Leadership Lessons from the Black Panther

Posted on February 21, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Leadership, Strategy

Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther

Chadwick Boseman has brought an incredibly powerful and entertaining hero to the forefront. We would all do well to learn some leadership lessons from the Black Panther.

If you haven’t seen the Black Panther yet, go. Now. Read this blog post later. There are probably spoilers in it.

I loved the Black Panther. The storyline was fantastic. The acting was amazing. The visuals were mind-blowing. It is deservedly receiving wonderful critical acclaim and achieving outstanding financial success.

So let’s explore what we can learn from Chadwick Boseman, T’Challa, and the Black Panther.

No. I haven’t fallen and hit my head. I know Chadwick Boseman plays T’Challa who is actually the Black Panther. But we can learn leadership lessons from all three people.

Chadwick Boseman

This man epitomizes class and humility. It’s been so much fun watching him during all the interviews. He has completely eschewed the Hollywood “I am awesome! Look at me!” dynamic in favor of talking about his cast-mates, the crew, the fans, and the opportunity he’s been presented with. The most powerful interview I’ve seen with him involved him telling the story of two young boys who were terminally ill. Boseman visited them and stayed in touch with them throughout filming. He was brought to tears when he explained how the boys said they were holding on as long as they could so they could see the movie released. Unfortunately they both passed away before the release. While they may not have seen the movie, I’m sure Boseman’s friendship and support meant a great deal to them.

My takeaway from Boseman’s professionalism, genuine concern for others, and humility is that this man is a wonderful human being. He deserves all the success that comes his way and it’s clear that his success will never change who he is as a person. He cares for others, credits everyone else around him for their great work, and focuses on being a positive force in others’ lives.

Do you embody these traits? When is the last time you made sure someone else got credit for great work? When have you gone out of your way to help someone else who is dealing with personal or professional challenges? Have you acted like Chadwick Boseman lately? If not, find an opportunity to do so and make the world around you a better place.


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Be a Better Leader by Wagging Your Tail

Posted on February 19, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Jack Russell Terrier Looking Sad

Dogs can teach us a thing or two. Have you ever thought about how to apply canine behavior to your leadership style? There are interesting approaches your dog would encourage you to try if you want to be a better leader.

Today’s post is by Krissi Barr, co-author of The Fido Factor: How to Get a Leg Up at Work.

If you’re like most Americans you love dogs. Unlike a goldfish won at a church festival, people form deep and meaningful relationships with their canine pals.

So what does any of this have to do with leadership? As it turns out, a lot.

Leadership is more art than science, and more emotion than logic. The actions and behaviors that roll up to form an effective leader, when you boil them down, are actually pretty simple. And they are very similar to why we love dogs so darn much.

Dogs are faithful, inspirational, determined and observant. These four core qualities—the Fido Factors—are the basis of the unexpected reason why we can learn leadership lessons from dogs.

Take a dog’s tail. It’s a crystal clear barometer of how they are feeling. Happy and it wags like crazy, guilty and it curls under out of shame. Dogs are simply incapable of hiding how they feel. They can’t lie.

Not so much with humans. Like a professional poker player, most of us have gotten very good at hiding our emotions in the workplace. And while there are times when that’s a good thing, more often than not we’d benefit from wagging our tail a little more.

Dogs don’t hide how they feel. Take a typical day coming home after work. There to greet you at the front door is your dog. His smiling face, a slobbery tennis ball in the mouth and a wagging tail tell you in no uncertain terms how happy he is to see you. This wear-it-on-the-collar approach to life is one of the reasons we love them so much.

Great leaders at work do the same. Well, maybe not the slobbery tennis ball. They aren’t afraid to open up and show emotion. As a result, coworkers feel a stronger connection to the cause.

Ask yourself this: when one of your associates comes back to the office after a long day in the field, how do you react? Do you wag your tail and celebrate their successes or do you hide your tail in your office so no one can see how you really feel?

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Are you a procrastinator on big projects?

Posted on February 15, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Business Toolkit, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: Are you a procrastinator on big projects?

– Absolutely not – I tackle projects as soon as I can: 24%
– Not really – I’ll procrastinate from time to time: 44%
– Kind of – I put off most things with a few exceptions: 24%
– Absolutely – I always wait until the last minute: 8%

Some procrastination, but not much. Most of you are pretty good at tackling work as it comes in or, at the very least, not leaving it until the last minute. If you’re one of the procrastinators, think about the stress you experience by putting things off. Realize while a little stress does increase performance, too much stress — especially if it’s chronic — can severely diminish performance and affect your health. Consider changing your habits by planning better, changing how you tackle work, breaking big projects into smaller deliverables, and finding someone to hold you accountable for completing your work sooner. You might be surprised by how much less stress you face by making these changes. Coming from a guy who’s had a couple of heart attacks, trust me on this. Change your habits before they change your life.

Do you agree with these poll results? Let us know in the comments below!

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

Did you enjoy this post?  If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog.  It’s free, fun, practical, and only a few emails a week (I promise!).  SIGN UP HERE to get the thoughtLEADERS blog conveniently delivered right to your inbox!

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How to Tell a Story with Data

Posted on February 14, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Leadership

Binary Data in a Tube Shape

Data can be boring even if it’s critically important. If you learn how to tell a story with data, however, the results can be compelling, interesting, and impactful.

Today’s post is by Paul Smith, thoughtLEADERS principal and bestselling author of Lead With a Story and  Sell With a Story.

Have you ever been hammered with data that you knew was important but you didn’t understand why the person sharing it was so passionate about it? Have you ever shared data and facts with colleagues in an attempt to influence them only to find they didn’t care about the message you were trying to convey?

There’s a better way to communicate than just throwing data at people.

Tell a story with the data.

Here’s a quick video that covers an example of how to tell a story with data. The example will help you understand the technique and you’ll be telling better, more compelling stories before you know it if you apply these methods. Enjoy!

If you’re interested in becoming a better storyteller yourself, check out our Influencing through Storytelling course and our Storytelling for Salespeople course where we can come into your organization and help you build this powerful, critical skill.

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3 Ways to Find Your Entrepreneurial Passion

Posted on February 12, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Career, Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Female Entrepreneur Taking an Order by Phone

If you want to be an entrepreneur, you would do well to understand your passions, know what you’re good at, and what people will pay you for. Find the intersection of those three things to be successful.

Today’s post is by Kavita Sahai,CEO and Founder of Have BIGplans, LLC.

So you’ve decided you want to become an entrepreneur, and you couldn’t be more excited. The promise of working for yourself, making a difference in the world, and connecting with a tribe of people you really, really love… the entrepreneurial life tons of benefits, so it’s no wonder you want to try it on. After all, a recent study by the Kauffman Foundation found that 40% of new businesses are started by women—and a lot of those are happening among the millennial age group.

But where to start? Taking first steps into entrepreneurship can also seem daunting. To succeed, it’s important to invest time upfront to find a business idea that really works for you.

The ideal business will be one that joins your passion and skills with a need that people have (ideally people you like and relate to), and produces a product or service that those people will pay you for.

It’s probably safe to say that most small businesses grow out of someone’s passion. But a lot of them fail because people begin with an idea that’s too general and don’t take time to focus it. They don’t know exactly who they’re trying to reach, what they’re trying to do, or what problem they’re trying to solve. Because of lack of focus, they don’t differentiate from all the other people out there starting businesses in similar fields.

Focus is important in all parts of your business, but if you identify your passion first, the rest of the puzzle pieces will be easier. That’s because the more you love what you’re doing, the better prepared you’ll be to weather the storms and challenges that are an inevitable part of being an entrepreneur.

Now, the irony is that focus begins by casting a wide net and brainstorming a list of lots of passion ideas. Why? Because the first idea you come up with might not meet other criteria for business success. Maybe your passion lies with making a product for which there’s no real demand. Or it’s in a market that’s already saturated, or you can’t realistically manufacture it at a price people will pay, etc.

Another reason it’s smart to examine your own passions is that it can be easy to feel attracted to someone else’s business idea. We see a friend raking in money with a coaching business or online shop and think, “I could do that.” And maybe we could do it—but does that business fit our true passions?

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How would you characterize your approach to growing your business?

Posted on February 8, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Entrepreneur, Innovation, Leadership, Poll, Sales, Strategy

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How would you characterize your approach to growing your business?

– I lean toward “structured” and focus on pragmatic planning and execution: 56%
– I lean toward “creative” and always generate new, interesting ideas: 44%

Balancing creativity with structure. It’s a pretty even split between structure and creativity, with the edge falling more toward structure for how to grow your business. Clearly, both sides are important. When you can find the balance between the two, you have the opportunity to build something unique, special, and fundamentally sound. Err too much toward one or the other and you either miss out on new ideas or you let your business stagnate. If you personally fall on one end of the spectrum, consider surrounding yourself with others who skew the other way so you have a good balance between creativity and structure for your organization.

Do you agree with these poll results? Let us know in the comments below!

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

Did you enjoy this post?  If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog.  It’s free, fun, practical, and only a few emails a week (I promise!).  SIGN UP HERE to get the thoughtLEADERS blog conveniently delivered right to your inbox!

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Can Resilience Differentiate You as a Leader?

Posted on February 7, 2018 | 1 Comment
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Leadership

African American Woman Doing Yoga

Resilience is the ability to maintain flexibility and focus when dealing with massive change. Leaders who possess this skill can differentiate themselves and lead their teams more effectively.

Today’s post is by thougthtLEADERS principal Maureen Metcalf.

In times of uncertainty, resilience is one of the most important skills for us to have. I define it as “the ability to remain flexible and focused when facing change.” As leaders, we are facing a higher level of volatility across the business environment than we previously faced. In the U.S., we have dealt with a major political change. This transition exposed division that was not previously evident on the surface in families, offices and communities. Such division can be healthy if addressed with a spirit of curiosity and grace. Yet, how can that happen when we view our previously trusted colleagues and even family members as “the other,” or worse?

While the political environment is the most obvious example right now, we are also seeing unprecedented volatility in financial markets and uncertainty in many sectors such as healthcare. Some of this is caused by politics, some by technology, and some caused by the fact that we live in a world that is much more interconnected than it used to be. We are dealing with situations we’ve never seen before. There is no return to the prior level of control so as leaders, we need to learn to be more agile.

Take Bill, a university director, responsible for physical and technology security. He came into work on a normal Monday morning, got his coffee, and started to plan his week. At 9:10 his world was interrupted. A young student drove off the road and onto a sidewalk trying to hit other students. The student emerged from his car and began attacking others. It was the job of the director, campus security, and many others to move very quickly in this situation. For Bill, resilience was critical in this moment and in the moments following the event. He needed to respond with his full attention, as people’s lives and their well-being were at great risk.

Today’s leaders must update their leadership thinking and behavior to keep pace with the challenges they face. In this sense, leadership is always self-renewing, and I believe resilience is the foundation of it, because, as we face accelerating change, we also face an increasing occurrence of people who respond to these changes with different perspectives. If we can integrate these differing perspectives in every area of our lives – work, politics, in our communities and at home – to create more comprehensive and durable solutions, we are all served by the process. If, however, we discount others because they have perspectives we disagree with, or, even worse, see them as “wrong,” we lose the value of learning and risk the relationships required to thrive in times of challenge.

Back to our example, if Bill had only considered one facet of security, his team would have been ill-equipped to deal with a complex attack.

So, as a leader, how can you build resilience to navigate the challenges you face in work and life?

Using innovative leadership as the foundation for this discussion, we can parse resilience into four categories:

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4 Ways an Unhealthy Lifestyle Affects Your Ability to Lead

Posted on February 5, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Juicy Burger with Fries

An unhealthy lifestyle can decrease productivity, reduce creativity, increase absences from work, and negatively affect our moods and relationships. Are you living a healthy lifestyle that enables you to be a better leader? If not, when will you start?

Today’s post is by Helen Sanders, chief editor at

Being a leader requires hard work, efficiency, creativity, the ability to form and maintain relationships (i.e., people skills), persistence and dedication. However, when you’re living an unhealthy lifestyle, your ability to lead may be impacted.

Let’s dive into exactly how a poor diet and lack of exercise may affect the various skills and characteristics every leader needs.

An Unhealthy Diet Results in Decreased Productivity

As a leader, you need to be productive. Otherwise, your ideas will remain ideas for a very long time. So, how can you be more productive? Well, you can start by avoiding unhealthy foods—such as those which are high in fat, salt and sugar.

High-fat foods, like burgers, give us longer-lasting energy but require our digestive system to work harder. This reduces oxygen levels in our brain and causes us to feel tired and worn out. When we feel this way, we don’t work as efficiently as we could. This can potentially result in reduced profits and having to work longer hours (which means less time for planning ahead and other important activities). According to the WHO, adequate nutrition can raise national productivity levels by 20%.

It’s best to eat fruits, vegetables and foods containing healthy fats—such as nuts and fish. These will provide you with the nutrition you need for high energy, cognitive efficiency an overall better mood (more on this below).

A Lack of Exercise May Cause a Lack of Creativity

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How well do you define the question at hand before rushing off to solve the problem?

Posted on February 1, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Leadership, Poll, Project Management

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How well do you define the question at hand before rushing off to solve the problem?

– Very – I always have clarity on the “why” of the problem. 31.9%
– Mostly – Sometimes I’ll jump straight into problem solving. 61.3%
– Not very – I tend to race off and solve before understanding why. 5.9%
– Not at all – It’s quite often I skip the problem-definition step. 0.9%

Understand the “why” first. Most of you try to understand the “why” before rushing off into problem-solving, but doing so can be hard. It’s easy to succumb to the temptation to get the problem solved quickly. This usually means immediate brainstorming, analysis and solution-generation. I’d venture to guess that all of us have rushed off like this once or twice only to find we solved the wrong problem. Get clarity on the “why” before any solution generation begins. Slow your teams down. Understand what your stakeholder wants and why it’s important. The more effectively you do that, the more likely it is your final recommendation will be approved.

Do you agree with these poll results? Let us know in the comments below!

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

Did you enjoy this post?  If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog.  It’s free, fun, practical, and only a few emails a week (I promise!).  SIGN UP HERE to get the thoughtLEADERS blog conveniently delivered right to your inbox!

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The Strategic Mistake of Overestimating Your Own Capabilities

Posted on January 31, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Entrepreneur, Leadership, Strategy

Blind Spot Mirror on Rear View Mirror

A common strategic planning mistake that people make is overestimating their own capabilities. It’s easy to overestimate your organization’s capabilities because we tend to have a favorable view of how good we are. We also have blind spots related to weaknesses that we might have.

Think about how many market leading companies you’ve seen fail. The belief that they were better than others is often the root cause of this failure. Viewing your organization as superior to competitors can lead to a flawed strategy.

I worked with one startup who came in and said “We’re the best in the market. Here’s why our technology’s better. Here’s why our strategy’s better. Here’s why our people are better.”

The investors challenged them on that assessment and the company still maintained their position of why the investor’s concerns weren’t relevant and why their competitor wasn’t as good as they were. Eventually they were blindsided in the marketplace and they went under. They seriously overestimated their capabilities.

Some warning signs that you may be overestimating your capabilities include things like:

– people saying “Oh we have no competitors. We’re the only one in this market.” Everyone has competitors. That’s a huge blind spot to say you don’t have any.

– using your old SWOT analysis versus doing a new one where you’re more rigorous around what your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are.

– relying on internal market research versus going to an external objective third party. That internal research can be very biased.

Some fixes for these risks are:

– Seek objective sources of capability assessments. Go out and get some consultants. Bring those people in to look at your business. Find some advisors or members of your board of directors to give you an objective assessment of what your strengths and weaknesses are.

– Conduct a good rigorous Porter’s Five Forces analysis to assess competitive dynamics in your industry.

– Focus on the weaknesses section of your SWOT analysis. By the way, ask your customers and your suppliers what your strengths and weaknesses are. They’re going to uncover some blind spots you’re not aware of.

Having an accurate realistic understanding of your capabilities keeps you from getting blindsided from by someone who’s better than you are. Take the time to get objective perspectives and make sure you’re protecting yourself from the risk of overestimating your capabilities.

Misreading the Market

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