Definition: a state of heightened activity (or concentration) especially in order to achieve something; to push or carry to excess; an intense state of activity or productivity
The key term in the definition is productivity. How productive are you based on the amount of effort you expend?
Level 1 – below average
Level 2 – average
Level 3 – above average
Level 4 – excellent
Level 5 – genius
The term genius was a description based on 360 assessments of people that worked with those who performed at this level. While this term normally relates to IQ, in this case it was the single-word description for how those top performers – those who performed above excellent – were described by their peers. As it turned out, it had nothing to do with IQ.
There are 2 things that are both present and pronounced in those who perform at the genius level:
- Self awareness
Self awareness is the understanding of both your strengths and your weaknesses. Those at the genius level aren’t afraid to address their weaknesses, but here’s the key – they don’t try to fix their weaknesses…ever. Instead, they supplement their weakness through the people around them or with systems, but no matter what, they don’t allow themselves to step into areas where they know they are weak.
Think about this for a minute – if you didn’t have to work in an area of your weakness, what would change? You would be able to develop your strengths so they become even stronger. That’s exactly why those people are able to perform at the genius level. Their strengths are continually made stronger because they’re not distracted by their weaknesses.
Their focus is what flows into the area of authenticity. Not the type of authenticity that makes them trustworthy, but the authenticity that keeps them rolling to their natural strengths and intentionally steering clear of areas where they know they are weak.
Contrasting Genius – All Others
You’ve heard it in response to the dreaded interview question, “What’s your greatest weakness?”, something along the lines of how the individual’s weakness is now a strength. It speaks to the level of low self awareness.
How about this? “I can do anything I set my mind to do.” Sure you can, but at what cost?
People who routinely, because of either a lack of self awareness – or worse yet, lack of authenticity if they actually are clear about their strengths and weaknesses – step into areas they should instead avoid, are the “all others” at levels below genius. Whether they consider it a challenge to accomplish something where they are naturally weak, or as a result of misguided ego for “bragging rights”, the majority fall into an average or above average performance rating. That’s no way to stand out in a crowd of talent.
How Do You Discover…You?
The ability to achieve self awareness – really understanding your own strengths and weaknesses – is a major challenge in itself. Trial and error is certainly one way to discover it, though the process is long and sometimes costly. Another way is through a deep assessment process, and likely with a coach who can provide objectivity.
With a good assessment process, you can also determine your level of self awareness. Here are some attributes that factor into the measurement:
- Self assessment
- Self confidence
- Self direction
- Self esteem
Because they can be measured, they can also be improved over time. That’s the good news. The not-so-warm-and-fuzzy news is that peeking into the inside of you is mostly, if not completely, subjective, which means there can be distortion. And that’s the reason why most people don’t “get it” about their own strengths & weaknesses…or at least to the level of self awareness that can make the critical difference between average, above average, and all the way up to genius level performance.
Yet the time spent in self discovery leading to self awareness can be time very well spent to affect outcomes for your success in life.
What If You Were True to You?
Once you’ve discovered who you really are, being true to your real self has its own set of challenges. The biggest challenge is having determination to stick to what you’re naturally good at, and more importantly, steering clear of those areas where you just shouldn’t play.
Most people would swing at any pitch in the strike zone because…it’s a strike. Yet the great baseball legend, Ted Williams, knew which pitches – even in the strike zone – weren’t “his pitch” that didn’t have a high probability of getting on base. For those strike zone pitches, he simply swung to foul the ball and stay alive until he got his pitch.
Let’s be clear – when you’re in the batter’s box, baseball is no longer a team sport. It’s just you. But in the business world, you often face challenges where you are part of a team. Accepting the challenge is OK, but you have to know when you need the help of someone else who has talent in an area where you are weak. Do you know how to choose your team wisely?
Some leaders are very creative while others are great organizers. Still others are effective collaborators. No matter which one you are, it is critical for your success as a leader to involve those who bring strength in areas where you are weak.
This isn’t always as easy as it sounds because those people will likely have different behavioral styles and even some values that are very different than yours. Meaning, they won’t necessarily be everyone that you “like” on your team. In fact, choosing only the people you like may be a recipe for failure.
Years ago, in the companies where I doubled and another where I tripled sales, I had a rule for hiring top sales people – I never hired someone I “liked” in the interview. If I liked them, eventually I would have to fire them because they weren’t assertive enough in sales. In contrast, the people that annoyed, and I mean really irritated me in the interview, would always go on to be top performers. That was before I used assessments and really knew the “why” behind the “what” as a root cause.
What I found is that I could appreciate their talent, even if didn’t “like” them at all. The realization of this truth was a significant factor in building teams that were capable of doubling and tripling sales revenue. I just had to learn to get over myself, my ego, and learn to value the talent of other people.
Leaders, I can’t say this emphatically enough, you will never achieve a genius level of performance if you don’t know yourself and stay true to who you are. At the point you are as self aware as you can be, and you stay true to that, you will have a strong sense of who has similar genius in areas where you are weak. Your real leadership genius will emerge and drive you toward tremendous success. And that is my great hope for you.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “When talent and opportunity mesh, then you know that you have found your vocation. The discovery of the talent of which this is true is far more a matter of acquiescence than of ambition.” In other words, learn what your real talents are – by assessment or whatever means – and accept them. Accept them and they will serve you well.