The Magic of Native Genius: 5 questions for Kristen Wheeler
If you've been around Little Bird Marketing our our Podcast, Ponderings from the Perch for awhile you'll be familiar with the term "native genius". We're quick to mention the amazing Kristen Wheeler who coined this phrase. She is the founder & creator of Native Genius® and basically the person wearing the best blazer you've ever seen with a stunning regularity.
You might remember her amazing Tedx Boulder appearance where she challenges us about how we sleepwalk through our work, and maybe even our lives when we are not keenly aware of our native genius. She is not wearing an epic blazer in this appearance, but her words carry none the less. Since you might not get a chance to bump in to her as we do, we asked her great questions which may just change your life. Yeah, I said it.
When you're ready to move past mediocrity and dig into the juicy awesomeness that is at the core of who you are here is the beginning of that journey. I pose 5 questions to Kristen and she works her magic to help you see that the small things you can't help but do, once noticed and celebrated, can move you into meaningful work and life that kicks a$$.
What are the typical pain points your clients have when they first reach out to you?
Leaders reach out to me for lots of reasons. But at the root of their interest is the belief that enjoying work is not a “nice to have” but that it’s necessary for exceptional work. They either hope or already know that a culture where people get to the greatness in each other will address many common pain points. They’re often faced with bigger challenges and need more from their people in a way that feels great to them. Or they’ve inherited or merged teams and need to understand what makes each person tick and for the team to gel quickly. Or they feel spread too thin and want the team to rely on each other more, or work better with other teams.
For individuals, they’re struggling at work because they’re drained, bored, frustrated and feeling ho-hum. They know they can do and bring more. They want work that’s aligned with who they really are. They’ve settled for less at work because of other demands and now they’re thinking, “This has got to change. I'm ready.” They want more meaning and aliveness at work so it ripples out into the rest of their life.
What are your clients hoping can change in their lives through your workshops and programs?
For companies, leaders want to go from having a so-so team culture to having a culture that makes work a place they want to be. They want to get more from their people in a way that feels great to them. They want people to feel like others have their back and are invested in helping them bring out their best work. They want a place of safety, respect and thriving and amazing results they’re proud of together. Leaders don’t want to leave this to happenstance and they don’t want to be the one to “systematize” their values—they want help with that.
Individuals want to go from not loving their work to loving their work. They want to be more in control of that—they want it to be more predictable. They want a better job or role—and they don’t want to go broke “doing what they love.” They want to feel fulfilled and alive at work and be well paid. They want to know what their innate talents are and be using them. They want to feel clear and confident about their decisions. They want more support for this journey.
You talk about "native genius" as a set of micro behaviors. What do you mean by that?
Typically we think of innate talents at too high of a level for it to be useful for people to take action. We think of work at the role level: Architect, Actor, Accountant. But regardless of the role we’re in, we have these kernels that both drive us and deeply fulfill us. Those kernels show up in “micro behaviors.” I call them “micro” because they feel so small you might miss them. For example, I love asking soul searching questions. Whether I’m sitting next to someone on a plane, coaching an executive, teaching a workshop or developing content, I can’t not ask searching questions. That’s one of my Native Geniuses—and it shows up as very small behavior that would be easy to miss.
In all aspects of my career, from when I was helping my mom and her partner with their real estate business when I was 15, to when I was implementing big software projects, to doing user interface design, to being a psychotherapist and a coach, I’ve been asking soul searching questions the whole time. And while it feel small to me, other say it makes a big impact. When helping ourselves or someone else, noticing these behaviors and doing them more often is way more valuable than waiting for someday to make a big career change. By intentionally doing these behaviors rather than relying on happenstance, you’ll morph your career towards more and more of your Native Genius.
What do you wish we were teaching kids and college students about themselves?
There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re not good at something. It’s natural to be good at some things and not good at others. Desire is way more important than ability. Listen first inside yourself—to your desire. Listen outside yourself sparingly and carefully—to what others say you should do or what “experts” say will or won’t succeed in the job market.
Take tiny leaps of faith and to do what lights you up—even if you don’t know “where it will go.” The work you’ll be doing twenty years from now may not even exist right now. In fact, you may make-up that work. Don’t let the world shape what you do—shape the world to fit your Native Genius.
What is your Native Genius?
Native Genius is not one thing, it’s many things. A person’s Native Genius is a bit like a net of gems. We can’t ever describe in totality. But we can describe the different actions. Here are four of my Native Geniuses: 1) asking soul searching questions; 2) helping people be deeply real with themselves and others; 3) representing complex ideas simply—in a way that gets you in the gut—especially when it comes to the human condition; 4) others say that it’s my Native Genius to help people find their Native Geniuses. Yes, I love doing that so I claim that as one of my Native Geniuses too.
These are things that I reflexively think, “Uh yeah but anyone would or could do that.” Almost everyone feels dismissive like that about their Native Geniuses, “Yeah, but these are nothing.” Just because they feel like nothing, doesn’t mean that their impact is nothing.
So I’ll end with this reminder about Native Genius, It’s your nothings—the things you love doing that you dismiss—that are something. Your nothings are your somethings. Pay attention to them.
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