What’s in your zone of genius?

I wrote before about native genius, but I like this framing even better.

Here’s a big except from The Manager’s Handbook which took it from The Big Leap:

There are four zones: Zone of Incompetence, Zone of Competence, Zone of Excellence, and Zone of Genius.

People’s performance consists of a mixture of skills, strengths, and talents. Here’s how we define them:

  • strength is anything that gives you energy.
  • talent is an innate ability that can’t be taught (for example, being incredible with numbers).
  • skill is a competency that can be taught (for example, knowing Excel back to front).
Zone of Genius

Zone of Incompetence

The most obvious misalignment between people and tasks is where there is a lack of talent or skills. In this case, the person should either be retrained, redistributed in the organization, or asked to find a better match outside the company.

Zone of Competence

These are tasks that people are good at, but that other people can do better. Work that falls under this category should be delegated or redistributed to people more suited for it.

Zone of Excellence

It’s less clear when someone is talented and skilled in a particular area but the work doesn’t give them energy. They may be successful in the short term, but over time they will burn out. We call this the Zone of Excellence. It’s important to recognize when people are in this (or even better if they can recognize it) so you can do something about it.

Zone of Genius

When all talents, skills, and strengths are all aligned, we are in our Zone of Genius.

The things in your Zone of Genius are the things that you are uniquely good at in the world, and that you love to do (so much so, that time and space likely disappear when you do them). This is where you can add most value to the world and yourself. This is where you should be driving toward spending most, if not all, of your time. The same goes for your team; they’re at their best when they’re operating out of this place.

Every person is unique. You can’t turn weaknesses into strengths, or create talent where there is none. These things are innate. All you can teach is skills and self-awareness, so direct your feedback there. Focus on doubling down on someone’s existing Zone of Genius, or shift them into a role better aligned with their Zone of Genius.

That last part, whew. In other words, give up earlier.

Self awareness is where it gets tough. How many of us know our innate talents? Or can list what gives us energy? I wrote about finding your “bright spots” a while back, and things like GallupStrengths can help too, but there’s no silver bullet. It takes work.

I’m not there yet either, but I’m getting closer…

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