At the Intersection of Talent and Purpose

Yesterday, I facilitated a live, in-person session that included people from sales, customer success, IT, product development, and creative. Quite a mix, huh? 

I've been working with this group for about three years, so they know me well, and I'm familiar with their dynamics. But we also had some brand new people in the room which added a welcomed element of engagement and enthusiasm.

Heading into yesterday's session, these are the steps I took to plan:

  1. I had a meeting with the VP of Sales to clarify his intended outcomes for the session. This was probably four weeks prior to the session.
  2. Before I left home to travel across the country, I tossed a game in my bag called Disruptus.
  3. In my Uber on the way to the office yesterday morning, I drafted an agenda in the Notes app on my phone.

But my preparation for the meeting goes all the way back to 1996 when I was hired as an intern to teach support analysts at NCR, Corp. how to document their cases in a new push for innovation. They were creating something called a "Knowledge Base" in Lotus Notes. I had been hired to tech them technical writing skills, but within just a few weeks on the job I realized that the challenge we were up against was something completely different: Fear. The analysts were afraid that if they documented their expertise that they'd no longer be critical to the organization; that they'd lose their jobs. 

Teaching technical writing requires a much different approach than overcoming fear and creating a sense of job security. Both can be effectively done with a little courage and creativity.

Courage and creativity are the luxuries of operating in your zone of genius: the combination of your top talent with your purpose. Yesterday, I was afforded the luxury of skipping the PowerPoint presentation and the printed agenda. I proposed an loose agenda that would likely get us to the intended outcome, but then surrendered to being present with the group, their questions, their expectations, and, yes, even their fears.

The outcome of the session included four Learning Canvas frameworks that the participants collectively rated as critical to the organization's success. I would have never assumed that we'd get that far in just five hours. If I had prepared a 25-slide presentation, I would have spent most of the day talking to blank stares instead of challenging them to collaborate and create a path forward for what's critical in the organization right now.

My preparation for yesterday started 21 years ago. My planning took 21 minutes. The outcome was more than I would have ever expected.

Here's a secret I want to share with you: working in your zone of genius is really, really fun! And it doesn't take 21 years of experience to unlock it. All you need is to find the place where your top talent intersects with your purpose and go all in.

My top talent: showing up, being present, asking questions, and having real conversations. My purpose: facilitating transformation, activation, and inspiration (making the seemingly impossible, possible).

If you want to find your zone of genus and create a plan to start working within it, the first step is to answer these three questions.

  1. When people come to you for help, what do they consistently ask for?
  2. What would you do even if you never got paid?
  3. Think about the people you enjoy working with the most. What three traits do they have in common?

Once you've answered them, send me an email, and we'll spend 20 minutes getting really clear on your immediate next step.

Psst! I'm excited about a zany idea to host a revenue retreat! It's like a writing retreat, but instead of working on your short story or bestselling novel, you'll design a revenue stream. Is this something that sounds even a little bit fun to you? If so, would you answer a few quick questions to share your thoughts?