Tuning Up Your Strategy so the Wheels Don’t Fall Off

Posted on July 21, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Communications, Guest Blogger, Leadership, Strategy

Mechanic Performing Wheel AlignmentToday’s post is by Rich Horwath, author of Elevate: The Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

We’ve all heard the phrase, “The wheels came off,” to describe a situation where things went bad. Meetings, projects and even relationships all have the potential for “the wheels to come off.” Ironically, cars are the vehicles we most often use with wheels and they very rarely come off. This is in part due to the alignment of their tires using the camber angle. Wheels with a positive camber angle have the top of the wheel farther out than the bottom. Wheels with a negative camber angle have the bottom of the wheel farther out than the top. Wheels with a camber angle of zero are vertically straight. And if the wheels aren’t aligned with one another with the proper camber angles, they may literally fall off.

Consider the alignment of strategy in your business, across functional areas and from a hierarchical perspective. Does your strategy align vertically and horizontally like a Formula One car or a jalopy with the wheels about to fall off? There are three elements to consider when optimizing the alignment of strategy for your business:

1. Goals. Not having clearly defined goals across the business is a key obstacle in creating sound strategy alignment. Not having clearly defined goals in business is like two World Cup soccer teams being sent onto the pitch without being told which goals they are shooting at and defending until after the match was over. A universal understanding of the goals is an essential but often overlooked aspect of business planning. Is the goal to grow profits, increase market share, drive gross revenue or harvest the business? The means of achieving these goals can be dramatically different. The first step in aligning strategy is to find common ground on goals. If no common ground exists on what you are both trying to achieve (goal), then how you’re going to get there (strategy) will never be aligned.

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How clear is your organization’s mission and vision statement?

Posted on July 17, 2014 | 2 Comments
Categories: Poll, Strategy

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How clear is your organization’s mission and vision statement?

- It’s crystal clear, simple and compelling: 43%
- It’s generally clear but could be better worded: 25%
- It’s full of meaningless buzzwords or we simply don’t have one: 21%
- It’s not clear and it’s hard to rally behind: 12%

Where are we going? About a third of you aren’t clear on where you’re going or why it’s a good place to go. Get your team in a room and discuss why your organization exists. Cut the buzzwords and speak in simple, compelling terms. Tell folks what you do, why you do it, who you do it for, and why you’re better at it than your competitors. If you can lay all that out in a couple of sentences it will be much easier to galvanize and excite your organization to achieve your vision.

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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Deliver Your Technical Message with a Human Voice

Posted on July 16, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Books, Communications

Boy with disassembled cell phoneToday’s post is by Frank Pietrucha, thoughtLEADERS instructor and author of Supercommunicator (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Who would you rather watch deliver a presentation on Youtube: Steve Jobs or Bill Gates? Most likely you’ll pick Steve Jobs. The late co-founder of Apple had a magical touch in discussing technology in a friendly, accessible manner. A communicator who understood the importance of appealing to his audiences at a deeply human level, Jobs didn’t deliver techno-babble at his legendary product launches. He never droned on about the specifications of his products. Instead he talked about the benefits they could deliver. His rival at Microsoft, Bill Gates, however, did not engage his audiences in such a human-focused manner. The somewhat obtuse and abstract innovator didn’t excel at putting a friendly face on his products.

Steve Jobs’ example of human-focused communication is an important lesson that’s becoming more essential the more “connected” we become. Thanks to the Internet, we have immediate access to trillions of bytes of information. This transformation is exciting, but it’s also something communicators must consider… especially when trying to explain complicated or challenging subjects. With so much data at our fingertips it’s easy to run amok with facts and figures. But don’t. Research shows that the more information being hurled at us, the more we crave human interaction. Steve Jobs understood this… you should too.

From the moment we wake up until the time we go to bed, many of us are in a non-stop relationship with information. From our laptops to our handheld devices, we are constantly inhaling data. This change, courtesy of the Internet, is physically changing the wiring of our brains. If you communicate, you need to be aware of how drastically your audiences’ reading and learning skills have evolved in the short span of a couple of decades. It’s getting harder to reach people because they are getting so much more information.

The truth is we all need a break from data saturation. An overabundance of information is actually making it harder for us to see big picture scenarios. We’re spending too much time focused on needless details or trivial subjects like celebrity gossip or where our friends are eating dinner and not enough time on the things that matter. Supercommunicators know they must reach people at a human level in order to break through digital age noise. With so much information at our disposal, we want more than ever a friendly face to make the world a less intimidating place.

Writing and consulting for several high-tech organizations, such as NASA, I’ve seen many zealous engineers overwhelm non-technical audiences with too much information. Often they think a data dump will make them appear smarter or better validate their argument. Technically minded folks can easily get caught up in details they think are impressive or important and neglect to realize that their papers or presentations come across as techno-babble. Messages need to resonate with management. Humanizing your content – figuring out how to reach your audience at a more personal level – can help you sell your idea.

Here are some ideas on how to do just that:

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Business Execution Lessons from the Kitchen

Posted on July 14, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Uncategorized

Chef with flaming skillet in kitchenToday’s post is by Patrick Stroh, author of Business Strategy; Plan, Execute, Win! (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

After 20 plus years of life in corporate America, it was time for a bit of a sabbatical. Or maybe better said, it was time to knock some stuff off my bucket list. You know, that list of things that we’ve always said we’ll do someday, but “someday” gets further and further away and our life gets busier and busier and we just don’t seem to have the time, even though we know they are important endeavors. Well, enough – someday is today! I made a commitment to get a couple things knocked off my bucket list – and that is exactly what I’ve done and I think you’ll find a couple of these stories interesting and maybe applicable to you.

First, I’ve always wanted to write a book on business strategy since that is what I love to do most – conduct due diligence, take an executive leadership team through a thoughtful and worthwhile process, create a strategy including innovation, product/service evolutions, generate financial scenarios and then when we are ready, to execute the plan! The key being, to actually EXECUTE the plan and make adjustments as needed. So I finally sat down and wrote the book, but in a very approachable way which entertains while it educates. Think about learning key business strategy tips from the movies, the bible, from growing up on a farm and other eclectic venues. It’s worth a read – trust me.

A second item on my bucket list was to get some real, technical training as a chef. I had cooked my way through college years ago and have become a self-proclaimed foodie. I would take clients out to eat at high end establishments and many times think, “I could make that.” Or, “I could make that better.”   Well, now I’ve gotten my chance. When I’m not consulting or writing, I’m taking classes at Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis/St. Paul on classical French techniques and dishes. What a blast! And while it’s not always as easy as some chefs make it look, I love it! It’s instantly rewarding to see someone swoon over your creation and enjoy how you have transformed some basic ingredients. So, what does being a chef have to do with business strategy and what should you learn from this? Good question, let me make a simple, but oh so important correlation.

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How do leaders in your organization handle the movement of talent?

Posted on July 10, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How do leaders in your organization handle the movement of talent in the company?

- We’re talent hoarders. We make it hard for people to move to new roles: 31%
- We allow people to move if they really want to change roles: 30%
- We encourage people to move and take on new challenging roles: 25%
- We actively manage movement of talent through a proactive process: 13%

There’s a lot of talent hoarding going on. While those people are valuable members of your team, when you hoard them or make it hard for them to move to new roles, including forcing them to ask for reassignment rather than offering it proactively, you can frustrate and demotivate them. People want to grow. As a leader, one job you have is to be a net exporter of talent. Bring people in without skills, build their skills, then send them off to bigger and better roles. Repeat. If you do this, you’ll make your people and your organization stronger. You’ll also build your personal leadership skills along the way.

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 Self Reliance for Adversity in Modern Times

Posted on July 9, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Leadership, Training

AristotleToday’s post is by thoughtLEADERS instructor Jan Rutherford who is leading another Self-Reliant Leadership Crucible expedition this October.  Check it out and sign up for the program if you’re courageous enough to do so…

What role does character, courage and virtue play in business achievement, and how should we deal with the difficulties, obstacles and adversity we inevitably face?

Napoleon held, “Adversity is the midwife of genius.” An alternate expression for adversity is crucible, and the Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘crucible’ as “a melting pot, for metals, etc.,” and adds that it can be figuratively used for a “severe trial.” The term crucible represents a difficult test or challenge; some sort of place or situation where we may face the intense heat of a severe trial, one that forces us to change or make difficult decisions. As Jules Evans says, “God sends adversity your way like a boxing coach sending you a sparring partner.”

Socrates and many philosophers influenced by him believed there was a strong connection between how we interpret the world and our own physical and mental health, and he believed we have the power to heal ourselves. The reason Napoleon saw adversity as a benefit was because the virtues of wisdom and knowledge stem from resiliency, dominion and discipline.

Answering the questions about virtues amidst adversity takes time, energy, courage, humility and discipline – i.e., self-reliance. One of the most important components of our own personal development is the desire to build our character to serve others: inner growth for outer service.

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Why Employee Engagement Matters

Posted on July 7, 2014 | 2 Comments
Categories: Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Engaged SignToday’s post is by Annalee Peters writing on behalf of O.C. Tanner.

For many employees, going to work is a dreaded chore. In fact, in the United States, approximately 70% of workers dislike their current job. That means that when they clock in in the morning and pull their chairs up to their desks, being motivated and efficient are often the last things on their minds. Unfortunately, having a workforce that would rather stare into space and kill time until closing is not exactly conducive to better business. When workers become emotionally distanced from their work, it can lead to reduced productivity, increased employee turnover, and negatively impact every other aspect of the workplace. However, if there was increased employee appreciation, those same employees can be re-engaged, then the benefits towards the business are almost endless. Here are a few ways that your business stands to benefit from connecting your disengaged employees.

1. Loyalty

Employee turnover is a major concern for many companies. When employees leave, their positions need to be filled quickly, before their absence begins to affect business. That means that managers have to take their minds away from their other duties and begin the often-times lengthy hiring process. Additionally, recruitment costs (such as advertising the new position or hiring temporary help) can build quickly, and may end up harming the company financially. At the same time, productivity will often dip while the position is vacant. Lastly, the costs (both monetary and opportunity-related) of training a new employee need to be considered. However, if employees are engaged, their satisfaction level naturally increases, as does their company loyalty. In short, engaged employees are less likely to leave, which benefits everyone. They are also much more likely to promote the company brand, and to consider its interests.

2. Creativity

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How much of your compensation should be performance-driven?

Posted on July 3, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Career, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How much of your total compensation are you comfortable having tied directly to your performance as variable compensation?

- 80% to 100% — I want almost everything tied directly to my performance: 5%

- 50% to 80% — I want a base salary but prefer that the majority of my compensation be tied to my performance: 17%

- 20% to 50% — I like predictability, but having some performance upside is attractive: 57%

- Zero to 20% — I prefer completely predictable compensation: 21%

Predictability matters. Clearly, people want something they can count on from month to month. Almost 80% of you want the majority of your compensation to be predictable and also desire some performance-based upside. The small minority of respondents who want to take bigger bets on themselves are clearly more comfortable sacrificing predictability for upside. It will be interesting to ask this question again when the economy recovers because there’s probably bias toward predictability these days, when simply having a job is all most of us could wish for.

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 Importance of Diversifying Your Business

Posted on July 2, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Entrepreneur, Sales, Strategy

Addict with SyringesI had a great conversation with a friend of mine. He was bemoaning the fact that his company was almost completely dependent upon one huge customer. He saw the inherent risks in that relationship but confessed his organization had a bad habit they couldn’t kick. They had succumbed to the addiction of predictability and comfort.

Is your business overly-reliant on one key customer? Is your organization tied closely to one key client or partner or supplier? If that customer went away, would your world come to a crashing screeching halt? The rule of thumb I’ve always heard is no customer should be more than 25% of your business (and the same holds true for your suppliers or partners).

We always hear about diversification but usually it’s in the context of our stock portfolios. If your 401k became a 200.5k in the past few years, you know what I’m talking about. It’s easy to do the diversification thing in a portfolio – sell a few stocks, buy a few stocks and presto! you’re done. Diversifying your customer base is much harder to do.

If you’ve never thought much about this topic (or even if you have) you need to understand the true risks involved in not diversifying, understand why it’s hard to diversify, and use some practical methods to achieve the diversification goal.

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How to Strike the Right Balance between Guiding and Micromanaging

Posted on June 30, 2014 | 8 Comments
Categories: Guest Blogger, Leadership

US Navy LeadershipToday’s post is by Mark Nevius of

Whether you’re an entrepreneur who has recently opened his first office and hired the first set of people, or an eager-to-please manager, micromanaging tendencies can set in any time.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. Some people confuse being a hands-on boss with micromanaging their staff. Others take it too far in the opposite direction. You want to avoid both extremes, and like a true enlightened being, walk the middle path to find your peace.

The Tendency to Micromanage

If you feel you have the tendency to micromanage, ask yourself why do you feel the need for it? Not getting psychoanalytical here but this is a pertinent question. Some of the common reasons for micromanagement include:

A lack of trust in employees

Some people have the bad habit of abusing Internet privileges or coming in consistently late or complaining about the boss to others on Skype. You will run into such employees from time to time, but that shouldn’t cause you to think that they are all the same.

You think your employees are incompetent

If you genuinely feel your employees are no good and that they cannot perform without constant supervision on your part, you need to ask yourself why you hired them in the first place. And in case you discovered their alleged incompetence after having hired them, why are you still persisting with them?

You’re a perfectionist

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