths that help to make us successful. But part of loving strengths is understanding that their use falls on a spectrum from optimum to needs improvement. Our challenge as humans is to find the wisdom to keep strength use on the optimum side.

One strength that is particularly difficult to manage sometimes is the strength related to problem solving: restorative. Those with the restorative strength (so named by Clifton StrengthsFinders) are great at anticipating and solving problems. They’re awesome at helping to keep things on track, even before things start to go wrong.

But like all other strengths, restorative can go into the “basement” all to easily. In other words, that restorative person can over-rely on that strength, finding problems beyond what is helpful or useful.   When the restorative strength is overused, that person could be viewed as overly critical or negative, especially if the person is also low on positivity.

The person with the restorative strength tends to find problems with self or others all too easily. They are often excessively hard on themselves and others and may be viewed as naysayers, constantly pointing out obstacles to change and progress. Those that are low in positivity may really struggle to keep the dialogue positive and balanced.

The lack of good boundaries is a problem for any strength.   For example, one of my favorite strengths is ideation, the creative thinking strength.   I can also misuse that strength if I fail to exhibit good boundaries with its use. When misusing ideation, others might accuse me of having my head in the clouds or being impractical. Taking a creative approach to filing my taxes or submitting a college application tend to be bad ideas. I just need to suck it up and adhere to the process or risk derailing the process.

The first step in improving on a personal issue is self-awareness. Understand the downside to your problem-solving strength and reflect how this natural talent might actually be causing problems. Understand when and where it is useful to use your strength, and when it is harmful. Develop your other strengths so that they are readily available alternatives in your toolkit. For example, during instances when I may over-rely on restorative, I may choose to use relator (builds deep relationships) and ideation instead. So rather than finding fault with my friend after her failed relationship, I might realize that a more effective approach is to build trust and support by listening. Helping her to identify her own problems and creative solutions instead of telling her what to do respects the fact that she has access to her own wisdom.

Or, in a strange twist of irony, turn that problem-solving talent onto problem-solving itself. Restorative person: can you fix the problem of over-problem-solving? No problemo.

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