Become a Better Leader in Two Days

Posted on May 10, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Books, Business Toolkit, Career, Communications, Entrepreneur, Innovation, Leadership, Strategy, Training, Upcoming Events

Executive Insight 16 by thoughtLEADERSYou can improve your leadership skills in two days and have a great time doing it. Learn tools and techniques related to leadership, strategy, communication, decision making, problem solving, storytelling, resilience, innovation, and more at Executive Insight 16.

Our firm rarely offers public sessions of our programs. Here’s an opportunity for you to attend one of those events. On November 10-11, we’re hosting Executive Insight 16 at the Waldorf Astoria in my original hometown of New York. We’re delivering 13 sessions on our most sought-after topics and you can be part of that session. Consider this your formal invitation to join us. Here are the details on the event:

Executive Insight 16

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Work isn’t Worth a Heart Attack

Posted on May 25, 2016 | 2 Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Leadership

AmbulanceWork is a convenient excuse for not taking care of yourself. Not exercising, poor diet, and stress are a bad combination. You’ve got to make time for you. Work will always be there when you get back.

Just over a year ago, I had a heart attack. A second heart attack. Yep. Two. The first one sucked but it was my fault. Crappy diet. Poor exercise habits. Not managing stress well.

I lost a lot of weight. Dropped my cholesterol. Modified stress responses. I was feeling great. I had conquered the cardiac event.


Heart attack #2 was a nasty little bugger. Hit me on a flight to Salt Lake City. I was headed out to teach my Leadership Maxims class. It ended up being the first class I’ve missed teaching in 12 years of running this business. It wasn’t fair. I was in shape. I was eating well. I was managing stress. Kind of.

I threw a chunk of plaque and it blocked my obtuse marginal artery. Such B.S. Ended up with a third stent. Missed teaching the class (although my client was unsurprisingly understanding of my dilemma). I quit caffeine after that one. That was painful but green tea isn’t a bad substitute.

Where am I going with all this?

It’s easy to fall out of good habits.

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4 Ways to Get Great Business Results through Workplace Equality

Posted on May 23, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Career, Communications, Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Leadership

The Every Womans Guide To EqualityWomen are a valuable part of any corporation’s workforce. How you treat your female employees says much about your business philosophy and your attitude towards equality.

Today’s post is from Carlynne McDonnell, author of The Every Woman’s Guide To Equality (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

The goals of any business, large or small, should always include corporate/organizational pride, employee productivity and healthy profits.

How an employee feels about his or her work performance and work environment directly affects his or her productivity and job satisfaction, which in turn affects the corporate culture and ability to make money. Respected, valued employees make a company strong. Conflict or dissension or feeling under-valued or under-appreciated will always affect how work is performed. A low level of employee satisfaction allows for a less committed, less productive work-force.

I was hired into an engineering group as a non-engineer, and in my group, I was the only “professional” female. This was no secret – I have a Master’s degree in Public Policy and had worked for five years in the Legislative Department before I moved to a new assignment. However, every year, when it was time for my review, I was always downgraded for not being an engineer. Not being an engineer – not a secret! I was also asked to outline in writing every project that I had worked on the past year and what I had accomplished. None of my male co-workers was asked to do that. And my raise was pre-assigned before my review, usually low, though it never ended up being that low after higher management intervention.

I have always been a hard-working, over-achieving, team-playing, brand- and company- loyal person. I never expected special treatment – only equal treatment. I relied on my work ethic and strong sense of commitment, and when there was an absence of feedback, I recognized that my work was good. It was, however, discouraging and disillusioning. I felt undervalued and unappreciated and it affected my feelings towards my department. But, I loved my work and kept working through much of the behavior – and there was a lot of inappropriate behavior. In retrospect – I should never have been subjected to any of it and if appropriate corporate standards were in place, I would not have.

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How rigorous is your organization about business planning?

Posted on May 19, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Poll, Strategy

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue LineOur poll today asks: How rigorous is your organization about business planning?

– Very — we write thorough business plans: 21%
– Somewhat — we’ll write OK business plans: 36%
– Not very — we rarely write business plans: 31%
– Not at all — what’s a business plan?: 13%

Business Plans Aren’t Only for Startups. Any time you’re investing in something new to grow your business, it helps to lay out a plan. The extra time spent up front thinking about how you’ll roll things out, the barriers and risks you face, and contingency plans you can put in place now will save you headaches down the road. There are many myths about business plans and how they’re only for entrepreneurs. If you can get past those and look at business planning as part of the normal course of doing business, you’ll find your new ideas fare better in the market with far fewer negative surprises.

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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Getting the Most out of Your Alma Mater

Posted on May 18, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Career, Communications, Leadership

West Point Class RingsYour college education is worth much more than the math and English you learned. If you’re not taking advantage of (and giving back to) your alma mater, you’re missing out on some great opportunities.

My college experience was… well… less than fun. The United States Military Academy prides itself on giving you the most spartan of college experiences. We never cracked the top 500 of “Best Party Schools in America” while I was there. That said, the education I received there was stellar and set me up to be successful in almost any field I chose to enter.

Many of you have similar experiences. You went to a university or vocational school and learned a lot of things that can be applied to your chosen career. But classroom learning is only a small part of the gifts that were imparted to you. You learned how to socialize, live independently, manage your budget, deal with debt, prioritize, manage your time, and have a good time with great friends.

You also built a network of people who have shared experiences and beliefs. A group of people who are willing to help out just because you both have a class ring from the same school. These assets can do more to advance your career than any physics or philosophy class ever could. But that only happens if you nurture and use those assets judiciously.

Using Your Skills

Think back to all the non-classroom stuff you learned in school. Look at what you can apply to your current job. Are there skills you’re not taking advantage of? Are there things you did well back in your school days but you don’t focus on now? It could be things like scheduling and planning your week or making sure you find time to socialize so you stay in balance.

Spend some time cataloging the things you learned outside the classroom. They’re most likely soft skills although some will be more concrete like budgeting and scheduling. Once you have that list, ask yourself “which of these skills am I not using to my fullest abilities and how can I apply them to be happier and do better at work and in life?”

Pick a few areas where you can benefit from applying these skills and focus on applying them for a few weeks. You’ll find you slip into old (good) habits relatively easily. The application of these skills will hopefully make you more efficient, effective, and happier with your work.

Using Your Network

The biggest asset you built during your college days was your network. It’s amazing how willing folks are to help out a fellow alum of the same institution. I know for a fact I can call or write any West Point graduate and 99% of the time I’ll have a positive and immediate response to my request for assistance. The some holds true in reverse – I always answer requests from other grads and do my best to assist them. I’ve even been known to assist the occasional Naval Academy grad (shh! Don’t tell anyone!) because they’ve shared an experience similar to mine.

With tools like LinkedIn and great alumni websites, there’s no excuse to not stay in touch with your alumni network. There are also amazing alumni directors out there who are bright, helpful, and intelligent. The folks at the West Point Association of Graduates impress me every time I interact with them and ask for help on something. I’m betting other alumni directors are cut from the same cloth. They’re more than willing to field your requests to help you strengthen your network. Reach out to them. Let them know how they can be helpful. They’ll often blow you away with how well-connected and helpful they are.

Get connected to your alumni network on LinkedIn. Join the conversation. Sign up for alumni newsletters. You’ll be amazed at the business and career opportunities that pop up within your own network. These folks are “friendlies” who will take your call, help you make connections, and send business or candidates your way. Just remember it’s a two way street and you need to help other alums in a similar manner.

Give Back

Your university, college, or trade school gave you a lot. Probably a lot more than you give it credit for. You benefit from the school’s reputation. I’m sure many of you proudly mention it in your bio and on your resume. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. Don’t forget to pay some of those benefits back.

Many schools rely heavily on financial assistance from graduates. You don’t have to give at a level where they name stadiums or buildings after you in order to be helpful. Small donations mean just as much. When your school approaches you for money, rather than throwing the mailer away or deleting the email, pause for a moment and reflect upon how your alma mater has helped you in recent history. Ask what the value of that help was. Perhaps the name got you a job interview. Or it brought a client or candidate your way. Maybe it helped you land a book deal. Or you were able to apply skills you learned there to help you out of a jam today. Then ask what that assistance was worth. Pay the school back a small portion of it.

Personally I’ve been blessed many times over to be associated with West Point. This morning I had a chance to give back. At first I was going to contribute at a level that assuaged my guilt if I didn’t contribute. Then I reflected on how much of what I have is because of where I went. I opened the check book a lot wider upon that reflection. I encourage you to do the same.

And don’t just give back financially. Give back by helping those who follow in your footsteps. Remember – people look at your alma mater’s current reputation and transfer that reputation to you. If your school was awesome back in the day but it sucks now, people will think your education sucks. Conversely, if it was an okay school when you attended but it’s built a great reputation since then, you’re benefiting from the improvements the school has made. Help the students and recent graduates whenever you can. It’s good for everyone involved.

Bonus Idea: Look for New Connections

You can build new relationships every day by attending alumni events or attending new training programs where you get to meet new people who now have a shared experience with you. Build your network by attending these events then building and curating your network afterward. I humbly suggest making Executive Insight 16 one of those opportunities. We’re going to have some amazing attendees for you to meet and network with. We hope to count you among those great attendees.

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!

How to Design an Attractive Benefits Package for Millennials

Posted on May 16, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Career, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Beach and Palm TreesWith graduates passing on more graduate jobs than ever, it’s critical to design a benefits package that will entice the best millennials to your business.

Today’s post is from Matt Arnerich of graduate jobs specialists Inspiring Interns.

For companies keen on attracting graduates into junior roles, there’s more competition than ever. Especially with the top talent supposedly turning down over 1000 graduate jobs in 2015 alone.

As a result, it’s key that employers understand this new generation of graduates, and make sure the graduate jobs they offer are supplemented with relevant, enticing perks.

It’s not about the money

It’s becoming increasingly clear that there’s a shift in focus away from placing an importance on wealth alone for millennials. A 2008 survey conducted on 2,500 people born between the years 1982 and 2002 found that money ranked as low as 7th in terms of importance for their career. Harvard Business Review’s survey on ‘What millennials want’ was in agreement: family life, personal growth, education, health and friendship all came before a desire for wealth.

For a group that will represent nearly 40% of the working population by 2020, these priorities need to be considered by companies in order to continue to attract and retain the best talent and, in turn, continue to grow. The average graduate today will have an estimated 10 jobs before they turn 38. If they are not satisfied, they move on. You need to know how to build your benefits package to attract the best candidates and to ensure that you can retain them.

Work – Life Balance

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How “in touch” with the front lines are your leaders?

Posted on May 12, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue LineOur poll today asks: How “in touch” with the front lines are your leaders?

– Very — they understand the front line very well: 13%
– Kind of — they generally know what’s going on with the front line: 36%
– Not very — they are mostly in the dark about the front line: 35%
– Not at all — they have no idea what’s going on with the front line: 16%

Get Out of Your Office. How can you run a business if you don’t know how it’s running? Sitting in your office all the time and managing your organization without ever seeing how things are working on the front line is akin to driving your car by remote control from your laptop. Get out there. You might learn something. It only takes a few hours a year to walk around your operations. Of course you can invest more time than that and leaders who “get it” tend to do so. Put a recurring appointment on your calendar to meet with your front line in their environment. You’ll be much better informed about problems and opportunities before they happen.

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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Using Stretch and Commit Goals to Drive Performance

Posted on May 11, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Career, Communications, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Sales

Soccer GoalGoal setting is tricky business. You’ll get much better performance if you set two goals for your team – a “commit” and a “stretch.” Once you’ve done so, paying for performance is more of a math equation than it is black magic.

If you want your people to hit their goals, you should probably give them an incentive for doing so.

Sometimes incentives are money. Incentives can be salary increases or bonuses. You may offer incentives that are stock or options. Other incentives can be awards, time off, or promotions. Incentives need to be something that’s meaningful and exciting to that associate.

When you set the incentives, make a direct linkage between the goal and the reward. I’ve always liked setting “commit” and “stretch” goals. The commit goal is something where folks are signing up to deliver it no matter what. There’s zero bonus associated with hitting a commit. It’s the “you did your job” level of goal. A “stretch” is the furthest point that folks think is in the realm of possibility. They have an idea for how they’ll achieve 70% of it but no clue where the last 30% will come from. And to be clear – that first 70% will take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to hit. With a stretch goal, people can max out their bonus.

If you have a commit goal and a stretch goal, put the bonus on a sliding scale between those two instead of creating an all-or-none scheme. A “commit” goal is the minimum that someone will deliver to the organization. At the “commit” the bonus is zero. A stretch goal is a high level of impact that will take a tremendous amount of effort to achieve. If someone hits their stretch, the bonus should be 100% of what’s available as an incentive.

Teams can get extremely frustrated when they hit 85% of their stretch goal and they get nothing for it. They should get 85% of the possible bonus. I’ve been in both of these situations. I was in one organization where we had a commit of $50 million of profit and a stretch of $75 million of profit. At $50 million dollars, our bonus was going to be zero. If we hit the commit, there was no bonus. At $75 million of profit, the bonus was going to be 10% of our salary.

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Innovate or Evaporate

Posted on May 9, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Innovation, Leadership

Lightbulb in a Glass Box on its SideInnovation requires dedicated time and a specific mindset around breaking out of old norms. Leaders can create this environment relatively easily.

Today’s post is by Dr. Rob Fazio, author of Simple is the New Smart (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Many people talk about innovation, but very few are actually innovative, let alone create an atmosphere of innovation. Too often we get caught up in the land of “have to” rather than “would love to do.” While daily tasks need to be done to keep a business running, they do not need to be the only thing you do and certainly you want inspire people to innovate.

Innovation is about seeing things differently, so you have the opportunity to do things differently. When people think about innovation, they tend to think of it more of a revolution, like the creation of the iPhone. While the iPhone is brilliant and changed the way people communicate, operate, and live, not every innovation has to be earth shattering.

The trap people typically fall into is saying to themselves, “it’s the way we’ve always done things.” As complex as our minds are, they are also simple. Once we write a script, our minds like to stick with it, similar to a code in software development. If “it’s the way we’ve always done things” is your typical reaction, you need to ramp up on the innovation.

Simple Success Strategy: Innovation Creation

Being disruptive in a positive way is a theme for a lot of clients I work with. The idea is to rock the boat just enough to get people thinking differently, or innovatively, but no so much that you lose focus of your direction and sink the ship. Being disruptive in a positive way is about creating space for people to think differently without repercussion. There are three phases in getting started on innovation: contemplation, concentration, and creation.


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How well do you stick to priorities after you set them?

Posted on May 5, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue LineOur reader poll today asks: How well do you stick to priorities after you set them?

– Very well — I rarely deviate from my priorities: 15%
– Well — I mostly stick to them but deviate occasionally: 73%
– Not well — I have difficulty sticking to my priorities: 11%
– Not at all — I neither set nor stick to priorities: 1%

Flexibility Matters. Things change every day. While it’s important to set priorities, don’t be afraid to deviate from them as required. Clearly it’s a balance. The most important thing to do when you do deviate from them is let your team know why the priorities changed. Help them understand why things move up or down. If you don’t explain it to them, they’ll feel whipsawed and won’t be able to see the bigger picture of how priorities are set and managed based upon challenges or opportunities the organization faces.

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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