My oldest son started back to school this morning. It will be his last semester of Nursing School and he’ll be an RN (hopefully) in December. My other two kids will be heading back to high school in a couple of weeks. Like a lot of families, our conversations this weekend periodically morphed into discussion of the various challenges and expectations the new school year will hold. We talked about strengths and weaknesses and bounced around strategies to try and get the most out of the fall semester.
The transition from one season to another is also a good time to take stock of where your team stands, both individually and collectively. As everyone gears up to take on the stretch into winter, it can be beneficial to circle the troops for a discussion of team dynamics, market conditions, and customer expectations. One tool that’s proven helpful in this regard is the SWOT analysis. Using this framework, teams and individuals can develop a better understanding of the internal and external landscape they will navigate over the coming months. Here are some questions this exercise can help you answer.
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S – Strengths. What’s going right? Where does the team excel? What particular talents and abilities do individuals possess that make them an asset to the organization? What are the significant client relationships and areas of differentiation that make your team stand out?
W – Weaknesses. What aspects of your business model put you at a disadvantage? What cultural limitations present hurdles for you? What talents need to be shored up, and where do internal roadblocks impede the team’s ability to excel?
O – Opportunities. What external factors, such as economic conditions or market changes, stand to provide you with an unexpected leg up? What shifts in the competitive landscape will provide you with an open door? What relationships with customers and/or prospects are evolving in ways that could provide windows into new business?
T – Threats. What factors beyond your control stand in your way of success? Are there regulatory issues looming on the horizon? How will the political climate over the next several months impact your business model? How might your growth strategy (you do have one, don’t you?) be thwarted by issues you have no ability to influence?
S – Strengths. What are you naturally good at? What skills have you developed recently? How strong is your personal network? What positives do others see in you?
W – Weakness. What bad habits hold you back? What training or education do you need to pursue? Have constructive criticism have you received that needs to be heeded? What do others see as your primary flaws?
O – Opportunities. Where can your particular talents be of the most use? What gaps exist in the team or organization that you could help fill? What changes are coming down the road that you need to be prepared to advantage of?
T – Threats. What stands in the way of your growth? What’s keeping you from contributing at the highest possible level? What might be lurking around the corner that could derail your career plans?
Effective communication – with the team or with yourself – is about finding answers. I’ve often found that answers are just waiting for the right question to be asked. A SWOT analysis is simply a catalyst for asking those questions. By understanding your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges, you can prepare to make the most of the days ahead.
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