Why conducting a Personal SWOT WILL put you top of the class!

Lindsay Taylor is Director of Your Excellency, a highly successful training and coaching organisation that creates the difference that makes the difference.  Lindsay is a big fan of conducting regular SWOT’s as part of continuous personal and professional development.  In an exclusive video interview with meetingsclub we asked Lindsay what a personal SWOT was and why EAs and PAs should regularly carry them outPrefer to read, no problem!  Check out the below and read-on to get your own resource copy of the questions you should be asking during a personal SWOT. 

So, you’ve probably heard of SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym and it stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. A SWOT analysis is normally conducted on an industry or organisational level to help a business identify their strategy. 

A personal SWOT is similar in that you are identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats – this time though it’s in relation to YOU – so on a personal level.   

It’s a fantastic way of gaining a snapshot of “you” at any one moment in time. The resulting information can be hugely insightful and useful for you to give yourself feedback as to “what next”. It’s an exercise that I use with one-to-one coaches – PAs/EAs regularly come to be when they’re at a crossroads in their careers and they need and want clarity on where they are and where they are going. The Strengths and Weaknesses boxes are also fantastic to use for input on your CV or in preparation for an interview too.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU BE CONDUCTING A PERSONAL SWOT?  

Regularly.  This is not a “one-off exercise”.  Change is constant and I’d recommend conducting a Personal SWOT as a check in with yourself every 2-3 months – or more frequently if you know there have been noticeable or significant changes in your life – or like my coachees, you are at a crossroads in your life.  

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE WHEN CARRYING OUT A PERSONAL SWOT? 

Firstly, on the practicalities – I suggest you pick a time and place where you aren’t going to be interrupted or distracted.  Think of this as “quality you time” and investing in you.  The exercise should take about 20 minutes tops, but you want to do it all in one go without any distractions so that you’re able to remain focussed on answering the questions as one complete package – because one question posed may impact another.  I suggest you grab a cup of tea or coffee or whatever tipple you fancy!  Plus, a big piece of paper and if you’re a visual learner some coloured pens.   

Separate your paper into 4 squares – label each quadrant with the letters S/W/O/T. If you’re visual, you can use different coloured pens that represent the quadrants.  Red for Strengths or indeed Red for Weaknesses – whatever works for you.  

AND WHAT’S THE BENEFIT OF HANDWRITING THIS DOWN? 

There are psychological benefits to writing things down. You’ve thought of something to write so from your thoughts in your head, put that down on paper, you add movement by writing it down and then you’re reading it as your write so reinforcing the words – it’s a multi-sensory learning experience.    

Date your Personal SWOT too so when you look at it again you know when you did it and can compare it to your new or subsequent SWOTs.   

When you’re answering a question jot down the first things that come into your mind.  Don’t overthink a question and if a question doesn’t sound right, look right or feel right just move on to the next question.   

Consider yourself as a “whole person” – by that I mean not just you at work.  There are things that you will have achieved outside of work that you will be really proud of – perhaps it’s raising a happy, healthy child or running a marathon.  Your achievements (often outside of work) are gained by drawing on strengths that are part and parcel of YOU so it’s important to identify those strengths in your Strengths Box.    

YOU SAID ABOUT USING A PERSONAL SWOT FOR YOUR CV OR AN INTERVIEW – HOW CAN YOU DO THIS? 

So, for your CV the strengths box can be invaluable for writing the “personal statement” section of your CV.  It can also give you a boost of self-confidence when you identify “I’m really good at event management or I’m really good at persuading others” – its empowering to take ownership of your strengths. 

I do absolutely appreciate that some people struggle with identifying their strengths – we can be really good at giving ourselves “negative feedback” but feel like we’re bragging or being big-headed when we say “I’m really good at... .something”.  But this isn’t bragging -it’s stating fact and being proud that you good at something. So, when an interviewer asks what your particular strengths are share them!  For each of your strengths you’ve identified have evidence ready at interview.  If one of your strengths is event management for example, you may say – “I organised last month’s sales conference for 200 people and 90% of the feedback was a 5star rating”.    

Also, if you really do struggle with answering in the first person particularly for the Strengths box, imagine you could clone yourself. So, if you were doing a Personal SWOT you’d ask “what has Michelle achieved in her life that shes really proud of?  Or what are Michelle’s strengths in terms of her personality”.  This can remove the emotional attachment for the process.  What I would say is afterwards repeat those questions answering in the first person – you will probably then find it a lot easier the second, third or subsequent times around!   

The weaknesses box is an interesting one – when I ask the question “by eliminating your weaknesses could these lead to opportunities for you” – there is one answer which is “yes”.  However, this question is followed up with “are there weaknesses that you’re comfortable with that you don’t necessarily want to change?”.  So, in my weaknesses box I would put “finance” and “maths” or “numerical work” as my weaknesses – I jokingly share with people that once I’ve run out of counting on my fingers and toes, I’m out!  I exaggerate I know – I could improve my finance and mathematic prowess and knowledge however, I get by just fine and it hasn’t held me back from achieving and I don’t get excited by figures and numbers so I wouldn’t be motivated to do this anyway – at the moment anyway.  Because I regularly do a Personal SWOT to check in with myself of course…. 

For the weaknesses I do want to change – to ensure they lead to opportunities – I need to give myself great feedback as to what to do next.  So, another weakness for me would be the use of Excel so I’m starting an online course next month to become better at using the programme.  

If an interviewer asks you to identify one of your weaknesses, you can still turn this into a positive.  “I’m not particularly great at using Excel however I am starting an Excel course next month so I can improve my skills”.   

AND WHAT ABOUT SWOTTING WITH A COLLEAGUE? 

A fantastic idea!  Why not set aside time with a colleague or friend and ensure this is a beneficial exercise for the both of you – so you both conduct a Personal SWOT and ask each other the questions.  I would reiterate again the need to set aside quality time without distractions though so you can complete this “in one sitting”, so to speak.   

Conducting a Personal SWOT – Questions you should ask! 

A Personal SWOT is a fantastic way of gaining a snapshot of “you” at any one moment in time.  The resulting information can be hugely insightful to give yourself feedback on where you are on your personal and professional development journey and where you need or want to be.   

Remember this is not a “one off” exercise.  It’s good practice to conduct a Personal SWOT every 2-3 months or more regularly if you know there have been significant changes in your life.  

Set aside 20 minutes of quality thinking time – this is investing in “you” so make sure you remove yourself from distractions and commit to completing the full SWOT exercise.   

Divide up a large piece of paper into quadrants and used coloured pens that represent each quadrant for you.  Make sure you put a date on your Personal SWOT.   

Consider yourself as a “whole person” – by that I mean not just you at work.  There are things that you will have achieved outside of work that you will be really proud of – perhaps it’s raising a happy, healthy child or running a marathon.  Your achievements (often outside of work) are gained by drawing on strengths that are part and parcel of YOU so it’s important to identify those strengths in your Strengths Box.    

Jot down your initial responses without overthinking them – if a question doesn’t look right, sound right or feel right, just move on to the next question.     

Here are the questions to be posed:  

Strengths 

Use the PAS model 

P = Personality: 

What personality traits do you consider to be your strengths? What tells you that?  What evidence do you have to support this? What personality traits do others consider to be your strengths? What feedback/comments have you had from others? 

A = Attributes: 

What attributes and skills do you consider to be your strengths?  What tells you that?  What evidence do you have to support this?  What attributes and skills do others consider to be your strengths?  What feedback/comments have you had from others? 

S = Successes: 

What successes do you have?  What achievements are you most proud of? What strengths have you had to draw on to achieve these things?  

What networks are you part of?  What connections do you have with influential people? 

Weaknesses 

  • Consider your weaknesses as areas that potentially you can develop – they are opportunities for you to better yourself. 
  • What personality traits do you consider to be your weaknesses? What tells you that? What evidence do you have to support this? What personality traits do others consider to be your weaknesses? Do you have personality traits that hold you back? 
  • What attributes and skills do you consider to be your weaknesses? What tells you that? What attributes and skills do others consider to be your weaknesses? 
  • What tasks do you avoid because you don’t feel confident doing them? 
  • How confident are you in regard to your education and training – are there any weaknesses here? Do you have any “negative” habits? 

Opportunities 

  • What networking events, educational classes, training and conferences can you attend? How could you find out about these? 
  • Can you cover for someone on leave or make yourself available to run a project or learn new skills? Do your identified strengths open up any possibilities and opportunities? 
  • By eliminating your weaknesses, does this open up opportunities and possibilities for you? Which weaknesses do you want (or need) to eliminate to make them opportunities? Which weaknesses are you comfortable with?  
  • Is there any new technology that you can take advantage of? 
  • Are there any trends in your company, sector or profession that you can take advantage of? 
  • Is there a need in your company, industry or profession that no-one is filling? 

Threats 

  • What obstacles or barriers do you currently face that could be threatening your success? 
  • Does changing technology threaten your position? 
  • Is your job changing? 
  • Could any of your weaknesses lead to threats? 

Lindsay specialises in delivering training and coaching to PAs, EAs, Secretaries and Administrative Professionals across the world and believes that fun, experiential training delivered in a jargon-free down-to-earth manner will ensure a memorable experience and optimise learning.   

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE GO TO:  www.yourexcellency.co.uk