Every great company and individual goes through regular, ongoing self assessment and personal growth, setting goals in order to thrive in their particular business environment. Are you going to be swept along by whatever winds of change are blowing your way, or are you going to get your SWAT team together?
Just as a reminder, a SWAT team is a highly trained special weapons and tactics team of elite officers who handle all sorts of high risk, special operations events. In case you are not aware, there is a lot going on in our economy these days! You need to have a highly tactical approach to today’s business environment.
Every top business uses a tool called SWOT to uncover its Strengths and Weaknesses, and to examine Opportunities and Threats facing it.
Just as business leaders use this tool, I am asking you to use this tool to creat your own personal and career business plan to carry you confidently through the years ahead.
The key success factor here is to uncover what makes you unique, what differentiates you from those around you. What qualities set you apart. Here are some questions to get you thinking:
• What are you really good at?
• What skills do other people recognize in you?
• What do you do better than most people you work with?
• What do you get recognized or rewarded for?
• What, about yourself, are you most proud of or statisfied with?
• What experiences, resources or connections do you have access to that others don’t?
You can tap into friends, peers, and family to give you feedback about your strengths as well. Don’t be modest! Identifying your strengths is a huge first part for your personal career plan.
There are two temptations here. The first, is to be highly self-critical and write reams and reams of pages as to where we think we fall short. The second temptation is pride, which says, “Weaknesses, what weaknesses?” Just as a store keeper takes a business inventory every year, so we must take personal inventory of our weaknesses as well as our strengths, so that we can minimize those weaknesses.
Here are some suggested questions:
• What do you try to do that you just can’t seem to master?
• What do you do only because you have to in order to satisfy job requirements?
• Are there one or two aspects of your personality that hold you back?
• What do other people most often identify as a weakness for you?
• Where are you vulnerable?
• Where do you lack experience, resources, or connections where others have them?
After looking within, it is time to look outside of yourself. Set aside some time to brainstorm and to write down at least 20 ideas that may not have occurred to your before:
• In what ways can you maximize your strengths?
• What opportunities are open to those who do these things well?
• What would you love to do that you’re good at?
• How can you minimize your weaknesses? If your weaknesses no longer held you back, what could you do?
• Where do you see the most potential growth for yourself? Within your current company, in a different company?, a different industry, or different career altogether?
• What trends are having an impact on your current career or one you are thinking about pursuing?
Some may see this as negative thinking. However, you would not have faulted George Bush for taking more precautions for Hurricane Katrina would you have? Threats are coming at us all the time with our personal careers, so we would be wise to work on contingency planning.
• Do you have weaknesses that need to be addressed before you can move forward?
• What problems could your weaknesses cause if left unchecked?
• What setbacks might you face?
• What obstacles have other people overcome to get to where you want to go?
These questions are worthless unless you take some time to reflect on them, and to form some plans of action. I encourage you to take 5-10 minutes during each day this week to invest into your personal development and career plan. Steven Covey, in his classic, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, states that leaders spend most of their time in Quadrant II activities: those that are not urgent, but most important. Clarifying and charting your career course is a definite Quadrant II activity!
To give credit where credit is due, I got most of the ideas for this post from MindTools, a fantastic site which I highly recommend to you!