With every strength comes limitations

Our greatest strengths are also limitations. This is not a cliché — it’s real. And it’s what we mean when we talk about ‘aptitude.’

There are two sides to every skill. The same skill you have a strong aptitude for is also a limiting factor for you.

Please note that I didn’t use the word ‘weakness.’ It’s not possible to be good at everything. And when any skill is taken to an extreme as a strength, it will also have a downside or adverse effect.

With every strength image

Here’s an example of a young man who worked for me. He was truly gifted at getting customers to stick with the product after they registered a complaint. He knew all the objections and how to overcome them. He was assertive, but not overbearing. He perked up when the moment arrived and performed his job effectively — it was a talent and strength. Until it came time to work with his team and me, his manager.

When I offered constructive feedback or a suggestion for change, he became defensive and even took it personally. The same spirit that sparked him to challenge customers assertively and change their minds against canceling would have him challenge me, turning a chance to grow into a generally unproductive conflict.

This happens quite often. People may think they can do everything or must have all of the answers. But it’s not really possible. For example, a truly creative person might be less energized doing administrative tasks or tactical work. That’s the distinctive nature of aptitude. Certain skill sets are diametrically opposed to one another, require more energy, or don’t naturally come to us.

And that’s why it’s important to be aware of your own aptitude. If you don’t know what your spectrum of strengths and limitations are, it might be challenging to get out of your own way. This is a major obstacle for both people and teams.

That’s not to say you can’t work to improve the skills that aren’t your natural strengths. But it’s not necessarily about what you’re good at and what you’re not. It’s about doing what’s best for you, your team, and your organization.

So the next time you consider strategy, tackling a new project or hiring a new member to your team, I encourage you to think about what success looks like. Once you have that clarity, then I you can think about what is needed to get there, and where your skills, strengths, and passion fit in.

Knowing that with every talent and strength there is limitation. And doing your best to be aware of it and not let it stand in your way.