What is Your Sweet Spot?

In a recent conversation, I was asked this question and as I reflected on it, I recognized how important it is to understand your sweet spot. These are the things which are the magic of your job, where you get the maximum impact for your effort. They feel natural, easy and have you feeling on top of the world, whether these are specific tasks or accomplishments, or they relate to the your work environment. Most often you will find these at the intersection of your passion, skills, and values. Knowing what these are and making sure they are a regular part of your day will help you find joy at work as discussed in a previous post.

Let me share with you a few of mine:

  • eLearning Development – I enjoy the entire design process but for me there is something about the actual development of an eLearning module that is magical. It is the perfect blend of problem solving, artistry, and technical expertise. When I get to this part of the process, I get very focused and in the zone. I enjoy problem solving of figuring out how to make accomplish difficult interactions, and blending my expertise with the development software with an artistic eye to bring together an effective course. When I finish, I am excited to put the course in front of learners, but sad that the development phase is over.
  • Learner’s Excitement – Nothing puts me on the mountaintop quite like talking to participants in a training session and hearing what they learned and their excitement to put it into use. As soon as I get that feedback, whatever it took to prepare and present the session, whatever challenges presented themselves, they just all melt away. Learner excitement is contagious and I love to catch it with them. As an instructional designer, I am selling new ideas, understandings, and a different way of looking at things, and when learner not only get’s it but is also excited about it, it is magic.
  • Co-worker Connection – Have you ever had that moment in a meeting when you look at a co-worker and you can each tell exactly what the other is thinking and understand the situation with just a glance? If you have experienced that, then you probably understand another of my sweet spots. This isn’t something that happens overnight but comes from working with someone over time where both people have taken the time to know and understand the other. This typically is a symptom of a comfortable environment where sharing of ideas and asking questions is encouraged. Just being easily understood and understanding others can be the magic that takes a team or company to excellence.
  • World/Community Impact – Some people want to individually have a huge impact on the world, but for me, I want to be a part of an organization that makes a valuable impact. This means different things to different people, but for me, there is magic when my employer is innovative and is pushing the world forward in positive directions. This could be in serving a neglected population and changing their lives, impacting whole communities with environmental/health measures or pushing forward technology to bring about new discoveries.

If you have never thought about your sweet spots, I encourage you to reflect on what you do and what moments come forward as being highs. Look for the patterns in these to identify the tasks, accomplishments, and environmental factors that are a part of your magic.

To learn more about this, check out these resources:

Set Impossible Goals and Achieve Innovative Change

Do you want to have impact? Achieve big changes for your company or industry? You need to set an impossible goal.

How Do I Set an Impossible Goal?

optimistic thinkingThere are two keys to setting an impossible goal, empathy and optimistic thinking. Both of these need to be done in a place that is beyond your comfort zone and fall into the extremes of your thinking. Empathy is what will help you feel the pain of the struggles of the problem you want to solve. You need to be able to dig deep into the problem and understand it and feel the pain of it. With that passion for the problem, you next rely on your optimistic thinking. This lets you dream big to brainstorm solutions and believe they are possible. Use this to set your impossible goal.

This thinking is what will breed innovation and change. If you can engage in this thinking as a part of a team, you will be able to harness the different strengths across the team to optimize your ideas and solutions. To learn more about developing a team click here.

How Do I Achieve the Impossible

While the brainstorming happened in the extremes of your thinking, the planning needs to move towards your comfort zone of thinking. You need to start by considering the solution(s) from a perspective of being possible. Analyze the solution and figure out how to make it happen. Now you may not be able to come up with a way to make the solution happen in its current state but this will help you find parts of it that are possible or see places where it is possible if you scale something down. As you discover these possibilities, spend more time fleshing out the goal and set measurable objectives.

Now you want to move to the middle of your comfort zone and plan how you will achieve the goal and objectives. At this point, you want to be realistic about your resources and time. Taking these into account, layout specific plans to achieve the goal. At this point find a way to step away from you optimistic thinking and come up with everything that can go wrong. Identify potential obstacles and develop contingencies to meet them.

Present these plans to people who were not a part of the brainstorming and goal design. These may be stakeholders, company leaders, clients, depending on the situation. Get a sense of their buy-in. This process provides a “reality check” and makes sure that the plans to achieve the goal are realistic given the resources and time schedule you have. If necessary, adjust the plans to make sure you have the necessary buy-in and support.

Now it is time to put things in motion. Throw all the passion that you had in the brainstorming phase into the implementation and take the steps necessary to implement the plans you have set. If you have done a god job presenting your plan and getting buy-in others will be throwing their passion alongside of yours. And the result…you create change and innovation.

Remember to find the problems and to brainstorm outside of your thinking comfort zone and then do your actual planning and implementation based in realistic thinking.

Interested in learning more? Check out these links.

Feeling Down? Reclaim Your Joy at Work

Most people have experience a season when they were not satisfied at work. Maybe it is caused by a project you are not excited about, a co-worker that is difficult or possibly your general health is down. Regardless of what it is, the result is lower job satisfaction and a lack of joy at work which become a downward cycle. No one wants to stay in this place, so here are some strategies to turn that situation around and reclaim your joy.

  • Discard the “Grass is always Greener” view

One of the things that can steal our job joy is looking out at other jobs or situations and thinking the grass in greener elsewhere. There may be some truth to that but remember that every job and company has its issues. It is important to remind yourself of that and focus on what is, not what isn’t. If you can do that, you will have already taken the first step to reclaiming your joy. You will also be able to identify what is taking away your joy which allows you to better achieve success in turning it around. As you look at those things, you can then determine, what is temporary, what is possible to change, and what you will continue to exist and you will need to work with.

  • Make a change at work

When you have identified those things which are issues at work, see what you can do to change them. If there is an environmental issue such as the office temperature, or space configuration, see if it is possible to make a change. If the issue is one of duties, maybe there is a duty you wish you didn’t have or one you wish you did, talk to your supervisor to see there is a possibility to either gain more experience in the duty you want or trade duties with someone to reduce the task that is frustrating. Not every manager will be open to conversations such as these but a good manager recognizes the benefits of a happy employee and if there are changes within their power to make, a good manager will work with you.

  • Find a professional growth activity

As Albert Einstein said, “The day you stop learning, you start dying.” We all need to be learning and growing and being active in professional growth can help recapture your joy at work. Maybe the opportunity is at or through work but there are many opportunities for professional growth outside of work. In the Learning and Development industry, you may look for a local chapter of the Association for Talent Development (ATD) or the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI). These are just two of the many great organizations that have opportunities for professional growth through local meetings, online webinars, and research papers.

  • Do something to affirm a co-worker

One of the great ways to find joy is to give it. There are lots of ways to affirm another employee but consider writing a handwritten note to another employee recognizing their strengths and how they impact your work or environment at the company. Douglas Conant, former CEO of Cambell’s made it a practice to write handwritten notes to employees every week as a part of developing a new culture that turned the company around. Just doing something positive that benefits a coworker will help you focus on the positives of that person and reclaim joy.

  • Identify ways that you make an impact

As a part of reclaiming your joy at work, make a list of the activities where you have made an impact at work. This may be specific projects you worked on that were successful, people that you helped or trained to be more effective, or ideas that you have contributed to help the company as a whole. As you make this list, you are affirming yourself and taking away the power of other things and people to take away your joy.

These five strategies will help you reclaim your joy at work. Things will never be perfect, but they will be better. And if for some reason you decide that you need to make a job change, each of these activities will have helped you with that process as well, from trying to work with your current employer to resolve the issue, networking through professional development, making sure when you leave you have left a good impression and left on good terms, and identifying those strengths that you have to offer your future employer.

Looking for some more information on these ideas, check out some of these links: