The Frustrating Magnetism of Strengths

“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Abraham Maslow

Your strength is your hammer. If only the world was a nail.


Strengths pull toward “right” solutions.

Comfortable tools are chosen first and most. When faced with issues, challenges, problems, or opportunities, you chose your hammer.


  1. Protectors solidify gains.
  2. Promoters run toward the fire.
  3. Doers yell get busy!
  4. Adapters say, isn’t this exciting.
  5. Developers ask, how can we grow the team.
  6. Empathizers pat people on the back and say, don’t worry.
  7. Organizers establish structure and process.
  8. Collaborators form teams.
  9. Planners choose goals and create maps.
  10. Motivators set people’s hair on fire and complain about lethargy.
  11. Activators jump up and shout, when can we start.
  12. Commanders take charge.
  13. Administrators assign tasks.
  14. Competitors challenge teams to win.
  15. Teachers explain why it happened.

What’s more frustrating than a bag of hammers, when you need a wrench?

New perspectives:

People with wrenches look weird.

Alternatives feel awkward. They don’t feel like hammers. But, the result of hitting everything with a hammer is diminishing returns, coupled with disappointment and frustration. You’re stuck.

Your strengths make you weak.

Find a wrench:

Stop hitting everything with a hammer. Find a wrench.

I spent too much of my career swinging my hammer. It worked at first.

As time passes, success confirms the bias that hammers are best.

Arrogance closes minds.

Choose to listen to someone who succeeded using a wrench. It feels “wrong.” Listen anyway. Wrenches work, too.

Stop passing out hammers:

You wrongly believe that hammers are best. If their wrench has a reasonable chance of working, don’t pass them your hammer.

Leadership grows narrow and small when all you have is a hammer.

How has using your hammer too much resulted in frustration?

How can leaders celebrate and leverage the strengths of others?