When Are You At Your Best?

By Susan Battley

Here’s a million-dollar question to add to your repertoire:

When are you at your best?

Now I’m not referring to the time of day, but rather to situations, tasks and activities that align your professional talents with your career passions.

Guess what? Very few people tell me, “I’m at my best at meetings.” And except for early-stage job hunters, I almost never hear, “I’m at my best in a crisis.” Indeed, anyone who’s been in the workplace for any time knows that it’s almost impossible to be your best in a crisis.

This is not a superficial question. In fact, it’s what I call a core best practice question, intended to prompt reflection and strategic analysis. Kevin Roberts, the global CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi, passed it along to me some years ago.

How would you answer this question for yourself? Athletes talk about being “in the zone.” Psychologists speak of “flow states.”

For example:

  • Those with a creative orientation may say they love to develop new products… or theories.
  • Analytical types often delight in solving big, thorny problems.
  • Great salespeople love to influence others.

Sometimes, people assume I’m asking them to describe their current role and responsibilities, but I’m not.  Rather, I’m interested in learning about what really fires them up. Then we can look at how their true professional interests and aspirations intersect with their actual work position and activities.

Do they intersect? And if (hopefully) they do, on a day-to-day basis how often does the person – do you – have a chance to operate in this sweet spot?

The greater and more sustained the intersection, the greater your satisfaction and enduring success.

Action Steps

  • Ask yourself:  When are you at your very best? Has this changed over time or circumstances? Are you able to be your “best” on a regular basis?
  • Ask those you supervise:  When are they at their very best? Do they know? Do their opinions coincide with your own assessments?

To do great work and to deploy your organization’s talent to maximum advantage, you need to have the answers at your finger tips and act on them.

Copyright © Susan Battley, PsyD, PhD. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Susan Battley

An advisor to Fortune 100 executives and world-class institutions for more than twenty years, Dr. Susan Battley is an internationally recognized expert on CEO and leadership effectiveness. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional service firms, and elite research institutions. She has worked with chief executives, university presidents, Nobel laureates, and prominent scientists, diplomats, and educators. A respected media source for analyzing leadership in the context of news-breaking events and key trends, Battley has been featured in outlets worldwide including CNN, CNBC, Fox, Bloomberg, and National Public Radio, and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chief Executive, Business Week, United Press International, Harvard Management Update, Entrepreneur, Science, Leader to Leader, Investments, and Worth. She is the founder and CEO of Battley Performance Consulting, a leadership strategy and organization effectiveness consultancy.