Optimize Your Sweet Spot

Most types of sports equipment like a golf club, a tennis racquet or a baseball bat have a certain spot that, if the ball hits it, will give the player the optimal result. Hitting this sweet spot yields a long drive down the fairway, a swift crosscourt return or home run swing. Every sport has a sweet spot of some type. If you have experienced it, you know when you hit the sweet spot, you barely feel it. The ball goes where you want it to go – even further and faster. Doesn’t get any better than that!

But what about the sport of leadership? Aren’t we professional athletes in our own right?

Those in professional sports practice 90+ percent of the time and actually “play for keeps” less than 10 percent of the time. As professional leaders, we are almost always “playing for keeps.” So it’s particularly important that we take time to plan and ensure that we are optimizing our sweet spot.

Did you know the average person possesses between 500 and 700 different skills and abilities? A common defining moment for people is finding that skill or ability that’s right in their sweet spot. As leaders, we have a huge opportunity to help our employees find their sweet spots, too. http://mysweetoutfit.com/

The first step is ensuring a good fit between an employee’s natural abilities and interests and the requirements of the job. This would ensure the “highest and best use” of their talents toward the realization of our high-definition vision. Wouldn’t we just love having every single team member working in their sweet spot? We would always be in “the zone” and work would feel like play.

Our ability to match sweet spots to job requirements is the best predictor of job success and, ultimately, of excellent performance. It all starts with a moment to plan for the use of talent on our team.

Let’s not forget about ourselves in this matching process. Gaining insights into our own sweet spot as leaders helps us better determine how to design roles and deploy the talent on our team. For example, if my sweet spot is conceptually designing complex deals, I better ensure I have a strong analyst on my team. If my sweet spot is analyzing lots of details and numbers, I want some conceptual, big picture thinkers on my team.

Want to know an easy way to find your sweet spot? Look at the intersection of these two questions:

1. What am I absolutely passionate about?

2. Which tasks are very easy and natural for me to perform?

Most of us vividly remember the moment we found our professional sweet spot. Others told us we made it look easy, that we really excelled and we looked like we were having a ball. Think of the last time when others made these comments to you. What were you doing? Like finding any sweet spot, it’s worth hitting these questions around for awhile and practicing our answers before we can serve up a winner.

Ralph V. Gilles understands this process. He dropped out of college and was spending most of his time, by his own admission, slacking in his parents’ basement, eating granola, watching “Dukes of Hazard” reruns and lamenting the sorry state of automobiles being made in America.

Growing up, Gilles was typical of most boys who played with Hot Wheels and Formula 1 model cars. But, as a teenager, he also was extremely talented in sketching vehicles. In fact, his aunt wrote a letter to then Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca, saying he should hire her 14-year-old nephew.

A Chrysler executive responded, recommending three design schools. Soon afterward, however, the letter was lost and forgotten. Meanwhile, the car-crazy Gilles completed high school and enrolled in college to study engineering, but dropped out quickly. His reason: “I was in a funk and was really not sure I wanted to be an engineer.”

As he continued his granola, “Dukes of Hazard” routine down in the basement, Ralph’s older brother, Max, recalled the letter from Chrysler. He remembered that one of the recommended schools was Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. Upset to see Ralph wasting his time and talent, Max pushed his brother to apply to the local school although the application deadline was only a week away and would require 10 sketches.

At that point, the whole family became involved, making Ralph coffee so he could complete his sketches, cheering him on and helping wherever they could. By the end of the week, Ralph was covered in pencil lead, but the sketches were complete, so his mother sent the packet to the school by overnight delivery.

Today, Ralph V. Gilles is recognized as the innovator of the Chrysler 300 sedan and the Dodge Magnum Wagon I in addition to being responsible for the 2002 Jeep Liberty, 2003 Dodge Viper SRT-10 and several concept cars. Dubbed as the Chrysler Group’s newest darling, Gilles has earned numerous national and international accolades. He has since been promoted to Design Director for Chrysler. https://www.airataloha.com/

If we consistently misidentify sweet spots, we will find our team stuck in a funk, like Gilles.

If we correctly match employee’s sweet spots to the job requirements, we will all be living the sweet life!

Today’s fast-paced, efficiency-minded organizations make it especially challenging for leaders to always ensure a good fit. It’s common to find employees picking up the slack for positions that have been eliminated. If personnel reductions aren’t executed carefully, the remaining employees can find themselves underemployed and consumed by “leftover” tasks that drain their time but don’t tap their minds.

These situations start a cycle of “lowest and worst use” of talent, resulting in a downward spiral of self-doubt, anxiety and frustration. If you’ve ever experienced this, you know it feels more like a sour patch than a sweet spot.

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