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Embracing Your Zone of Genius



Have you ever started a project like learning a new software system and found yourself hours later still not quite skilled at using the program. Yet, you still haven’t tried calling for that FREE online support session?

Are you good at something that pays you well? Yet you know there is something you love doing that you’re great at, but you don’t want to risk losing what you do have?

Well, I would say I have been guilty of both. This week I was humbled by just how much time I invested in trying to master a business software tool that was suppose to be simple. Well, it might have been simple if I asked for the recommended help!

But before I dive deeper into that part of the story, I want to introduce you to a model I learned from Gay Hendricks and his book and program The Big Leap.

Your Big Leap

The focus of the entire program was around making ‘the big leap’ to living and working more from your zone of genius rather than your zone of excellence, competence or incompetence.

As a business owner, I don’t think I’ll ever be spending all of my time in my zone of genius, but I love it when I do. For me, this is when CrisMarie and I are facilitating a team through strategic and team-building conversations, or when we’re speaking on stage, or when I’m coaching an individual client. Owning my business has taught me that there are many activities I need to do that are not my genius but allow me to enjoy freedom when I am in my zone of genius.

However, I found taking an honest look at how I am spending my time through the Four Zone Model.


Back To My Little Computer Project

I’m pretty good with technology, and I like it. So I thought approaching a weekend technology project would certainly be time spent in at least my zone of excellence. Unfortunately, that is not how it went.

I wanted to get familiar with our new business automation software program. Saturday morning I ran through the tutorials and started working with some basics. I thought I’d spend an hour or two to get this up and running, but I got caught up in trying to do a few recommended sample training projects, which took me about six hours!

As I went along the tutorial, I was having enough success that I kept working and enough failure that the end results were unsatisfying. The weather outside was beautiful. I did finally stop myself sometime in the afternoon and enjoyed the day even without achieving the success I wanted.

I picked it up again on Sunday morning, again thinking I’d only spend a couple hours but was lucky to tear myself away at 3PM!

By Monday morning, I was determined to see some positive results from all my efforts to master this new business automation system, but other work pulled me away. It was then that I realized how I had gotten sucked in and spent hours and hours in my zone of incompetence! It was a humbling admission.

What Are You Wasting Your Time On?

I ask you, what part of your job might you be doing where you just aren’t competent, and it’d be better to either hand the job off or ask for help?

The zone of incompetence would seem like the easiest zone to recognize, but if you are like me and pride yourself in learning new or working through things, you might struggle longer than needed in this zone.

By the way, I now have a session scheduled with the online support team. I have decided to write this article while I am waiting, instead of staying in my zone of incompetence any longer!

Now that we have talked about the zone of incompetence, let’s look at the challenge of zone of excellence.

Seduction of the Zone of Excellence

We all want to achieve excellence and sometimes when we find that spot, we want to stay there, but it can be excellence that stops your genius! Let me tell you about one of our clients.

Larry is executive coaching client who leads a division of a software design company. His team made their mark through creating, implementing and now customizing an IT solution for a very large insurance company. That client specific customized product makes a significant amount of revenue for the entire company.

Larry never intended to stay tied to one product from creation to sustainability. He loves innovation and design and though the customizing can tap some of his zone of genius, it is much more about his zone excellent in providing service not innovation. Larry knows this for himself and his team.

The problem is that so much time is spent on this one client and in an area of excellence that Larry and his team is not working in their area of genius.

When we spoke he was at a critical junction for himself and possibility the business. Does he change the relationship with this client and free up his team to move back to their zone of genius or does he stay with stable, excellent work?

This challenge happens with teams, and it happens with individuals. We get competent or even excellent at something and at some point have to make a decision between staying comfortable and stable or making a big leap and moving more toward the zone of genius.

Zone of Genius

I ask you as a business leader, where might you be caught in excellence and wanting to make the big leap to your zone of genius?

As an individual, where might you do something well, but it’s not your passion?

Where are you doing excellent work but not working from your zone of genius?

Of course, it’s not all about operating just from your zone of genius, but it is helpful to notice where you are spending your time. Maybe you aren’t even aware of your zone of genius. Or, maybe like me, you sometimes get caught staying in incompetence, or even competence, when you could instead make that big leap!

I encourage you to draw out the four quadrants and map out your current activities whether you are leading a team, running a business or even working in the home. After tracking where you are currently spending the majority of your time, you can decide if that is where you want to stay.

Got to go, its time for my training call! Here’s hoping I get beyond the zone of incompetence!


CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

Check out their website: www.thriveinc.com. Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.


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