Why You Need a Wookiee on Your Team

Posted on April 17, 2019 | 1 Comment
Categories: Leadership, Strategy

20190417 Chewbacca Bobblehead

Leaders can learn a few things from Chewbacca the Wookiee. Leaders who have people that are loyal, team players, skilled, and action-oriented will be more successful than leaders with team members without these qualities.

Today’s post is by Mike Figliuolo, Managing Director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC.



Every great leader needs their own Wookiee.  They’re extremely useful.  They can carry around robots, knock out stormtroopers, and co-pilot wicked awesome smuggler spaceships.  On top of that, they usually have long, luxurious brown hair (how has Chewbacca not landed a shampoo/conditioner endorsement yet?).

Some of you longtime readers have seen this post before, but it was time it be revived from the archives once more, it truly is that good. Read it again. It’s good stuff. New readers – read it. This is one of my favorite posts ever.

No, I haven’t lost it.  All leaders need their own Wookiee.  First, allow me to explain the characteristics of Wookiees that leaders will find attractive and helpful, especially for those of you who haven’t jumped on the Star Wars bandwagon in the last couple years.  Second, I’ll explain how you can unleash those Wookiee talents for the good of your team.

When you figure out who your Wookiee is, let them know that, in a matter of speaking.  You should share your assessment with them so they understand what you expect from them and how valuable they are to you as a member of your team.  If you want to expand your Star Wars leadership skills beyond managing a Wookiee, you can read this post about what Han Solo can teach you about leadership (a real flashback for any of you who’ve been with around since the beginning).

There are five things you’re looking for in your Wookiee:

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The Role of Leaders in Modeling Accountability

Posted on April 16, 2019 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Entrepreneur, Leadership

20190416 Teamwork Construction

Building a culture of accountability takes effort day in and day out to truly establish and it is also the responsibility of those in leadership positions to continual reinforce.

It’s not enough to just build a culture of accountability. You have to strengthen it and reinforce it every single day. This is about the small behaviors adding up to that broader culture. And the organization is going to behave in a manner based on what it sees punished or rewarded.  If people see others covering things up or laying blame, and see those people getting ahead, and getting promoted even, then people are going to behave in a manner consistent with that.

If, on the other hand, they see that people are stepping up and accepting responsibility, and those behaviors get rewarded, and when people take responsibility for problems and say they’ve made mistakes, that’s held up by management as great behavior, people will behave that way as well.

You need to reinforce your culture every single day. Look for creative ways to do so. When I was a consultant, we had “Firm Values Day.” We would take all of our consultants off of client work for a full day, which was extremely expensive for the firm. And for that one day, we would talk about our values. People would share examples of when they saw the values in action, or they would talk about when they violated the values, and what they did to fix it.

Think about your organization. Are there opportunities to include conversations around the values and the culture in progress reviews? Can you use it as a lunch and learn topic, or at your staff meetings? When people get promoted, hold up those opportunities as: This person did great work. They’re living up to our culture. This is what we believe in. This is what we want. And others will look at that and say, “That person got promoted based on those behaviors.  I want to behave the same way.” Your culture is a very important asset, and you need to curate it every single day.  So look for those opportunities to reinforce behaviors to drive that culture of accountability.

Accepting Accountability

It’s important to understand your own accountabilities.  Both what you’re accountable for, and who you’re accountable to.  In terms of what you’re accountable for, obviously, your own work, but also your team’s work. Now be careful, this doesn’t mean do their work for them. It means you have to hold them accountable for delivering those results.  And if they don’t deliver, not only are they accountable, so are you.

So ask yourself the question: What do others expect me to do? What results are they expecting of me personally, as well as from my team?

In terms of understanding who you’re accountable to, there’s the obvious ones.  There’s your team, you’re accountable to them, to get them the resources they need, and give them the coaching and guidance and leadership that they deserve. You’re accountable to your boss. But think more broadly about your accountabilities. You’re accountable to your colleagues and your peers and other members of the company who are relying on your results so they can do their jobs. Think even more broadly. You’re accountable to your customers, internal and external customers. You provide services to other members of your organization.

Ultimately, your results drive company performance in terms of the products and services that you deliver to your ultimate customers who pay you.  You’re accountable to your shareholders, or the company’s owners. The financial results that you deliver on your team, roll up to a broader picture, and you’re accountable for delivering your part, so those people get the return on their investment they expect.

Allow me to offer an example. I work with a senior executive who is a hospital administrator. He has multiple accountabilities. He’s accountable to his team, obviously. He’s accountable to his boss, and the corporation as a whole He’s also accountable to patients, even though his team doesn’t directly care for patients. The results they deliver do have an impact on the patient experience. He’s accountable to other members of the hospital staff, because again, what his team does helps the staff do a better job. He’s accountable to physicians who work with the hospital, even though they are external to the organization. He has to represent their perspectives and opinions to the corporation.  So this one individual has multiple accountabilities to multiple people.

As you think about defining your accountabilities, ask yourself the following questions. Who is going to be upset or disappointed if I don’t fulfill my obligations? Who is going to be happy or excited if I do deliver those results? Who assigns me tasks or asks me to do things? Who do I offer to do things for? And once you have that clear definition of what you’re accountable for, and who you’re accountable to, the likelihood of you delivering the results that are expected goes up dramatically.

Want to learn more about accountability, and your role as a leader, that you can apply to any business or scenario? Check out the video below or you can go directly to the course and start learning how to improve all different aspects of your business every week. The entire course is available at LinkedIn Learning. Enjoy!

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

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Training Managers In The Visualization Of Data

Posted on April 15, 2019 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Leadership, Training

Visualizing Data Trends

From MBAs to managers, leadership through effective presentation and communication is key.  The visualization of data empowers the curation and communication of results, problems, and ideas. Well-designed data graphics make the insights interpretable and actionable.  

Today’s post is by Dr. Kristen Sosulski, author of Data Visualization Made Simple (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

From MBAs to managers, leadership through effective presentations is an essential skill.  With the enormous amount of data that managers use to inform decisions, show results, and classify problems, data graphics are a simple, yet efficient means to communicate these data findings. It is a way of showing quantitative information visually.  At its core, data visualization is the process of creating data graphics for the purposes of exploration, communication, or decision-making. Knowing how to visualize data as charts is a competence that managers can develop with training.

When I first started teaching data visualization in both academic and professional settings, the all too common initial response from the learners was that it was likely that someone else, such as an intern, would be creating their data presentations.  Although they thought this was a valuable skill to learn, some felt that the task was not something that an aspiring manager would spend their time doing.

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Do you tend to do things right the first time or act now and fix later?

Posted on April 11, 2019 | No Comments
Categories: Entrepreneur, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks:  Do you tend to do things right the first time or act now and fix later?

  • I invest in doing it right the first time: 79%
  • I take action and fix as needed later: 21%

Understand the cost of fast action. While there are some situations that require fast more than they require correct, applying that mindset in other situations can cost you more than the time it saves. Think through why you’re rushing and if the rush will be worth it in the long term. Often it’s not. Invest the extra time in doing a task correctly on the first attempt rather than taking shortcuts. The “future you” will appreciate your rigor and attention to detail when there aren’t messes to be cleaned up later.

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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Two Keys to Getting Tough Decisions Executed Well

Posted on April 10, 2019 | No Comments
Categories: Communications, Entrepreneur, Leadership

20190410 Decision Making

Large decisions carry plenty of execution risk. To increase the chances that your decisions are executed the way you want them to be, focus on clearly explaining the decision and actively managing change.

Today’s post is by Mike Figliuolo, Managing Director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC.

If you want to make a successful decision, communicate the rationale for the decision to the broader organization. Lay out the context you’re making the decision in. Tell people what the decision was and why it was made. Explain the goals for making the decision. Tell people how you’re going to monitor execution. And also that you’re willing to make new decisions as you get more information. Perhaps even tell them what some of the contingency plans are.

Explaining the Decision

The better people understand why you made the decision, the less they’re going to second guess it and the more they’re going to support it. Their support is critical to reducing execution risks in making the decision. It helps you get the decision out and executed quickly because they’re bought into it and there are not going to be obstacles.

For example, at one company I worked for, we did a large layoff and those are always difficult decisions. Most of the time, layoffs are kept quiet and people don’t know they’re coming. This CEO did it differently. He laid out a complete presentation that explained the rationale for the layoff. He explained the strategic implications and the market dynamics that were driving this change. He also explained what might happen if we didn’t act.

People didn’t necessarily like this decision. Their friends were going to be laid off. Some of these people were going to be laid off. But they understood the strategic rationale for making the decision and they supported and executed the plan. They did so very well. As you’re looking at the big decisions you’re going to make, be sure that you put that context around it, tell people why you’re making the decision and how you’re going to measure success.

Managing Change

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Decision Making as a Process

Posted on April 9, 2019 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Entrepreneur, Leadership

20190409 Direction Sign

Many business leaders struggle with making decisions for their company but there are a few simple steps to work through decision making as a process.

It’s important to realize that decision making is actually a process, and it’s the process of selecting a choice from a range of possible options, with the goal of achieving a very specific objective. Now contrast that with judgment. Judgment is the ability to form an opinion or reach a conclusion based on available information plus prior experience. So, as you go to make a decision, there are some important principles to keep in mind.

First, be clear about the objective. You need to understand what your optimizing for or trying to achieve as you make that particular decision. Second, decide who gets to decide and who doesn’t. Be clear about who’s going to be involved in the decision making process. You need to define who to involve and how to involve them. Some people are going to provide input, other people will provide perspective on implementation, other people will actually make the decision, and having clarity of roles is critical for successful decision making.

Next, you’ll need to reduce ambiguity and risk as much as is reasonable before making your decision. The way to do that is to gather information, but realize that gathering information takes time, and as you’re taking that time, new sources of uncertainty are going to emerge.  Next, you’ll need to make your choice and make that choice known to the organization. Tell people you’ve made a decision, what the decision is, and why you made it. And then last, once you’ve made the decision, you need to evaluate and adjust based on new information. So the decision making cycle that you should think about following is first, prepare to make the decision, then you actually make the decision, communicate it to people in the organization, execute, which is put the decision into action, and measure and adjust accordingly.

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Grandpa Charlie’s 15 Principles for Success in Business and in Life

Posted on April 8, 2019 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Rocking Chair

Learning from those that came before us is one of the best ways not repeat the mistakes of the past and make the best decisions for the future.

Today’s post is by Marc Demetriou, author of the book, Lessons From My Grandfather (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Many people, including those in leadership positions, tend to overthink things. Haralambos “Charlie” Pistis, the archetypical self-made man and my grandfather, fortunately was not one of them. He travelled as an immigrant from Cyprus to the U.S. at the age of 16 to make a new life for himself, and retired at 60 a millionaire. The secret to his success was not that complicated, as you’ll see below. In my book, Lessons From My Grandfather: Wisdom for Success in Business and Life, I’ve codified the wisdom Grandpa Charlie passed down to me; and a glimpse of this knowledge here. It’s a set of strategies leaders should remind themselves of from time to time.

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How do you handle embarrassing situations where you accidentally cc someone on a message not intended for them?

Posted on April 4, 2019 | No Comments
Categories: Entrepreneur, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks:  How do you handle embarrassing situations where you accidentally cc someone on a message not intended for them?

  • I ignore it and hope they never see the message: 5%
  • I try to recall the message full well knowing that might trigger them to read it: 10%
  • I send another message asking them to disregard the errant one: 21%
  • I own up to it and apologize for the situation I’ve created: 64%

Mess up, fess up. We’ll all do it at some point — inadvertently “reply all” or add someone we didn’t intend to add to an email thread. While many of you hope no one notices, the majority (85%) either ask someone to disregard the note or go as far as apologizing for the issue. By ignoring it when you know about it, you could be creating either ill will or at least an air of incompetence. People are generally understanding of email blunders. A genuine apology can go a long way toward mending feelings that might have been hurt or restoring good will between you and the recipient. Be vigilant in maintaining good email habits and, when you do eventually mess up, be quick to fess up and move on.

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 Secret Method for Getting Your Recommendations Approved

Posted on April 3, 2019 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Communications, Leadership

20190403 Sign Agreement

Getting to “yes” is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face on a daily basis. Whether you’re making a case for more budget, more people, more time, or approval of an idea, you’ll need to communicate in a clear and compelling way. Here’s the secret method for doing just that.

Today’s post is by Mike Figiuolo, Managing Director of thoughtLEADERS.

“We’re sorry but your recommendation wasn’t approved.”

We’ve all heard those words; it’s a sentence that slaughters your hopes and crushes your confidence.

Getting ideas or projects approved and securing the resources needed to implement them is one of the greatest challenges business leaders face. With multiple stakeholders, constrained budgets, and competing agendas, it’s difficult to cut through the clutter and garner the required support.

I’ve been teaching folks this method for years as part of our Structured Thought & Communications Course (and if you’d like me to come teach you and your team, I’d be delighted to do so – just contact me and we can discuss the program). After teaching the method for over a decade, I finally put pen to paper to make it available as a book. The Elegant Pitch: Create a Compelling Recommendation, Build Broad Support, and Get it Approved was published a few years ago and has helped business professionals, across multiple industries, create successful pitches for all their business needs.  If you’ve ever been a participant in our Structured Thought & Communications Course, the book is a wonderful complement to what you learned in class.

The Elegant Pitch provides a simple, proven process to go from idea to approval more quickly and effectively than ever before. This is the same method used by elite strategy consulting firms such as McKinsey & Co. and Bain Consulting. But you don’t have to be a high-priced consultant to master a process that promises:

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Introducing the Five Step Problem Solving Process

Posted on April 2, 2019 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Entrepreneur, Leadership

20190402 Rubiks Cube

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a business problem that you’re not sure how to solve?  This five step problem solving process is a great place to begin working through any business issue.

At one point I worked with a financial services firm and we had this really cool program that when we first launched it was doing really well, both from a customer stand point and from a financial stand point. The problem came up when all of a sudden all the financial numbers started tanking and everybody started freaking out. We didn’t know what was going on. And it was pretty important for me to solve it, because it was a program I was responsible for. So given the complexity of that problem, I used the five-step problem-solving process.

And the steps of the process are really simple and straightforward. In the first step, you pin the problem. You define what the issue is, what the goals of the stakeholders are, what previous efforts looked like, and you come out of that first step with a really clear definition of what the problem is. You can’t just rush ahead into solving a problem if you don’t know what the issue is.

Next, is identifying all the issues that could be contributing to that problem, because a lot of times at first glance you may say, “That’s the issue,” but you’ll find you go through the process from there, you’re really solving a symptom. So this step of creating a logic map helps you expand what all the possible issues are that are contributing to the problem from the first step, and what that will enable you to do is find the real root cause that you’re going to solve for.

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