Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Creating Your SWLD Matrix

It’s fun to have date with yourself, your inner self. And when you want to find the Real You, you need to know Your Strengths, Your Weaknesses, Your likings and Your Disliking. In this blog, I will discuss a self discovery tool that I’ve invented to help my people professionally grow – Creating the SWLD Matrix.

Beginning with your strengths, make a list of five areas in which you excel, starting with the strongest. Maybe your strongest skill is number crunching, planning, execution, problem solving, making presentations, motivating or hiring, but whatever it is, it’s important that you know it inside and out. Don’t limit yourself to any specific area or field. You may be good in multiple areas – personal, technical, domain, managerial, etc. etc. Think about all of them. Try staying away from listing abstract qualities and be as specific & concrete as possible. For example, if you say that you are good in multi-tasking it really means that you are good in time management, prioritization of tasks and scoping of tasks in hand. If you are not really good in all of the above, list only the sub-areas where you are really good at. Similarly, instead of saying that I am technically good, try to list specific technologies, domains, programming languages, environments, platforms and areas where you have expertise.

Similarly, make a list of the five areas where you are the weakest (again starting with the weakest). This is important because you need to know what areas you need to stay away from, or need improvement on, or need to seek help (guidance, training, coaching, mentorship, etc. etc.) on. These items are the things that, if not properly handled, can wreck your growth plans before they even get off the ground.

Then again get in touch with yourself and think about tasks that you really like doing. Even if you are not told to do this, or even if it is not part of your primary job/responsibility, you end up doing it on your own time because you are really passionate and enthusiastic about doing these tasks. These are your likings. Most of the time, you would find a big overlap between your strengths and likings.

Finally, list the tasks and areas which you really don’t like getting into. You either never deal with them or, if forced to do, would do them half heartedly. Don’t be surprised if you find an overlap between your weaknesses and disliking. Knowingly or unknowingly, we get ourselves into one or the other comfort zone, where we feel secure and comfortable. We start liking areas where we excel. And we start disliking (and avoiding) areas where our inner-self knows that we are not strong at. The Idea here is to break out of your comfort zone to achieve success.

Put above identified strengths, weaknesses, liking and disliking in four quadrants of a matrix – and call it mySWLD matrix.

Now focus on the entries in the “strengths” quadrant of the matrix which are not getting used (at all or on consistent basis). And then work closely with you team and management to create more opportunities for yourself (within given reality and limitations of the business you are in) to play your strengths. When you focus on what you CAN do, opportunities arise and people flow into your life to help you. The more you play your strengths, the more you flex your strong muscle, the better you would be able to convert your potential and abilities into productive output. And more you will be able to add value to your team, project, division and organization. Yes, I said that your growth is your responsibility. But if you play your cards right, you may make your Manager co-responsible for your growth (and may get more chances to play your strengths).

Then focus on the in the “weakness” quadrant of the matrix which are impacting your day-to-day performance (quite often or on consistent basis). And then work closely with your team and Manager to “do whatever it takes” to improve in these areas. It may require a change in your aptitude as well as attitude. This is your opportunity to seek help (coaching, training, mentorship, etc.) to fill in missing tools (skills) in your toolbox.

Discuss your “liking” quadrant with your team and Manager and see if it is possible for you to take on more tasks/responsibilities falling in this category without deviating from your organizational goal. Be ready to take extra additional initiatives – it can’t be at the expense of your primary responsibility or deliveries that you are accountable for.

And then also discuss the “disliking” quadrant with your Manager. Who knows maybe it was never important for your Manager and the business for you to own or participate in tasks that you didn’t like to do. And if the task is critical enough for the business for you to continue doing, at least making it known to your Manager will make the situation better for you. May be it was one of your weaknesses that was making you dislike this task. And when you overcome that weakness, you may move out of your comfort zone and this particular item might move from your “disliking” quadrant to your “liking” quadrant.

Note: When I discussed the SWLD concept with one of my MBA friends, he pointed me to a similar concept, called Johari Window. The johari window is like a pie chart and it is divided into 4 sections, the open self, the hidden self, the blind self, and the unknown self. The whole point of the Johari window is to help you understand who you are. It is a communication model that can be used to improve understanding between individuals within a team or in a group setting. You may find many links on this when you do googling for it.