Planning to win – SWOT yourself!

If you’ve been part of a strategic planning meeting, you’ve probably heard all about the SWOT Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It’s a standard in many a planner’s toolbox. If you’ve never heard of it, read on.

SWOT works well as a starting point for organizational planning because everyone participates in creating the lists in each category I listed. The lists create a snap-shot of where the organization stands in present-tense. Strengths and Weaknesses tell what’s going on inside the enterprise, while Opportunities and Threats describe what’s going on out in the world.

As you make your own personal plans, I encourage you to make use of the SWOT model to self-evaluate. Personalize the analysis: SWOT yourself! Sounds painful, right? It can be. But it can also be freeing, enlightening, and motivating. Here’s how to do it:

Start here (it’s more fun) and list your strongest personal assets. What’s working for you? Some categories to explore might be character, skills and abilities, relationships and finances.

You’re normal if you find it easier to list your faults and limitations – what you’d like to change in all the categories above. Just focus on the biggies and try to keep the list concise.

This might be hard. You can phone a friend if you want. The idea is to look around and ask what’s possible for you right now, if you choose to engage. Education? Relationships? Skill-building?  For example, Toastmasters is an opportunity to build speaking and leadership skills.

What are the real obstacles? Not what’s scary – what’s really in the way of your progress? Job instability? Financial challenges? Negative relationships? Not so fun to think about, but I bet it’s a short list.

Now it’s time to ruminate. Look over your SWOT lists. What patterns do you see? Are some items related – sort of a theme? Do some items have the potential to interact in positive or negative ways? For example, is there an opportunity that addresses a weakness? These observations inform how you plan for your future and set goals. When you SWOT yourself, you know where you stand. From that point, you’re much more likely to set goals that are motivating and make sense because they’re more realistic and relevant.

Go ahead – SWOT yourself!


The winning process

“A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals.” – Larry Bird

This quote encapsulates the heart of Hidden Springs Coaching better than any I’ve yet found. As a coach, I help people to do four things – four elements of a process that leads to accomplishment. The end result is a “win” – a goal achieved.

A winner is someone who recognizes his or her God-given talents. I coach people to harness their gifts by discovering their personal style and strength. Where do your gifts lie? Maybe in leadership and influence? Or perhaps for you it’s communication and persuasion. For some, their strength is in analysis and detail-management. Others are valued for their ability to listen, nurture and give care. Yet others are champions of consistency and stability. To win, you need to know how you’re wired and what you do best.

A winner is someone who chooses a definite direction. I call it charting your course, and it’s really just about making choices that steer you. Remember that encouraging passage from Dr. Seuss? “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” Where would you like to be next year, in five years or in twenty years? To win, you’ll want to decide that direction and begin taking steps to get there.

A winner is someone who works his or her tail off to develop talents into skills. Building skills in any area will take work, and lots of it. But if you’re working in an area of God-given talent already, you may discover that your skills ramp up quickly. As an introvert who enjoyed playing with words, I was comfortable with writing, but not speaking. Once I got into a program to build speaking skills, however, I found out that I was a natural. I still had to “work my tail off” to be really good at it, but the talent was there. To win, you need to focus your energy on putting your talents to work in a skillful way.

A winner is someone who uses his or her skills to accomplish important goals. As a coach, I notice when talented, skilled people get stuck. It’s a sad sight to behold! The reason these folks can’t get traction is that they haven’t created an action plan that will move them forward. Many well-intentioned people have set lovely goals but haven’t taken a single step toward their achievement. To win, you start with a picture of where you’d like to be “someday,” then do a realistic assessment of where you are right now. Next, think through all your options to get from here to there. Pick one path, commit to it, and get started. Soon you’ll be moving toward your goal.

As Hall of Famer Larry Bird’s quote reminds us, winning is a process. It consists of taking action by harnessing your gifts, charting your course, building your skills and achieving your goals. Are you ready to get started?