Are you a procrastinator on big projects?

Posted on February 15, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Business Toolkit, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: Are you a procrastinator on big projects?

– Absolutely not – I tackle projects as soon as I can: 24%
– Not really – I’ll procrastinate from time to time: 44%
– Kind of – I put off most things with a few exceptions: 24%
– Absolutely – I always wait until the last minute: 8%

Some procrastination, but not much. Most of you are pretty good at tackling work as it comes in or, at the very least, not leaving it until the last minute. If you’re one of the procrastinators, think about the stress you experience by putting things off. Realize while a little stress does increase performance, too much stress — especially if it’s chronic — can severely diminish performance and affect your health. Consider changing your habits by planning better, changing how you tackle work, breaking big projects into smaller deliverables, and finding someone to hold you accountable for completing your work sooner. You might be surprised by how much less stress you face by making these changes. Coming from a guy who’s had a couple of heart attacks, trust me on this. Change your habits before they change your life.

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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How to Tell a Story with Data

Posted on February 14, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Leadership

Binary Data in a Tube Shape

Data can be boring even if it’s critically important. If you learn how to tell a story with data, however, the results can be compelling, interesting, and impactful.

Today’s post is by Paul Smith, thoughtLEADERS principal and bestselling author of Lead With a Story and  Sell With a Story.

Have you ever been hammered with data that you knew was important but you didn’t understand why the person sharing it was so passionate about it? Have you ever shared data and facts with colleagues in an attempt to influence them only to find they didn’t care about the message you were trying to convey?

There’s a better way to communicate than just throwing data at people.

Tell a story with the data.

Here’s a quick video that covers an example of how to tell a story with data. The example will help you understand the technique and you’ll be telling better, more compelling stories before you know it if you apply these methods. Enjoy!

If you’re interested in becoming a better storyteller yourself, check out our Influencing through Storytelling course and our Storytelling for Salespeople course where we can come into your organization and help you build this powerful, critical skill.

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3 Ways to Find Your Entrepreneurial Passion

Posted on February 12, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Career, Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Female Entrepreneur Taking an Order by Phone

If you want to be an entrepreneur, you would do well to understand your passions, know what you’re good at, and what people will pay you for. Find the intersection of those three things to be successful.

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

So you’ve decided you want to become an entrepreneur, and you couldn’t be more excited. The promise of working for yourself, making a difference in the world, and connecting with a tribe of people you really, really love… the entrepreneurial life tons of benefits, so it’s no wonder you want to try it on. After all, a recent study by the Kauffman Foundation found that 40% of new businesses are started by women—and a lot of those are happening among the millennial age group.

But where to start? Taking first steps into entrepreneurship can also seem daunting. To succeed, it’s important to invest time upfront to find a business idea that really works for you.

The ideal business will be one that joins your passion and skills with a need that people have (ideally people you like and relate to), and produces a product or service that those people will pay you for.

It’s probably safe to say that most small businesses grow out of someone’s passion. But a lot of them fail because people begin with an idea that’s too general and don’t take time to focus it. They don’t know exactly who they’re trying to reach, what they’re trying to do, or what problem they’re trying to solve. Because of lack of focus, they don’t differentiate from all the other people out there starting businesses in similar fields.

Focus is important in all parts of your business, but if you identify your passion first, the rest of the puzzle pieces will be easier. That’s because the more you love what you’re doing, the better prepared you’ll be to weather the storms and challenges that are an inevitable part of being an entrepreneur.

Now, the irony is that focus begins by casting a wide net and brainstorming a list of lots of passion ideas. Why? Because the first idea you come up with might not meet other criteria for business success. Maybe your passion lies with making a product for which there’s no real demand. Or it’s in a market that’s already saturated, or you can’t realistically manufacture it at a price people will pay, etc.

Another reason it’s smart to examine your own passions is that it can be easy to feel attracted to someone else’s business idea. We see a friend raking in money with a coaching business or online shop and think, “I could do that.” And maybe we could do it—but does that business fit our true passions?

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How would you characterize your approach to growing your business?

Posted on February 8, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Entrepreneur, Innovation, Leadership, Poll, Sales, Strategy

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How would you characterize your approach to growing your business?

– I lean toward “structured” and focus on pragmatic planning and execution: 56%
– I lean toward “creative” and always generate new, interesting ideas: 44%

Balancing creativity with structure. It’s a pretty even split between structure and creativity, with the edge falling more toward structure for how to grow your business. Clearly, both sides are important. When you can find the balance between the two, you have the opportunity to build something unique, special, and fundamentally sound. Err too much toward one or the other and you either miss out on new ideas or you let your business stagnate. If you personally fall on one end of the spectrum, consider surrounding yourself with others who skew the other way so you have a good balance between creativity and structure for your organization.

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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Can Resilience Differentiate You as a Leader?

Posted on February 7, 2018 | 1 Comment
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Leadership

African American Woman Doing Yoga

Resilience is the ability to maintain flexibility and focus when dealing with massive change. Leaders who possess this skill can differentiate themselves and lead their teams more effectively.

Today’s post is by thougthtLEADERS principal Maureen Metcalf.

In times of uncertainty, resilience is one of the most important skills for us to have. I define it as “the ability to remain flexible and focused when facing change.” As leaders, we are facing a higher level of volatility across the business environment than we previously faced. In the U.S., we have dealt with a major political change. This transition exposed division that was not previously evident on the surface in families, offices and communities. Such division can be healthy if addressed with a spirit of curiosity and grace. Yet, how can that happen when we view our previously trusted colleagues and even family members as “the other,” or worse?

While the political environment is the most obvious example right now, we are also seeing unprecedented volatility in financial markets and uncertainty in many sectors such as healthcare. Some of this is caused by politics, some by technology, and some caused by the fact that we live in a world that is much more interconnected than it used to be. We are dealing with situations we’ve never seen before. There is no return to the prior level of control so as leaders, we need to learn to be more agile.

Take Bill, a university director, responsible for physical and technology security. He came into work on a normal Monday morning, got his coffee, and started to plan his week. At 9:10 his world was interrupted. A young student drove off the road and onto a sidewalk trying to hit other students. The student emerged from his car and began attacking others. It was the job of the director, campus security, and many others to move very quickly in this situation. For Bill, resilience was critical in this moment and in the moments following the event. He needed to respond with his full attention, as people’s lives and their well-being were at great risk.

Today’s leaders must update their leadership thinking and behavior to keep pace with the challenges they face. In this sense, leadership is always self-renewing, and I believe resilience is the foundation of it, because, as we face accelerating change, we also face an increasing occurrence of people who respond to these changes with different perspectives. If we can integrate these differing perspectives in every area of our lives – work, politics, in our communities and at home – to create more comprehensive and durable solutions, we are all served by the process. If, however, we discount others because they have perspectives we disagree with, or, even worse, see them as “wrong,” we lose the value of learning and risk the relationships required to thrive in times of challenge.

Back to our example, if Bill had only considered one facet of security, his team would have been ill-equipped to deal with a complex attack.

So, as a leader, how can you build resilience to navigate the challenges you face in work and life?

Using innovative leadership as the foundation for this discussion, we can parse resilience into four categories:

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4 Ways an Unhealthy Lifestyle Affects Your Ability to Lead

Posted on February 5, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Juicy Burger with Fries

An unhealthy lifestyle can decrease productivity, reduce creativity, increase absences from work, and negatively affect our moods and relationships. Are you living a healthy lifestyle that enables you to be a better leader? If not, when will you start?

Today’s post is by Helen Sanders, chief editor at

Being a leader requires hard work, efficiency, creativity, the ability to form and maintain relationships (i.e., people skills), persistence and dedication. However, when you’re living an unhealthy lifestyle, your ability to lead may be impacted.

Let’s dive into exactly how a poor diet and lack of exercise may affect the various skills and characteristics every leader needs.

An Unhealthy Diet Results in Decreased Productivity

As a leader, you need to be productive. Otherwise, your ideas will remain ideas for a very long time. So, how can you be more productive? Well, you can start by avoiding unhealthy foods—such as those which are high in fat, salt and sugar.

High-fat foods, like burgers, give us longer-lasting energy but require our digestive system to work harder. This reduces oxygen levels in our brain and causes us to feel tired and worn out. When we feel this way, we don’t work as efficiently as we could. This can potentially result in reduced profits and having to work longer hours (which means less time for planning ahead and other important activities). According to the WHO, adequate nutrition can raise national productivity levels by 20%.

It’s best to eat fruits, vegetables and foods containing healthy fats—such as nuts and fish. These will provide you with the nutrition you need for high energy, cognitive efficiency an overall better mood (more on this below).

A Lack of Exercise May Cause a Lack of Creativity

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How well do you define the question at hand before rushing off to solve the problem?

Posted on February 1, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Leadership, Poll, Project Management

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How well do you define the question at hand before rushing off to solve the problem?

– Very – I always have clarity on the “why” of the problem. 31.9%
– Mostly – Sometimes I’ll jump straight into problem solving. 61.3%
– Not very – I tend to race off and solve before understanding why. 5.9%
– Not at all – It’s quite often I skip the problem-definition step. 0.9%

Understand the “why” first. Most of you try to understand the “why” before rushing off into problem-solving, but doing so can be hard. It’s easy to succumb to the temptation to get the problem solved quickly. This usually means immediate brainstorming, analysis and solution-generation. I’d venture to guess that all of us have rushed off like this once or twice only to find we solved the wrong problem. Get clarity on the “why” before any solution generation begins. Slow your teams down. Understand what your stakeholder wants and why it’s important. The more effectively you do that, the more likely it is your final recommendation will be approved.

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 Strategic Mistake of Overestimating Your Own Capabilities

Posted on January 31, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Entrepreneur, Leadership, Strategy

Blind Spot Mirror on Rear View Mirror

A common strategic planning mistake that people make is overestimating their own capabilities. It’s easy to overestimate your organization’s capabilities because we tend to have a favorable view of how good we are. We also have blind spots related to weaknesses that we might have.

Think about how many market leading companies you’ve seen fail. The belief that they were better than others is often the root cause of this failure. Viewing your organization as superior to competitors can lead to a flawed strategy.

I worked with one startup who came in and said “We’re the best in the market. Here’s why our technology’s better. Here’s why our strategy’s better. Here’s why our people are better.”

The investors challenged them on that assessment and the company still maintained their position of why the investor’s concerns weren’t relevant and why their competitor wasn’t as good as they were. Eventually they were blindsided in the marketplace and they went under. They seriously overestimated their capabilities.

Some warning signs that you may be overestimating your capabilities include things like:

– people saying “Oh we have no competitors. We’re the only one in this market.” Everyone has competitors. That’s a huge blind spot to say you don’t have any.

– using your old SWOT analysis versus doing a new one where you’re more rigorous around what your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are.

– relying on internal market research versus going to an external objective third party. That internal research can be very biased.

Some fixes for these risks are:

– Seek objective sources of capability assessments. Go out and get some consultants. Bring those people in to look at your business. Find some advisors or members of your board of directors to give you an objective assessment of what your strengths and weaknesses are.

– Conduct a good rigorous Porter’s Five Forces analysis to assess competitive dynamics in your industry.

– Focus on the weaknesses section of your SWOT analysis. By the way, ask your customers and your suppliers what your strengths and weaknesses are. They’re going to uncover some blind spots you’re not aware of.

Having an accurate realistic understanding of your capabilities keeps you from getting blindsided from by someone who’s better than you are. Take the time to get objective perspectives and make sure you’re protecting yourself from the risk of overestimating your capabilities.

Misreading the Market

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What Ferrari and Bentley Can Teach You about High Performance Cultures

Posted on January 29, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Leadership


Building a high performance culture requires focus, dedication, and a relentless drive to make the organization function at peak levels. Can you transform your organization into a high performance culture?

Today’s post is by Hugh Blane, President of Claris Consulting and author of 7 Principles of Transformational Leadership (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

It was one of the most thrilling moments in my life. I was doing 187 miles per hour at the Porsche racing school in what is best described as a rocket ship built on four wheels. The engine, only a few inches from my head, pounded in my chest as if I was receiving CPR, and the trees flew by so fast that they were no longer trees, but more a blurry green swatch of color out of the corner of my right eye.

I came to learn how to drive fast. Learning the subtle nuances of shifting gears, acceleration and braking vastly improved my lap time and left me with a greatly enhanced mindset behind the wheel.

High performance cars are similar to high performance cultures. You can choose to drive a car that is purely functional transportation, or you can choose to drive a car that is one part engineering masterpiece, one part handcrafted artwork, and one part a catalyst for supreme exhilaration.

Every leader should look at their culture as a Ferrari sitting in their driveway and recognize that the keys are in their hand. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of you, the level of intimidation about a Ferrari’s performance leaves the car looking good but not driven to its potential.

Driving a culture that is the equivalent of a finely tuned sports car requires embracing five high performance mindset shifts. They are:

High performance cultures are hand built.

Not unlike Ferraris, Bentleys and Lamborghinis, cultures are made with painstaking attention to detail by master craftspeople. Engineers pour over specifications in the hopes of eliminating tiny imperfections, while marketing and customer care representatives create experiences that are exhilarating and rewarding.

Organizational cultures are handcrafted and never an off the shelf idea culled from a leadership book. It is crafted with an uncompromising and meticulous passion for a compelling future. A future that outperforms your competition, builds customer loyalty and commitment, and leaves you in a category of one.

High performance cultures are customer-centric.

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Do you believe storytelling is an important skill when it comes to making a sale?

Posted on January 25, 2018 | No Comments
Categories: Communications, Leadership, Poll, Sales

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: Do you believe storytelling is an important skill when it comes to making a sale?

– Absolutely. Great storytellers are much more effective salespeople: 80.3%
– Kind of. Storytelling confers a slight advantage in selling: 15.4%
– Not really. It doesn’t sway a sales decision much: 2.7%
– Not at all. Selling is about product, price and promotion: 1.6%

Tell me a story. Storytelling definitely drives sales. 80% of you found storytelling to be a critical skill for salespeople, and I’d venture to guess not all respondents were sellers but many were buyers. If you think more broadly about “selling” and consider you’re always selling ideas, shouldn’t you become a better storyteller, too? Any recommendation you’re making can benefit from your ability to tell a story. Learn the skill. Build your own inventory of stories to help you be more compelling and influential. You just might close that “sale” you’ve been working on for a long time!

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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