WorkLife with Adam Grant
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Adam Grant: Hello, there.

Michael Hartle: Hey, Adam. How are you?

AG: Do you know that you sound like a powerlifter?

MH: (Laughs) I do, huh?

AG: Just wondering if you actually worked on your voice muscles.

MH: Yes. I do squats with my voice muscle and squats with my body, yes.

(Laughter)

AG: Michael Hartle is a chiropractic physician in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He wasn't always strong.

MH: When I was in high school, I could barely bench 135.

AG: But for the last 20 years, he's basically been The Hulk. He's won a national title in the bench press. His personal best came in 2006. How much did you lift?

MH: Five hundred thirty-five pounds, which is 242.5 kilos.

AG: Oh, my gosh. I mean, you basically benched a baby elephant.

MH: (Laughs) Yes, sir. Exactly.

AG: Powerlifters know something that many amateurs don't: you're at your strongest when you're well-rounded.

MH: In the gym, what you hate the most is usually what you need the most.

AG: And some people at the gym are a little lopsided.

MH: You might go into a gym and you look at someone, and you see them from the waist up. They're very developed, they've got a big chest, big shoulders, big pecs and everything else. Then all of a sudden you see their skinny little toothpick legs. That's obviously a very undeveloped person or a wrongly developed person. You should develop the whole body.

AG: And if you push that to the extreme, is there an injury risk?

MH: Oh, yeah, very much so.

AG: Do you think that this is not just a metaphor, but that it's true in our lives that the same way you can overdevelop one muscle and, you know, underdevelop another, do you kind of see your job that way, too?

MH: Oh yeah, we see it all the time. You can see it in the academic world, the financial world, relationshipwise. If you always focus on one part of it and not the whole, global picture, yeah, you're going to have issues.

AG: If you're a powerlifter, you can't get stronger if you don't work on your weakest muscles. You've probably been told the same thing at work: you have to fix your weaknesses. But it's a mistake to just focus on what's weakest. Great things can happen if you have the chance to build on your strengths.

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I'm Adam Grant, and this is WorkLife, my podcast with TED. I'm an organizational psychologist. I study how to make work not suck. In this show, I'm inviting myself inside the minds of some truly unusual people, because they've mastered something I wish everyone knew about work. Today: strengths at work. How and when we're at our best.

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Thanks to JPMorgan Chase for sponsoring this episode.

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When it's performance review time at work, how does the conversation usually go? Your boss probably says some version of, "Yeah, you did a great job in this one task, but what we really need to talk about are your areas for improvement." Psychologists have found that for many of us, bad tends to loom larger than good. So your boss tells you you have a weakness, and — boom! — that's all you can think about. And this starts long before you have a job.

Marcus Buckingham: Beginning very early, in kindergarten all the way up through school and college and so forth and then perpetuated in the workplace.

AG: Marcus Buckingham is an author and consultant.

MB: And so for a long time we are taught that we should be zeroing in on our weaknesses in some — now, that's remediation.

AG: Remediation: the idea that we can examine our weaknesses and take concrete steps to fix them.

MB: We live in a remedial world. All apologies to Madonna.

AG: (Laughs)

MB: But we are living in a remedial world.

AG: But remediation is really just a way to help people go from bad to average at a particular activity.

MB: You don't remediate your way to excellence. And in fact, if you're not really careful, you get people's minds thinking much more about failure prevention than about soaring. No one has ever excelled because they stopped making grammatical errors in their writing.

AG: Marcus started his career at the research firm Gallup.

MB: I love interviewing people that are really good at what they do. My first job at Gallup was on building an interview to select better housekeepers. I want to go, "Holy moly, you vacuum yourself out of a room every day? And you make a scene for the guests with the fluffy toys on the bed every day?" Any job done in excellence is amazing to me.

AG: Marcus started to recognize that any job done in excellence wasn't because people spent all their time trying to repair their weaknesses. It was usually because someone was working from a natural or developed strength. A strength is more than a skill — a technical proficiency, like working with numbers or using a certain kind of tool. Your strengths are broader aptitudes you have or build for solving problems, getting things done, influencing people or developing relationships. Marcus played a major role in launching an influential movement around why workplaces should emphasize strengths.

MB: Our whole message ought to be: you're not broken, but you're not amazing yet. And therefore, the question should be: How can you be amazing?

AG: Now huge employers like Facebook and McKinsey call themselves "strengths-based." The basic idea is that when we do something unusually well, we should focus on learning to repeat it. We should play to our strengths and manage around our weaknesses. In his research, Marcus found that one of the key signs of a great manager is a clear focus on recognizing and developing people's strengths. But he's concerned that most of us don't get to use our strengths enough at work.

MB: Right now, 16, 17 percent of people say they have a chance to do what they do best every day. We just finished this 19-country study, looking at that question. And around the world, that's not a big number. In China, it's six percent.

AG: An experiment from India demonstrates the power of giving people a chance to use their strengths from day one. Some new hires in a call center were randomly assigned to reflect on their individual strengths. They wrote about their personal highlight reel, the moments they were at their best, and discussed how they could bring those strengths to work. Six months later, they had significantly higher performance, more satisfied customers and higher retention rates, too.

Think about your job. How often do you have a chance to use your strengths? Marcus and his team have surveyed people on whether they have the freedom to modify their jobs to better fit their strengths. Lots of people say they do have that freedom. But surprisingly few of them actually do something with it.

MB: Some people are in the wrong job, I get it — 27 percent of people probably in their job feel totally constricted. But you've got 73 percent of people going, "I can modify my job to fit my strengths, but I just don't."

AG: Why not?

MB: I think deep down, we don't actually think that our unique way of engaging with the world is worth uncovering. And what we need sometimes is someone going, "No, no, no — that's you. That's weird." Like, not everyone does X or does Y. It does take a while for you to go, "This, actually, is the way I uniquely engage with the world."

AG: Strengths are important and emphasizing them is definitely more productive than working on weaknesses alone. But for a while now, I've been concerned about the opposite problem. Remember what the powerlifting champ Michael Hartle said: you can actually overdevelop one muscle at the expense of another. You need some balance. At work, research shows it's common for managers to overuse their strengths: the persuasive boss who talks so forcefully that everyone else in the room is silenced; the creative colleague, who's still generating new ideas when it's long past time to finish an old project; the empathetic service reps, who show so much concern that customers take advantage of them. It seems that if you lean too heavily on your strengths, they can become weaknesses. I was curious about Marcus's take on this. Each spring, I cohost the Wharton People Analytics Conference, which focuses on using evidence to improve work. So I invited Marcus to debate onstage, because the data suggest that overusing strengths is a big problem.

(Debate clip) MB: ... so I would disagree. I would strongly disagree.

AG: I thought you were only going to give me positive feedback here. Come on, Marcus!

MB: I'm just giving you my reaction. A strength is not good or bad, it's morally neutral. You can use it for ill and you can use it for good. You can never have too much of a strength, you can only use it poorly. What we're talking about here is intelligence. You can use your strengths unintelligently. If you think you can ever have too much of a strength, your coaching then sounds like this: "Be less of yourself, Adam. Turn yourself down." And for you, you're like, "How do I metabolize that?" Whereas if I say to you, "Listen, you've got a great strength in..." — maybe you're super assertive — "Stop pissing people off, and start using that to persuade them to do something they didn't intend to do." And then you lean in and go, "How do I do that?" Now all of a sudden, I'm like, "I don't know. Here's what I would do, but what you might try ..." That just feels better than me going, "Turn yourself down. You're at 11. Turn it to six." And you're like, "I can't." Or "You're too empathetic." No. You can never be too — if you've got empathy, you're empathetic. A challenge with you then is how do leverage that intelligently to create the outcomes that you want? You can't be crying all over people all the time. But that doesn't mean you have too much empathy. It means we've got to help you channel that productively. It leads to different conversations.

AG: Great. I think I'm on board. Help me apply this in my own life. So, apparently when I took the StrengthsFinder, I took an early version of it, and one of my strengths was that I was logical and data-driven. And I think you have a term for that now.

MB: Logical and data-driven? "Annoying."

(Laughter)

AG: Thank you. You are really all about strengths. I was hoping it would be true.

MB: I don't actually do this myself, are you kidding? So, well, "Analytical" would be one.

AG: And I think there was a little bit of "Woo" — winning over others — loaded with that as well.

MB: Yeah. "Command."

AG: Yeah, so I sort of took this as feedback and said, OK, this is probably going to be a useful skill as a teacher. And a few years ago, I had a student who called me for some career advice. And I gave her a bunch of advice, and at the end of the conversation, she said, "You're a logic bully."

MB: You're a logic bully?

AG: Yeah, and I was like, "What does that mean?" And she said, "You just overwhelmed me with rational arguments, and I don't agree with them but I can't fight back." And I said, "Good."

(Laughter)

"That's my job, right?" And she said, "Well, no, because I actually want to own my decision." And I realized that I had sort of failed in at least my vision of my role as a mentor or an adviser, which is, I wanted to help her see how I would think through a situation, but not tell her what I had thought the right answer is.

MB: So that's super interesting. Obviously, every strength has a dark side, if you will. I mean, you say to someone, "I just have incredibly high standards. Those are the high standards that I have," and somebody behind your back is going, "Stupid perfectionist. Just ... anal." Or, "I'm super assertive." "Aggressive." Every strength has that kind of dark side. You're a logic bully. And by the way, that's a great word combination.

(Laughter)

"Logic bully." But weirdly, if I was coaching you, I'd go, "People follow you because of that." Don't turn that down. Turn that up, because people follow you because of that. So turn it up. Step into it. And —

AG: ... and bully you more. (Laughs)

MB: Well, more like, learn how you can leave space for people to model what you're doing as they make their own decisions. Is it true that in general people tend to want to own their own decisions because their learning is emergent? Yes. Is it therefore true that you telling them exactly what to do removes from them the opportunity to learn? Yes. Are you also a teacher? Yes. So therefore, if you want people to learn, you've got to use your logic bullyness to help them step into their own intelligence. And you would find lots of tricks and techniques to do that. But I would say to you, I bet one of the reasons why people are drawn to you is because you are so purely you and hopefully over time, intelligently you. And we know you're not perfect. There's a whole bunch of qualities that teachers and professors and so forth have that you don't have. But these ones that you do have are really distinctive and elevating for people. And my challenge in helping you grow would be to say, "Do you know what those are? Do you feel able to channel them in a way that helps and benefits your students?"

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(In the studio) AG: I came away convinced that Marcus has a valid point. The problem isn't always overusing strengths. Sometimes it's misusing them or using them unintelligently or applying them in the wrong situations.

Melinda Gates: I completely agree with you, Adam, that our greatest weaknesses are sometimes the other side of our strengths.

AG: That's true if you're at the very beginning of your career. And it's also true if you're in a very senior leadership role.

MG: Hi, I'm Melinda Gates, and I'm the cochair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

AG: Can you tell me about your greatest strength?

MG: I think my greatest strength is listening.

AG: I'm curious about whether there are times when you've actually listened too much or found yourself maybe listening, when, in retrospect, you wish you had asserted a point of view more.

MG: One of the things that I have had to look at and systematically learn about myself is: it's not OK for me to sit in a meeting and listen and listen and listen and then not be able to get my viewpoint out because the meeting time has run out or somebody is speaking. You know, I start to make a point, and they speak over me. Not OK. And so what I've had to learn to do is to really assert my voice and assert it at very strategic moments in meetings. And even to speak openly about, "I disagree with the person who just spoke. Let's have a conversation about that." And I think I've learned how to do that in very respectful ways.

AG: Recently, Melinda got some surprising feedback about how she was using another one of her strengths. I was working with leaders at the Gates Foundation on building a culture of openness. Melinda had volunteered to film a video where she reacted to feedback from colleagues in real time, sort of like the "Mean Tweets" segment on Jimmy Kimmel's show.

MG: You're in front of a camera, and the camera's rolling, and employees have feedback they want to give you and they've written that feedback on a set of cards. And so you're handed the cards, and then when you turn one over, you read the feedback they have for you, and then you react to it. And so, one of the cards said, "You're like Mary effing Poppins, practically perfect in every way." And when I turned that card over, I laughed first of all, so hard. And I thought, "Oh, my gosh. First of all, I can't believe people think this. And second of all, one of the biggest things I've had to work on the last five-plus years is perfectionism. I have a huge dose of perfectionism, as do many other people, particularly women. And I have been systematically working on that, and so I was able to express in that video how much I am so not perfect. And that was actually really fun for me and really cathartic.

AG: But I think your perfectionism is also a huge strength.

MG: Perfectionism in a certain way, if not taken too far, can be an amazing strength. It's part of how I got to where I wanted to go in life. In high school I set incredible, high-achieving goals for myself, accomplished those, got to go on to Duke University, which is where I wanted to study computer science, which ultimately took me to a job at Microsoft. So having that perfectionism trait was incredibly helpful to meeting and achieving goals. However, perfectionism, when taken too far — there is no such thing as perfect.

AG: So Melinda began paying attention to when perfectionism was productive and when it was counterproductive.

MG: I started to look at where it was showing up in my life. And I started to look at times when I would be preparing for a speech and say, "Oh, my gosh, I'm driving the people around me crazy, because I'm asking them to answer 20 last-minute questions. And yes, maybe there's one last-minute question I should make sure I have a fact to that I can't remember." But I started to look at it there, because I think you're one of the many people who've talked about the fact that if you have a perfectionistic culture in your workplace, you don't get the most innovative ideas out on the table. And so for all of those reasons, it was important for me to look at that and then to also say, "Where does it show up well for me?"

AG: So whatever your role or level in your organization, there's value in learning to use your strengths more effectively. But I still don't think you can simply ignore your weaknesses altogether. My inner logic bully really wants to convince Marcus that not working on your weaknesses can be a career-limiting move. For one example, NBA basketball. Shaquille O'Neal. Do you remember the "Hack-a-Shaq"? The only way to stop the guy was just to literally tackle him when he was in front of the basket, because he couldn't make a free throw. And I think the biggest barrier to his excellence was the fact that he couldn't do that one thing. And if you want to make Shaq even greater than he was, the single best way to work with him would have been to improve his free throw game.

MB: The pushback on it would be that they did work on it, like crazy. So he went from terrible to really, really bad. That isn't a nonuse of time, but it's incremental improvement.

AG: So I think that's right. I see that, though, as a failure of remediation. DeAndre Jordan, Knicks center. Forty-four percent free throw percentage in his first 10 years, he's now over 70 percent. Andre Drummond, first five seasons shooting 35 to 40 percent, last year over 60 percent. Karl Malone, he shot 48 percent at the beginning of his career. And then the next two years up to 60 and 70. I think there are cases of dramatic improvement of weaknesses, when you're on the precipice of excellence. Sometimes you have an Achilles' heel that you need to fix.

MB: Yes, although spending time trying to turn yourself into somebody else is a dubious use of time. With normally incremental improvement at best, sometimes it's really destructive.

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AG: How much you need to work on your weaknesses depends on how critical those skills are to your job. If you play basketball, it's pretty important to be able to make a free throw. But if you switch to soccer, that weakness would become irrelevant.

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How do you identify situations that better leverage your strengths? More on that after the break.

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OK, this is going to be a different kind of ad. I've played a personal role in selecting the sponsors for this podcast, because they all have interesting cultures of their own. Today we're going inside the workplace at JPMorgan Chase.

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To really move the needle on gender equity, companies need to make investments in women's lives.

Sam Saperstein: I think there was a real need to go out to the markets and hear directly from women.

AG: That's Sam Saperstein. She heads JPMorgan Chase's "Women on the Move" program.

SS: "Women on the Move" is focused on three areas: being the best bank for women-run businesses, helping consumers in our communities with their financial health and helping our employees have the best possible careers.

AG: A few years ago, they did a road show. Leaders traveled around the world and held town halls, listening to the firm's female employees.

SS: We had challenging conversations. Women were talking about roles that they missed out on or opportunities that they thought went to other people. So there were real issues out on the table.

AG: JPMorgan Chase did more than listen. They acted. They created mentorship programs, helped women get raises and promotions and opened up new ways for mothers to return to work.

Janet Lipinski: I firmly believed that there would never come a time that I would stop working.

AG: Janet Lipinski started her career 20 years ago, as a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

JL: I couldn't imagine anything changing. And while I was in the DA's office, I had my first child.

AG: Then she had her second child. When he was two, he was diagnosed with autism.

JL: I tried working part-time at the DA's office for a period of time, and that just didn't work so well. And the decision to stop working was agonizing for me for one simple reason. And it was that I really thought that once I stopped, I would never be able to return.

AG: Janet was able to get the right kind of care for her son and put him on a path for success. After seven years, she was ready to go back to work. But studies show that stay-at-home moms are just half as likely to land job interviews as moms who have been laid off, even if their résumés are otherwise identical.

JL: I wanted to work, but I didn't have the foggiest idea about how to put one foot in front of the other. I mean, how do you interview for a job and explain away a seven-year gap in your résumé? I didn't know how to do that.

AG: But then Janet ran into a friend at JPMorgan Chase. He said they had a reentry program to help women come back into the workforce after taking time off.

JL: They were really looking for people who were hungry to learn, who had wisdom and judgment. And people seemed favorably impressed and interested in the work that I had done taking care of my son.

AG: Janet got hired in 2014. She's now a vice president and assistant general counsel at JPMorgan Chase, where she manages a team that reviews criminal subpoenas.

JL: It was a much more seamless transition back into the work world than I could have imagined. The firm was so clear that I had nothing to apologize for, that in fact, I brought value to the table that I wouldn't have brought, had I not taken that time away from the workforce.

AG: "Women on the Move" continues to grow, helping women inside and outside JPMorgan Chase. Sam Saperstein says the program will invest 10 billion dollars in women-owned businesses over the next three years.

SS: We want to make sure we are funding women-owned businesses, where they need it, when they need it, so that they can grow their businesses with us and be successful.

AG: That commitment will have a huge impact on women around the world. But for Janet, it's already had an impact on one important person: her daughter.

JL: Knowing how proud she is of me and knowing that I can be this example for her of a woman who is continuing to have this really rewarding, amazing career, doing work that I find really valuable — that's the greatest gift to me.

AG: JPMorgan Chase is looking for people from all backgrounds and academic majors to help create the next wave of products and solutions. If you're passionate, curious and ready to make an impact, explore career opportunities at jpmorganchase.com/careers.

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So, how do you achieve excellence at work? You don't just need to know your strengths. You have to figure out what are the activities or situations where your strengths are put to good, intelligent use. And other people can help. For a long time, I had no idea what to do with my career. Then one day, a mentor asked me about the times when I was at my best. We made a list: coaching divers who were trying to figure out a new dive, writing a training manual for new salespeople and giving feedback on presentations and papers. There was a clear pattern. They all revolved around situations where I had a chance to share knowledge to help people solve a problem or achieve a goal. And suddenly it clicked: I needed to find a career where I could use that strength.

Laura Morgan Roberts: What are the kinds of situations that help to bring out your best self? What are the kinds of situations that block or obstruct or make it more difficult for you to be at your best?

AG: Laura Morgan Roberts is an organizational psychologist at Georgetown. She studies how we develop our identities and reputations at work. And it drives her crazy that when someone excels, we say, "Great work!" without being specific about what made that work great.

LMR: We have very thin, superficial ways of sharing "positive feedback" with one another, that often miss the mark with respect to communicating a significant degree of affirmation, but providing people with enough information so that they know specifically what they do that matters.

AG: In the early 2000s, Laura and her colleagues at the University of Michigan developed a different way of providing feedback. It's a tool to help you see your strengths through the eyes of others. It's called the "Reflected Best Self" exercise.

LMR: It gives you a very rich set of insights about the kinds of situations that bring out your best self, and that then enables you to cocreate those kinds of interactions again in the future.

AG: To start the exercise, you reach out to 10 or 15 colleagues and friends who know you well and ask them each to tell a story about a situation where you were at your best.

Bijou Abiola: My name is Bijou Abiola, and I am a buyer for a major department store in the Northeast. I remember the first thing I did was panic, because — 15 people, you're like, "Well, who do I ask?" right, because you kind of want to get the good stuff if you're looking for best self.

AG: Once you've collected all the stories, your challenge is to identify the common themes and write a self-portrait, reflecting the instances when you're at your best. Laura often coaches professionals like Bijou, who have reached a transition point in their careers, like changing jobs or companies.

LMR: The more specific and precise we can be in describing our strengths, the better able we are to leverage those strengths.

AG: Strengths aren't just qualities you have. They're things you do well at key times, actions you take in certain circumstances.

LMR: We're not looking for a personality trait or characteristic, like, "I am kind." But what we found from our research is that the more compelling descriptions of strengths and best selves are in the form of action orientations. So instead of saying, "I am kind," it's saying, for instance, "I show up for people when they need me. I am fully present."

AG: Bijou overdelivered on the assignment. She got 25 different people from her personal and professional life to write short stories about situations where she was at her best. And Laura helped her to identify the patterns in those stories.

BA: A common theme that I saw was, I think I'm at my best when I'm showing up for other people. My brother said, "She throws the best surprise parties." I didn't even think of that as a skill set, I just love to see their faces when they walk in the room and are happy to see their family members together.

AG: Other people can help you identify strengths that you didn't even recognize. But they can also help you see the kinds of situations where you're at your best, which aren't always visible to you.

BA: I heard the word "strong" a lot. I know I have a strong personality, but in those moments when they thought I was exhibiting strength, I though I was at my weakest. So it was kind of interesting to hear people say, "She is so strong," because I was like, "Are you kidding me? I was a wreck then. How do you see that as strength?" But again, we are our own toughest critics, so the way we experience ourselves and the way other people experience us can be so different.

LMR: Yeah, and so now, once you've discovered more about your best self by reading these contribution stories, aggregating the themes in these stories, the next set of discussions involve, "What kinds of changes do I need to make so that I can be at my best more often, make my best even better, bring out the best in others? Can I add new roles or responsibilities or tasks that might be more stimulating and exciting and help me to play to my strengths? But essentially, if I'm not able to make enough changes to my current role or to the culture or to the relationships, I'm going to start looking for new opportunities. How can my understanding of my best self help me to find the right opportunity or end up in a place that feels better for me?"

AG: Think about a hard choice you have to make at work. Which option will bring out the best in you? It's a powerful lens for making tough decisions. And for Bijou, it clicked at the right time.

BA: I was considering two job possibilities, and one was internal and one was external, but one of the questions I think said, "Which of your strengths will be able to show up the most in this opportunity?" And everything about the one that was internal would be playing on areas of strength, because it was a position that would require me working with people, drawing out the best in them, influencing without authority — pretty much a lot of the things that I had heard feedback from my peers or my responses that I had done well. And then the other one was an extremely exciting opportunity with a really large retailer, but it just didn't seem like it would require much of my best self to show up. I couldn't help but notice that it was almost like the survey helped me make my decision because I was sort of in between what I was going to do, or which one I thought would be the best next move for me from a career standpoint.

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AG: When I did the Reflected Best Self for the first time in grad school, a bunch of the stories were about my attention to detail. Apparently, I'm good at catching typos in long articles and PowerPoint decks. Even now, I'm on two different teams that ask me to review documents before they go to press. There's only one little problem with that role: I hate it.

MB: From my perspective, an activity that drains you is a weakness. Even if you are momentarily good at it or even consistently good at it, if it drags you down and drains you, then we can't call that a strength, can we?

AG: Marcus Buckingham wants to redefine a strength, not just as a thing you're good at, but —

MB: ... an activity that strengthens you, an activity that makes you feel strong. You are at your best when you are not only performing well, but doing so in such a way that it invigorates you to keep practicing.

AG: I bet there's something you're good at but can't stand doing. For Marcus, that task is meeting people at cocktail parties.

MB: Mingling. If I was at a party with you, it would look to you as though I was totally enjoying myself as I floated hither and yon from one conversation to another. when actually, the pressure of getting into one conversation with some person and then figuring out the right length of time to talk to them when I'm looking over their shoulder, worried they're looking at me looking over their shoulder to try and figure out how to exit that conversation and get into another one, the whole thing feels like I'm a) annoying and upsetting people all the time, b) they can see I'm being superficial because I'm not handling myself properly as I move into one conversation and into another.

AG: So I shouldn't have invited you to this conference.

MB: You shouldn't have invited me to dinner tonight.

AG: So how can you turn a situation that drains you into one that strengthens you? Since Marcus can't escape mingling altogether, he realized that he can make it less painful by repurposing one of his strengths. Now, when he shows up at a cocktail party, he shifts into interview mode.

MB: I've taken my love of interviewing and applied that to mingling. So when I go to a party, I will take three people, super deliberately and in a serial way, interview one, interview the next one, interview the next one, and that calms me down in a way that it helps me not stay in my room, which I would do otherwise. I would totally be a hermit around parties or drinks or anything, if I hadn't have found a way that enables me to take something that strengthens me and mitigate something that weakens me.

AG: We all need to work on our Achilles' heels. But we also need more opportunities to use our strengths, because that's where we add the most value. If you ace a poetry class that you love, don't spend all your time working on your B-plus in math. If you have a gift for improvising, don't force yourself into someone else's rigid routine. And if you find out that you're misusing a strength, work on applying it in the right situations. Now when students ask for career advice and I have a strong view on the options, I don't go full steam into logic bully mode. Instead, I pose a question about why they wanted my advice. Did you just want to hear my thought process? Have you already made up your mind, and you're now just looking for my stamp of approval? Or were you hoping I'd challenge your assumptions and highlight blind spots in your thinking? If they ask for the challenge, I have their stamp of approval to unleash my logic.

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WorkLife is hosted by me, Adam Grant. The show is produced by TED with Transmitter Media. Our team includes Colin Helms, Gretta Cohn, Jessica Glazer, Grace Rubenstein, Michelle Quint, Angela Cheng and Janet Lee. This episode was produced by Dan O'Donnell. Our show is mixed by Rick Kwan. Original music by Hahnsdale Hsu and Allison Leyton-Brown. Ad stories produced by Pineapple Street Media.

For their help throughout the season, gratitude to Max Linsky, Ann Hepperman, Anna Phelan, Maya Sariahmed and Casey Walter. Fact-checking from Meral Agish, Lorena Aviles, Paul Durbin and Joseph Isaac.

Special thanks to our sponsors: JPMorgan Chase, Accenture, Bonobos and Hilton.

For their research, thanks to Paul Rozin, Roy Baumeister and their colleagues on bad is stronger than good, Dan Cable and his colleagues on newcomers expressing their best selves, Rob Kaiser and Joyce Hogan on overdoing strengths, and Laura's collaborators Jane Dutton, Bob Quinn and Gretchen Spreitzer on the Reflected Best Self exercise.

That's a wrap for season two of WorkLife. Thank you for listening and for rating, reviewing and sharing the show. Stay tuned for two bonus episodes soon and for season three in 2020.

(Music)

This is going to be a funny question, but can I overdevelop my butt muscles?

MH: (Laughs) I would say no, you cannot, in my opinion, overdevelop your gluteus maximus. Usually most people that come in my office have very weak gluteus maximus, so we need to work on getting them a heck of a lot stronger than they currently are.