5 Questions to Help You Discover Your Native Genius

Native Genius

How do you contribute your full potential? For most people, there isn’t a clear answer. Most people I talk to have a hard time dialing in on what exactly they’re most great at. If this is you, read on…

There are some people for whom the answer to this question is so obvious they feel as though they’re not well used in the workplace. For example, last week I interviewed a person for a job at my company as a Program Coordinator. She’s a very extroverted person, and had no problem making conversation with her.

I asked her straight up about what her previous employers had overlooked about her and how that affected they way she was perceived in her job. Without a second to pause she responded: I can’t stand a mess. I immediately want to fix it. Whether it’s cleanliness or a disorganization, I want to jump in and fix it.

As I probed further, she concluded that this is something she does without effort and being asked; it’s part of her Native Genius.

Most companies evaluate employees on their skills and experience and employees respond to this evaluation. But ask an employee what their native genius is and you typically won’t get skills or experience. The words “Native Genius” describe your very best that is inside you and often includes your passion. That may not be the skills you have learned at work.

As a leader, I want to unlock people’s full potential. Therefore, I want to know about this person beyond what their resume says. I want to know what makes this person tick, what makes them get up in the morning and why. And, how they’ve been overlooked and why.

The concept of Native Genius comes from Liz Wiseman, author of Multipliers. She describes Native Genius as:

A native genius is something that people do, not only exceptionally well, but absolutely naturally. They do it easily (without extra effort) and freely (without condition)…they get results that are head-and-shoulders above others but they do it without breaking a sweat.

She uses 5 questions to help people identify their Native Genius…

How to discover your Native Genius

Ask yourself the following questions if you want to start the process yourself without consulting with no one else:

  1. What do I do better than anything else I do?
  2. What do I do without effort?
  3. What do I do without being asked?
  4. What do I tend to do better than people around me?
  5. What do I do readily without being paid?

If you’re not clear about what your native genius is, you can get a rapid 360 degree perspective by sending an email or text to six friends or colleagues. Use this template to make it easy for them to respond:

Hi. I would appreciate your input. I’m trying to better understand how I can use my “Native Genius” at work, meaning what I do naturally, easily, and freely. From your perspective, what do you see as my natural genius? Include the 5 questions above as prompts. Thank you. Your input will help me understand how to contribute at my fullest. 

Bottom line: You have to identify, understand and cultivate what makes you great to unleash your full potential; and that’s rarely a skill you learned at work.