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Finding Your Sweet Spot | Work at the Intersection of Motivation and Talent

An artistic rendering of a lightbulb.

“Oh, James, you’re so great at finding just the right thing to say to anyone! After you finish running those reports, would you mind drafting the 'Thank You' note to our gala attendees?”

“Sarah, our resident tech whiz! I know you have a donor call coming up, but do you think you can help me figure out why I’m having this computer glitch?”

If you’re a “James” or a “Sarah,” maybe you’re frequently coaxed away from your “regular” job responsibilities due to a natural talent of yours, one that wows your co-workers and helps things run smoothly. You’ve become known and appreciated at your job for having a knack with that certain skill. Maybe you even surprise yourself by how naturally it comes to you. Yet you may also find that doing those activities doesn't exactly light you up.

Sometimes the things that you're really good at aren't necessarily the things you enjoy doing. You may feel a sense of accomplishment at helping out, but would rather be doing something else. For that reason, it’s important to focus on your “motivated talents”- the intersection of what you naturally like to do (motivation) and what you do well (talent).

This concept is a main feature of the MAPP (Motivational Appraisal of Personal Potential) Career Assessment, a means of discovering your “true calling.”

Henry Neils, President and Founder of describes it thus:

Motivation is what we LIKE to do naturally. Talent is what we DO well naturally. They can exist independently, but when they combine, they create something special. They create motivated talents.
Motivated talents tend to be irrepressible. They find expression. In fact, if you’ve ever tried to stifle a motivated talent (either yours or someone else’s) it probably felt like you were trying to hold two dozen ping pong balls under water at the same time. Motivated talents pop out, even if no one else is asking for them. And doesn’t that make sense? After all, it’s what we do well AND enjoy.

The thing is, while you may not be using your “natural” talents on a regular basis, your job may not capitalize on your motivated talents, either. Rather than stifle them, figure out a way to use them at work. This method of taking control over the work you do at your job - job crafting- can help you redesign meaning and purpose to your work. Here are a few tips to jump-start your crafting:

Identify your motivated talents

How do you do this? One of the simplest ways is to reflect, observe, and take notes. What things do you do well, and of those, which do you enjoy doing? Write them down. While thinking back to past experiences is helpful, you can also assess the things you are doing well (and enjoy) in the here and now. Add them to your list. If you’re still having trouble or come to a roadblock, consider taking the MAPP Assessment (you can obtain abbreviated results at no cost- more in-depth analysis is fee-based).

Analyze your current role

Once you have a list of motivated talents, think about your current role. List all your job responsibilities, along with the skills and talents you use (motivated and otherwise).

Match your motivated talents with job responsibilities

Using the chart below, match up your motivated talents with your job responsibilities. Brainstorm ways to better use your motivated talents and incorporate them into your day-to-day responsibilities at work. Recall any time you’ve relied on those aptitudes and had notable, attention-grabbing results. Note that you most likely will need to also identify new responsibilities to take on in order to use your motivated talents.


Motivated talent Used at work

(always, frequently, sometimes, never) How it relates to a job responsibility I currently have How can I change this task to better/more frequently use my motivated talent? Next steps Building relationships with donors by learning more about what keeps them engaged Sometimes Processing donation confirmations Include a short survey in confirmations asking why donors gave Develop draft of sample survey and share with my supervisor; pitch my idea of a survey following confirmations. Doing so gives us more data and helps us understand donors Building relationships and keeping donors engaged by sharing their stories on our blog Never Answering donor questions New responsibility: Pitch ideas and write articles that showcase our donors and their commitment to our cause Have a conversation with my manager. Point out that adding this responsibility allows me to demonstrate stronger engagement with donors and understanding their needs and wants     The first two entries in the chart use Sarah’s motivated talents as an example. Remember that Sarah is constantly being called on at work to help others solve their tech problems, but she’s actually a development assistant who processes and acknowledges donations. While she has limited face-to-face interaction with their donors, what really motivates her is getting to know people and what keeps them engaged. She’d love to interview key donors and share their stories in an online blog for the organization. Sarah is compiling evidence of her oral and written communication skills, as well as relationship building skills to share with her manager.

After you review the examples, complete the chart to help you with redesigning job responsibilities (or creating new ones) and better utilize your motivated talents.


Now that you have identified your motivated talents and ways you can use them at work, you’ll have to take action!

In most cases, your next step will be to pitch your ideas for enhanced or new job responsibilities to your manager. Show the ways in which you’d like to match your responsibilities to your talents as well as your interests. Be sure to bring up proven results from times you’ve used those aptitudes successfully. This will help you make the case and give your manager a clearer picture of the results you will have with your proposed changes in effect.

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By Victoria Crispo

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