Can you be too strong? The answer is, “yes.” Maybe a better way to say that is, “A strength can be taken too far, to the point where it becomes a weakness.” There is a very good psychological test based on this called The Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI). The SDI addresses motivation and is based on Relationship Awareness Theory, which has as one of its four premises
Strengths, when overdone or misapplied, can appear as weaknesses.
This is something I see in my teaching and consulting practice routinely. This may sound a bit odd, but trust me, it isn’t. So what is this all about?
Remember the Peter Principle series from a few blogs back? You might recall the Peter Principle states:
People are promoted to their level of incompetency.
With those previous blogs the focus was on temperament as viewed by Jung and Myers and Briggs. Temperament reflects how our brain is wired.
With the SDI Dr. Elias Porter, PhD, takes a different approach looking at motivation and whether or not a person is driven by a sense of altruism, assertiveness, analysis, or flexible (a combination of the three). From their names you can guess what approach a person would take if it is their dominant or native trait.
So how can a strength be taken too far? Good question. Imagine I score “flexible” on the SDI. If the heat is on and a decision is needed I might look too wishy-washy for you as the pressure builds. In fact, that will be the truth if I am spending all my time looking for the “sweet spot” of the decision and am ignoring the fact time or money is running out.
This reasoning carries forward to the other motivational types as well:
- The altruistic person gets so worried about how everyone will feel they become indecisive;
- The assertive person runs head-long into a decision unaware of the risks involved;
- The analytical person just never has enough information to make a decision.
To make matters more challenging, when under pressure a person can “move” and shift to another SDI position. For example, the altruistic person may move to the more assertive position and become dictatorial – all in the name of helping everyone. You can have some fun thinking about how some of the other shifts play out and people you know who act that way.
There are several takeaways from this:
- Try and walk a mile in the other person’s shoes. See if you can see things through their eyes.
- Remember that people can shift their attitude, opinion, and approach to a situation when under pressure. They aren’t necessarily being two-faced, they may just be responding to the pressure and trying to do what they think is best.
- Watch your own behavior. It is easy to feel justified with one’s approach and lack awareness that we are changing our attitude and how we deal with others without having any conscious awareness of it. It can all be done blindly in the belief of what is “best.”
- Finally, too much of one thing can create difficulties. Try and take it easy and leave space for others.
This was a short run-through of only one aspect of the SDI. I strongly encourage you to explore the SDI. It is a simple, practical profiling test that yields good information.
—Through his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Twitter at @garymonti