My 21 favourite good SWOT questions

The first step to doing SWOT well is asking good questions. Don’t know what questions to ask? Read this post.

SWOT is a great and simple tool for analysing your current position in order to define strategic action. In this post, I first outline the meaning of strategic action and then list 21 of my favourite SWOT questions to help you with your own SWOT analysis.


Creating strategic action starts with knowing your position

According to Sun Tzu, the Chinese military general who penned “The Art of War”, understanding your current position is the key to creating good strategy. According to Stephen R Covey in “The 7 habits of highly effective people”, if you don’t begin with the end in mind (define a clear mission) it is not possible to understand your current position and therefore not possible to put first things first and create strategic action and priority-based action. Linking these ideas to the usage of SWOT, we can say that you cannot know your strengths (for example) unless they are measured in relationship to some goal, mission or objective. When asking “How strong am I?” we must first ask “For what?”

So – if you want to use the following SWOT questions to analyse your position, start by defining your mission well. If you’ve already done that, read on and answer each of these questions, thinking of your mission statement at each moment…



  • What makes you better than others (for this mission)?
  • What actions do you do well?
  • What are your competences? What knowledge, skills and attitude do you have that can help you?
  • What do other people say you do well?
  • Why should you of all people undertake this mission?



  • What could you improve in order to achieve this mission?
  • In what ways are you not efficient?
  • What don’t you do well?
  • Where are you incompetent? What knowledge, skills and attitude are you missing?
  • What should you avoid doing?
  • Why shouldn’t you undertake this mission?



  • What real opportunities are present today?
  • What is going on around you that seems to be useful?
  • From which recurring tendencies can you profit and how?
  • What could be done today that isn’t being done?
  • What is missing on the market?
  • Who can support you and how?



  • What are the negative tendencies in play today?
  • What obstacles do you face in your mission right now?
  • Who might cause you problems in the future and how?
  • What is the competition doing that might cause difficulties for you?


Not enough? Read my other post: 6 more cool SWOT questions to identify opportunities


When I do a SWOT, I like to take a little time alone to get started, but then try nonetheless to include others later on (my wife, peers, a team I am working with). Here are 2 more references to help you do a great SWOT:


Once the initial SWOT is done, it’s time to start thinking about actions, solutions, priorities etc…

..want a simple idea? Check out my post on “2 questions that seem to set me free” or read about “Creating Strategic Action in 4 Steps


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How I introduce myself in Presentation Skills, Commercial Communication and Consultancy training

How should a trainer introduce herself at the beginning of a course? Should she just give her name and company, or detail her experience? Do certain people and cultures expect to know what school she came from, her family name or her special interests?

For the training noted above, I prefer not to worry about those things and just let the participants decide. This reinforces key learning on how to adapt to your interlocutor whilst achieving your own objectives, the importance of asking the right questions and how to deal with questions. Read on to understand..


Consider the following exchange from my training this morning:

  • DAN (after all trainees have introduced themselves): So, what do you want to know about me?
  • Trainee 1: How old are you? Do you have kids?
  • DAN: Just like that? No more detail than age and if I have kids?
  • Trainee 1: Yeh, that’s fine.
  • DAN: I’m 32 and I have 3 daughters. Is that OK?
  • Trainees 1: Yes, thanks.
  • Trainee 2: What is your experience?
  • DAN: You want to know what presentations I’ve given or just my CV?
  • Trainee 2: No, no, your experience as a presenter?
  • DAN: I have given lots of presentations to lots of different public….. (DAN continues with a resume of different conferences he spoke at, 2 previous employee roles where he had to present to different internal audiences… full detail). Does that answer your question?
  • Trainee 2: Yes, thank you!
  • …and so on…


What you will see in the above exchange:


1. I don’t launch directly into a presentation of myself

What I want to achieve is a useful introduction of myself that gives them enough information to trust and believe in me and create rapport. (I “begin with the end in mind” Covey habit n°2)

I ask what they want to know in order to choose what I say. (Covey habit n°5: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood).

Having both of these things in mind, I can decide what to share.

This is the basic approach to creating an effective message (in presentations, commercial communication, consultancy…): Look for the common ground between your objective and the other’s situation, values and needs.


2. I reply to a closed question with a closed answer

Trainee number 1 asked me a question that could only be answered by “yes” or “no” as well as another very restricted question. I answer by “yes” and “no” and just giving my age. Being able to ask questions that will get your interlocutor speaking is key in presentations (to create interactivity), and in commercial communication and consultancy (to assess situation, values and needs). Although I am a little abrupt in my answer, he ought to understand that if he wants more, he should ask for it.


3. I check that I have understood the question well and that the answer if satisfactory

No trainer worth his pay-cheque misses this and since we will deal with that topic in presentation skills training, it’s a good start… if you have joined training today, check p32 of your workbook.


Voila: How I introduce myself in these 3 training modules.


See to find out who I train or visit for interactive learning and development content

Leadership styles in practice

This post is a simple exercise for learning participants in various moments of various things. If you want more information, contact me ..

According to Blanchard and Hersey there are different potential styles for leading others.

Read each of the following examples of leadership and put them into categories where the phrases, according to you, all look to indicate the same style:

  1. CEO to CFO: “I need you to cut costs by 8% next year”
  2. Daughter to Sister: “Stop. You are doing it wrong. You need to helmet on first and then your gloves. Otherwise you won’t be able to close properly the straps on the helmet. “
  3. Manager to employee: “How do you think we should approach this project?”
  4. Consultant to client: “The best thing we can do is implement the service change in 3 phases. First we will do this, then you need to do that, the final step is…”
  5. Mother to son: “I think should close your books and just test your memory. What do you think?”
  6. Sister to brother: “Its Mum and Dad’s wedding anniversary soon. What should we do for them?”
  7. Mother to son: “Can you deal with the washing please darling?”
  8. Manager to colleague: “If we tell them first what they will win, they are sure to want to listen. What do you think?”
  9. Father to daughter: “Put your hand on the rail. Now move this leg. No, THIS leg. OK. Now, move your hand up. Here, let me help you. That’s it, much better. The other hand needs to go here…”
  10. One colleague to another: “If we try it like that, it might work. Do you agree?”
  11. Manager to assistant: “Can you type this report for Monday please?”
  12. Manager to employee: “How do you think we can best improve profit next year?”

5 simple tips to help you deliver conf-call trainings

I just spent an hour and a half on conf-call with 3 people, sharing training information from a session they missed last year. This post gives 5 simple tips on how to do this well.

During a 4-day Project Mgt Round-Table initiative, each afternoon was dedicated to learning people and behavioural skills. The afternoon they missed was all about “Understanding other people” and “Commercial Communication”. Since they missed the training, the call today was to get them up-to-speed. In that sense, a knowledge-building session (rather than skill building), but I didn’t want it to be “just me talking”.

As a personal debrief, here are some tips for trainers who train over the phone (or just general conf-call tips) – list is a non-exhaustive and in order of thought, not priority:


Don’t be afraid to “ham-it-up” a little and “act more”

Boring people are boring to listen to. Boring voices are hard to pay attention to. Use your voice intonation and personal style as much as possible to keep people awake. This is true anyway, but on a call go 120% from time-to-time. You need to be the energetic speaker with intonation.


Take time to address individuals

2 elements – first address individuals, then take time.

  1. Addressing individuals is all about asking specific people to speak. Instead of “Who can tell me what the ‘B’ stands for in the FAB acronym?” ask : “Vincent. What do you think the ‘B’ stands for in the FAB acronym?”. The only thing to be careful with is to make sure that you systematically ask questions to all participants and avoid missing anyone out. You can explain up-front that this is what will be doing..
  2. Take time. It is true that people don’t like silence, but its also true that we sometimes badly estimate what people are doing on the phone when we have just asked a question. We might easily mistake 10 seconds silence for “I don’t know” (which is much easier to see, than hear). If you are worried people don’t know an answer, or don’t dare to answer, follow-up with “Would you like to answer, Vincent?” *  ….but give them a little time to think first!

* you don’t have to call everyone Vincent, even on conf-calls 🙂

Make sure you repeat regularly the structure of your call

This is important in any training/meeting, but doubley-so on a conf-call. The vast majority of people respond best to visual stimuli (like your PPT or flip-chart agenda) and often this is missing in a conf-call, so you need to repeat and regular moments the purpose, learning objectives and agenda of your call. If you’ve never seen a “Dora-the-Explorer” cartoon, watch one and see how good she is at reminding you that “first we went over the bridge, then we went through the woods, now its time to…..”


Try to use a visual support for your call

If you can use NETmeeting, send a PPT, or even ask people to visualise something, this is very handy to help create concentration, improve attention and create recall for the vast majority rep systems. Don’t forget the visual element!


Use more “confirmation moments” than you might do in a classroom or face-to-face environment

When you are face-to-face with trainees, it’s quite easy to see if they are following you. * On the phone, don’t be afraid to ask from time-to-time: “Is that OK?”, “Do you have any questions?”, “What do you think about this?” (followed inevitably by “Anyone?”) …or even of course: Ask someone specific!

* although it would be naive to assume that the smiley face in front of you has understand more than the girl in Indiana Jones’ classroom

I hope this was interesting for you. Feel free to add comments with more ideas on how to do well in conf-call training sessions.


Visit http://flavors/me/dansteer of or follow me on twitter @dan_steer

How L+D professionals handle training cancellations and absences

This report treats the subject of how different organisations face up to trainee cancellations and absences. 

On the 12th May 2010, I asked 34 Learning Managers and HR professionals from around Belgium the question:

 “How do you deal with trainee cancellations and absences in your organisation?”

Of the responses received by email and telephone, answers were divided across 3 camps:

  • Those who control cancellations and absences with policy
  • Those who focus on presence by creating support for value-added learning
  • Those who simply suffer the phenomenon, taking no further action

Below, you can see the content of the report.

Click here to read it: How-L-D-Professionals-Handle-Training-Cancellations-and-Absences

If you have further questions regarding the following content, contact me via email or by telephone +32 (0)472-346.226




Reasons for cancellation, absence and presence.. 3

Cancellation and absence vs. lack of subscriptions. 3

Why people don’t show up. 4

Why do people show up?. 4


Controlling cancellations and absences via policy. 5

Most common cancellation policy. 6

To whom should charges be made?. 6

Problems dealing with sickness. 7

Linking policy to important measurables and consequences. 7

What about internal trainings that have “no cost”?. 8

Pay now, refund when you show up. 8

Have a back-up plan for cancellations. 9

Strict vs. flexible policy. 9

Communicating policy. 10

The importance of reporting. 11


Focusing on presence by creating support for value-added learning.. 12

Make learning a priority. 12

Reward people for training rather than absence. 13

Seek agreement and buy-in from the trainees’ manager. 14

Show the ROI of training activities. 15

Build the reputation of the learning people. 15

Create real motivation by letting people choose for themselves. 16

Alternatives to the classroom: Blended learning solutions. 17

The importance of timing and time-spending 17

How to develop and facilitate brainstorming sessions

As part of its Continuous Improvement strategy, SITEL is globally rolling out Six Sigma.

The training on brainstorming Dan delivered recently constitutes an excellent add on to this development, facilitating the link between analyse of data and specific improvement initiatives.

It allows our Yellow, Green and Black Belts to perform their improvement tasks even more efficiently.

Jeroom Malcorps
Operation Support Director, Benelux and Netherlands

How to develop and facilitate brainstorming sessions (2)

Sitel is a performance improvement driven company. “Green is not good enough”. We are constantly moving forward and constantly looking for ways to improve.

The goal of my department is to support our corporate objectives through learning and development for all Sitel associates. Our success is that of the individual.

Having followed a public training session with Dan on how to facilitate a brainstorming session, I saw an opportunity to achieve
that mission and decided to implement it internally.

Innovation is a tool I believe each line manager should carry on their tool belt. This training helps participants to fulfil the strategic and business-driven need for improvement by identifying relevant operational actions.

In a highly interactive training environment, participants learnt how brainstorming can be done. We trained 37 different people and I am very satisfied with the work.

Learning Manager
Sitel Belgium

Welcome to me + highlights of 2010

To support the kick-off of my site at here is a little information about me, by means of my 2010 top activities:

  • 444 different people trained in communication, leadership and personal effectiveness –> 725 man/days of training
  • 46% growth on 2009 revenue
  • Lots of sub-contracting work for Kluwer and Cefora; also started with Febelfin Academy
  • Wins with 7 new direct clients
  • Spoke at Epsilon Salon on Infinite Learning ©
  • Ran my 1st L+D round-table with 5 top learning Belgian learning managers
  • Published article on HR World about my Infinite Learning © concept
  • Working with large international pharma company to facilitate brainstorming sessions to elaborate marketing strategy
  • Creation of new training concept: “2-Brain Training ©” in collaboration with new partner “Happiness at Work
  • Created a course on “Facing up to stress in a call-centre” for Cefora
  • 9 weeks summer holiday!
  • Bought a farm 🙂

..and now it’s 2011 !