How effectively do you manage up?

Posted on February 23, 2017 | 1 Comment
Categories: Communications, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue LineOur reader poll today asks: How effectively do you “manage up”?

– Very – I lead my superiors just as effectively as I lead my teams: 29%
– Kind of – There are times I don’t do it as well as I should: 55%
– Not very – I find it difficult to lead and manage my leaders: 14%
– Not at all – I’m always the one being managed: 2%

Managing Up Takes Effort. It’s just as important to manage up as it is to manage your team. Investing the time in keeping your leader informed, setting expectations, and communicating what’s going on goes a long way toward building a productive relationship with your boss and other key stakeholders. The three keys to managing up – setting expectations, asking for help, and knowing their “update frequency” – will help you build trust between you and your boss and get them engaged in your work in more meaningful ways.

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

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

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The Importance of Challenging Assumptions When Problem Solving

Posted on February 22, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Communications, Leadership

Empty Picture Frame on Concrete WallWhile leadership entails guiding people in the direction of success, it also requires the ability to look at problems and seek solutions. How you frame those problems can have much to do with the solution arrived at.

Mark Twain once said, “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know, it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” Remaining convinced that our way is the right way when in fact we might not know what we don’t know can be the stumbling block to uncovering solutions.

The “right thing” often depends on the situation and who is looking at it. As a leader, you will be required to choose when uncertain and to decide where to focus as well as where not to focus.

Here at thoughtLEADERS, I’m fortunate to work with some incredibly bright people. Greg Acton is one of them. Greg recently discussed the topic of problem solving with Steve Caldwell at Manager Mojo. They got together on his podcast to discuss how to better frame problems and generate solutions. Listen to the podcast here:

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Building Creative Stamina: Three Keys to Strength Training for Adults

Posted on February 20, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Books, Career, Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Innovation, Leadership, Training

The Word Creativity Written on a Wooden SignCreativity is a skill that can be built like any other. Understanding your passion and challenging the voices in your head that say “no” are a great way to start.

Today’s post is by Jane Dunnewold, author of Creative Strength Training (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Maybe it’s disingenuous to say that each of us has the potential to be a creative genius. Gifts of personality are dispensed in varied measures at birth. Humans are tangled balls of social conditioning, reactions to environment, and serendipity. Life isn’t fair. Luck plays a part. We’ve all heard someone say, “I was in the right place at the right time” or “I never get lucky.”

As far as creativity is concerned, most people believe you’ve either got it or you don’t. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard someone say wistfully, “I’m not creative.” When I hear a statement like that, I think to myself, “No one has ever shown you where to begin.”

Because the fact is, creativity, like any skill, can be cultivated. It takes a healthy combination of self-knowledge and stamina.

Athletes have an advantage: prescribed methods of building stamina, because physical prowess is revered by our culture. Hire a personal trainer and you’ll start with a series of exercises done repetitively – gradually adding reps as the body gains strength. Exercise is specific, varied, and involves what’s called cross training. One day a session of running to work cardio. Next time? Yoga to maximize flexibility. A steady, balanced program of activity keeps the human machine functioning at its optimal level.

So what about the rest of us? How can we engage creatively with what we care about – whether it’s a job or an avocation? And just as important – how can we identify what works against building creative stamina in every aspect of our lives?

I teach artists how to build stamina through what I call “creativity strength training” but the fact is, the lessons apply to everyone.

Here are three aspects of thinking more creatively each of us can embrace.

The Inner Rebel

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How effective are you at aligning behaviors with goals you set?

Posted on February 16, 2017 | 4 Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue LineOur reader poll today asks: How effective are you at aligning your team’s behaviors with goals you set?

– Very – Everyone knows the desired behaviors to hit our goals: 50%
– Kind of – I point out the most important behavior changes required: 42%
– Not very – I don’t often link behaviors to goals: 6%
– Not at all – I just set the goal, and they’ll figure it out: 2%

Behavior is Key. Goals are great but without specifying which behaviors need to change, your odds of hitting your goals are slim. Be sure to clearly spell out behavior changes required to hit goals. Tell your people what has to change and link it directly to achievement of the goal. If you leave it up to them, they may or may not change the desired behaviors. Why go through all the trouble of setting goals if you’re not going to invest the time in helping your team achieve them?

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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An Easier and More Effective Way to Give Feedback

Posted on February 15, 2017 | 1 Comment
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Training

Feedback Button on Keyboard

Giving feedback can be difficult and emotionally-charged. But by following a simple model focused on facts and behaviors you’ll be giving more effective feedback more easily than you’ve given it before.

If we want people to change behaviors and improve their performance, we have to give them feedback. Giving feedback can be really difficult because we think to ourselves “Maybe I might hurt their feelings…” or “I have to have an uncomfortable conversation…”, or “I’m telling somebody who I really like and respect that they’re falling short in some regard…” So, we avoid feedback, but that’s a huge mistake especially as the leader of a high performing team.

There’s a simple process you can follow to take the sting and nausea out of giving feedback. I’d like to offer a feedback model that can remove the emotion from those conversations and help people focus on improving performance versus getting defensive.

I like to think of giving feedback as a tennis match. You serve the ball to them, they react to it and return it, and then you react to their reaction and so on. The model goes like this:

– First, you’ll ask for permission to give somebody feedback and ensure, at that moment, that they’re open to receiving it. Their head may not be in it. They may have come out of a tough meeting, or they’re in a rush to go to their next meeting. Making sure they’re ready to receive feedback is critical.

– Next, the feedback recipient should let you know that they are open to receiving feedback.

– The next step really matters a lot in terms of removing the emotion from the feedback process. Read More…

Great Leaders are Always Learning

Posted on February 13, 2017 | 1 Comment
Categories: Books, Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Learning Sign in Silver Letters on Concrete WallGrowth of your organization is tightly tied to your growth as a leader especially if you’re an entrepreneur. Overcoming the challenges to your personal growth will, in turn, help you kick-start your company’s growth.

Today’s post is by Michael Dermer, author of The Lonely Entrepreneur (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

There’s a powerful book called Leading at the Speed of Growth: Journey from Entrepreneur to CEO by Katherine Catlin and Jana Matthews. It addresses the long-standing belief that entrepreneurs who start a business do not possess the skills to help a business grow. It challenges this notion and argues that entrepreneurs have enormous talent that simply needs to be applied differently at various stages of the business. In other words, the unique talents entrepreneurs possess—drive, passion, creativity, the stomach for risk and uncertainty—can’t remain static or be applied with cookie cutter repetition to distinct and evolving stages of your business.

No matter how much talent you bring to the table, to achieve success you can’t remain satisfied with your own status quo. Your skills and perspective must be adaptable and flexible as you grow your business. This had a profound impact on me. It was as though someone said to me, “If you are as good as you think you are, you need to change.” Initially, this really challenged me—though I’m sure it was my ego talking.

Then I realized how much a change in my own perspective could help my company. What an opportunity. I also didn’t realize was how empowering it was to be challenged, to acknowledge shortcomings and to grow.

Change in the midst of calm seas is one thing. Change in the middle of a hurricane is another. If you can come out the other side, imagine what that would feel like. When someone asks you, “How is your company going?” you probably answer with a description that includes the word crazy or chaotic or nutty or something unprintable. Wouldn’t it be something to be able to say “We have everything under control?” When my company was acquired, one of the sales team members of the company that acquired us said to me “Every time I interact with your business or your people, you are organized, structured and efficient.” What a message to be able to share with your team. It still makes me proud.

Humility is a trait of strong leaders—the type of leaders employees want to work for and investors want to fund. In my book – The Lonely Entrepreneur – I wrote that one of the most important days in the history of my company was when I realized being a CEO was a skill that needed to be developed with the same perseverance, ferocity and willingness to learn that athletes apply to their training. It was no different than ballet or working on your golf game. This is one of those skills that must be genuinely developed.

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Do you invest in training and conferences for your development?

Posted on February 9, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Career, Leadership, Poll, Training

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue LineOur reader poll today asks: Do you invest in training and conferences for your professional development?

– Yes – I invest a lot of time in these events: 34%
– Kind of – I invest time in these events occasionally: 47%
– Not really – I don’t go to training or conferences often: 15%
– No – I don’t have the time or the interest: 4%

A good 80/20. 80% of you are investing time in your development via training and conferences. For the 20% who aren’t, ask yourself if you’re happy with your career and your growth. If the answer is no, I’d suggest you start carving out time to develop yourself. Only so much growth happens via osmosis on the job. For any of you looking to invest your time, find programs where you’ll get a disproportionate amount of content and growth for the time you’ll spend. By being judicious about where you invest your time, you’ll tend to pay attention more during the program and therefore take away more information that you can apply.

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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3 Pitfalls to Avoid when Doing Analysis and Making Recommendations

Posted on February 8, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Business Toolkit, Communications, Leadership

Horse Wearing Large BlindersThree major mistakes people make when conducting analysis are succumbing to confirmation bias, analysis paralysis, and generating weak results. If you’re mindful of these risks and approach your analysis rigorously and objectively, you can make a recommendation that will be easily approved.

The following is an excerpt from my latest book The Elegant Pitch: Create a Compelling Recommendation, Build Broad Support, and Get it Approved (CLICK HERE to get your copy). The book spells out a straightforward process you can immediately use to get your ideas approved.

A hypothesis-driven approach to problem solving and making recommendations can be tremendously efficient. You create a hypothesis (something taken to be true for the sake of argument), conduct analysis designed to prove or disprove the hypothesis, then make your recommendation based on the results of your analysis. Typically your hypothesis is based upon prior experiences you’ve had as well as your knowledge of the subject matter you’re evaluating. I’ve personally used this approach for years. I refer to it as the Structured Thought Process. The method is both efficient and effective. That said, using this approach is not without risks.

Risk #1: Confirmation Bias

While it’s great to have experience and prove your hypotheses are correct, that same experience carries risk with it. Confirmation bias – the tendency to look for or interpret information in a way that confirms your preconceived ideas – is the biggest risk you face when using a hypothesis-driven approach like the Structured Thought Process.

No one wants to be wrong so it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking disproving your hypothesis means you made a mistake. That fear of being “wrong” can lead you to wear blinders when you’re conducting analysis. You might ignore or dismiss facts contrary to your hypothesis. You might only look for data that proves you’re “correct” which can then skew your analytical results. Before you know it, you’re making a case based upon incorrect information. You find you’re like a horse wearing large blinders that only allow you to see down a very narrow path, ignoring things outside of your field of view.

The end result of succumbing to confirmation bias is you’ll present a recommendation with flawed supporting data. If your audience picks up on your bias, they’ll call you out on it and you’ll have to go back and redo your work without the blinders on. If they don’t notice your bias and they approve your recommendation, you’ll be implementing an idea that could be harmful to your organization. Neither one of those outcomes is acceptable.

To avoid confirmation bias, enlist the aid of others. Get independent views of your analysis and ask people if you’re missing anything. I know leaders who encourage their team members to try to prove them wrong with additional analysis. Their thinking is if no one on their team can prove their recommendation is wrong, then the answer they’ve arrived at is right. It takes courage to put yourself out there like that and ask your team to prove you’re wrong. But if you focus on the objective of getting to the right answer and see this as a way to ensure you do, it’s easier to take this approach.

Another check to prevent confirmation bias is involving your nemesis – that one person who tends to disagree with any recommendation you make. They constantly seek to disprove or discredit your recommendations. If anyone is looking for flaws in your work, they are. They’ll spot situations where you’ve ignored data that’s counter to your hypothesis. They’ll point out when your interpretation of the facts is skewed in favor of proving you’re “right.” While their challenges can be frustrating, your nemesis can prevent you from making the big mistake of implementing a flawed recommendation.

Risk #2: Analysis Paralysis

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5 Keys to Marketing Across Cultures

Posted on February 6, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Communications, Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Sales

Multicultural Word CloudCross-cultural marketing is fraught with dangers if you’re not careful. Follow these five steps to ensure your marketing is received as you intended it.

Today’s post is by Michael Landers, author of Culture Crossing (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

If you are planning to market anything to people from a culture different from your own, doing some homework is essential. If you don’t, you may be setting yourself up for failure. But figuring out the right questions to ask and researching all the potential pitfalls can be tough and time-consuming.

To help expedite the process and take some of the guesswork out of the equation, I’ve created a list of five critical things to consider when marketing across cultures – whether you’re advertising to people in far off countries or in diverse communities on your home turf.

1. Calling Out Competitors

In the United States, hardly anyone bats an eye when one company insults another in an effort to market products or services. These types of “ad wars” have proven effective for those selling soft drinks (Coke vs. Pepsi), computers (Apple vs. Microsoft), or cars (Ford vs. Chevy). But in other cultures, outwardly making fun of another person or company is not socially acceptable. In Japan, China, and other countries in Asia and the Middle East, when one company publicly casts aspersions on another it can actually cause a loss of face (respect) for both companies and can make customers feel uncomfortable.

2. Me or Us?

Some of the most successful marketing slogans in the United States are those that tell people how a product will make them feel special, stand out from the crowd, be better than the rest or the best. In other cultures, however, advertisers tend to focus their campaigns on how products benefit and include everyone, or how they can make you more like everyone else. There may also be a tendency to depersonalize messages in favor of highlighting a more holistic view of the world, reflecting the notion that it’s not just about winning or being the best, but about being part of it all.

For example:

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How rigorously do you manage your diet and exercise regimen?

Posted on February 2, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Career, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue LineOur reader poll today asks: How rigorously do you manage your diet and exercise regimen?

– Very – I watch my diet closely and exercise regularly: 37%
– Somewhat – I generally eat well and exercise occasionally: 38%
– Not very – Sometimes I’ll watch what I eat and I rarely exercise: 21%
– Not at all – I don’t monitor my diet and I never exercise: 4%

Taking care of you. You can’t lead if you’re dead. The majority of you are putting in the effort required to take care of yourselves. If you’re not in that group, ask yourself why. Exercise and diet are critical elements of being able to lead well. It’s easy to make excuses like “I don’t have time” or “I’m traveling a lot” but you can overcome those objections by looking through a different lens. Leadership starts with leading yourself. Prioritize your time and energy. The benefits are a clearer head, better executive presence, higher energy, and a more satisfying life. What are you waiting for? Put down the cheeseburger and go for a walk. You’ll feel better after you do.

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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