Gina Marotta: “Why You Should Get to Know and Focus on Peoples’ Unique Genius”

Authority Magazine
Jun 7 · 15 min read
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Get to know and focus on people’s genius. People are born with natural talent and interests. I call it genius when you combine natural talent with passion and experience. Mindful leaders who recognize the genius of their team members, can place individuals in the roles they are most suited for and where they will perform well. When everyone on the team is focused on their genius zone, an inspired and happy culture is sure to result.

Unfortunately, many job descriptions today require one person to wear a variety of hats. And no attention is paid as to whether it actually makes sense that inside one personality all those natural talents and tendencies would exist. You often see job descriptions that require 3 vastly different personality types and skill sets and so when one person does this job, he or she will be very unhappy 2/3 of the time. If you focus instead on placing that person more of the time in the 1/3 of the role that is in their genius zone, that person will thrive and be an exceptionally valuable, loyal employee. Just because you can train people to execute many different tasks, doesn’t mean you should. Thinking about the individual and collective genius of your team is a very mindful and effective way to lead in business today.

As a part of my series about leaders who integrate mindfulness and spiritual practices into their work culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gina Marotta.

Gina is a career coach and spiritual guide teaching and inspiring people to unleash their genius and bring heart into their work. She is a former defense attorney for some of Chicago’s highest profile criminal cases, served as Managing Director for a national nonprofit catalyzing career advancement for women and girls, and has been featured in media outlets like: Thrive Global, The Huffington Post, and WGN Radio. She has also been named 50 Under 50 and among 100 Women Making a Difference. More at www.ginamarotta.com

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you please share your “backstory” with us?

I began my career as a lawyer. I didn’t go to law school because I felt called to that path. I went because I didn’t know what else I wanted to do and my family encouraged this direction. I also had worked in a law firm during my college years and enjoyed the intellectual rigor and the satisfaction of seeing my hard work pay off. I finished law school at the top of my class, so the arrows pointed me to keep going. I practiced as a criminal defense lawyer and enjoyed big thrills working on some of the highest profile cases in Chicago. It was a whirlwind and a grind. Ultimately I viewed this life as great … for someone else. I didn’t enjoy working inside a punitive system filled with bitter competitiveness. A desire for something greater compelled me into a self-discovery journey to learn to listen to my heart over my mind. This led me to a second career.

In 2006, I was hired as the founding managing director for a national nonprofit organization to open an office in Chicago, my native city. The organization’s mission was aligned with my passion. This job involved being an advocate, leader, and organizer to empower women and girls into professional success. It was exciting and meaningful to support women and girls around career advancement and mentorship, especially given that female colleagues and role models were sparse in my legal career. I ran that organization, Step Up Women’s Network, for 6 years through its startup phase, with much joy, pride, and hard work.

At around the five-year mark at Step Up, I began to feel another call in my heart for a career change. This time I knew I wanted to create my own vision and start my own business. It was out of a visioning exercise with my business book club that the idea for my current business became clear. I realized I wanted to help people be happier in their lives as I had learned to do out of my own empowerment and making courageous career changes to fit my true heart. This insight was the seed, the beginning of the idea, of my current business as a coach, spiritual guide, teacher, and speaker empowering people to work from their hearts and a higher calling just like I had done.

What role did mindfulness or spiritual practice play in your life growing up? Do you have a funny or touching story about that?

My mom was the heart of my spiritual life. I enjoyed reading spiritual materials with her including our children’s bible and her new age spiritual books with nontraditional and expansive ideas. My mom passed away at a young age, when I was 13. I didn’t realize it at the time, but as an adult, I made the connection that my spiritual life ended when my mom passed. It was in my 30ies that I began to feel a longing that all the changes in my life did not fix. And so, I began to search to find a type of spirituality that would resonate with me as an adult.

How do your mindfulness or spiritual practices affect your business and personal life today?

My re-engagement as an adult in spirituality started slowly about a decade ago. I started by studying a Buddhist form of meditation. A couple of years later, and corresponding with the start of my business, I began to study privately with a spiritual teacher. She mentored me over a 3 year period where I apprenticed under her to begin learning to become a spiritual teacher myself. My spiritual life has been very rich since then. I can no longer really separate any part of my life from my spiritual self. It is all intertwined.

Particularly around my business, I believe it is my job to be of service to people and I consider every client, workshop, speaking engagement, and media interview as a sacred opportunity to offer love and goodness into the world. Because of this perspective, I feel guided in my work by my own inner wisdom and also a higher power. This means choosing projects and business direction comes from my heart rather than my mind. To operate this way, I utilize spiritual practices all throughout my work day. Here are a few examples:

1. Setting Intentions

Before any type of creative project — like creating a motivational talk, designing a webinar series, or being interviewed for a podcast — I begin by writing an intention. An intention is different than a goal in that it speaks more of the energy behind what you’re doing rather than the outcomes to be accomplished. As an example, for this interview, I set the intention: to inspire spirituality at work and to offer practical advice.

2. Prayer and Meditation

To clarify the direction of anything in my work, I use prayer and meditation. My process is to first say a prayer asking for guidance. I do this everyday and sometimes multiple times a day. After offering a prayer, I then stay alert to guidance coming my way. I either notice an answer comes to me through a conversation with someone, seeing a passage in a book or even on social media, or receiving an inspired idea. Somehow within 24 hours, the answer usually shows up. To get to clarity, I also often meditate where I can receive visions showing me insights and instructions on how to proceed.

3. Word of the Year

Every January, as a spiritual growth practice, I choose a Word of the Year. Over several weeks, I pay attention to my intuition for signs and signals. The word always finds its way to me and I know it when I hear it. My word is a powerful and sacred mantra. When I say my word, it calls me forth in strength to navigate both the highs and the lows toward my vision for the year. It helps me elevate into the higher consciousness and higher wisdom that my goals and growth demand. “Limitless” is my word for 2020.

Do you find that you are more successful or less successful because of your integration of spiritual and mindful practices? Can you share an example or story about that with us?

Many spiritual traditions teach that our thoughts, words, and actions directly impact our experience. Holding this belief myself, I find prayer wildly successful! Prayer allows me to accomplish two important tasks: (1) speak into existence the reality I want to create, and (2) ask for guidance when I need it. I’ve studied prayer from a few different traditions and so have become very good at it. It’s a big favorite of my clients when I pray over them and their projects. I’ve recently begun sharing prayers relating to work on the mindfulness app Insight Timer and they’ve been a big hit!

As for my work, I can’t say I always 100% remember to pray over every meeting and every project, but I can say that when I do — magic happens! Around the effectiveness of prayer to speak into existence the reality I want to create, I often think of one of my very dear clients. She came to me to uncover a new career path. While she was successful in one business, she felt it lacked deeper meaning and felt called to change directions. I discovered in our first session that she was deeply spiritual, and so I incorporated prayer into that session and every session thereafter. (Prayer is not for everyone, and I get that!) With this client, the magic and creativity always flowed with ease for us after prayer. We were able to see her new direction in our first session, and every session after that was a magical space of creative flow to bring her new business to life.

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What would you say is the foundational principle for one to “lead a good life”? Can you share a story that illustrates that?

A foundational principle to lead a good life for me is this: Everything is a Blessing.

To me, this principle guides me to see everything, even the hard moments, as valuable to my life. It’s easy to feel blessed when positive things are happening. It’s a good life when you can feel blessed even in the midst of a personal or professional crisis. Essential to embracing this principle is to live with a growth mindset. This is the attitude that when something doesn’t go the way you want, pay attention, there is a lesson to be learned. Whatever that lesson is, it will give you greater access to what you really desire which is more clarity, more love, and more peace. And as you achieve these higher states, you become better and better at the work you do and serving people.

An example of “everything is a blessing” rests in the story of a business failure I experienced during the early years of my business. I created a group coaching program which was an expansion from my usual one-on-one coaching offers. I had facilitated small group events and thought this would go as smoothly. Well, it didn’t. After the first 2 gatherings, the group was falling apart. The people weren’t gelling, participants were feeling uncomfortable, and a couple people asked to leave. I saw the writing on the wall: this could not be repaired. I dissolved the group and took the best care I could for each of the members.

In the aftermath, I felt deeply devastated that this program didn’t work out. I felt shameful that I let everyone down. The shame set in so deep, it was one of the few times I thought of dissolving my business. Prompted by the loss, I did some major soul searching to explore what I really meant to create for people. It took me a few weeks to bounce back, and when I did, I was clearer than I had ever been about what I was doing and why. I know the failed program was a blessing that caused me to clarify and pivot my business so that I could serve people even better.

Can you share a story about one of the most impactful moments in your spiritual/mindful life?

In the early days of my business, money felt scarce. Every two weeks as bills became due, I felt immense fear and would ask myself: “Can I pay my bills? Did I earn enough revenue?” I loved working for myself, yet financially surviving felt super scary at times. It got really scary when a client who had paid me a significant fee in advance decided he wanted to postpone our work due to a change in his life plans. As was appropriate, he asked for his money back minus any of my already expended fees. I panicked. I didn’t have the money. I had spent it as soon as I received it.

I knew my only option here was to turn to faith. I sat in my altar space at home and prayed. A fear-filled part of me began rationalizing various ideas for how to avoid giving a refund. I reasoned I could tell the client I didn’t think it was right for him to back out. I thought about alternative ways to work together to use up that same amount of money. I hated all of these thoughts. They did not feel right to me. I wanted to do the right thing and fully honor his request and refund his money. I believed the decision he made was right for him. But, I didn’t have the money to give him.

A few days later, I checked my building’s mailroom, which I actually didn’t do all that often. It was Christmas time and so I sensed some cards might come in for me. I did receive a few cards, including one from a family elder I had not seen in many years and we had recently reconnected. When I had sat down with her catching up about my life and work, this relative was impressed by the work I was doing to help people as a coach. She felt it was aligned with my mother’s legacy and we talked about how pleased my mom would be with my choices. From this same relative, inside her Christmas card to me was also a check and a note: “I hope this helps as you follow your dreams.” That check was for the exact dollar amount I needed to refund my client. I wept. This was a sure sign that a force greater than me — God or the universe — was supporting the good work I was doing. I won’t say I never worried about money again, but I can say this story always reminds me that I don’t have to.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Upon deciding to start a business with the vision to help other people create joy and fulfillment in work and life like I had, I researched whether I needed any additional education to fulfill my mission. I researched several coaching schools as a possible pathway. I attended one of the schools for a day that a friend recommended. The program facilitator asked each person at the end of the day whether they were interested to enroll in the school. I tuned into my inner wisdom. I was very quick and clear with my knowing. I answered: “No, this isn’t for me.” I had realized that the activities throughout the day were based in teachings I already knew from my own lifetime of self-study around empowerment. Another path became clear for me. I declared to the group: “What I’m really looking for is a spiritual teacher.”

It’s true what they say: when the student is ready the teacher appears. Within just a few weeks, I had lunch with a former business acquaintance who was passing through town who also happened to be a self-help author. Our conversation revealed that she had spent the last decade in deep spiritual study and was now coming out as a spiritual teacher. I immediately knew she was the teacher I was looking for — big shout out and thanks to my spiritual mentor Christine Arylo!

Can you share 3 or 4 pieces of advice about how leaders can create a very “healthy and uplifting” work culture?

1. Lead with purpose — I once watched a CEO bomb his talk at a corporate conference. He was a male leader speaking to a company of almost exclusively female employees. That company had been female-led and recently bought out by a Fortune 500 Company. His talk began and ended with a detailed powerpoint of the company’s aggressive plan to grow its market share over the next 5 years. He lost the audience in the first few minutes. It was painful to watch. What he missed was telling his employees WHY this massive company growth would matter to them at all. He didn’t share about the good it would do in the world or for the employees personally. Instead, it just looked like everyone was going to be asked to do a lot of extra work beyond their current overload.

Recently, I coached a business leader around giving his opening remarks at a corporate retreat. He was about to give a similar talk like the one I had seen bomb. I didn’t fault this business leader for his approach. I understood. Business leaders, especially male leaders, are very focused on the bottom line. That’s what they are typically hired to focus on. I warned him that his approach could turn his team off, and asked him to think about his team members and their interests. As we examined his team — mostly female millennials — I assured him he would lose them if he simply gave a hard core numbers analysis. He agreed. As we discussed ideas I saw lightbulbs go off for him about what was needed. Turns out, he opened his talk with two powerful, engaging, and relatable stories that captured the essence of the inspiring purpose behind the product they were selling. That was mindful leadership and inspired the whole team!

2. Do everything with loving intentions

All of what we do is governed by the law of cause and effect. This is a law of both science and spirituality. In science, this is Newton’s 3rd law of motion. In spirituality, this is known in some traditions as “karma” or in others as “the golden rule.” Basically it says: what you put out to the world comes back to you. Said another way: “You reap what you sow.” This principle is something to put into practice in every thought and action around how you do business if you desire to do business mindfully.

A significant portion of the business world has forgotten about this basic principle. Rather than treat people exceptionally well, it has become expected in many business circles to act in your own best interest while disregarding or trumping the interests of others. One area, for example, that I see a lot of inequitable treatment is in employment contracts. Contracts are heavily weighted in favor of the party who writes the contract and who has greater bargaining power. There has been a trend in non-management level employees, for example, to be expected to sign non-compete clauses in their employment contracts that basically bans them from earning income in their area of expertise if they leave the company for a period of 1–2 years; and yet the company offers them no increased compensation for giving up that right. Mindful business leaders are well-suited to recognize and shift unfair business practices toward greater equity and fairness. Under the law of cause and effect, these good intentions will serve to bring good results to their companies.

3. Get to know and focus on people’s genius

People are born with natural talent and interests. I call it genius when you combine natural talent with passion and experience. Mindful leaders who recognize the genius of their team members, can place individuals in the roles they are most suited for and where they will perform well. When everyone on the team is focused on their genius zone, an inspired and happy culture is sure to result.

Unfortunately, many job descriptions today require one person to wear a variety of hats. And no attention is paid as to whether it actually makes sense that inside one personality all those natural talents and tendencies would exist. You often see job descriptions that require 3 vastly different personality types and skill sets and so when one person does this job, he or she will be very unhappy 2/3 of the time. If you focus instead on placing that person more of the time in the 1/3 of the role that is in their genius zone, that person will thrive and be an exceptionally valuable, loyal employee. Just because you can train people to execute many different tasks, doesn’t mean you should. Thinking about the individual and collective genius of your team is a very mindful and effective way to lead in business today.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

The movement I would create would be to bring heart into work. This is about a style of leadership and a way of working where love is at the center. This involves people working in their genius zones doing what feels meaningful and rewarding. This involves people being empowered to reduce fear and operate from their higher selves. This involves work that doesn’t harm the earth but instead ensures all is operating in harmony. In essence, we take great care of ourselves, each other, and the planet — all through our work.

How can people follow you and find out more about you?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gina-marotta-60928b4/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thegeniusguru/

Twitter: @ginamarotta

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…

Authority Magazine

Written by

Good stories should feel beautiful to the mind, heart, and eyes

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Authority Magazine

Written by

Good stories should feel beautiful to the mind, heart, and eyes

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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