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Find your lane: discovering your Zone of Genius


Clementina Alegrett

Job and Carreer Coach in Berlin

Are you currently in your dream job?

I hope you are nodding right now. But if you’re not, that is absolutely okay and I hope this article helps you gain some perspective.

Here is a sobering statistic: in the US, most people spend on average 90,000 hours working over the course of their career. Given that so much of our time is spent working, one would really hope to make the overall experience enjoyable, fulfilling and meaningful. How fantastic would it be if you could feel euphoric and excited about your work every single day and not just have the feeling that you are trading your time for money? This is possible if you discover how to operate from your “Zone of Genius”.

So, what is exactly the Zone of Genius?

The Zone of Genius is a term, coined by Gay Hendricks in his best-selling book, “The Big Leap”, used to describe the intersection of your innate talents and passions. In other words, it is the area where your interests, passions and skills converge to make you unstoppable in your performance. Everyone has their own Zone of Genius and every individual’s zone is unique. The truth is that the vast majority of us do not operate from this zone and forward-thinking companies would do well to establish a culture which encourages employees to unlock their Zone of Genius.

As an employee, I valued working autonomously as much as working in a team. However, very often we must work independently and a healthy company culture allows us to make the right decisions without falling victim to micromanagement. Instead of sliding into this pitfall, I encourage you to follow a framework where your personnel feels enabled to uncover their true potential.

So, let’s take a closer look at the Zone of Genius:

Talent, Skills and Strengths

Individuals’ performance consist of a combination of skills, strengths and talents. When we refer to strengths, we mean any activity that gives you energy. By talent, we mean that innate ability that you perform to an outstanding level without effort. We are born with these talents, and they can’t be taught. With skills, we refer to the competencies that can be taught and learned.

As you can see in the graphic above, our Zone of Genius lies where our talents, skills and strengths converge.

In this sense, the challenge is, on the one hand, to awaken in ourselves the interest to do the homework of self-reflection to be aware of what we excel at, what we enjoy most and what we do effortlessly. On the other hand, the key in any organization is for people to be transparent about their professional interests, and then map all activities to the right individuals through Areas of Responsibility. That is the only sustainable way to maintain employee engagement. Gallup’s new State of the Global Workplace report revealed that only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs, and 85% of them are functioning below their potential, in terms of their value to employers and the sense of fulfillment they derive from their work.

Organizations, more than ever, need to create a work culture of happy, purpose-driven employees where individuals can operate from their Zone of Genius. To reap the full benefits of a workforce operating within their Zone of Genius, organizations must facilitate a work environment and an organizational structure that makes it feasible. When an organizational culture is designed in a way that promotes its workforce to reach their highest potential and maximize their performance, they can expect two key benefits:

  1. Fulfilled Workers
    When we are allowed and encouraged to explore our unique talents, strengths, skills and interests, we take important steps towards a fulfilled life, therefore productivity and retention improves.
  2. Improved Employee Engagement
    Similarly, happy and engaged workers are productive workers, and true happiness comes from having the opportunity to live out our calling in a meaningful way and utilize our talents to help achieve the company’s success.

If we do not create this environment where people are encouraged to grow and work in an autonomous way, there will be a lack of engagement and greater sense of purpose in our work, which then makes it difficult to tap into our personal Zone of Genius. Organizations need to implement this approach if they want to be desirable for talents that achieve their peak performance. Whether it is through the Human Resources Department, a Business Consultant or an outsourced Performance Strategist, organizations need to leverage their most valuable resource — their people.

Ultimately understanding personality is central to motivation.
People have different talents, skills, strengths and needs, hence it is important to gain deeper knowledge and insight into what really motivates and drives us and those around us. Likewise, the more we understand about our own personality, the better we are able to realise how others perceive us, and how they react to our personality and style. Knowing how to adapt the way we work with others, how we communicate, provide information and learn, how we identify and agree on tasks, are the main factors which enable us to successfully manage ourselves and those around us in conflict situations, team development, company building, employee management and in the recruiting process.

In reality the Zone of Genius is the mental state in which we will actually thrive. Consequently, it is worthwhile capitalizing on our natural abilities and being able to work from there on a daily basis.

A good manager and leader enables the environment and provides the opportunities necessary for people to be motivated to pursue the goals, developments and achievements that are truly meaningful to each individual. This implies that we need to discover, or at times help others to discover, what truly motivates them, especially their strengths, passions, and personal aims. Being able to explain personality, and to guide people towards resources that will help them understand more about themselves, is all part of the process.