first learned of this particular concept of
strengths and excesses in the context of
annual performance appraisals. Periodic
performance feedback, coupled with an annual
performance appraisal, is an integral part of
a well-run business. Honest appraisals which
inform the employee of his or her development
needs are critical to helping the employee
improve. They also help the business improve
because its employees are improving their
performance. It’s a “win-win”
Unfortunately, not all appraisals are honest.
The one for the outstanding employee is easy
to conduct and is a pleasure. The one for the
marginal employee can be difficult because the
discussion can become argumentative and
contentious. I have seen too many managers
avoid the tough performance appraisal by
simply deeming an employee’s performance to
be satisfactory and avoiding any discussion of
This is unacceptable because it is unfair to
the marginal employee. Sooner or later the
true assessment will come to light and it will
be a shock to the employee. Perhaps it will
come in the form of a layoff notice. Perhaps
it will come with a new manager who believes
in giving honest performance assessments.
Whatever the form, the day will come and it
won’t be pretty.
I never understood why many managers don’t
give honest appraisals. Again, the employee
deserves honest feedback. If a manager can’t
conduct an honest discussion, he should not
accept a position as a manager.
In one particular staff discussion this
subject was being discussed. The general
manager stated that he expected his managers
to conduct honest performance appraisals with
their people. He further stated that there is
no need for the discussions with marginal
employees to be contentious if the discussion
is in terms of strengths and excesses.
The theory he was discussing is that no one
inherently has any weaknesses. We develop
weaknesses when we carry strengths to an
Self-confidence is a trait we admire, we
strive to have, and we count as a strength. If
we carry the strength of self-confidence to an
excess, it becomes arrogance, and a weakness.
Consider one’s ability to trust others. This
is a strength and one which you need to
develop as you need to delegate more to
others. If you carry trust to an excess it
Being strong and forceful are strengths.
Carry them to an excess and you become a
Being cautious is a strength. Carry it an
excess and you become indecisive.
Being cooperative is a strength. Carry it to
an excess and you become a pushover.
Taking risks is a strength and a necessary
ingredient to being an entrepreneur. If you
carry risk-taking to an excess you can become
Having ambition is a strength. In this case
I’m thinking of the person with the desire
and ambition to get ahead. You’ve recognized
that in some people and you admire their
drive. However, I have seen some people carry
their ambition to an excess. They become
obsessed with getting ahead and start doing
some pretty dumb things which have hurt their
chances. They carried their strength right
into a weakness.
Again, this was presented in the context of
having performance discussions with marginal
people in a positive manner.
Like many of the lessons I’ve learned I have
thought about them long after and have
extrapolated them beyond their original
context. In this case I have tried to
self-assess my weaknesses to see if they are
indeed strengths carried to an excess. Not
surprisingly, the theory fits the case.
I feel one of my strengths is the capacity to
speak out when I don’t agree with something
being said. In other words, I am not a
“yes-person.” I think of this as a
strength which adds value to the organization.
In my later years I came to the realization
that this strength was of value to me if I
utilized it in moderation. If I carry my
outspokenness to an excess I become
argumentative. I have learned to speak out
more sparingly and with more caution. I will
speak out when I think something is wrong or
if I think something can be done in a better
way. However, I don’t play devil’s
advocate as much as I used to and I’ve
learned to pick my fights.
I think it is a very healthy exercise for
everyone to periodically make a list of his or
her strengths. You should know yourself pretty
well and should be able to easily list your
strengths. Which of your characteristics make
you proud? What do you do well and which
characteristics contribute to your doing that
Once you have your list spend some time
thinking about what those characteristics
would become if they were carried to an
excess. Then ask yourself, “is there any
characteristic on the list that I might be
carrying to an excess? Are any of these
strengths becoming weaknesses?” If there
are, you need to consider what you are going
to do about them.
From time to time you must ask yourself,
“are my strengths under control?”
From the book “IT AIN’T OKAY TO FAIL”
By Brian Strachan