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Inspiration and Creativity in 10 Minutes or Less

Posted on February 8, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Books, Communications, Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Innovation, Leadership

John Stephen AkhwariToday’s post is the fifth in a series by Paul Smith, thoughtLEADERS instructor and bestselling author of Lead With a Story.

You’re busy as a leader. You don’t always have time to invest in learning new leadership skills. I recognize that and I’m here to help. Below are 6 great lessons in easy-to-digest 10-minute podcasts you can listen to at your convenience.

These podcasts are based on interviews with 100 executives and leaders at dozens of companies around the world as they learned their most important leadership lessons – sometimes the hard way. They feature stories from executives at Proctor & Gamble, Dollar General, Hewlett Packard, Kellogg’s, Dun & Bradstreet, Saatchi & Saatchi, Verizon, and many more. Each episode brings you an important leadership lesson through a single compelling story.

These next 6 episodes will help you both inspire your team and get more creativity out of the whole organization.

A creativity-boosting secret your company isn’t using . . . yet.

Uncommon wisdom on how to bring out more creativity in your people, by asking them to work somewhere else.

Read More…

Where does the biggest threat to your organization come from?

Posted on February 4, 2016 | 1 Comment
Categories: Leadership, Poll, Strategy

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: Where does the biggest threat to your organization come from?

– From within — we’re our own worst enemies: 76.82%

– From the outside — the market is our biggest threat 23.18%

Why is this so hard? It’s surprising and discouraging how many of you feel like the biggest threat to your organization’s success comes from within. 77% is a staggering number. Remember – change can start with you. Spend some time identifying the biggest roadblocks (politics, personalities, decision making approaches, bureaucracy) and resolve to fix some part of that – even a small one – every week. Enlist others to do the same. Change is slow and painful but 77% of you being in your own way hurts even more.

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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Achieving Balance Through the Ups and Downs

Posted on February 3, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Career, Leadership

See SawAchieving balance with your work is a difficult task. There are busy periods and slow periods. Many times we seek to make the busy ones less busy and the slow ones busier by adding work. If that approach isn’t working for you, perhaps it’s time to embrace the highs and lows.

Sometimes life is frenetic. Sometimes it’s slow. We all want to achieve “balance” in our lives but it’s difficult to do so through all those ups and downs.

We falsely believe “balance” is a Goldilocks thing – not too busy, not too bored, but juuuust right. We try to manage the busy periods to make them less busy. We make the slow periods busier. We do all this in a futile effort to get our lives into that range of “just right” but it never seems to play out. Why?

It doesn’t play out because we mistakenly believe we have control over our lives. Control is an illusion. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to achieve a sane sense of balance. But it’s not balance as you might be thinking about it. It won’t be in that “comfortable range” every day. To achieve the balance I’m talking about, you have to look at balance differently and therefore approach it differently.

First, the busy periods will always be busy.

Second, the slow periods will always be slow.

Third, control is an illusion and you can only do so much to manage those busy and slow periods.

Once you accept these points as axiomatic, you can unlock the secret to balance. It’s a pretty simple method.

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Magnetic: The Art of Attracting Business

Posted on February 1, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Customer Service, Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Sales, Social Media, Strategy

Horseshoe Magnet with Iron FilingsGrowing your business is all about understanding how to attract and retain customers. There are several simple techniques you can apply immediately to make customers flock to your business.

Today’s post is by Joe Calloway, author of Magnetic (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

We’ve entered an entirely new marketplace for business with an entirely new set of rules. Businesses can no longer thrive following a strategy of going out and getting customers. Today we must become, in effect, magnets for customers and create a never-ending flow of new business that comes to us. It requires letting go of much of what we’re used to, what we’re comfortable with, and what used to work.

Let Cate represent a business. Cate can be in any arena of business – retail, business-to-business, consumer, industrial – it makes no difference. There are some new factors at work that can, if Cate gets them right, ensure steady and ongoing growth. Of course, the main rule is this: the rules always change.

The first factor that Cate must understand is that traditional advertising and marketing will play a much smaller role than ever before in creating business. They are still part of the mix, but the most powerful factor in buying decisions, whether business to business or consumer purchases of products and services, is word of mouth. Nothing else even comes close. It is the single most important element in the growth of any business. It is more powerful than any advertising and it should be at the core of Cate’s marketing strategy.

To be a magnet for business Cate must also change how she thinks about social media. It’s not what she says about herself on social media that influences prospective customers; it’s what her existing customers say about her. The Internet has changed the math on the power of Cate’s customers, be they satisfied or dissatisfied. They don’t tell a handful of people anymore. They tell dozens, or hundreds, or thousands. Today’s buyer of almost anything goes to the Internet to see what others think as they make their buying decisions. If the Internet, meaning everyone who posts their impressions of Cate, says “we love Cate’s business,” then her success is assured. She becomes a magnet for attracting business. If the Internet says “one star – stay away,” they stay away.

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How important is a SWOT analysis in a strategic plan?

Posted on January 28, 2016 | 1 Comment
Categories: Leadership, Poll, Strategy

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How important is a SWOT analysis in your strategic planning efforts?

– Critical — you can’t have a strategic plan without a SWOT: 22.76%
– Very — a SWOT is an important element of the plan: 34.14%
– Somewhat — a SWOT can help but it’s not required: 20.00%
– Not very — a SWOT has marginal value in planning: 5.86%
– Not at all — a SWOT is a waste of time: 1.38%
– What’s a SWOT analysis?: 15.86%

Understand the Market and Your Position. A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) is clearly an important element of any strategic plan. For those who see it as less important, I suspect it’s because the SWOT is done and then disregarded. To use it effectively, think through the implications of the SWOT. The strategic themes you identify in the SWOT should point you in the direction of major initiatives to pursue. The better your SWOT is linked to your ultimate strategy, the more successful you can be. If you need a primer or a brush up on conducting a SWOT, here’s a quick perspective on the topic.

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 Most Important Ingredient in Employee Engagement

Posted on January 25, 2016 | 1 Comment
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Trust Written Across a Brick ArchwayThe number one ingredient in shaping a winning culture that fully engages employees is trust in leadership. Here are four ways to build and sustain trust.

Today’s post is by Kevin Graham Ford and Jim Osterhaus, authors of The Secret Sauce: Creating a Winning Culture (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

In August of 2015, The New York Times gave an insider’s account of life at the hugely successful online retailer Amazon. Workers described a hyper-competitive workplace where team members have to produce or else as the company boasts of “unreasonable” expectations. Most chilling perhaps was the report that Amazon’s internal directory provides contact information allowing employees to give anonymous feedback to others’ supervisors. Apparently, Amazon is a place of innovation, excellence, and performance – but not trust or joyful employee engagement.

The number one controllable predictor of organizational success is employee engagement. So, what’s the best way to insure your employees are engaged?

We’ve been preoccupied with this question for two decades in our work at TAG Consulting (www.tagconsulting.org).

Engaged employees are found in organizations with a great corporate culture. If you search “great corporate culture,” you’ll get 165,000,000 results! Our clients, such as QuikTrip and Balfour Beatty, are often featured in “best places to work” studies found in those results.

But the answer to the question “What does it take to create a great culture?” has remained elusive. At TAG, we have been researching that question since 1998 through an employee survey called The Engagement Dashboard (TED). Our database contains thousands of records from organizations in all three sectors – public, private, and social. It is one of the most comprehensive analyses of the American workforce, and our research was highlighted at the American Academy of Management in 2000.

One of the survey questions revealed an organization has a healthy culture when employees affirm that “Management can be counted on to come through when needed.” A factor analysis of our data reveals that this statement correlates at a very high level with the other 100+ items contained in TED. Any statistician will tell you that this is groundbreaking. Read More…

How much professional reading do you do each month?

Posted on January 21, 2016 | 1 Comment
Categories: Books, Leadership, Poll, Training

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How much professional reading do you do each month?

– A ton — more than 5 books per month: 3.82%
– A lot — 2-3 books per month: 13.25%
– Some — 1 book per month: 24.5%
– Little — a book every few months: 42.57%
– None — I don’t have time for it or interest in it: 15.86%

Reading is Fundamental. It’s a bit surprising and somewhat distressing that leaders are reading so little with almost 60% of you stating you do “little” to “none” in terms of professional reading. Time sounds like a convenient excuse but I’ll challenge that assertion. If you add up the time you spend watching TV, cat videos, and being on social media, I’m sure you can carve out a portion of it for reading.

If you want to continuously grow as a leader, you have to invest in expanding your knowledge base, perspectives, and skills. Reading a book is a great way to do so (and for some great suggestions on where to get started, check out these titles). Letting your knowledge base stagnate directly correlates with the stagnation of your skills. Go hit your local library or bookstore.

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!

Read More…

6 Ways to Fix the Annual Review Process

Posted on January 20, 2016 | 1 Comment
Categories: Career, Communications, Leadership

Performance AppraisalThe end of year performance review process is broken but leaders can take 6 steps to change their performance culture and become better leaders in the process.

Whether you’ve just finished your end-of-year review process or it’s still finishing up, you can resolve to do things better this year in terms of managing performance. This post is probably even more relevant if you’ve recently been through the pain of a grueling review process because I’m sharing some tips on what you can do this year to make next year’s process less painful and more effective.

There’s nothing like returning to work after post-holiday food comas.  The best part is you get to prep for one of the most dysfunctional, time-wasting, intellectually insulting, and leadership-lazy exercises known to mankind: the end of year review.

They’re stupid.  Period.

And before you go all “I don’t need to read this – I’m a business leader and HR people are the ones who do performance management” you need to sit down, shut up, and read because if you have that mindset, you’re a huge part of the problem.

How failed is our leadership culture that we have to sit around and wait for HR or executive management to dictate when and in what form we must critique the people on our teams?

How messed up is it that we have to rely on compulsory forms with rating scales to tell people how they’re doing?

How sad is it that we have to hold cross-calibrations to stack rank people and force a performance distribution because our managers lack the ability to look outside their own organization and assess comparable levels of talent and performance?

We’re a management disaster, people!

I’ve written plenty on the dangers of bad feedback, the importance of self-appraisals, the requirement to fix bad performance before it becomes terrible performance, and how awful butt sandwiches taste.  Add this post to the list of rants about why our performance management systems are broken and what we as leaders need to do to fix them.

If someone works for us for 365 days, we owe them much more than a once-a-year sit-down to discuss their performance.  We owe our organization more than looking at all personnel once every four seasons.  If we truly want to get out of the rut of annual performance reviews being as palatable as beet and Brussels sprout casserole, we have to create a new culture around reviewing performance.  Here’s how we as leaders can do that:

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Why Respect is the Cornerstone of Effective Leadership

Posted on January 18, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Guest Blogger, Leadership

Respect Spelled Out with Scrabble TilesTo get respect, you’ve got to show respect. Without respect, leaders become tyrants. Earning respect is easier than you might think.

Today’s post is by Dean Vella who writes on behalf of the University of Notre Dame and Bisk Education.

Imagine being a minimum-wage employee and working for a boss who consistently sits in his or her office, barking out commands. Whenever something goes wrong, the volume and vitriol from the boss increases.

Imagine having a boss whose sole management plan is to do as little as possible. A boss who makes empty promises of incentive rewards to employees who go the extra mile, promises that never materialize. A boss who refuses to relate to employee issues and needs, such as time off requests.

What if that boss approached work differently? What if he or she came in early and stayed late, offering to help with menial chores after closing in order to expedite the process and get people home earlier? Or simply took the time to talk to workers, to joke, to learn about them as people?

This situation, which centered on a series of restaurant managers, and was detailed by the website Respect and Leadership.net, sums up the toughest part of being a boss and a leader.

It’s the quintessential quandary of how to manage people and make sure they work to a certain standard, while also finding a way to make them respect you and your authority in order to help the business succeed.

Great leaders have to be respected in order to be successful, but earning that respect takes time and effort. When employees respect you, they are more likely to work harder to accomplish a shared goal they believe in.

Read More…

How effectively do you resolve conflict with others?

Posted on January 14, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How effectively do you resolve conflict with others?

– Very — conflicts don’t last long as I resolve them quickly: 32.83%
– Somewhat — some conflicts are difficult to resolve: 62.92%
– Not very — I have more conflict than I can handle: 3.04%
– Not at all — my work life is nothing but conflict: 1.22%

Guiding versus driving conflict resolution. While none of us enjoy conflict, we have to resist the urge to resolve it. Your job as a leader is to teach others to resolve conflict on their own. If you’re constantly mediating disputes, you’re an enabler of bad behavior. Everyone will keep arguing and coming to you to solve their problems. They’ll never learn to resolve things themselves. So the next time people come to you to resolve an issue, guide them on how to resolve it versus driving resolution yourself.

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!

Read More…

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