What’s Your Leadership ROI?

Posted on July 26, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Communications, Leadership

Leaders need to do a better job of how they invest their time and energy. You can’t get a return on those investments if you’re not mindful of where you’re investing and the results you’re getting from those investments (your leadership ROI).

You make investments every day, likely without realizing it. You’re investing time and energy in the members of your team. The often-unanswered (or even unasked) question is what is the return you’re getting on that investment?

Allow me to introduce the concept of “leadership capital” which is one of the core concepts in my book Lead Inside the Box which I co-authored with Victor Prince. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to discuss the topic of leadership ROI Chris Taylor on Actionable Books’ podcast The 21st Century Workplace. During our conversation, we covered “how smart leaders guide their teams to exceptional results”. During our chat we dive into many areas, including:

– What it was like co-authoring a book virtually with someone I hadn’t met in person

– Triaging where you invest your time as a leader

– The Leadership Matrix performance approach (and how we can best use it to drive performance)

– How much time should leaders allow between performance reviews?

– Defining Leadership Capital

– Why if something you say during a performance review surprises your direct report, you’ve failed as a leader

At first blush some of the ideas discussed in this conversation may sound a little counter-intuitive, but I’m certain they will help you better invest your time as a leader.

Listen to the podcast here:

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Reach Out to Young Employees about Leadership Skills

Posted on July 24, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Career, Guest Blogger, Leadership, Training

Woman Working Alone in Office at Night

Research shows that young employees feel solely responsible for developing their leadership skills. This is how you can make them feel empowered and less alone.

Today’s post is by Thuy Sindell, a principal at Skyline Group International.

When I was younger and less experienced, I made the same mistake as many professionals early on in their careers: I never asked for help. I was surrounded by employees who had years of insights from which I could learn, but I was worried asking questions would be a sign of weakness.

I felt if I was going to progress in my career, it was up to me. I alone would have to learn what I needed to do to succeed. Over time, I did gain skills and experience, but if I’d asked more questions, it would have shortened the learning curve significantly.

What’s unfortunate is that this feeling of responsibility isn’t uncommon in young people. Recent research from the University of Gothenburg found that employees between 24 and 30 tend to believe they’re the only one who can impact their career. They think they have to have all the answers and solve problems alone in order to become a leader.

This creates a rift between young employees and leaders who could be useful resources for them. And as the one who knows better, it’s up to you to create a work environment that shows young employees you have their best interests at heart.

Here are three ways to show young employees you can help them and develop their leadership skills:

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How often do you find business lessons in unconventional places?

Posted on July 20, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How often do you find business lessons in unconventional places?

– Always — I see business lessons in all aspects of everyday life: 59%
– Sometimes — The occasional lesson shows up in daily life: 38%
– Rarely — It’s not at all often I find business lessons in my daily life: 3%
– Never — Business is business. Life is life. They don’t intersect.: 0%

Lessons surround us. Just because something isn’t directly related to your work doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from it. Everyday life offers a myriad of lessons if we’re just willing to look. The harder you look, the more you’ll learn. Actively thinking about your business and your work and trying to link seemingly unrelated lessons to it is a vehicle for creativity and insight. You might be surprised by some of the interesting places you can learn things that will inform your perspective on your business. Pause. Take a look around. Ask what you can learn in that very moment. The answers might pleasantly surprise you.

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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Bringing Your Corporation’s Soul to the Classroom

Posted on July 17, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Leadership, Training

Mentor with Student

Project-based mentoring enables your company to get involved with students in a way  that builds real-world skills for them and strengthens your company’s image.

Today’s post is by Patty Alper, author of Teach to Work (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

One of the single most important things the human race has done over the course of time is teaching younger generations how to develop and hone a skill. Unlike nearly every other living creature on earth, we humans are born with few instincts, and it takes years before we can be self-reliant. Mentoring, in fact, goes back to the beginning of time with the hunter/gatherers. Starting with masters and apprentices, we have taught the young how to survive and how to thrive.

Today, our young adults must learn the skills of survival in the 21st century. Those skills have changed, and continue to change at a record pace. To thrive, students must learn the skills that are desirable in today’s corporate world, or face the prospect of never gaining financial or social maturity.

In a recent Gallup study, corporations made very clear that we are failing at passing on those skills. Only 11% of business executives agreed that college graduates have the skills their workplaces need. Yet in striking contrast, 96% of chief academic officers at colleges and universities stated their institution was effective at preparing students for employment.

Whether perception, reality, or a combination of the two, this is a huge gap in our understanding of work readiness for college graduates. What can we do to bridge this gap? The answer is surprisingly obvious, but rarely implemented. We need to go back to the roots of the human race. We need experienced practitioners (in technology, accounting, law, journalism, engineering, mathematics, etc.) teaching their hard-learned skills to the next generation. We need the presence of corporations in the classroom. Fortunately, some corporations have chosen to step up to address this gap and we are seeing marked results.

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How many great leaders or influential bosses have you worked for?

Posted on July 13, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How many great leaders or influential bosses have you worked for?

– Many – I’ve lost count: 3%
– A few – It’s an elite group: 71%
– One – They were the best leader I’ve ever had: 15%
– None – I’ve not been so lucky: 11%

The great ones are rare. The vast majority of you point out that great bosses are hard to find. A point to ponder is if you had a boss you didn’t think was great at the time but upon reflection realize they taught you more than you appreciated. Sometimes looking back on your past can offer insights not only about possibly great bosses you’ve had but also what you can be doing right now to be a great boss for your team members. What set those great bosses apart? What behaviors should you be emulating to be as great as they were? Periodic reflection on prior roles and relationships can yield great insights.

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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5 Project Management Lessons from Walking Across Spain

Posted on July 12, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Business Toolkit, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Project Management

Hiking on a Long Trail

Whether it’s knowing what you need and what you don’t on a project or knowing how to manage conflict effectively, a long 500 mile stroll can help you build these skills.

A few summers ago, I hiked the ancient Camino de Santiago trail across Spain. It was the best month of my life for many reasons. Along with a lot of other great things I got by walking almost 500 miles, it also taught me some valuable project management lessons that I can use at work.

Less is More

When you are carrying everything you need for a month on your back, you learn to be very smart with differentiating what you need versus what you want. Variety in clothing colors and styles drives complexity and weight in packing a backpack. By the end of the trip, I found that I used 20% of the clothes I packed 80% of the time, and the rest was dead weight. I ended up throwing away a lot of the “I want” clothes and just washing and wearing the “I need” clothes more.

LESSON – As I scope future projects at work, I will ruthlessly force myself to differentiate between what is essential to deliver well, and strip out all the “nice to have” parts of the project that aren’t absolutely required.

Someone Has Probably Done this Before

An amazing thing about the Camino de Santiago is that people have been walking that same trail for over a thousand years as part of a Christian pilgrimage. Whenever I got a blister or a twisted ankle, I realized that hundreds of people probably had that exact same problem at the exact same place and got through it somehow. When I walked by the 800 year-old ruin of a hostel for medieval pilgrims, I realized they probably dealt with the same loud snoring and other problems that today’s pilgrims face. My guide book had the following quote from the journal of a German peregrino in the 1400s that could still be written today – “The women (nuns) in the hostel yell at the pilgrims a lot. But the food is good.”

LESSON – Whenever I start a new project at work, I will seek to learn from the experience of others who have done similar projects in the past.

Know When to Pull the Fire Alarm

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Differentiate Your Business Through User Experience Research

Posted on July 10, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Business Toolkit, Communications, Guest Blogger, Innovation, Leadership

User Experience Dial

While quantitative analysis is great, don’t dismiss the value of qualitative research and how it can help you understand your customers and differentiate your business.

Today’s post is by Julie Lellis and Melissa Eggleston, authors of The Zombie Business Cure (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

What do successful companies like Charles Schwab, MailChimp and Indiegogo have in common? They put significant time and money toward crafting the experiences both potential and current customers have. This level of commitment helps these companies stand out among peers and builds loyal customers. How do you start doing the same? You start by doing user experience (UX) research to understand the experience people are currently having with your business.

“Qualitative research doesn’t get enough credit,” said Aga Bojko, the director of UX for Indiegogo, the popular global crowdfunding platform. “I love quantitative research too, but dismissing qualitative work as ‘unscientific’ is naïve. For example, an ethnographic study with just a few participants can provide the depth and richness of information you’d never be able to achieve with a high sample size survey.”

The author of a highly regarded book on eye tracking with more than 15 years of industry experience, Bojko joined Indiegogo a little more than two years ago in part because she was attracted by the core values it espouses: “fearlessness,” “authenticity,” “cooperation,” and “empowerment.”

In the San Francisco-based company of approximately 130 employees, Bojko works on a team of 13 UX professionals, four of whom focus solely on research. All researchers work very closely with Indiegogo’s designers, product managers, and marketing specialists. In fact, in an effort to optimize communication with the customers, earlier this year the marketing team asked Bojko and her team to revisit the company’s personas.

Indiegogo must attract and satisfy two primary target audiences:

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How do you deal with making difficult decisions?

Posted on July 6, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Communications, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How do you deal with making difficult decisions?

– I make them immediately the best I can: 46%
– I delay and hope they go away or get easier: 12%
– I push the decision off to someone else: 1%
– I have my team make the decision with me: 30%
– I deal with them some other way: 11%

Make the call quickly. Difficult decisions can turn into big problems if you delay making the call. Whether you go it alone or involve your team, moving a decision ever-forward even if you don’t make the choice in that moment is a no regrets move. Many times those big decisions stall because the case you’re trying to make for change isn’t compelling enough. You know what the decision is but can’t get others bought into it. If that’s the case, taking a different approach to making your recommendation is in order. Make sure you link your decision to a clear “what’s in it for you” for your ultimate decision maker. Many times that linkage is what can push the decision forward.

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 Easy Way to Write a Great Business Case

Posted on July 5, 2017 | 1 Comment
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Leadership, Project Management

Person Handing Over Documents for Approval and Signature

Business cases are the key to getting ideas approved and funded. If you follow a few basic principles, you’ll find the cases you make get approved more quickly and easily.

If you want to get people’s attention with your business case, you need to solve a big problem. The problem definition section outlines the core business problem or opportunity that your project will directly address. Provide a summary of the core problem, including a description of the pain point and what’s causing it, also include the impact that this problem has on the organization.

Defining the Problem

A well-written problem statement gets your reader to say, wow, that’s a big problem and we need to solve that. It’s what motivates action and will lead to approval of your idea.

Write in plain language. Remember, people from all different functions across the organization will be involved in the approval process. You need to make it easy for them to understand what the problem is.

Let’s look at some example problem statements. My first example is about training.

Problem: Our associates have skill deficits in their ability to write a business case, communicate clearly and effectively, and make decisions quickly. The negative impacts of these skill gaps are that business cases often need to be rewritten, which delays project implementation and time to value. Also, our associates are spread out all over the country. The travel cost of sending someone to a training session is $1,000 per person.

My second problem statement example is about a company’s website:

Problem: The company website was built in 2004. It’s on an outdated content management system platform that lacks basic search engine optimization functionality. Creating pages and blog posts on it takes substantial amounts of time. This means our site is not ranking well in searches, which leads us to miss traffic and sales leads we should be getting. There’s also a need to refresh the image of the website and incorporate our blog into the main website itself. Website standards have changed over the years and the current site looks outdated. This has a negative impact on our image.

Both problems I just laid out are stated clearly and simply. They give the audience a quick understanding of the issue and why we must solve it. When you write your business case, make sure you have the same level of clarity on your problem statement.

Defining Your Idea

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Data Analytics Requires Leadership by Mind and Machine

Posted on July 3, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Business Toolkit, Guest Blogger, Innovation, Leadership

Artificial Intelligence Brain Combined With Machine

Data analytics is no longer the preserve of innovative tech companies or large multinationals; it is becoming a tool that could play an essential part in every organization. However, this powerful medium, which can offer great insights and guide business decisions, requires some thought and attention.

Today’s post is by Marc Vollenweider, author of MIND+MACHINE (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

In order to successfully implement a data analytics function, you need to combine the benefits of machines with human ingenuity and skill. Mind-only analytics, where humans do all of the work, is recognized as being too slow and costly. On the other hand, machine-only analytics rarely delivers the insights needed. Goals are achieved only when mind+machine come together with structure and purpose to solve a problem. And therein lies the challenge!

While everyone is talking about artificial intelligence, implementing data analytics in your business is slightly more complex than installing a new coffee machine; it requires a harmonious interaction of humans and machines. As a leader, it is your responsibility to create the necessary culture and environment before you can expect your data scientists to churn out value-adding use cases on a regular basis. For those who are not familiar with the term, here is a quick definition:

A use case is the end-to-end analytics support solution applied once or repeatedly to a single business issue faced by an end user or homogeneous group of end users who need to make decisions, take actions, or deliver a product or service on time based on the insights delivered.

Use cases can be very simple or incredibly complex. I have seen a use case that was based on a mere 800 bits and others, in the realm of Big Data that need hundreds of gigabytes worth of data. An example of a use case could be developing a solution that analyzes customer data in order to improve the understanding of customer churn and thereby inform the development of a new customer retention strategy.
Allow me to point out two key factors that will directly influence the success of your data analytics use cases.

The Psychology of Analytics

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