Guest blog by Suki Collins, Business and Executive Coach
What is Coaching?
This is one of my favourite quotes and in my view, it reflects what coaching is all about:
Coaching helps individuals to focus on their personal goals through a one-to-one session through planning, support, and accountability. As an Executive Coach, I encourage my clients to be clear about what the promotion would mean for them. What are the benefits of having this promotion? And what are the criteria for promotion?
Once you have a clear idea about the criteria for the promotion, it’s a good idea to do a SWOT analysis against the criteria for the promotion. A SWOT-analysis helps to identify areas for development and helps you to come up with an action plan with SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actions, Review and Timebound) goals.
SWOT stands for strength, weakness, opportunity and threat analysis. The goal of a SWOT analysis is to evaluate the past, present and future of individual career goals. It provides insights based on your personality strengths and weaknesses, the challenges they see ahead of you and what opportunities are present around you, now and in the future.
The SWOT analysis was first devised as a business tool in the 1960s by business icons Edmund P. Learned, C. Roland Christensen, Kenneth Andrews, and William D. Guth. In 1982, Heinz Weihrich took it one step further, constructing a 2 x 2 matrix to plot out the answers to the four key questions for easy comparison. Strengths and weaknesses were across the top, and opportunities and threats were in the bottom row. This remains the most common and effective way to conduct the analysis.
While there are many formats for the SWOT analysis, in its simplest and truest form, the SWOT matrix is a four-quadrant table with a colour-coded grid, looking something like this:
Strengths and opportunities are things we consider favourable and within our control, while weaknesses and threats are unfavourable and dictated by external forces. You can use this data to explore the correlation between your strengths and weaknesses, how to leverage your strengths to make the most of your opportunities, and how to improve your weaknesses to mitigate threats.
Reasons for a personal SWOT analysis
Doing a SWOT analysis can help you to become the best version of yourself. To be most effective, remember to focus on what you want out of it. Do you want that promotion? Or are you looking for personal growth?
To conduct the analysis, ask yourself questions about each of the four examined areas. Honesty is crucial for the analysis to generate meaningful results. With that in mind, try to see yourself objectively from the standpoint of a colleague or a bystander and view criticism with objectivity.
Try to imagine the potential of what you can become, for example list all of your strengths, not just the ones you are currently exhibiting in your job (as some may have been dormant for a while). It’s also good to think about the strengths you have that your peers don’t – how are you different, unique, and special?
SWOT questions to ask yourself
There are many SWOT analysis templates online. Find one that makes sense to you, and get ready to evaluate your internal strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses, and find what makes you excited about your work, job, or career as well as what keeps you awake at night.
To make a SWOT worth the effort, you need to set aside the time to think about it, then sleep on it and revisit it. You won’t think of everything in one sitting, and that question or answer that entered your brain overnight might be the most relevant and revealing insight in the exercise. Understand that you will need to come back to this a few times over a week or two to truly capture complete answers.
Begin by identifying your strengths. These are the traits or skills that set you apart from others. Ask yourself these questions:
- What are you good at naturally?
- What skills have you worked to develop?
- What are your talents, or natural-born gifts?
The next step is weaknesses. This part examines the areas in which you need to improve and the things that will set you back in your career.
- What are your negative work habits and traits?
- Does any part of your education or training need improvement?
- What would other people see as your weaknesses?
For the opportunities section, look at the external factors you can take advantage of to pursue a promotion, find a new job or determine a career direction. For example:
- What is the state of the economy?
- Is your industry growing?
- Is there new technology in your industry?
Finally, look at any threats to your career growth. This part accounts for the external factors that could hurt your chances to attain your goals. Consider these questions:
- Is your industry contracting or changing direction?
- Is there strong competition for the types of jobs for which you are best suited?
- What is the biggest external danger to your goals?
Remember to be objective and consult others who know you if necessary. Moving outside your comfort zone will help you get the results you’re looking for instead of reinforcing your own beliefs. The key to writing a good personal SWOT analysis is honesty. Be unflinching in revealing faults and weaknesses but also in celebrating your strengths and what makes you the best you.
Determining the outcomes
You can evaluate your results using two popular methods. The first is matching. Matching means connecting two of the categories to determine a course of action. For example, matching strengths to opportunities show you where to be aggressive and act. On the other hand, matching weaknesses to threats exposes areas you should work on or situations to avoid, letting you know where to be more defensive of your position.
The second is to turn negatives into positives – in other words, converting your weaknesses into strengths, or threats into opportunities. This can mean growing a skill set through education or finding a creative way to feature a weakness as a strength. For instance, if you are very outgoing, an introspective and isolated work environment may not suit you very well. But if you can work toward a position, such as sales, in which you interact with many people, that weakness turns into strength and could allow you to excel.
Once your SWOT analysis is complete, it is crucial to follow through on the insights you uncovered.
SWOT analysis can fail to be effective if it is simply treated as a list, without any follow up. This is where coaching comes in as it ensures you follow through and holds you accountable. SWOT analysis in combination with Coaching can help you to become the best version of yourself.
You can also commit to taking action yourself. Start with each of the four elements, thinking about how can the identified strengths move the needle in the endeavour to achieve a key goal? Or how can we navigate a potential threat once it is identified to ensure no ground is lost?
Working with a Coach or by yourself, identify SMART goals using the results from your SWOT analysis, set up measurements and milestones and keep working toward them. Step by step, you will get where you want to be, so get started now.
Suki Collins is a Business and Executive Coach. She has had over 20 years of experience at the senior HR management level. Suki is the Founder/Director of Pebbles Coaching and Wellbeing Consultancy, established in 2020. Her company aims to provide coaching to individuals, teams, and organisations, leveraging the insight of over two decades’ senior management experience within two top Universities and extensive executive coaching experience.