Category: Leadership Tips

Achieve Strategic Thinking With S.W.O.T.

Achieve Strategic Thinking With S.W.O.T.

There are a number of techniques to stimulate strategic thinking. One of the most balanced approaches is the SWOT approach. The letters S.W.O.T. stand for:

S = Strengths                   W = Weaknesses
O = Opportunities            T = Threats

The reason the SWOT technique works so well is that it requires you to think about the four categories equally. You are forced to look at both the good (Strengths and Opportunities) and the bad (Weaknesses and Threats). The optimistic people can’t escape looking at the downside, while the pessimists must look for something positive. The main idea in this process is to stimulate thoughts and discussions by contrasting Strengths vs. Weaknesses as well as Opportunities vs. Threats. Then you can challenge the Strengths and Opportunities with Threats and Weaknesses. The process has you look at the situation from all sides and juxtapositions.

It is easiest to create a four quadrant grid and label the top left Strengths and the top right quadrant Weaknesses. For the bottom two quadrants, place Opportunities in the left on and Threats in the right. Leave space below each for people to write comments. You can also set up four separate flip chart pages, each labeled with one of the SWOT words. Once you have the “worksheets” set up, begin gathering information by asking four questions. Ask them one at a time, leaving discussion time before moving to the next one. Here are the questions to ask:

1.  What are the Strengths:

  • What is working?      SWOT image-blue
  • What is good?
  • What should you keep doing?

2.  What are the Weaknesses:

  • What is not working as well as it should?
  • What is bad or unacceptable?
  • What should you stop doing?

3.  What Opportunities do you see?

  • What new ideas, approaches, practices, etc.?
  • How can you adapt what you learn here to create something new?
  • How can you better use resources?

4.  What Threats do you see?

  • What challenges do you anticipate?
  • What is the probability of it happening?
  • How serious could it be if it does happen?

There is no set or logical order to the questions and people will want to jump around as thoughts come to them. Your challenge is to channel the energy to collect the comments in the appropriate quadrant. It is easier to facilitate if you explain this to them before you begin the process. You can decide if you want the free flowing approach or a more structured approach. You can also determine whether you want the group to work individually first and then share, or take another approach. The key is to get the information so you can draw conclusions and plan for the future.

Once you have gathered the thoughts and recorded them in the quadrants, look at them from another perspective: Use the Strengths and Weaknesses as an extension of Opportunities and Threats.

  1. What Strengths do you currently have that support the Opportunities?
  2. What Strengths do you currently have that will help you overcome the Threats?
  3. What Weaknesses do you currently have that will have to be overcome to take advantage of Opportunities?
  4. What Weaknesses do you currently have that will have to be overcome to manage the Threats?

While you will not come up with ready-made strategies, using the SWOT process will provide a framework for deeper exploration of how you can take advantage of Opportunities and prevent or reduce Threats. It is also a good technique for engaging others and building on ideas. SWOT’s can be used by individuals, teams or any group that wants to strategize. It provides a good framework and establishes a disciplined approach where ideas – rather than individuals – can be challenged.

Sharing Leadership Roles

presentation 1” Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal. “   ~  Vince Lombardi

While some people are more inclined to step up to leadership roles, everyone can develop leadership skills, if desired. Many times an individual just needs steady reinforcement of their ability. This can happen through coaching and mentoring. Or it could happen from being put in a situation where they have to lead and have the support of others.

While not every behavioral style is comfortable being in front of a group or taking the responsibility for success of the team, even the quiet, conscientious person has the ability to lead. It will be in a different way.

Regardless of one’s leadership style, it is important to give everyone an opportunity to develop their leadership strengths and put them to practice. Bring less experienced employees into the role by giving small leadership assignments to help them increase their confidence and comfort.

When a few others accept parts of the project and take the lead in those areas, you are developing talent. At the same time you are giving yourself more time to mentor and coach those future leaders.

The Impact of Modeling Behavior

coaching 3We can change the way people view us and influence their behavior through role modeling. By modeling a more positive behavior and self-image, we can set examples for others. We can become the role model for the ideal leader or team member. We can be better role models in our families and communities. The benefit to us is an enhanced self-image.

Too often individuals believe they can improve their position of power among peers and feel better about themselves if they belittle others. By putting down others, they build themselves up – but only in their minds! Others observing such behavior have less repect for the “stronger” individual.

Ask yourself:

  • What image do you project to others?
  • What could you do to improve it?

Leading with Values

leadership-circle gray“Leadership is a reciprocal relationship between those who choose to lead and those who decide to follow.”   ~ Kouzes & Posner

Do you know anyone who called himself a leader,but hasn’t noticed that no one is following?

Have you observed a group who has self-selected their leader even though there is an individual who has been appointed leader but hasn’t earned their support?

Leadership is both a right and a privilege. If you have the ability to bring people together, step up to the opportunity. Having others trust you to lead the way is a privilege.

A key to successfully leading others is to recognize what they value. By aligning your leadership style to the values of others, you gain greater trust and support. If your values reflect their values and you lead with both your head and your heart, you will find that your followers will stay focused on the mission that brought you all together.

Continuously be mindful of the values they share and you will find success as a leader. By modeling this leadership awareness, others will learn to do so as well.

The Law of Becoming

The Law of Becoming

The Law of Becoming states that each person is in a continual process of becoming or evolving in a direction of his dominant thoughts. As individuals we are in the process of living for tomorrow or dying for tomorrow. It is your choice!

Your negative thoughts or negative self-talk takes a little more out of your life each day. You must focus on the more positive aspects of life and dare to dream your dreams – then take the chance and execute.

Your life is what your thoughts make it. Your thoughts are the most powerful source in the universe. The Law of Concentration: Whatever you dwell upon continually grows into your reality. (Sounds somewhat like the Law of Attraction.) Get out of your own way!

Success Strategies-Lessons Learned from Best Practices

Success Strategies-Lessons Learned from Best Practices

Often you count success when the outcome is positive. If the outcome is less than what you expected, it is labeled a failure. In both situations, lessons can be learned. It is important to take time at the end of any task or project to analyze “what worked’ and “what didn’t work.” From this analysis, you can draw out the lessons learned and from those, create Best Practices.

In reality, if the project is a success, you pat yourself on the back and move on to the next assignment. If this is your normal pattern, you are missing out in several areas:

  1. Give the team or other vested parties the opportunity to enjoy the success and share the highlights, challenges, ways they overcame them, etc. This activity will build a bond of trust and cooperation among them. It also allows you the opportunity to gather insight into the project and personnel. Just as important, taking time to discuss the project demonstrates that the organization values their effort.
  2. Even in a successful outcome, there are lesson to be learned. Rarely is a project perfect in all phases and steps. Everyone can learn from others when they share their tactics for overcoming challenges and setbacks. From this knowledge new approaches can be developed and future project teams may be able to avoid repeating the same pitfalls.

Of course, when a project is less than successful, there are always lessons to be learned. However, these lessons require a different approach. The goal should be to determine what worked and what didn’t – not to find blame.

If you start from a position of seeking to blame, you will not get truthful answers.

  • Everyone will tell you what they think you want to hear.
  • They will be trying to protect themselves from the possibility of being singled out and put on the spot.
  • Those who know they were part of the problem may already be punishing themselves.
  • The goal is to gain information so the problem does not occur again.

To create an environment in which people want to work together for continuous improvement, approach it as a problem-solving session – with the emphasis on “problem-solving” and not on blaming or punishing. Your goal is to gather information to improve the process for a successful outcome the next time.

A) Analyze what happened – not who did it!

B) Ask for what was learned

C) After gathering input from everyone’s perspective, create Best Practices to avoid a repeat situation.

Once Best Practices have been determined and agreed upon, be sure to communicate them across the department or organization so others may benefit as well. Make a habit of reviewing each project with those involved to maximize future success.

Leadership Challenges and How to Deal With Them

Leadership Challenges and How to Deal With Them

When I heard President George W. Bush at his final press conference as President, I thought of the many challenges that leaders face. Regardless of your party of choice or your opinions about his presidency, one could hear a real clear message about leadership. Those of us who have held leadership roles – especially the one at the head (where the buck stops!) could relate to the message.

I am not referring to his accomplishments or disappointments. Nor am I referring to his reactions to reporters questions – both positive and negative. I could hear in his voice the frustration of what he could not control and how it impacted the decisions he made. Being the President or any leader does not mean everything will follow your vision and plan for success.

The situations are unique to each leadership role. The pressures vary with the importance of the position. There are several things that all executive leadership roles have in common:

1. You Can’t Please All of the People All of the Time

It is humanly impossible to satisfy everyone even some of the time. Many people think they have a “better way” or would have “done it differently.” It may seem to some that there is a better way. When you are sitting in the position to make the decisions, you must believe that you have gathered the necessary information to make the best decision you can at the time. And accept that it will never be the perfect decision for everyone.

2. People Will Judge You on Your Acts of Omission As Well As Those of Commission

It’s the old “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t” issue. Not only can you not please everyone, you cannot accomplish everything you would like to accomplish. Again you are criticized for what you did and could have done differently as well as what you failed to do. There is a limited amount of human energy available to put into any position and leaders seem to maximize their use of that energy into their vision. The challenges are never ending. And the praise for effort expended is nearly non-existent. But you certainly hear what you should have done!

3. You Can’t Do It Alone

There is no greater stage to demonstrate the need for a supportive team than when you are in an executive leadership position. This is also true if you are a team member or a family member. If you try to “do it yourself” most of the time, you risk not have buy-in and support of others. People need to be involved and feel a sense of commitment and satisfaction. Leaders need to build a team. Team members must be honest with their leaders when asked for feedback or input. No leader wants to appear as the Emperor with no clothes!

4. You Need a Tough Skin

This is not to suggest that leaders should be insensitive or domineering. Not at all! You do need to not take everything personally. If you feel wounded – stabbed in the heart – by words and actions of others, the stress of the position will take its toll on you. Just because a leader takes a tough stand or appears cold and calculating, don’t be fooled. The leader has probably spent many anxious hours consulting and mulling over the situation, possible outcomes and consequences. Since we often associate compassion and feelings with weakness, leaders have to maintain the aura of authority while demonstrating concern for others without losing the support of followers.

5. It Is Lonely at the Top!

No one – even if they are your most loyal supporters – take on the responsibility you do as a leader. No one feels the stabs of negative feedback as you do. And no one feels the sense of accomplishment for a job well-done like you do. Few people will give you honest feedback, but they will discuss it with others – both positive and negative. And as President Bush and others have said: Only history will tell the real story of your turn at the top.

Regardless of who is holding the office of President of the country or an organization, we have a duty to respect the office. While we may not like the decisions made or the personality of the individual, the office itself commands respect. Any person who accepts the responsibility of such a position believes they are doing the best thing for the organization and they have something to offer. By working with the leader, we can contribute and influence the decisions or direction of the organization. Being contrary only adds additional distractions and takes energy away from leading. Followers who are non-supportive of their leader do not help the situation and cause negative energy and outcomes.

Each time we enter a new administrative era on the national level, let us all respect the office of the Presidency. We need good leaders to be willing to take their turn at the top. With constant badgering and personal attacks, why would anyone want to leave a high level corporate position to take on the role of President of the United States? The same holds true in our organizations, be supportive of those who are willing to give talents time and talents at the expense of their business and family obligations.

In most organizations, you do not have the opportunity to elect or select your leader. And leaders don’t always have the opportunity to select their teams. By respecting the leadership position and committing support to the mission and vision of the organization, everyone will benefit. If you are not the leader, be a team player – even if you did not get to pick your captain! One day you will be on the other side of the desk.