3 Downsides of Only Focusing on Your Upsides

On a recent Harvard Business Review podcast, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, CEO of Hogan Assessments, expressed concern that the emphasis on strengths-based coaching may actually weaken leaders. According to Chamorro-Premuzic, despite the popularity of “focusing on your strengths,” there is no scientific evidence that suggests we should focus on our strengths and ignore our weaknesses. And while common advice is to focus exclusively on your strengths, your upsides, here are three downsides to that approach.

1. You ignore character development.

When we only focus on our strengths, we ignore aspects of our character that need development. For example, the driven leader who hurts people relationally and only focuses on sharpening the drive ignores the need to work on relational skills. Chamorro-Premuzic commented:

It’s important to understand that even the smartest, brightest, and most brilliant individuals have a dark side. They have certain elements of their personality, of their typical behaviors, that are quite counterproductive. And if those tendencies are left unchecked, no matter how smart, competent, and talented they are, their careers are at risk of derailing.

I agree. If our character fails, it does not matter how competent we are. And much more than a career can be derailed.

Focusing exclusively on strengths does not require much repentance, which is the essence of the Christian life. The Christian knows that we are continual works in progress, that our maturation is a life-long process. If we only focus on our strengths, we will dismiss focusing on aspects of our character that need refining.

2. You ignore critical competencies.

It is easier and more fun to focus on your strengths, but development is often hard work and painful. If we only focus on bolstering our strengths, we miss out on improving in other important competencies. Developing a weaker competency improves more than that weak competency; it improves our ability to develop and learn.

3. You hurt the mission and others.

People may be helped by your upsides, but they can also be harmed by your downsides. If we completely dismiss our weaknesses, we are also dismissing the negative impact these could be having on others

Focusing on your strengths can be wise, but weaknesses need attention too. Ignoring them can also mean ignoring character development and the discipline of learning how to develop.