What Is My “Genius Zone”? (Lesson 9)

Your personal genius zone is a combination of two things: your placement and your productivity.

So many leaders have been so busy “doing” their job at being “successful” that they have never stopped and deconstructed their success to find out how they actually did it.

“But I got the job done! Isn’t that all that matters? Does it matter if I know how I did it?”

By contrast, the very best of the high performers—the top 2%—will be curious about the origin of successful actions.

If you’re just getting the job done but don’t understand how, then you’re operating in default mode. Just doing what you do. It gets results, sure. But there’s a higher way.

If I can deconstruct my success into repeatable actions, I can then do them by deliberate design. When I do that, my actions have much more power, and my success becomes systematically repeatable.

So, let’s look at the first part of the system:


Placement is about you knowing who you really are—the gifts, strengths, insights, and “superpowers” you bring to the organisation. It may sound like this should be obvious by the time you have got to this level in your career, but I am constantly astounded by the lack of self-awareness that exists even in the highly paid senior ranks of large organisations.

Your genius is as unique as your thumbprint. Two may be alike, but none are the same. There are things that you see that no one else sees. There are ways that you think that no one else thinks.

When I first work with a new CEO, the early part of the process is about discovering this genius. I use a combination of approaches including profiling tools and qualitative interviews with past and present colleagues, bosses, and direct reports.

Most leaders want to know their gaps—where they can improve. This is helpful, as blind spots can seriously undermine long-term success. What is more helpful though is a leader knowing where they are brilliant!

Time and time again I have found senior leaders, male and female alike, more confronted and uncomfortable when presented with their brilliance rather than their flaws. For some reason being told where they are strong hits a raw spot in their self-image and challenges them to think higher of themselves than they currently do. Some will even argue with me!

Knowing where you are brilliant is critical for one key reason. If you don’t know you are brilliant in an area, or with a skill, you won’t back yourself when you apply it, and the organisation, team, or person will at best get a watered-down version of you. Everyone misses out.

In Australia, this is even harder. We have a thing called “tall poppy syndrome.” If you grow above the other poppies, you’ll be cut down to size. As a result, one of the biggest fears, particularly of male Australian leaders, is being called a well-known word that rhymes with “banker.” So, in the name of not big-noting ourselves, we talk down our brilliance, even to ourselves.

I’m not suggesting going out in front of the organisation or the media tomorrow and telling them of your brilliance. What I am suggesting is you need the quiet confidence to back yourself in the areas where you are uniquely gifted.

From here, we want to design your world around your brilliance—not around the needs and agendas of everyone else—and then make sure the team around you is full of people who are brilliant in areas where you are not. This frees you to be you, rather than needing to be “all things to all people.” This is placement.