During my time as a coach, I have often utilized SWOT analyses to help teams analyze their organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This is a simple, user-friendly method to help a team or a board focus on key issues affecting their business. This type of analysis often can be used as a precursor to a more comprehensive strategic planning session.
One benefit of the SWOT process is that it encourages teams to not only brainstorm ideas but also face untapped opportunities and potential threats. Consistent use of this framework can give an organization a competitive advantage through dialogue regarding brand, culture, new products or services, and capabilities.
What some people don’t realize, though, is that SWOT analysis can also be an effective personal strategic planning tool. Crafting your personal SWOT matrix is a powerful technique that can be used, for example, when you are seeking a career change or facing a major shift in your life.
Here are three steps to get started:
Step 1 – Identify what exists now. List all strengths that exist now. List all weaknesses that exist now. Be honest.
Step 2 – Look to the future. List all opportunities (potential strengths) that may exist in the future. List all threats (potential weaknesses) that may occur in the future.
Step 3 – Create a matrix/get a plan. Enter your ideas in the appropriate quadrant (see figure). Notice that strengths and weaknesses are internal forces; opportunities and threats are external. See how each quadrant has a relationship with another? What strengths exist that could overcome weaknesses? What weaknesses need to be overcome in order to embrace a new opportunity? Review your matrix and think about a plan.
Here are a few helpful questions to increase your awareness around internal and external factors:
- What skills and capabilities do you have?
- What qualities, values, or beliefs make you stand out from others?
- What are the skills you need to develop?
- What personal difficulties do you need to overcome to reach your goal?
- What external influences or opportunities can help you achieve success?
- Who could support you to help you achieve your objectives?
- What external influences may hinder your success?
A SWOT matrix can provide a foundation to help you create goals and action steps. You may consider addressing your weaknesses by building skills or self-leadership capabilities. Carefully review your opportunities, as they may be used to your advantage. And consider how threats could be minimized or eliminated by shifting personal priorities or gaining new knowledge.
It’s common for people to experience blind spots around their own strengths and weaknesses, so don’t hesitate to seek out opinions from friends, family members, and colleagues. Also, be willing to share your SWOT matrix with a partner who will hold you accountable for action steps and celebrate your progress.
Best of luck—and happy personal planning!
About the Author
Patricia Sauer is a coaching solutions partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 150 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world.
Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services.