“Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.” — Marilyn von Savant, highest recorded IQ in the Guinness Book of Records
Nicole is the kind of executive you trust with your biggest, craziest projects. She figures things out when everyone else throws up their hands in frustration. If it’s wild and ambitious, or difficult and seemingly unsolvable, Nicole is your go-to person.
Despite her long history of strategizing and launching successful projects, Nicole kept getting the same unpleasant feedback in performance reviews. She was celebrated for her heroism at the launch phase, but criticized for her inability to be a solid day-to-day manager, once her projects were operational.
Year after year she tried to hone her managerial skills, attempting to morph into the type of executive who deftly oversees an established program. But boredom overtook, and she’d find herself distracted by the prospect of a brand new challenge.
She’d think something was wrong with her, believing she must lack ability or strategic thinking. The guilt dragged her down at work – and at home.
What is a Sweet Spot?
Your sweet spot is an actual thing, not just an abstract idea.
It’s doing the things you love to do the way you love to do them.
It also happens to be where you deliver by far the most value. Your sweet spot talents are so indisputable it is criminal to waste your energy elsewhere. This is where you have vitality and inspiration, oxygen coursing through your system.
Unfortunately, conventional wisdom leads you to believe you’re supposed to care about improving your weaknesses. This is nonsense. It’s a path that leads to mediocrity. And ultimately, it’s a sure-fire recipe for disaster, physically and mentally. It drains your oxygen supply, depleting your energy, creativity and enthusiasm for life.
Do not get suckered into thinking work isn’t supposed to be fun or easy. It’s not your job to fit some Holy Grail, universal model of leadership. Such a thing doesn’t exist anyway.
When I first start working with Nicole, it was instantly clear to me that launching crazy projects is, in fact, her sweet spot. That’s how she delivers tremendous value. She is simply not the person to put on day-to-day management tasks. It’s a waste of her talent, and those responsibilities are best left to someone else.
She had to let go of the idea that she could morph into a different kind of leader, and turn some beloved projects over to people who have the right personality and skills to manage them day-to-day. But the net result is, she’s never been more successful or satisfied.
There are dozens of ways to be a great leader. You need to figure out your way.
Six Steps to Investing in Your Sweet Spots
Examine your patterns of success to understand your natural ability: Success leaves clues. Your sweet spot is similar throughout your life. The reason you were class valedictorian, or a track star, is probably similar to the reason your first company was a smashing success.
Know your ideal environment: Your performance is significantly affected by circumstances and environment. You will get different results doing the same task in different situations. Some people do their best creative thinking alone at home. Some need to be out in nature. Others are best in group settings.
Notice what you love about your work (past and present): It helps to notice the things you gravitate to first in your workday. What tasks do you tend to do first in your current role? In past roles?
Draft Your Sweet Spot: Based on everything you learned from the exercises above, what do you love to do and how do you love to do it?
Move toward spending 80% of your time in your sweet spot: You perform at your best if you spend 80% of your time in your sweet spot. For most people, getting there is a journey that involves letting go of personal responsibility for tasks outside the sweet spot. You also need to start consciously creating situations that put you at your best. So if you know you need quiet time alone to do your best thinking, what’s your plan for securing that time? If you’re at your best in a high-energy group setting with big, urgent deadlines, how do you create that?
Making the shift: How will you move more toward spending 80% of your time in your sweet spot? List three things you need to start doing (or do more often), and three things you need to stop doing (or do less often).
For more information, see Your Oxygen Mask First.