How to Discover Your Zone of Genius


Imagine two different business owners.  They’re both busy building and growing their businesses and focused on key clients and the most interesting opportunities in the sales pipeline.

One is very excited.  Going out, storytelling and winning sales excites her.  The other finds it to be torture and tries to avoid every one of those sales visits.

In EOS, it’s called your Core Focus.  In Strategic Coach, it’s your Unique Ability.  In Japanese philosophy, Ikigai.  I’ve seen it called your personal hedgehog.  The name doesn’t really matter, but the concept is very important.

For this blog, and to avoid any trademark issues, let’s call it your Zone of Genius.

No matter the name, it’s incredibly important that business owners find that sweet spot and spend time there every day.

When you do things outside your Zone of Genius, it’s draining.  You feel stressed, exhausted and frustrated.  It’s not what you’re MEANT to be doing.

Meanwhile, items in the Zone of Genius bring you energy.  You get into flow easily and lose yourself. They’re fun and often the right kind of challenge.

That’s where you’re meant to be.  Applying your unique genius in your business and creating impact.

As a business owner, one of the most powerful, strategic things you can do is find the right people whose Zone of Genius compliment yours and make them accountable for those items.   With each complimentary genius you find, you can peel away another area you don’t love and focus on the things you do love.

That’s magic.

How do I find My Zone of Genius

The process of finding your Zone of Genius can be done easily using the hedgehog concept (from Jim Collins). We start with three overlapping circles that represent your passion, competency and how you make money.

That magic spot in the middle of the 3 circles – that’s your Zone of Genius.

What Are You Passionate About?

I’ve seen many leaders jump in here and announce “I know my WHY!  It’s XYZ”.  That’s great.  Understanding your WHY is one of the first steps of developing your Zone of Genius.  It’s the foundation of your purpose and passion.

But it’s not what we’re looking for here.

When doing this with clients, we start with having them complete the WHY.OS Discovery from the WHY Institute.  The WHY.OS is an incredibly powerful way to understand how you’re wired and what’s behind your passions and genius.

We start by writing the WHY.OS in the bottom left of the passion circle, as it’s part what drives your passion and another what you’re great at.

It’s great to know your WHY.OS is Better Way (that’s mine), but I may be passionate about applying it one way or another.  Those applications are what fill the rest of the circle.

Don’t know you’re WHY.OS?  That’s ok.  Brainstorm the things in your business you’re passionate about.  Put every idea up on a wall and then place them in the circles as they intersect.  You’ll find one or two items quickly moving towards the center, while others, like your love for pickleball, staying far away.

For things I’m passionate about, there’s things like:

  • Creating A-Has (the moment when someone gets it)
  • Business
  • Finding a better way
  • Helping others achieve their goals
  • Family and community
  • Learning

What Are You Great At?

Next up is to brainstorm the things you’re great at.

Since I suck at pickleball, I clearly wouldn’t include that in this circle.

The assessment we love for finding this area of genius is Working Genius by Patrick Lencioni.  In a few questions, you discover what phases of the work process you are a genius at, and which ones drain you.  Combined with the WHY.OS, it provides some very powerful insights to what you’re truly meant to do.

Add your two geniuses to the middle, then your brainstorming of applications in the circle.

For me, you’ll find things like:

  • Problem solving
  • Teaching
  • Absorbing concepts and making them simple
  • Driving results (in others)
  • Project management

What Drives Your Economic Engine?

This is where we start creating the business context.

After all, pickleball as your personal hedgehog probably doesn’t help your business much (unless you are a pickleball coach, or … )

When we do the hedgehog for a business, this is usually the Profit/X.  In this case, think of it more like the problems you solve or impact you make as a business.

Back to our Story

If we go back to the two CEOs from the start of this article.  One of them is wired for sales.  She loves the win and gets energy from chasing deals.  It would be heartbreaking to deprive the business of that genius.

The other CEO, it’s not their zone of genius.  Finding an awesome salesperson and only being involved in that process as needed frees us that energy-draining time to focus on other areas.  Plus guaranteed the person whose genius IS sales will get far better results.

Your Actions

Take the time to work out your Zone of Genius.  This process takes time – most of the leaders we work through this with put up a worksheet on the wall and spend weeks making sure it’s just right for them.

If you need help going through this, we’re here for you.

Mike Knapp


Mike has been helping businesses achieve their goals for more than 20 years. He believes there is a better way for business owners and leaders to build their businesses and achieve their big goals. As a Gravitas Impact Premium coach, he leverages the 7 Attributes of Agile Growth™ to simplify the art of strategy and discipline of execution.

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