Zoning in on the work you enjoy
Reading for Leading is a weekly leadership tip shared every Monday morning as a pithy suggestion, question or reflection. You can find the whole series here.
Everyone likely has something(s) about their job that they adore – tasks that give you energy, make you smile and make it all feel worthwhile. Likewise, most of us probably also have tasks that we believe we need to do, but that can feel depleting and unfulfilling. What if you could pinpoint the energy-giving tasks and reorient your role to include more of them?
First, take a piece of paper and draw two lines that cross in the middle to split the page into 4 quadrants. Starting at the bottom left quadrant, add the title “Incompetent” and list out all of the things in your work life that you really aren’t very good at. Be honest – it’s only you that’s going to see the list! It might be installing software on your laptop, or formatting marketing materials or perhaps it’s something repetitive and detail oriented such as QA testing. Typically, these tasks will leave you feel depleted, frustrated or just generally unsatisfied.
Next, in the bottom right quadrant, add the title “Competent” and list out those work tasks that you know you can do a passably good job at but that don’t fill you with excitement. Maybe that’s writing one-pager reports on your team’s progress or chairing a monthly project call. You don’t screw up these tasks, but likely no one tells you that you excel at them either. Probably someone else could do a much better job and enjoy it more.
Thirdly, move up to the top right corner of your grid and title that area “Excellent”. Here list tasks where you consistently get positive feedback – maybe that’s leading brainstorming sessions where interesting ideas often emerge, or editing guest blog posts such that the writers and readers both enjoy the results. This area can often feel “safe” – you may keep taking on more of these tasks because you know how to do them and you receive praise for your efforts.
Finally, in the top left quadrant add the title “Genius” and think about those things that you enjoy so much that they don’t feel like work. Maybe that’s talking with clients and finding solutions tailored for them, or perhaps it’s creating beautiful data visualisations that bring complex stories to life. When you’re doing these tasks you may enter a state of “flow” where you’re less aware of the time you’re spending on the task. Sometimes these tasks can feel so second nature to you that you’re surprised not everyone can do them – they just “seem obvious” to you. Or maybe these are the tasks that make you energised and enthusiastic and you light up when talking about them or presenting them to others.
What would it take to do more of the tasks in your “genius” zone? Are there assumptions that are holding you back from spending more time on them? Not sure how much time you’re actually spending on tasks that give you energy or those that take it away? Try an energy audit.
Source of Inspiration: Chapter 8 on Excelling in your Zone of Genius in “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership” – by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Warner Klemp.