“I’m going to count to three, and on three, you’re going to write your name and one of your strengths. One, two -- now change your pen to the other hand -- and three,” said Executive and Business Coach Carole Doucet, at the start of her presentation. Part of this served as an icebreaker for her presentation, one of the ICF Quebec Coaches Breakfasts, offered in partnership with the Concordia University’s John Molson Executive Centre.
Are You Ready to Activate Your Zone of Excellence?
However, the other part of this exercise demonstrated how each person finds comfort and discomfort in different situations. Participants of the workshop identified all along the spectrum, with some finding it extremely uncomfortable, and others finding it not at all uncomfortable. So, what does this have to do with the zone of excellence? Quite a bit, it turns out.
The zone of excellence
Our zone of excellence is the space within which we perform at our best. It takes place primarily in the areas where we feel most comfortable; however, it is impossible to grow if we never leave our comfort zone. In order to take on new challenges, while maximizing our efficiency and success rates, we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone while remaining within our zone of excellence.
Made up of five key components, a star is the perfect shape to demonstrate the zone of excellence — the space where we shine. The majority of the zone of excellence is in the centre of our comfort zone, however each of the five key components branches out towards the edges of our discomfort.
There are many talents a person could have. Knowing what your talents are allows you to use them to your advantage in any situation.
Talents are our inherent skills, which are used to enhance the other components in our zone of excellence. Doucet referred to it as a multiplier. One of the most important things to understand about talent is that it is never the activity itself at which we are talented, but it is what is allows us to perform the activity. For example, it is not that someone is really talented at soccer or piano, but their talent in hand-eye coordination or discipline allows them to excel at these activities. There are many talents a person could have. Knowing what your talents are allows you to use them to your advantage in any situation.
Doucet recommends using the Clifton StrengthsFinder as a tool to help identify what your talents are. “Name it and claim it,” she says.
Unlike talents, which are inherent, skills are learned. In fact, some people’s skills may be other people’s talents. For example, the charisma to get up and speak in front of a large group may be something that one individual has always found to be very easy. Others, however, may need to practice for years before they can get up in front of a group comfortably. For this second group of people, charisma may not be a talent, but it can certainly be a skill. Recognizing where your skills lie is the second component of discovering what your own personal zone of excellence looks like.
A good way to help find your own values is to ask yourself: what is really important to me, and am I willing to fight for it?
The third point in the zone of excellence is purpose. This is your own personal “why” or your raison d’être. For example, when taking on new projects or accepting a new job, you need to be able to answer whether it will align with, or help you achieve, your purpose.
Everybody has a unique set of values to which they generally adhere. A good way to help find your own values is to ask yourself: what is really important to me, and am I willing to fight for it? If you are in a situation that is out of your comfort zone but you are feeling uncomfortable, it is time to review if this choice lines up with your values or not.
It’s all about attitude! This segment consists of our personality traits and behaviours. Unlike our values, which reside deep within ourselves, our attitudes are easily observed by others.
Use your zone of excellence to excel, even in situations that take you out of your comfort zone.
Activating your zone of excellence
These are two steps to activating the zone of excellence. The first is to do an inventory. Be aware of, and understand, the zone of excellence, and know what yours looks like. A quick exercise that can help to define your zone of excellence, is to focus on each segment of the star and write down your strengths in that area.
The second is to “leverage the treasure that’s in your star,” Doucet says. Use your zone of excellence to excel, even in situations that take you out of your comfort zone. You can’t be effective and comfortable if you’re outside of both your zone of excellence and zone of comfort. By analyzing and activating your zone of excellence, you will have a better understanding of where your strengths lie, what you need to leverage, and what you need to work on that will further increase your self-confidence.