Over the past few weeks, the term ‘SWOT’ has shown up in more conversations than it has in the past 15 years of my work! The universe must be trying to tell me something, eh?

First, the basics, just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about:

S: strengths
W: weaknesses
O: opportunities
T: threats

Sales teams love to use SWOT, because it helps define a clear picture of where you stand in the marketplace against your competition. Lately, however, leaders are using it with their teams — but much in the same way, asking how do we stand in the marketplace against our competitors or objectives?

It’s a powerful tool and worthy of your time.  

As leaders, however, I encourage you to shift a degree or two off center for a little more oomph. Let me tell you what I mean.

The question for us isn’t, what are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for our product or service? But rather: what are the SWOTs of our culture?

As a culture, what are our strengths? What do we do well when it comes to our people and culture? Do we foster leadership as a behavior? Do we equip our people with the skills to manage internal conflict? Do we teach how to critique ideas in a powerful and productive way? Do we welcome uncomfortable conversations where the growth lives because we know how to respect one another?

What about our weaknesses? Are they the inverse of those strengths I named? Do we avoid conflict? Do we take things personally and talk about people not problems? Do our managers intimidate instead of lead? Do we lack insatiable curiosity for those that differ from or disagree with us?

Often our weaknesses present our greatest opportunities. Addressing those weaknesses effectively can turn them into strengths and build a better team and culture — plus, it can put you in better standing in your market and/or community. Imagine the impact we could have on the community police debate if more agencies were willing to address these topics internally.

Which leads us to threats. Too many leaders look outside for the threats, towards competition, economic impacts, community opinion…and there’s no question, those are real. But what about the threats inside? Do you have toxic people that might perform a task well, but burn bridges in their wake? Is there a department holding the organization hostage because of their position or power? Is there improper behavior you’re afraid to address, but is a risk for majorly bad publicity?

As leaders, these are some of the courageous questions we need to ask and face. 

Try it. I can help.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash