Are you operating in your sweet spot?

We feel more positive about our work when we can use our strengths to do it. When we work from our strengths, we feel energised, it increases our emotional fulfilment, and in essence, we feel strong.

Strengths are where what we enjoy doing and what we’re good at meet.  

I’m sometimes surprised at how little leaders explore their team’s strengths (as individuals and as a whole) and when I do this exercise in leadership teams, there are epiphanies galore.

Uncovering strengths, and seeking to find where people can work from them over time in their role, not only has some great benefits to the individual, but also for the team. And when a whole team is purposeful at uncovering individual and team strengths, then the whole team wins.

Below is a simple tool you can use to help you have conversations around strengths and development with your team members. It’s also a great one to use on yourself! I call it the Sweet Spot Development Model:

It’s easy to plot yourself on the Sweet Spot Development Model. Populate each circle, as labelled and look at where things coincide to give you your own sweet spot. It’s a good thing to have some idea of this for yourself.

Then, in your next one-on-one meetings, go through the model with each of your direct reports. You may want to give them a heads up first – either with some prompts to get them thinking ahead of your meeting, or you might want to explain the model to them in your session and have them do the exercise following that time. Consider whether you’ll show them yours; it might provide some direction for them to feel confident completing it for themselves. Then you can both discuss what they’ve written, as well as your input and observations, at your next meeting.

Use it as a coaching conversation to draw out of them their own sweet spot. It helps if they do most of the work/thinking. Contrary to popular belief, strengths aren’t necessarily based on aptitude. Marcus Buckingham describes strengths as the activities that draw you in and that make you feel energised – which only an individual can determine for themselves. It shouldn’t (and really can’t) be something that you define for them.

To help with understanding and aid your coaching conversations, you can also borrow from this list.

Signs of a strength

  1. I’m drawn to the activity.
  2. It feels good.
  3. I learn quickly.
  4. The time goes fast.
  5. I feel an emotional fulfilment.
  6. It gives me a buzz.
  7. I want to talk about it.

Signs of a non-strength

  1. I’ve tried it and I’m not successful.
  2. I look for ways to avoid it.
  3. I cringe a little every time I think about it.
  4. It took me a really long time to learn it.
  5. I feel tired and drained afterwards.
  6. It makes me happy to think of a world where I don’t have to do that activity.

I’d love to hear how you get on using this exercise for yourself and with your teams.


  1. Dennis Vogel on August 13, 2022 at 8:04 am

    This adds to the value of The Hedgehog Concept from Jim Collins. It can be developed by & adapted for businesses, individuals, non-profit groups, departments, products & services.

    After finding their sweet spots, people can determine how other people, entities & products can be added to increase total value.

    I’ve been writing about how your insights increase retailers’ total value. I’ve included some of your insights in my blog.

    Lead Customers So You’ll Get to Your There.

    About half-way through, I wrote “Suzi McAlpine writes about leadership & accepted my suggestion about insights applying to customer service.”

    The rest of the post features connections with your post.
    Thank you for sharing your insights.

    Dennis S. Vogel

    • Suzi McAlpine on August 15, 2022 at 9:45 am

      Thank you Dennis! Really appreciate that 🙂

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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