“If you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War
If Sun Tzu had lived in the 21st Century, his sage wisdom regarding battlefield strategy would have translated well to today’s modern corporate environment.
His observation about self-awareness is of particularly noteworthiness, given the modern employee’s increasing autonomy in the workplace and the resulting need for more intense professional development. In fact, it almost perfectly sums up the very essence of what it means to perform a personal SWOT analysis.
The acronym SWOT stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.”
In business, SWOT analyses are used for everything from sizing up a new product to surveying an existing industry. More than ever though, SWOT analyses are being used by personnel to perform workplace self-assessments.
This type of personal analysis can be essential to employee development, because it showcases an individual’s current disposition and provides an action plan for the worker to achieve greater success. A personal SWOT analysis can also alert them to the many challenges they might face on their journey of professional fulfillment.
To demonstrate the usefulness of the tool, let’s take a look at a fictitious personality we’ll call “John.” As a salesman, John wants to cultivate his strengths, find new opportunities and achieve a higher level of job satisfaction. He decides to perform a personal SWOT analysis and understands he must be candid about his own shortcomings and strengths. His analysis breaks down in this way:
- Exceptional interpersonal skills
- Legendary customer service
- Perennial leader in hitting monthly sales targets
- Still not earning six figures a year (even though peers in other industries do)
- Company’s lack of new products stifles earning potential
- Longer-than-necessary lunch breaks
- Chats too long with clients about non-work related topics
Provided John is truly candid with himself, he can now identify his Opportunities and Threats. While Strengths and Weaknesses dealt with internal aspects of John’s performance, these next two categories relate to the external facets of his current situation.
- By documenting customer needs and forwarding them to the Purchasing Department, John can demonstrate how sales are suffering due to a lack of key product categories.
- By taking shorter lunches, John will have more time to learn the business needs of his clients, so he can pro-actively suggest product lines that have a high sales probability.
- Purchasing might get defensive and misunderstand his feedback.
- Departments at his company have a poor track record of accepting change or respecting sales staff.
While these insights may not get John every new product he believes his company should carry, (or get him to the six-figure mark), he at least has considered both the internal and external factors necessary to developing a game plan.
Even if John is successful in convincing his organization to carry ten new products, he can find solace in the fact that he is inching his way toward his goals.
On the other hand, John may realize his company will never change, and he may decide to look for another position with a different and more collaborative organization.
Or, he may ultimately decide to stay with his current job and simply lower his expectations across the board.
Without performing a personal SWOT analysis, John may never have discovered the issues contributing to his professional despair and therefore may have continued battling his own unmet expectations for years to come.
Regardless of his decision, John now has a firmer grasp on the factors he can control to bring about the professional fulfillment he is seeking.
Look in the Mirror Photo via Shutterstock
I have done this lots of times for my clients. And it is not enough to just do it one time. You also have to do it at regular intervals.
Aira, You comment is exactly right — circumstances change, people get promoted and new hires come in and new products get adopted.
A SWOT analysis must be raised at least once a quarter, as you suggest — The Manager must at least ask, “What’s changed since our last SWOT?”
I have both my students and clients do the ‘Persona’l as Amy has so well presented. The unexamined life is not worth living (apologies to Socrates…).