Have Your Done A Personal SWOT Analysis?

As someone who calls themselves a Learning and Development Professional you will understand, I am sure, that I am a great believer in the importance of continuous personal and professional development.

The word ‘continuous’ means that it is a process which never ends. Personal Development and indeed professional development are things which continue throughout our working lives and beyond.

Over the years as I have worked with people both in groups and individually one of the things that I have seen with many is that the cause of dissatisfaction they experience with their careers and with the way their lives are going is the disconnect between what they are doing and what is important to them.

I have talked about this before in terms of personal values in my article about Aligning our Career and our Values. However I want to take a different perspective on it here and look at ways in which each of us can start to tackle the issues by looking at how we can use a Personal SWOT Analysis to give shape to our learning and development activity as individuals.

What is a Personal SWOT Analysis?

I am sure that you are already aware that many business organisations commonly use Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis as a tool to analyse themselves, frequently as part of their Business Planning processes. It forms the basis for their future activity and also can provide valuable insights into why things are as they are at the time they do the SWOT Analysis.

A SWOT analysis, though predominantly used in organisations can be used just as effectively at a personal level. By taking a look at yourself in this way you can determine where you need to focus your efforts in terms of your self-improvement and personal development.

Here are a few thoughts in each of the four areas that you might want to consider during your SWOT analysis, both from your own point of view as well as from that of an independent observer. In fact once you have completed your first draft you might want to share it with others to get their feedback.


Your strengths include all the things you are good at doing. These are the personality traits that make me unique and differentiate me from others. Your strengths are what help to make you effective at a professional as well as a personal level.

In assessing your strengths you may want to consider the following:

  • The things that you are capable of doing better than others.
  • Three skills and abilities that possess which others admire and respect.
  • Your achievements using my skills and efforts as a professional.
  • Your educational or professional qualifications.
  • Your personal qualities that stand out through my work and in my behaviour.


Although some will argue that you should focus on developing your strengthst rather than worrying about your weaknesses if you have identified areas that you want or need to develop then include them here.

So, your weaknesses are those things which are, in your opinion, not suitably developed. They are the things which are acting as a barrier to your personal growth and to the achievement of your objectives.

In considering your weaknesses or areas for development you might want to think about the following:

  • The single thing that generates the greatest amount of fear in you in your professional and/or personal life.
  • Three things that people youu trust say you need to change or correct.
  • The things that you are required to do that you would rather steer clear of, for the reason that you are apprehensive or afraid to do them.
  • Personality traits that keep you from taking a stand against something that you believe is wrong.
  • Characteristics in you that prevent people from seeking your help in areas where you would like to offer your help.


These are the chances that you have to develop yourself positively, to become more self-confident and perhaps even to enhance your trust in your own capabilities.

An in-depth study of your opportunities will cover:

  • The steps you need to take to ensure that your strengths are accentuated.
  • Identification of the people who can help you with your personal and professional development.
  • Identification of opportunities that are available to you to demonstrate your capabilities to your superiors and co-workers.
  • The ways in which you can contribute your services to help others with their workload, that will also display your useful and proactive nature.
  • The opportunities to project yourself and the things that you do in a positive light.


Threats are impediments and obstacles in the way of my attaining excellence in the things that I undertake to do.

Your assessment of threats could involve:

  • Identification of the things that hinder your efforts at excelling in everything you do as well as the steps that will help in overcoming these hindrances.
  • Identification of people who may hinder the advancement of your professional career and what you need to do to address them.
  • Pinpointing impediments in the workplace that may stop you securing promotions and how to remove them or overcome them.
  • Identification of peers who could compete against you for a job and what skills you need to develop to be in a better position to apply.

A thorough Personal SWOT analysis will reveal areas which you need to focus on in terms of your learning and development or personal development. Dealing with your weaknesses appropriately and with a clear focus on your strengths will make you feel renewed, leaving you energised and ready to confidently take on all new opportunities that present themselves. The Personal SWOT analysis is a great way to get a clearer picture of where you are right now and what you need to do to move forward and focus on your continuous personal and professional development.

In a future article I will look at how, with these insights, you can create your own Personal Development Plan but for now take the time to complete your Personal SWOT Analysis.

Learning Opportunities Are Like Chocolates

Given that it’s Easter I have been thinking about chocolate! We cannot always have the choice of chocolate sweets we want but sometimes being open to the other choices available to us can help us to discover something new and enjoyable.

As much as it pains those of us who work in Learning and Development, nowadays in many organisations, justifying a spend on professional development of staff can be challenging. Unless we can show that there is a direct and almost immediate relationship between professional development and the bottom line the cost can be hard to justify. Even with a rigorous analysis of the Return on Investment (ROI) all too often at a time when money is tight we will find that the costs will not be agreed or our proposed solution will be watered down.

So, as I am sure you are all too aware many organisations really struggle with the idea of funding personal development that they cannot align with organisational bottom line improvements. Yet, we will be approached by enthusiastic individuals who want to develop themselves and make, as they perceive it, an improved contribution to the organisation. So how do we as Learning and Development professionals respond to those sort of approaches? We are of course keen to encourage individuals to develop themselves and don’t want to discourage them. But we know that the money will not be there for them to attend the course they have identified.

I am a firm believer in thinking outside the box when it comes to learning/personal development. It does not have to have a financial cost to the organisation at all. There are a wealth of opportunities for people to develop skills through volunteering, through joining organisations like Junior Chamber International (JCI) etc which they can pursue.

I believe that we as learning facilitators should be encouraging staff to think creatively about their learning opportunities. As an example in my early career I wanted to develop my public speaking skills so I joined an organisation (out of hours) which enabled me to do just that. If someone who wants to develop their leadership skills approaches you then why not talk to them about the opportunities in their local community or through voluntary organisations to develop those skills?

Equally if someone wants to learn how to chair meetings a simple way to start is to get them to observe the chair of meetings they attend, note the positive behaviours and those that don’t necessarily deliver results and then seek opportunities to practice those skils.

Being open to the learning opportunities all around us is something which many of us who work in the field are open to as individuals. Let’s not forget that they are also opportunities which we can encourage those who come to us looking for funding for training to consider as well. It might not be their first choice but like the chocolates they may discover something they really like!

Understanding Our Learning Styles

In my introductory post “Why A Learning and Development Blog?” I mentioned that it was Honey and Mumford’s work on Learning Styles that first fascinated me about the theory of learning. So it feels appropriate to make my first post one about the subject.

The theories around the concept of individual learning styles was to have a major effect on the world of learning and development. By definition, a learning style is an individual’s habitual or natural pattern of processing and acquiring information in learning situations. Ever since the theories became popular in the 1970’s, many practitioners have developed models about it, two of whom are Peter Honey and Alan Mumford.

Honey and Mumford adapted their learning styles from the work of David Kolb. Kolb’s model was based on the Experiential learning theory and involved two approaches in grasping experience (Concrete Experience and Abstract Conceptualization) and transforming experience (Reflective Observation and Active Experimentation). According to Kolb’s model, these four modes make up an ideal and complete learning process.

Don’t worry if that all sounds a little theoretical I am going to explain now what it means in practice!

Unlike Kolb’s model which involves the combination of two stages, however, Honey and Mumford’s four main learning styles are directly associated with each stage. This model, which was based on research conducted on the behavioral tendencies of managers, involved four stages namely

  • having an experience,
  • reviewing the experience,
  • concluding the experience,
  • … and planning the next steps.

According to this model, each of us have preferred learning styles which are dependent on both the context of the learning and our experience. As a result, people cannot be considered to be locked into a single style only. In fact, these four main learning styles are assumed as acquired preferences that are completely adaptable to the learning activity instead of being just fixed characteristics which we always follow.

These four main learning styles, which I will explain below, are:

  • Activist,
  • Reflector,
  • Theorist,
  • …. and Pragmatist.

The Activist

The activist learning style is all about having an experience. People who fall under this category are most comfortable in doing and experiencing activities and love the limelight. Activists love to try new experiences. They flourish when given immediate experiences and are willing to try anything new.

They are different from other types of learners in a way that they tend to jump in before thinking over the possible results of their actions. So as an example when someone who is an Activist gets an iPad they will switch it on and start playing with it to see what it does! They love practical activities and games and can get totally immersed in a new learning experience.

The Reflector

The reflector type of learning style, at its simplest, can be described as the direct opposite of the activist. While activists are all about immediately jumping on experiences and reviewing the consequences afterwards, reflectors prefer reviewing the experience they are going to have first. They prefer being given the time to observe and think and are more comfortable in watching others rather than being in the centre of activities. People who fall under this learning style tend to be cautious, with them having the need to collect a significant amount of data first before they would come to a conclusion.

The Theorist

The third type of learning style classifies people as theorists. Theorist type of learners conclude from the experience and tend to want to see where things fit in terms of overall concepts. They attack problems in a logical way and enjoy analyzing situations. Models, systems, and principles dominate their actions and way of thinking.

The Pragmatist

Pragmatists, unlike the other three learning styles who tend to focus on experiences, prefer planning the next steps instead. They are into problem solving and find comfort in finding the relevance of the things and experiences they encounter in the real world. While theorists like to analyze, people with a pragmatist learning style like to apply learning instead. They like searching out for new ideas and like to put them into immediate practice. It is also in their nature to look at problems as “challenges”.

Why Are Learning Styles Important?

The importance of understanding the four main learning styles is that they really do play a very significant role in the way we as individuals learn. As individuals understanding our learning style can help us to maximize our own personal learning. As managers, trainers and people developers ensuring that we understand the different learning styles helps us to design learning experiences that are more likely to engage people and enable them to get the most from their learning opportunities.

Not only does it make learning easier but learners whose preferred learning styles are being addressed can enjoy the process better if the teaching has been tweaked to fit their needs and preferences.

Why A Learning and Development Blog?

Why a blog about personal development or learning and development when there are so many of them already? That’s a question that has occured to me a number of times when I have thought about creating a site about my passion for Learning and Development.

However, as I have been talking to various people over recent weeks it became clear that this was something I both wanted to do and needed to do. It’s many years now since my career focus moved into the learning and development arena and throughout those years I have discovered an immense amount about both myself and others.

I started my career in Banking, back in the days when it was an honourable profession! During those early years I discovered Junior Chamber International (JCI) which is a management development organisation. The thing that fascinated me about them was it gave members the opportunity to learn by

  • getting involved in practical projects such as organising the Manchester Lord Mayor’s Parade;
  • to learn about leadership and management through taking on leadership roles within the organisation such as I did by becoming Local President, undertaking National Project Manager roles, Regional Group Chairman and National Director

All of which was complimented by formal training inputs to put practical learning into a theoretical context. I also had the opportunity to train as a Trainer with JCI and was to go on to deliver training on a local, regional, national and international level and to work with some amazing people such as John Adair.

It was through JCI that I first encountered Honey & Mumford’s thinking on Learning Styles which I found fascinating. It was as a result of my practical learning and getting to grips with the theory behind it that I secured my first role as a Training Manager.

Ever since then my roles have been focused on learning and development, enabling others to achieve and seeing the spark in someone’s eyes when they “get it” – whether that be through formal training delivery, continuous learning in the workplace or working with them as a Coach.

My focus has always been on making learning come to life by grounding it in practical reality. I keep myself up-to-date with the theory of learning and indeed of late I have been honoured to become a Fellow of the Institute of Training and Occupational Learning alongside being a Member of the Learning and Performance Institute and a Member of the Chartered Management Institute. But! Everything I do is focused on enabling people to learn and gain insights into themselves by keeping it simple!

That therefore is my aim with this blog about Learning and Development. To make learning and learning theory interesting, informative, enabling and accessible.