By Sandy Hershelman
Knowing your weaknesses is your greatest strength.
Only after you're willing to admit to a weakness and face it head
on, can you turn the liability into an asset.
A powerful tool for personal or business insight is the SWOT analysis.
SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors—and are usually
under your control. Opportunities and threats are external factors.
A SWOT analysis can illuminate a path for personal growth, life
direction or business development.
Within a company, the SWOT model makes an effective tool for business
planning, evaluating your competitors, marketing, and/or product
development. It's also a great way to facilitate a brainstorming
session and/or dissect a new business proposition.
We've all evaluated a big issue by making a list of the pros
and cons on a piece of paper. SWOT analysis takes that concept one
Before you begin, identify what it is that you hope to achieve
by exploring a SWOT. That goal helps drive the questions asked
category. Make your four-part list:
do you excel over others? What do you do well? What skills or resources
do you have to offer? What would others say are
your strengths? Is your work experience, education or personality
do you do poorly, or not at all? What should you avoid? What complaints
do you get from others? Do you have a lack
of work experience, education, skills or personality?
opportunities are coming in the near future? Do you have a strong
network of business associates? Is business
booming? Do you sense a job offer coming?
Threats: What obstacles
do you face? Could any of your weaknesses threaten your livelihood?
Are layoffs looming? Are the new hires
better educated? Are you facing illness or debts?
After completing the exercise, make a plan that minimizes the effects
of your weaknesses, maximizes your strengths, and takes advantage
of available opportunities. Create an action list—and review
it regularly. In a few months, repeat the SWOT analysis to identify
your achievements and see what areas still need work.
SWOT builds teams
Your company is only as strong as its weakest link. The wise businessman
knows his own weaknesses and surrounds himself with others, who
are strong in his weak areas.
Encouraging your employees to recognize their limits, and communicate
them to their peers, will make a stronger team. With proper guidance,
they are in a prime position to teach themselves to work more effectively,
and focus on areas that need attention.
A SWOT analysis used in this manner can be very effective in a workplace.
Remember, though: you are asking your team to open up and be brutally
honest about their weaknesses. Not all people will respond favorably
to this. Respect that. The results of a SWOT analysis need not be
made public in order for it to bring about positive personal/company
You may consider bringing in a facilitator for this staff meeting.
Owners and employees working through their SWOTs side-by-side makes
a powerful pro-teamwork statement.
Allow sufficient time for each employee to complete the SWOT. Give
them a heads-up at least a week before you're ready to do the
analysis. That way they can think through the process beforehand.
As employees share their evaluations and plans, they learn how they
can support and help each other accomplish those goals. Challenge
your team to look past the obvious and further explore the initial
conclusions. Be aware that you may be hard-pressed to get honest
answers if an owner or supervisor is the weak link.
Follow up the SWOT analysis with specific goals for improvement and
a strategy on how to attain them. By overcoming your weaknesses,
you're developing strengths.