When approaching a major decision in business whether it is a market pivot, new launch, new campaign, new hire, or some other new opportunity, its quite easy to drift toward one of two extremes: I know all that I need to know and therefore, no evaluation is necessary or I better not move on this until I have ALL the facts (which becomes an impossible task).
But what if we stopped first and took stock of where we, as professionals in our field, have come from, where we are now, and where we hope to go? Self-analysis is a requirement for entrepreneurs launching a business: Do I have the attributes of a successful business person? Am I equipped with the proper skill-set to make this new launch fly and not fail?
There is an ancient saying that goes something along the lines of, “When going out to make war with an enemy, be sure you have what it takes to defeat him otherwise, before you arrive, send an emissary and make peace with that enemy along the way.”
The following 5 questions are helpful when taking an honest inventory of who we are as managers, owners, or entrepreneurs and hopefully, will shed some early light on whether we are adequately prepared for that new venture or not:
Question #1: Up to now, what have I clearly demonstrated as something I am truly good at doing?
If you can recall specific times that you’ve demonstrated a knack for smelling a good deal and you’ve not been proven wrong, write it down. Maybe you’ve brought “order from chaos” repeatedly in the past – whatever you can point to, mention it here with as much detail as you can muster.
Question #2: What tasks or responsibilities seem to come easily to you where others seem to strive and struggle?
I’m not a real big fan of throwing around phrases like “natural talent” and “born genius” etc. However, there will be certain things that we are hard-wired to handle a bit better than others. Some have a natural eye for fashion – they just KNOW when something works. Others have a mechanical inclination that drove them from youth to poke around engines and see how they worked etc. Maybe you work with people quite easily while others struggle with interaction – whatever seems to flow from you with little effort is the thing to focus on for this question.
Question #3: When did you achieve something that made you genuinely proud of yourself and your accomplishment?
Be careful not to minimize your achievement. Remember, no one is going to read this but you. It is your SELF-evaluation. Whatever the achievement small or great, it is worth mentioning here if it made you (or still makes you) proud of yourself.
Question #4: When now, or in the past, have you felt like you are making a difference or contribution? How did you make this happen?
I had a friend in the distant past that used to say, “Show me your checkbook (remember those?) and I’ll show you where your heart is!” Pretty cheeky assertion but I knew where he was coming from: Where we spend our resources: time, energy, money, is typically what we care about the most. Think about those moments when you gave something to help or contribute to improving a situation for someone else and write it down. Then, again with as much detail as you can muster, write down how you made it happen. You might be amazed at your resourcefulness and might even have a creative breakthrough solution to a current challenge!
Question #5 What are the things that are always left on your to-do list and not finished?
These are most likely weaknesses. We tend to gravitate toward the things we enjoy doing the most while procrastinating and/or avoiding entirely those things we find difficult. Its just a quirky trait of humanity! Think about those things that you are tasked with doing, that you enjoy the least. For me, at the top of the list is bookkeeping. Ouch! The most painful job yet the most important job for any manager or business owner. When conducting new business workshops and I come to this point of the “skills” evaluation, I try to remind the new business hopefuls to “staff their weakness” as early in the process as they can. But they won’t know their weaknesses unless they take an honest look at those things they are avoiding today!
Question #6: What are the things in your life that help you stay strong?
This is a critical question – who or what is there to pick you up after a rough outing at the office? What lifts your spirits in those times when you might find yourself perplexed over options or resources to complete a critical task? As I like to refer to it, “Who is there to talk me down from the ceiling when the challenges of business grow looming.” Citing your go-to people or things that help you maintain your strength (or return to strength) should be at the forefront of our minds. For one, when we need a jolt to get back into the thick of thins but also, to maintain or “top-up” that resource when things seem to be going swimmingly!
Question #7: If you had the opportunity what would you like to teach others?
In traditional Japanese martial arts training there is a pattern of progression among students whereby in order to achieve an advanced belt they must demonstrate that they have watched certain techniques, performed those techniques, and can teach or pass on those techniques. The idea has, what I would call, a propagation principle. The martial art style is important and therefore must be passed on to the next generation of learners and it is therefore built-in to the process of achieving the highest rank.
What does this have to do with you and with business? In self-evaluation we will have this propagation principle built into us. There will be something we find to be SO important that we feel inclined to educate others in this thing.
This question calls for you to conduct a bit of introspection and discover those things you find most important that you feel compelled to pass on to others. Another way of thinking about it is this – what would you be willing to teach to someone else or a group of people for free?
I was asked recently to present a series of free workshops for getting started in business – I snapped the person’s arm off. She didn’t have to ask me twice, nor did she have offer any sort of “incentive”. I love to see businesses get up and running and get going and because this particular subject represents great value to me internally, it requires no “external” motivation for me.
Think about this question for yourself and see if there is an area of passion yet-undiscovered within you! Perhaps this internal fire might give you an advantage in the direction your business takes?
The list of questions can go on and on – I think the more questions we ask ourselves, the more thorough the self-analysis and the more effective our internal preparation for that next great challenge, endeavor, opportunity and success!