Posts Tagged ‘weakness’

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.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough 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 gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Resilience Engineering #10: Success When in the Grip

by Gary Monti on August 16, 2011

Ever just want to pinch someone’s head off? What about just giving up the ghost and running away? Last week’s blog talked about seizing the opportunity when working with a difficult person or situation and using it as an opportunity to become more resilient. Here I’d like to pay respects to the associated difficulty. This is one of those activities that reads easy but does hard.

Robustness has several apparent advantages:

  • One is already prepared to move ahead with defined strengths;
  • Weaknesses can be avoided so there is no distraction;
  • A sharp focus can be established.

Curiouser and Curiouser

If we peal back the surface layer of robustness we just might see a psychological rabbit’s hole that shows a reality stranger and more convoluted than the one on the surface. Like Alice going through the Looking Glass, let’s tumble in and take a look!

Those weaknesses mentioned before, what if I told you they are the puppet masters? They are not just any puppet masters but ones that flip between rage and being totally lost. What if I also told you they come out when it appears one can least afford it?

This is the downfall of robustness. It tries to protect itself when things start falling apart (become complex) and the urge to control takes over. It can lead to aggression brought on by a fear of being in the grip of an even greater, paralyzing fear believing doom will result if robustness is abandoned.

This phrase, “In the grip,” is commonly used in Jungian psychology. The associated dynamic is fascinating. If unwilling to look at one’s weaknesses and change accordingly then a toxic coupling occurs. This unwillingness combines with the aforementioned fear of doom. It creates a bizarre feeling of being quite practical, adult, a good business person, etc., when going on the attack. Paradoxically, the attacking hastens the collapse.

The thing to keep in mind is only through addressing weaknesses in complex situations is one able to become resilient. The over-exercising of strengths is part of what led to this situation. Doing more of the same is counterproductive. Our strengths now become our weaknesses.

Are you following the saga of Murdoch and the News Corporation? Ever work with someone technically competent but unable to delegate? What happens when that person gets a job bigger than themselves?

Is a Weakness Evil?

Now we circle back to the last blog. These complex situations are where the opportunities exist. They give us a chance to see where we can become more of ourselves and pull out of the shadows the parts that have been banished years ago and put them to work. The puppet masters (weaknesses) we try to bury are parts of our psyche reacting to being in prison and denied for so long. They rebel and will continue to do so with increasing intensity and frequency until they are heard.

This leads to another paradox. Bringing these traits to the surface and actively working with them makes us not just stronger but more resilient! The reward is immeasurable. One becomes a bit more whole increasing the ability to lead and thrive and deal with more complex situations. Simultaneously, the opportunity to be happy and spontaneous appears.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough 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 gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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