10 Things that Took Me 10 Years to Learn

Posted on August 27, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Career, Communications, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Sales, Social Media, Strategy, Uncategorized

Birthday Cake for Ten Year-OldHappy Birthday to me! No, it’s not my birthday (although you can send me gifts if you like).  It’s thoughtLEADERS‘ birthday and the firm just turned 10.  10 years old.  Mind-boggling.

In those 10 years I’ve had ups and downs.  I’ve learned a great deal as an entrepreneur, an executive, a leader, and a person.  Good times, bad times, y’know I’ve had my share… (yes… Zeppelin).  I’d like to share some of those things I’ve learned with all of you.  My hope in sharing these things is that you’ll avoid mistakes I’ve made, be more successful than I’ve been, and enjoy your life more.

Before I launch into that top 10 list, I’d like to thank everyone around me who has helped me succeed with this business.  My wonderful clients who make it all possible.  The awesome participants in my classes (except that one guy that one time… you know who you are).  The fantastic colleagues who do such amazing work.  My friends and professional contacts who recommend me and my work.  My family members who have supported me throughout this crazy ride.  Without all of you, thoughtLEADERS is just a cool website.  Thank you for everything from the bottom of my heart.

Shutting up now.  Time to drop the knowledge.  Within each of these tips is a link to another post I’ve written on that topic so if you want to learn more about that particular topic, click on through to the other side (Jim Morrison… kinda).

10. Jump in with both feet.  If you’re considering starting your own business (or you’re taking on a major new project or role), you have to go all-in if you want it to succeed.  You can’t be half-pregnant.  When I first started the business, I ran it part time while I held a full-time job.  I reasoned I would go full-time with thoughtLEADERS when I had a big, stable, predictable client base.  Hey idiot – you won’t have a big, stable, predictable client base until you do it full time.  I have another venture I ran part time while running thoughtLEADERS. It’s not doing so well.  You’d think I would learn… Commit. Dive in.  You can be an entrepreneur with zero risk.

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How to Emotionally Jazz Up Your Technical Presentations

Posted on August 25, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Communications, Guest Blogger, Sales

Sherlock Holmes StatueToday’s post is by Dr. Vikas Jhingran, author of EMOTE: Using Emotions to Make Your Message Memorable (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

‘The Crime Scene’. My first slide, certainly not the norm for a technical paper on Vortex-Induced Vibrations. I could see the confusion and surprise on the faces of the audience. This was going to be very interesting.

A few years ago, I was presenting a technical paper at an international conference. The paper was about experiments that had been performed by our group, and the results had been rather surprising. After months of work, our team had come up with a controversial explanation – one that most researchers would not have intuitively guessed. My paper that day was about those experiments and the unusual results.

I wanted to introduce a story into my presentation and after some thought, decided to relate the presentation as a Sherlock Holmes mystery case. This controversial and hugely popular character seemed a good fit.

I planned my presentation like a Sherlock Holmes case and it began at the crime scene, which was our lab. The data that we collected was the evidence. In my presentation, I shared our struggles to find a solution, which were eerily similar to what Mr. Holmes goes through in his cases. Finally, the famous quote associated with Sherlock Holmes, “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” provided the perfect setup to introduce the controversial and unexpected hypothesis proposed to explain the experimental data. Like all Sherlock Holmes cases, once the observations were explained, it seemed obvious.

Scientific presentations, especially those that involve data, are difficult to present in an interesting manner. Among the sea of good research and interesting ideas, only a few stand out as memorable. Why do some technical presentations stand out? How do people bring a technical presentation to life?

Here are four suggestions that will help bring your data-rich presentation to life.

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How do you think your people would rate you as a leader?

Posted on August 21, 2014 | 2 Comments
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How do you think your people would rate you as a leader?

- They think I’m the best leader they’ve ever had: 12%
- They think I’m an above-average leader: 62%
- They think I’m an average leader: 21%
- They think I’m a below-average leader: 3%
- They think I’m a terrible leader: 2 %

A more critical approach: Well over half of respondents say their people think they’re better-than-average leaders. That math doesn’t work. I challenge you to ask your people what they really think. None of us wants to face flaws or criticism, but sometimes it’s the best thing you can do to improve your skills. Sit down with the members of your team and ask them where you really stand. Seek direct and actionable feedback. I guarantee that those of you who do so will end up in the “above average” group of leaders.

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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10-minute Leadership Lessons – One Story at a Time

Posted on August 20, 2014 | 2 Comments
Categories: Books, Communications, Guest Blogger, Leadership, Sales

Mother Reading a StorybookToday’s post is 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 a great new leadership story to help you build your skills.  I recognize that and I’m here to help.  I’ve distilled down 6 great stories into easy-to-digest 10 minute podcasts for your listening pleasure.

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 first 6 episodes will help you grow sales, gain your organization’s commitment to your goals, help your employees find passion for their work, enable you to lead change more effectively, create a more diverse environment in your organization, and learn how to find world-class customer service stories in your company.

Episode 1: A customer-service story gone horribly right

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8 Tips for Avoiding Your Leadership Blindspots

Posted on August 18, 2014 | 7 Comments
Categories: Books, Communications, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Leadership Blindspots by Robert Bruce ShawToday’s post is by Robert Bruce Shaw, author of Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Leaders are faced with two conflicting needs. The first is to act with a deep confidence in their abilities and the strategies they are implementing. This allows them to pursue audacious goals and persevere when faced with adversity. The second is to be aware of their vulnerabilities and the need for a healthy dose of self-doubt. This allows them to see themselves and their situations accurately — avoiding, in particular, the hazards of over-confidence and excessive optimism. Those who fail to do so run the risk of having blindspots — which are the unrecognized weaknesses or threats that have the potential to harm a leader and his or her company.

Savvy leaders understand that blindspots, while they vary in severity and are different for each individual, are not the exception — instead, they “come with the territory.” The question then becomes: How do I surface and address the blindspots that matter? One way is to ask the right questions in the right way. Here are some guidelines for identifying blindspots:

1. Avoid yes-or-no questions. Closed-end questions (those that can answered yes or no) are efficient, but don’t surface information that may be critical to understanding a potential weakness or threat. Questions are called open-ended when they allow for a variety of responses and provoke a fuller discussion. For example, a closed-end question might be, “Are you going to deliver your business plan this year?” while an open-ended question is, “Tell me about the risks you face in delivering your plan and the actions you are taking to mitigate them?”

2. Don’t lead the witness. Hard-charging leaders often push to confirm their own assumptions about what is occurring in a given situation and often want to move quickly to a plan of action. This can result in questions that are really statements, such as, “Doesn’t this mean that we don’t have a problem with compliance in this area and can move forward as planned?” These types of questions, particularly when posed by those in positions of power, often prevent contrary points of view and necessary data from surfacing.

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Have you ever personally had to fire someone?

Posted on August 14, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: Have you ever personally had to fire someone or lay someone off?

- Yes. I’ve done it many times: 49%
- Yes. I’ve done it at least once: 39%
- No. I’ve never been in that position: 10%
- No, but I should have done so once and regret not doing it: 1%

As much as we’d like to believe we won’t be in a position to fire someone, the majority of you have already faced that difficult conversation (and most of you have done so on numerous occasions).

For those who haven’t had to go through that yet, be sure to reach out to those experienced leaders around you before you go into the termination conversation. Their words of wisdom can help that unattractive event be a little less unpleasant for everyone involved. The last thing you want is a disgruntled employee who goes out and trashes your company on the ubiquitous social platforms that new hire candidates review before accepting a job with your company.

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 Remembering How to be a Team Member

Posted on August 13, 2014 | 3 Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Leadership

Walleye CloseupI was very lucky to be reminded lately of what it’s like to be a team member instead of being a team leader.  It was fun, refreshing, and insightful.  Too many times as leaders, we forget what it’s like to be led instead of doing the leading.

I tried to achieve some balance in my life by taking a few days off to go fishing on Lake Erie with my son.  We chartered a boat for three days – just the two of us.  If you’ve never been walleye fishing on a trolling boat (we hadn’t) it’s a bit different than you would expect – and a lot more work than we bargained for.

The crew consisted of the Captain (Nate), the First Mate (Ed), my son, and me.  When we showed up at 6AM, it seemed like a normal charter – we sat there trying to wake up while Nate and Ed prepared the boat for departure.  We headed out onto the lake in search of the delicious toothy critters and watched the glowing horizon with anxious excitement.

That’s when we got the surprise of the trip.

Nate and Ed got out 10 fishing poles.  By my math, there were only two anglers aboard.  “Gee, that’s gonna be a lot of lines to manage” I thought to myself.  Little did I know…

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How You can be a Predictive Leader

Posted on August 11, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Innovation, Leadership

Predictive Leadership by Kirk DandoToday’s post is by Kirk Dando, author of Predictive Leadership (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

If only you had seen this coming…

Your business keeps you energized and on your toes. You’ve been enjoying uninterrupted growth, and are now being recognized by peers and competitors in your industry. You’re expanding into new markets, introducing new products and services, even beating your own projections. Sure, there are the normal growing pains; maybe you have even started to think to yourself, this is the biggest team, company or division I’ve ever led.

This should be a time of celebration. Leading is a great opportunity to expand your influence and make a positive difference. You are one step closer to creating the personal wealth and financial freedom that allows you turn your daydreams into daily realities.

Things are going so well that it’s actually hard to imagine how this current ‘up and to the right’ trend could ever end. But, you are smart enough to know that nothing stays the same — you must constantly be innovating, developing and introducing new products, building new relationships and expanding into new markets.

So, on you go. As you continue to grow, you become aware of some stress fractures in the foundation of your team and processes but you chalk them up, once again, to growing pains and instead fix your gaze outward towards the future, as if increased sales and new products or services alone will eventually take you to the next level. In the meantime, you unknowingly delay decisions about the overly obvious and embarrassingly simple repairs your business desperately needs to mature and stabilize.

Fast forward a bit and sure enough, those stress fractures, or “growing pains,” have finally begun to have an impact. What used to seem so simple and straightforward has become complex and even chaotic. Your daydreams of success and financial freedom have turned into feelings of isolation and gut-wrenching decisions.

And it’s killing you.

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How do you treat employees who have part-time jobs?

Posted on August 7, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Career, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How do you treat employees who have part-time jobs outside the job they do for you?

- Supportive: It’s a tough economy so we try to be flexible: 45%
- Agnostic: We don’t care what they do in their free time: 41%
- Unsupportive: We actively discourage other employment: 10%
- Prohibitive: We have strict rules forbidding additional employment: 4%

Tough times demand flexibility. Most of you support employees scratching out a living either by supporting them holding another job or not minding that they do. For the 15% of you who discourage or prohibit people from having employment outside your company, I encourage you to question the reason. If it’s a safety, competitive or performance issue, it makes sense. If not, question the intent behind the policy or approach. If employees have to quit your job to make ends meet by taking a more lucrative position or even two jobs to replace yours, is your policy having the desired outcome?

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 Value of Saying No

Posted on August 6, 2014 | 3 Comments
Categories: Entrepreneur, Leadership, Strategy

No SignRepeat after me: “No.”

Try it again. This time with conviction: “NO.”

Strategy is inherently about saying “no.” It’s about the choices we make and the choices we don’t. I’ve seen plenty of strategies completely derailed due to an inability to say “no” to that incremental initiative that’s kind of “on strategy” but not really.

Good strategists are great at leading the thinking (and I believe leading the thinking is so critical to leadership that it has its own entire section in my book One Piece of Paperclick here to get your copy). As a leader, your job is to lead the thought processes and strategic efforts of your team. That requires you to invest time in thinking about your strategy.

The more effective you are at saying “no” to non-core work and singularly focusing your team on the end vision you’ve laid out, the higher the likelihood of you achieving your strategic goals. Not saying “no,” on the other hand, leads to dilution of your efforts and strategy by incrementalism (which is rarely effective).

Let’s walk this logical strategic dog, shall we? Take the following points as true:

- You know where you want to end up and what your overarching strategy is
- You have a finite amount of resources at your disposal.
- You’ve defined the 3-5 most critical initiatives to help you achieve your goal.
- There are a substantial number of “cool” opportunities you could pursue in addition to those 3-5 you’ve already identified.

The last point is where things get hairy.

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