December 16, 2018

Finding the sweet spot with your team

Recently, Tommy Leep tweeted:

This reminded me of a framework my old boss, Andy Yang, evangelized; a tool I’ve used to reflect on my own professional goals.

Ideally everyone in the company spends 90% or more of their time on things they are:

  1. Good at
  2. Want to do
  3. Needed

You can visualize this as a 3-part Venn Diagram. Ideally the majority of the things people do fit in the center.

To illustrate this, here are a few examples:

Jane, the talented writer

Jane loves to write and spends half her time doing content marketing. She’s really good at it. But these content efforts aren’t driving the business forward.

Steve, the customer support pro

Steve’s primary job is customer support. He’s a pro, delivering smiles and churning through tickets faster than anyone else on the team. His role is important for the company, but he hates it.

John, the earnest designer

John loves creating wireframes and exploring new product ideas. He spends much of his time translating his ideas into product specs, helping fill the product roadmap. Unfortunately, he’s not a good product designer.


Rarely will everyone on a team fit directly in the sweet spot at all times, especially in small teams where people wear many hats. We all have to do things we dislike sometimes and finding someone in the team that’s “good enough” to work on something right now is better than training or hiring an expert, because speed matters.

But if Jane, Steve, and John spend a significant amount of their time outside the sweet spot, something needs to change.

One obvious solution is to help teammates find a new role within the company that matches their skills and interest. Another (sometimes inevitable) solution is to assist their transition to a different company. Here are a few other approaches to consider in these examples:

  • Jane: Redirect her talent and interest in writing to a strategy that works.
  • Steve: Hire someone Steve can train and eventually transition the work to.
  • John: Mentor and train John into a strong designer.

As we approach 2019, it’s common for many of us to reflect on the past year and set new goals. Those that get to the sweet spot are generally happier and more effective in their job, so it becomes management’s responsibility (and opportunity!) to help get their team to the sweet spot. 🍭

P.S. As a few people pointed out on Twitter, this model is very similar to Ikigai, a Japanese term for “reason for being” which applies to life beyond just the workplace.

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