Episode 23 – Season 2

Published: June 22, 2022

André Delafontaine, Founder of the Genius Life Academy | Maximizing time spent in your 'Genius Zone

Ian is joined by André Delafontaine Founder of the Genius Life Academy

 Andre has developed a unique methodology to help companies and individuals engage and energize teams by maximizing time spent in what Andre describes as their ‘Genius Zones’.

 André is currently teaching the Genius Life methodology to various business schools in Switzerland, through conferences for corporate companies, he is coaching managers to find their Genius Life.

André believes his methodology improves an employee’s productivity, satisfaction, and happiness at work. 

So in this edition of the Workplace wellbeing podcast, I want to understand more about André’s Genius Life methodology and the impact it can have in the workplace

André and Ian Discuss:

  • Our four levels of competency
  • Gay hendricks research and the Science behind the Genius Life Methadology
  • How to take the theory and make it work in practice
  • What is Ian’s genius zone?

What is inspiring André

The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level – by Gay Hendricks

Sales Secrets: The World’s Top Salespeople Share Their Secrets to Success by Brandon Bornancin

How to get in touch with André



The Workplace Wellbeing Podcast is supported by The Worktech Group, which owns, SHopWorksFastPAYE and Solvedby.ai


Welcome to the Workplace Wellbeing Podcast, the podcast for wellbeing professionals that looks at best practices in organisations that care about their people, and which keeps an eye on the growing number of suppliers in the wellbeing space.

The Workplace Wellbeing Podcast is sponsored by fastPAYE a financial wellbeing solution that facilitates flexible salary advances. It also provides access to financial education, a benefits assessment calculator, and a host of other financial wellbeing tools. fastP.A.Y.E is part of the WorkTech Group that includes ShopWorks Workforce Solutions, and SolvedBy.Ai.

ShopWorks offers Scheduling and Time and Attendance tools that improve your workforce management processes. Whilst SolvedBy.Ai provides unique artificial intelligence products that deliver optimum staffing levels and improve employee retention.

Ian Hogg 1:00
I’m Ian Hogg, Chairman of fastPAYE, and today I’m very pleased to be joined by André Delafontaine, Founder of the Genius Life Academy. Andre has developed a unique methodology to help companies and individuals engage and energise teams by maximising the time spent in what Andre describes as their genius zones. Andre is currently teaching the genius life methodology to various business schools in Switzerl and, as well as Sue conferences for corporate companies. Andre believes his methodology improves an employee’s productivity, satisfaction and happiness at work. So in this edition of the workplace wellbeing podcast, I want to understand more about Andres genius life methodology and the impact it can have in the workplace. Hi, Andre, thanks for joining us.

André Delafontaine 1:44
I am great, happy to be here. Thank you.

Ian Hogg 1:46
Were you speaking to us from at the moment?

André Delafontaine 1:49
Oh, actually above Lake Geneva in Switzerland incredible view, there’s still some snow out here. So I shouldn’t be skiing today. But actually, it’s lots of fun to be here with you guys.

Ian Hogg 1:57
Um, I’m jealous on a number of counts there. So let’s move on. Listen, I think a really good place we always start here is if you could just talk to the listeners a bit about your background, how you ended up at this point in your career and ended up launching The Genius Academy.

André Delafontaine 2:12
Yeah, indeed. So I spent 17 years in multinationals working in Switzerland, in the US in Asia, lots of lots of very, very interesting experiences. But after a while, I needed to find a little bit of higher meaning for myself to make more impact on the people around me, I felt a little bit lost in that environment. So I became independent and bored to innovation and innovative mindset, entrepreneurial thinking to large companies. And whilst that was a lot of fun, I actually ended up getting burnt out there, even though I was doing a lot of what I really wanted to do. And that got me you know, really thinking How come I’m really in what I want to do. I choose my clients, I work with the people I want but yet I really still go through clinical burnout ending up in the hospital wasn’t fun for me wasn’t fun for people around me wasn’t fun for my family. And I really got me you know, what, how come

André Delafontaine 3:08
I’m getting into this state and over the year after that, it helped me you know, restructure my time my life and understand hour by hour over a workweek. Some things bought me energy and some things drain my energy even though I still working on things that you know, have an impact around me. So that was kind of the start of the Genius life Academy. Okay. Well, I mean, clinical burnout, I mean, that sounds pretty serious for you know, so actually ended up in hospital over it. Yeah, for nearly two weeks. So it was pretty, pretty grave. Pretty grave time actually. And I was completely dysfunctional, I had to actually bring in somebody to help me out from my day to day life, my family took really good care of me, my key clients actually were very flexible and really, really helped me out to actually strengthen the relationship. And, of course, I don’t want to go through this again, but it really helped me stop and rebuild my life in a much more sustainable way actually.

Ian Hogg 4:07
Okay, so, that experience you know, that’s, that sort of underlines a lot of the thinking behind what you’ve put into to come up with a genius life methodology?

André Delafontaine 4:17
Yeah, exactly. So I started by really measuring one thing I do like about management is we attain what we measure so I said actually measuring hour by hour by the tasks I was doing over a regular week, do they bring me energy or do they drain my energy? And over some time I understood that we actually have four full levels of competency right? There’s the lowest level one incompetent you know, I’ve done an MBA, I’ve had four courses on accounting in my life, yet I still can’t do the full entry accounting today I’m really useless at that. So the lowest level incompetency than that one level which is competency and hears other people around me for certain tasks are just as good as me, but you know, in a disrupted work environment where good positions or openings receive 100 200 300. CVS, if I’m just as good as people around me, I’m not going to be able to get that, that nice gig, that nice job right? Then that’s one level above that. And this is where the drama really happens. The level above competency is excellence. And since the day we start school, when we’re in the workplace, during our studies, we’re always pushed with the level of excellence, being better than people around us at certain tasks. The trouble is, if we get stuck in the level of excellence, actually, those tasks drain our energy. And that’s exactly where I got stuck. I was constantly asked to do certain tasks. But some of them or most of them actually drain my energy. There’s one level above the fourth level, which I’m lucky, I’d never heard about, neither in school neither. And in college, neither in the workplace was actually the level of genius. These are tasks that are so easy for me, so natural for me, they do not even work, they give me energy, they boost me and I can do them two to three times faster, even compared to my level of excellence. And because they give me energy, I can do them the whole day long. At the end of the day, I actually have more energy than in the beginning, I’ll be much more efficient. And people will start noticing that around me and start giving me more and more of this work. But, for that to work, actually have to be able to differentiate the level of genius from the level of excellence because we often get stuck in this infamous level of excellence.

Ian Hogg 6:27
Okay, now fine. Okay, so there are four zones. Let me just check. I’ve got it right. incompetence, competence, excellence and genius. Okay, fine. And, you know, you talked about doing your own sort of self-analysis where you’re measuring the time you will in each zone. Is there any other you know, is it based on any scientific research? Or is it, something you’ve developed entirely yourself?

André Delafontaine 6:51
Yeah. That’s a very good question. Thank you, that there are two parts to this. So there’s a lot of scientific research that’s been done by this a lot of publications actually Gay Hendricks in the US, I’ll give the reference to his book at the end, the big leap, which is excellent reading on this. And he differentiates these four levels very well explains the levels. Now what may be a little bit particular about the Genius Life Academy is, once we’ve identified those levels, we really recommend to our participants to measure the time they spend in each three, you know, a wake-up call in the process of going through the academy. The first is that the level of genius is not at all the level of excellence, they’re very different. The only comparison, the only similarity is that we’re better than people in those tasks around us. But otherwise, they’re very different. One gives us energy, the other one drains US energy would go through a couple of other differentiators that.

André Delafontaine 7:44
So first we differentiate excellence and genius, then we start measuring the time people spend in each one. And here this is not good. On average, people spend 20% 15 to 20% of their time and their level of genius, no company on Earth would survive and more than a couple of months was such an efficient usage of their key resources, try paying your employees five to six times more, try spending, you know only one six of your time working and the other six of your time where you get paid not working one six of your key assets if your work or office space of your, you know, clients, resources, whatever, no company would survive yet, this seems to be not a problem with the most important key resource, we have human resources.

André Delafontaine 8:31
So the first point is differentiating excellent and genius. The second point is measuring the time we spend in a level of genius, of course, trying to improve that. And then the third point is putting in place a plan 100-day plan five steps to maximise that time we spend in a level of genius. They’ll get a concrete plan, which is actionable, which takes into account you know, the environment, what are the constraints, what do I want to attain and applying it and then we meet actually one month, two months and three months after the the whole process to make sure that people apply that plan and make a difference in their own lives.

Ian Hogg 9:08
Okay, fine. Yeah, just before this. Excellent, I think I get the methodology there. So we’re looking to optimise the time in the genius zone, we’re probably never going to get rid of all of the other tasks that they’re in the other zones, but we want to minimise those. That’s pretty much the key to success and this methodology, it going back to Gay Hendricks and the big leap. So effectively, somebody has done some work on this. Did I pick up everything in the states and then and you’re taking this into? You’re taking this into Europe? Is Is that fair? Fair comment?

André Delafontaine 9:46
Yeah. There are two things here. I rely on the basic analysis, basic science basic research that he’s done behind this. And that is very solid again, 40 years. It’s very, very interesting listening to him. Reading what he’s known as the basic starting point, then the question, if we’ve understood the theory behind this, actually, what do we do with it? What changes does it make to people’s lives? Because understanding the theory is nice. It can be a very interesting intellectual exercise. But what is the outcome for participants for people applying this theory? And what changes do they really make on a daily basis in their lives? And that’s where some things I’ve added on to on top of the theory to make sure that that that happens and maximise the chance of those changes being made.

Ian Hogg 10:30
Okay, now, yeah, that’s, that’s very interesting because I think one of the themes of this podcast is, there’s theory and academic research. And then what does that actually mean? If I’m, you know, I’m in the workplace, I’m going through the experience of a need to improve so know that that’s great to you, you’re trying to make it more practical, practical thing. So you know, what? Why do you think it sort of helps with people’s sort of wellbeing and particularly in the workplace?

André Delafontaine 11:00
Yeah, indeed, COVID has had a very negative effect on overall wellbeing in the workplace for various reasons people have different sensitivities to some of the aspects that COVID has bought that quite a lot of collateral damage, and I’m hearing, both from HR and also from private practice support therapists that there are quite a few people that aren’t feeling very, very well right now at work. And this, of course, has a big impact on productivity, a big impact on people’s lives, big impact on people’s, you know, it’s complete showing up at work absenteeism and all these negative collaterals. So how does being in our genius zone really help that? In the end, it’s about energy and meaning and how we feel in the tasks that we do? Do we bring value? Is it easy for us that they boost that energy that they give us meaning? Does it make us happy? And here, this methodology ensures that we maximise the time that we spend in those tasks that do all of those collectively, and therefore really, really increases? Wellbeing within the workplace?

Ian Hogg 12:04
Okay, no, I get it. I mean, this time works as an example. And I’m going to use me as an example. So, you know, I’m a founder, and people would say, Well, you know, a bit like you said, you know, I’ve got control. In some ways, I get to choose what work I do and what work I don’t do, that I still, you know, I still end up doing my expenses, and I still end up doing other, they’re not menial tasks. That’s the wrong word to use. But they’re the tasks that don’t enjoy the I find slower, monotonous, I think he’s probably the why. And I love doing this sort of sales meetings and the client meetings and things like that, but I don’t always get to do you know, I have to do a lot of background and notes and things like that. So, you know, I find it really, you know, how do I get rid of that work? You know, I can’t just give all of that to somebody else. You know, nobody else wants to do that work, either. Do they?

André Delafontaine 12:59
I love it. Thank you. Thank you. This is such an excellent question. You’re not in every time I give a talk, I give, you know, a podcast on this subject, I get that this, these types of questions. So first of all, it’s not about being a genius, right? We all have genius zones, I’ve had over 100 people go through the whole genius life Academy, every single one has found their genius zones. Okay, so we all have genius zones. And conversely, every single task is a genius zone of somebody. The question is of who? And the question is, is it of us, right? I’ll give you a very concrete example, to two groups ago, actually, two cohorts ago, had a lady who was a receptionist, and she’d lost her job. She was between jobs, she decided actually to take her life into their own hands, she invested some money to do the genius life Academy. And through the feedback she got from others, she actually found out that accounting was her genius zone was one of her genius zones. And it was such she loved numbers. She loved accounting. She’d studied it a very long time ago, she’d never actually practice it in her job. And she was trying to look for her book, you know, her background material, etc. She couldn’t even find her books when she studied this quite some time ago. And by trying to communicate around this genius zone around her, within two weeks, after the end of the work of the workshop, she found a job in accounting, even though she had no formal background in this because she understood how much you did like them to her how much you give her energy. It was like just the gift to listen to her about accounting, which is definitely not one of my thoughts, and I can feel you on that. And now she has found his job. She’s just wow, we talked to her like it’s unbelievable, you know, we grew up one month, two months, three months later, and she’s sort of so full of energy and every time it’s such a pleasure to listen to her.

André Delafontaine 14:58
And this I think is a wonderful example. where the second we believe that a task is, we have to do it because it’s not going to be anybody else’s genius zone, it’s not going to give energy to anybody else, then, of course, we preclude somebody else from being able to do that. And the drama here is that because I stay in my zone of competence or excellence, depending on I mean, I know you’re in your You’re a pretty smart guy, I think you’re pretty competent at this, right? You might even be pretty excellent at it, even though it’s not that much fun for you. The second I get stuck in that, then actually, I can’t give it to somebody else and you lose, but that other person would also lose, right? Isabella, this accountant would also lose, because she could spend more time in this as well where maybe you should doing things that you would enjoy doing. And this is actually very representative of what happens in teams, when we identify genius zones within teams, we can start bartering tasks between the same members of a team. And in the end, everybody wins. Because everybody spends much more time in their genius zones. The beauty of spending only 20% On average, but timing genius zones, if we only need to spend one more day per week, we’ve already doubled, and doubling will have a big, big effect on people’s well being and productivity.

Ian Hogg 16:07
Excellent. It’s starting to make sense to me now. So you know, I think if you look at, we do colour coding of you might have done this sort of work, but where we people are either, you know, their colours are red, yellow, blue, or green and red tend to be sort of, you know, quite a sort of forceful sort of leadership types of you, like blue tend to detail, yellow, creative and green sort of collaborators. And actually, what sounds to me like you’re doing is giving some sort of scientific background to why those things work. Because what I think we’ve just discussed there is I’m probably in the red and yellow trying to do the sales deals. And Isabella’s sounds to me, like she’s in the blue zone, in our categorization. So are we saying that actually, the best way to solve this across a number of people is getting a nice mix of different colour zones, so that you know, and different basically, people with different geniuses, so that we, we don’t have all sales people, all accountants in the team is, I’ve got it right there.

André Delafontaine 17:19
That’s actually a very nice description, I like that. Well, in the end, what we do is we go into a team, we do a list of the tasks that need to be accomplished by the team. But that list needs to also include informal tasks. For example, giving visibility to the team to the outside, communicating with other people organising inside on an informal level, all of these tasks, including the informal ones, we create this catalogue. And then we source people’s genius zones using a methodology we’re going to be talking about and a couple of minutes, and then we start mapping. And some people say, okay, yeah, but you know, in the end, maybe there are some tasks that Nobody enjoys doing, that’s nobody’s genius zone. Well, one, that actually doesn’t happen that often, too, you can find somebody within the company or somebody on the outside, which will be a genius zone. And three, even if in the end, there are one or two tacks then it really is, and nobody is genius zones. And you cannot change anything within the team. So many ways, way, way better off than today. So those are not real limitations, actually.

Ian Hogg 18:18
Okay, fine. I’ve got I got the concept, I’ve got the rough idea of how we, you know, how it relates to the sort of workplace. This took you meant you just mentioned methodology. And I was going to move on to, you know if I’ve got 100 staff in a company, where do I start? You know, if I’ve, it’s a mismatch of people in different zones, presumably, only 20% of them are working in their genius zones, as you said earlier, where do I start? How do I unpick that mess?

André Delafontaine 18:49
Yeah, so the first point is to well understand that level of genius is not at all the level of excellence, there was definitely a level beyond what we thought was the highest level. Once we’ve understood that, then we can start actually creating a catalogue for each person, what are their genius zones, and we’ve tried literally eight or nine different methodologies to do that. In the end, by far, by far, by far the most efficient is to actually have people around us tell us what they see we really, really good at which seems to come so naturally for us, that actually people around us think it will be very difficult for them. And for ourselves, including, even though psychological tests, I’ve done 10 of them, of which three I’ve been debriefed multiple hours, on average. All of them were very useful, but actually, none of them was useful for me to identify my own genius zones. Okay, even Strengths Finder where can be useful for some things, but even that has not been useful for me or for our participants to identify their own genius zone. It’s really somebody else. Because this is so natural for me. I don’t believe it is anything special. I believe that everybody else around me can do it. I don’t believe it’s something that’s differentiating from other people. So

André Delafontaine 20:00
Here we need to source from other people, we recommend talking to 20 people around us, okay, about 1/3, current professional environment, they could be coworkers, they could be our bosses, they could be our direct reports, they can also be our customers, they can also be our suppliers because they will see things in us that maybe even our co-workers won’t see 1/3 current work environment 1/3 past work environment, we haven’t had close contact within the last few years. And then 1/3 family and friends because they see things enough that we don’t necessarily show at work that we don’t have the possibility to display at work. And they will see something special in us as well. And each person will give 2,3,4 different points. And then we need to separate from those zones of excellence versus the zones of genius. That’s only that’s something only we can do. Because from the outside, they will tell us what we are really good at with it, but they won’t do it will give us energy on that.

Ian Hogg 20:53
Okay, and what’s interesting from that is quite interesting question is, do you think that people will always, you know, their friends and colleagues and people at work will always point them to a genius they were expecting to go to? Or do you think there are some surprises there to be had?

André Delafontaine 21:10
Every time there is some surprise? And you know what, when we do this exercise, one of the first feedbacks is Whoa, you know, this alone is way, way worth the whole, the whole investment I’m making in this because this is such a gift. I did not know that this was special for me. I thought everybody could do it because it’s one of my genius zones. That key point.

Ian Hogg 21:33
Yeah, no. In my head, I was thinking, Yeah, I know what mine are. And I know what I like. And as we were having this conversation, and as you were describing the young lady that was that got into accounting, It sounded like that was a bit of a surprise to her. So that’s why I asked the question. So you’re saying it’s not occasionally it’s it pretty much every time, there’s a surprise for someone,

André Delafontaine 21:56
Every time there are some things that come up that people did not know were specific to them. And that’s the Hana because that way, not knowing it’s specific to them, they compensate for it, they can’t make other people see that this is something you know, unique to them. In the workplace. That’s exactly the problem.

Ian Hogg 22:13
And if we go back to sort of implementing it with hundreds of people, is it a sort of, when we’ve done the sort of colour matching for our teams, we’ve done them in teams, you know, you get a team of developers, or you get a team of the sales team, and you work out their colours together. Or you don’t do 100 People in a company in one go, is it a similar approach where you would expect?

André Delafontaine 22:36
Yeah, so here, I would do this one team at a time. Okay, and within a team again, measure the people’s genius zones, do a catalogue of what’s required by the team to do okay, and then make sure that people maximise that time, by exchanging a zone of excellence, one of my zones of excellent with somebody else’s zones of excellence, immediately, both parties, both parties win, because I spend more time in there in their my zone of genius, and the other person also spends more time just with one exchange of tasks. And we’ve done this in environments where there is such a formal setup, from an HR perspective, you know, job descriptions cannot be changed between early reviews in certain cases. And here even that, we’ve been enabled to keep the same job description, and yet the changes people have passed to significantly increase the time they spend on a genius zone. Okay, so one creates a catalogue of people’s genius zones, individuals to create a list of what is required, including formal tasks, and then start mapping people to those tasks within a group of let’s say, 510 1520 people. And here maybe one difference compared to the colours we were describing before, in certain environments, that will, they will need to be bluer or redder or more yellow or more green right? Now, here, it’s not necessarily the needs to be a mix, because people spend on average 20% of their own time in their genius zone, it’s not one person is you know, fully there’s no zone and another person is totally not. It’s each person spends on average, even 15 to 20% of their time in a genius zone. So hereby exchanging their tasks, we actually want radically increase the whole effectiveness of the team got it?

Ian Hogg 24:25
Got it. This analogy, I think there’s a there’s been a fascinating journey through the sort of, you know, the the genius like methodology. And I think, I think I’ve got it now. And, you know, I think we’re, we’re coming to the end, as we wrap up, one of the questions I asked everyone is what sort of, you know, book or media is giving you the most inspiration at the moment? And also, I wonder if you could just expand a little bit on Gay Hendricks his book at the same time?

André Delafontaine 24:53
Yeah, so one, of course, that always gives me inspiration because it’s the basis of the foundation of The genius zone methodology is the big lead by Gay Hendricks. He spends quite a lot of time explaining these four levels of competency. Why indeed, we get stuck in one and he gives some really good examples. And I highly recommend anybody interested in the methodology reads about this, then, of course, please keep in mind, the question is, what do you do once you understand the methodology, right? How to put this in place for you, for your employees, for people around you. And that’s where maybe we can also clear well, then another book I’ve been reading lately, which I found absolutely fascinating is sales secrets by Brandon born Anson. It’s actually 104 short interviews is what has made people really successful in sales. Why do I find sales? So interesting? Because for me, sales are applied personal development, right? If I’m really a well myself, if I’m impactful around me, I will be good in my sales jobs because they can help people more sales is actually more about helping other people than rather flogging products that anybody can do. Right? So here, I find it fascinating to identify what were the key success factors for these 104 different people and see, indeed, through the, you know, kind of read through what were their genius zones and what was so easy for them. That could be very, very difficult for people around them and try to grab some insights from that.

Ian Hogg 26:16
Excellent recommendation, Andre, we will put the links to both those books in the podcast, or listen to that. Yeah, that’s, that’s been a great session. Thank you very much. You know, I’m sure listeners will one hopefully they’ll read the books and hopefully I’ll put your LinkedIn and website details in so if anybody wants to get in touch with you about the academy they can.

Ian Hogg 26:39
Thank you very much, Andre. Thank you.

André Delafontaine 26:41
Thank you very much. Stay in your genius zones. Have a great day. Bye.

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