What’s the biggest challenge you face in taking your career to the next level?

Posted on December 14, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Career, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: What’s the biggest challenge you face in taking your career to the next level?

– I’m lacking key skills. 10.1%
– There are no open roles above me. 36.8%
– I’m happy where I am and don’t want to move. 19.8%
– I’m ready, but no one will take a chance on me. 15.9%
– I don’t know what that next level is for me. 17.4%

Find a path. Many of you (80%) have an issue with your path to promotion. Whether it’s not knowing what the next role is, not having a spot to move into, not having the skills or not having a sponsor, many of these can be addressed by some proactive work on your part. If you’re missing skills, ask for training or seek knowledge sources like books or online classes. If it’s a question of no open roles or not having clarity on the next role, find a mentor and speak with your manager about your desire to grow. They may be aware of roles you’re not. They may also have suggestions on what good next opportunities could be for you. Sitting there waiting for someone to point the way doesn’t speak to a desire to advance. If you’ve built the key skills and identified a potential opportunity ahead of you by communicating with your leadership, the odds of someone taking a chance on you will definitely increase.

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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Best of thoughtLEADERS 2017: Our 9th Year of Badassed Blogging

Posted on December 13, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Books, Business Toolkit, Career, Communications, Entrepreneur, Innovation, Leadership, Sales, Social Media, Strategy

Mike Figliuolo TrophyIt’s time again for our annual year in review list of the BEST posts we’ve published over the last 12 months. Welcome to the 2017 edition of The Figgies (our NINTH YEAR of em!  Wow!) which are the awards we give ourselves for writing awesome blog content (here are the 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 editions of those awards).

This is an annual event at the thoughtLEADERS Blog. This list is comprised of our most viewed, most forwarded, quirkiest, most provocative work. Enjoy. Share. We’ve loved writing them. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading them. I don’t ask a lot of you folks so I have two small requests as your holiday gift to me (you are getting me something, right?):

1. Invite all your coworkers, friends, and family to come check out the blog and become readers. The only way we all get better is by raising everyone’s game. I’m not asking a lot here. If you found this blog helpful at all this year, here’s your chance to return the favor for all our hard work. Just email folks and tell ’em to come take a look.

2. Pick up a copy of my books. They make great holiday gifts for the professionals in your life. The titles include:

One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful Personal Leadership. In the words of Roland Smith (former CEO of Wendy’s/Arby’s) “This book could change your life.” To get a sense for what the book is about, read this free ChangeThis Leadership Manifesto which is based on the book. If you like the manifesto, you’ll love the book.

Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results. “Finally, a leadership book that cuts through all of the noise. This book needs to be on every leader’s desk!” – Andrea Procaccino, Chief Learning Officer, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

The Elegant Pitch: Create a Compelling Recommendation, Build Broad Support, and Get it Approved. If you’re looking to get to “yes” for your idea, this book will give you the method for doing so in an efficient and effective way.

Thanks for your incredible support in ’17 and best wishes for ’18! We hope to be a part of your future success!  Now on to the best of list!

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How to Give Constructive Feedback

Posted on December 11, 2017 | 1 Comment
Categories: Communications, Guest Blogger, Leadership

One Woman Providing Feedback to a Peer

Feedback can be difficult to provide especially to a peer or boss. If you’re thoughtful about the context around it and your choice of words, it will go more smoothly.

Today’s post is by Lauren Ruef who is a Research Analysts at

There’s no way around it. Giving feedback is a tricky thing. Even with the best of intentions, wires get crossed, and technology isn’t always a help. There are more ways to experience confusion than ever before. Texts, emails, video calls, and even instant messaging apps are part of the problem.

The golden rule for anyone delivering feedback is to do it in person. Facial expressions inform us on the intent behind the words, and when we are delivering a message on a potentially sensitive topic, being physically present makes all the difference. Non-verbal cues can reinforce the tone of our words and body language is essential to understanding the meaning of anyone’s message.

Peer to Peer Feedback

With coworker relationships, it’s important to get things right so as not to compromise trust. Here are a few basic things to remember when providing peer feedback. The first is permission. As a peer (and not a manager) ensure this person is comfortable with you offering an opinion or critique. Beware of giving unsolicited advice.

If the working relationship requires iterative feedback on a project, ensure the person is receiving it at the appropriate stages, and not continuously, as this can cause disruption of their workflow.

Don’t be afraid to ask your peer: “How do you prefer receiving feedback? Do you want to meet about it? Should I give you a list of suggestions? Is it better to notify you over email?”

Everyone is different, and some are more sensitive to confrontation than others. Avoid stepping on land mines by being prepared ahead of time.

Above all else, avoid the tone of a critic. Tone is everything. It’s the difference between a compliment and a sarcastic remark, and when you’re giving feedback, always aim for direct but non-confrontational.

Keep word choice positive and unassuming. Focus on the issue and how to fix it rather than the person or their perceived shortcomings. There is absolutely no help in making things personal.

Executive to Direct Report Feedback

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When is the last time you unplugged and took a real break?

Posted on December 7, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Career, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: When is the last time you unplugged for a few days and took a real break from work?

– This week: 13.7%
– Within the past month: 26.6%
– Within the past quarter: 18.1%
– Within the past year: 15.5%
– I can’t remember the last time: 26.1%

All work and no play… Stress and fatigue are cumulative. Continuing to work for protracted periods of time without a break will run you down. It also sends a strong signal to your team when you do, or do not, take time away from work. If they see you chained to your desk and never taking time off, they believe that’s the expectation whether you say it is or not. Building a resilient team requires you to manage stress and achieve balance both for you and for them. If you can’t remember the last time you took time away from work, you should hear alarm bells right now. You’re headed for a crash – it’s simply a matter of when it will occur. Set the example. Take some time away. Recharge and reengage.

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 Power of Critical Thinking

Posted on December 6, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Entrepreneur, Leadership

Woman in Glasses Thinking

Critical thinking is becoming increasingly important as the world moves faster and faster. Take some time to learn how to improve your critical thinking skills.

With all the information streaming at you every day and the increased speed of decision making, critical thinking becomes more important every day.

Recently I had occasion to speak with Pete Mockaitis of the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast. We discussed critical thinking and some of the techniques successful people use to solve their most complex problems. We discussed:

– Why slowing down will help you better solve problems
– How to differentiate facts from judgments
– How to use the 5 “whys” and the 7 “so whats” to think more clearly about causes and effects

Listen to the podcast here:

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Five Myths to Bust Before Becoming an Entrepreneur

Posted on December 4, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Career, Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Myths vs Facts

Avoid becoming one of the five in ten businesses that fail. Bust the five myths of entrepreneurship to see if you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur.

Today’s post is by May McCarthy, author of The Path to Wealth: Seven Spiritual Steps for Financial Abundance (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

With record-breaking stock market levels on the heels of success stories about entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, there is a desire for many employees to quit their jobs and start their own businesses. Before you quit your job and deplete your savings to fund your own startup, take a close look at your motivations for wanting your own business.

According to the Small Business Administration, 50% of businesses fail in their first year. This is often due to poor planning and the founders’ belief in five common myths about becoming an entrepreneur. Following is an outline of these myths and what you should know to prevent failure from happening to you:

Your income will increase

Most business start-ups are funded by the founders. Depending upon the type of business you start, your business may not produce a substantial source of income for the first year or two. Whatever amount of money you think you need to get to a level of profitability based on your business plan projections, double it so that you can handle unexpected situations that arise. With good planning and execution, you’ll have a better chance at succeeding and can pay yourself the larger salary that you desire in the future.

If you build it, they will come

Perhaps all of your friends and family have told you that you’ll be successful with your new business. That may be true, but before you empty your nest egg to lease the space, buy the equipment and print the letterhead, do some planning on paper first. Determine the feasibility of your business model, marketing plan, location choice, and competitive landscape so you have the best opportunity to succeed. Customers need to know where you are and to believe in the benefits of buying what you have to offer. It’s better to plan this out on paper than to discover it when very few customers show up after opening day.

It will be easier than your current job

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When is the last time you dealt with a serious medical issue for yourself?

Posted on November 30, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: When is the last time you dealt with a serious medical issue for yourself?

– Never. I’m fit as a fiddle.: 26%
– In the past 10 years.: 19%
– In the past 5 years.: 20%
– In the past year.: 17%
– I’m dealing with one right now.: 18%

An apple a day. Over one third of you have dealt with, or are dealing with, a serious medical issue in the last 12 months. That’s a big number. Sometimes these things surprise us out of nowhere. Other times they could be caught earlier and prevented. The question to all of you is when is the last time you saw your doctor for a check-up? Are you taking care of yourself in terms of diet, exercise, sleep and stress management? If the answer is you haven’t seen a doctor, and you’re not taking care of yourself, don’t be surprised when you end up in these statistics. As someone who has had several major health events in recent years, starting at the age of 43, I can’t emphasize enough the need to take care of yourself if you aspire to lead and take care of your team. See your doctor. Eat some apples. Take care of 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!

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5 Questions You Must Answer to Measure Your Business Well

Posted on November 29, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Customer Service, Entrepreneur, Leadership

Tape MeasureFocusing on metrics is key to achieving your desired business results—but it can be difficult to determine which metrics actually matter. There are five major questions you need to answer to ensure the metrics you’re measuring matter and you can take action based upon what they tell you.

Some metrics are easy to put numbers to. Revenue, inventory levels, and customer retention are solid numbers. Knowing those quantitative measures is essential to understanding your business. That said, you also need to measure qualitative aspects of your business like associate engagement and customer satisfaction.

Regardless of the measurement you need to answer five things about it:

1. What’s the measurement’s purpose? Know the significance of the metric and what you’ll change in your business based on the numbers you measure.

2. What data source will you use? Different sources of data can yield different results.

3. How will you calculate the metric? Define a formula, especially for complex measures.

4. How frequently will you measure? Measuring takes effort. Be efficient and only measure as frequently as you need to.

5. Who will review the measure? Define the stakeholders who are going to receive the reports.

For qualitative measures, the data gathering method is critical. Use a simple and standard method wherever possible. Consistency matters over time so you can get true trend data. Put thought into the measures up front so you’re not changing them frequently and invalidating data you’ve already collected.

My firm conducts classroom training. At the end of each course, we’ve asked the same 14 qualitative questions for the last 13 years. Regardless of the class we’re teaching, the instructor teaching it, or which client we’re teaching it for, it’s always the same 14 questions. What that enables me to do is get a true sense of trend data and compare instructors, clients, and courses over time. I can look at a course that I just taught yesterday and see how it stacks up versus something I taught last year or even last decade. That consistency gives me a richness of data to analyze.

As you think about the measures for your organization think about both the quantitative and qualitative ones and apply those five questions to everything you’re going to measure.

Sometimes you’ll want to create your own measure in order to capture a unique aspect of your business or to drive a specific behavior. When building these unconventional measures, articulate the purpose of measuring it, and specify how long you’ll measure it, especially if it’s being used to drive short-term performance.

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7 Lessons Learned from the Front Lines for Mentoring Done Right

Posted on November 27, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Guest Blogger, Leadership

Young man teaching older to use computer

Stories of mentoring gone wrong abound. How can you know if you’re doing it right? These seven signs will give you an indication if the mentoring in your organization is having the desired effect.

Today’s post is by Mildred Hastbacka of Prakteka, LLC.

Start a social media conversation thread about mentoring and the replies from those in the working world will get your attention. At the summary level, the responses are remarkably similar across geographies, types of business, professions, genders, age, and years of experience. Professionals know what “mentoring” is but, more often than not, their experiences of it in practice are unsatisfying: mentoring seemed impersonal, unofficial, casual, perfunctory, ineffective, or simply absent. Frequently, the mentee was left to identify their own mentor, even in companies with other well-codified business processes!

What’s also often missing from mentoring is the “how”—as in, the “how to do it right.” I have been mentored and been a mentor during the entire span of my working life in both large and small companies. Based on that cumulative and varied experience, I can say that mentoring done right is a management activity that yields noticeably higher levels of management and employee satisfaction, engagement, contribution and productivity. Here are seven lessons I’ve learned from the front lines of mentoring regarding how to do it right:

1. Mentoring is a management activity, not just a management “responsibility.” A mentor proactively and directly interacts with staff being mentored. If you are a mentor/manager and your mentoring activities appear at least twice a week on your calendar, you’re doing it right.

2. Mentored staff should be assigned a “real” project as soon as they join the work unit. The new staff as well as the mentor/manager need to quickly develop a sense of where and how the mentee can contribute to projects that matter. If the mentee’s project is important enough to show up on the monthly or quarterly general management review agenda, you’re doing it right.

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The Power of Mastering Your Mindset

Posted on November 20, 2017 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Career, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Opened Head Silhouette with Gears Inside

The more effectively you can master your mindset and how you approach the world around you, the more successful you can be and the better your outlook on life can become.

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

“The thought manifests as the word; the word manifests as the deed; the deed develops into habit; and habit hardens into character.” – Ancient Proverb

Are you struggling to master your mindset? Success boils down to the way you think, as the proverb suggests. More and more research is supporting the power of positivity. 

We create the reality around us, and by taking steps to be more positive, we can master our own domain.

Mastering Your Thoughts

A recent study conducted by the Journal of Research in Personality examined a group of 90 students split into two groups. One group wrote about a positive experience each day for three days, while the other group wrote about a control topic.

Three months later, the students who wrote about positive experiences enjoyed better moods, fewer visits to the school health center and fewer illnesses.

Start Keeping a Gratitude Journal

So how do you harness the power of positivity? By expressing gratitude. Record five things to be grateful for each day. As you keep a journal, being grateful for the abundance of good in your life will come more naturally. This “glass half full” mentality has been proven to foster happiness and success.

Get Enough Exercise

150 minutes of exercise a week is one of the most effective ways to boost your mental health. Getting regular exercise improves memory, relieves stress, boosts overall mood and helps you sleep better. See for more details on the benefits of exercise.

Schedule Genuine Personal Time into Your Life

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