Victory through Successful Networking

Posted on August 4, 2014 | 2 Comments
Categories: Books, Business Toolkit, Career, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Up Your Game by David BradfordToday’s post is by David Bradford, author of UP YOUR GAME: 6 Timeless Principles for Networking Your Way to the Top (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

The story is told of two woodcutters who decided to compete against one another to see which of them could cut down more trees in an eight-hour period of time. They started simultaneously; but, after one hour, one of them heard that the other had stopped cutting trees.

The first woodcutter, believing that this was his opportunity to gain a competitive advantage, redoubled his efforts. Ten minutes passed, and he heard the second woodcutter had recommenced his endeavors. After about another hour, the first cutter heard that his combatant had stopped again. Feeling confident that he had gained an important edge in the competition, the first woodcutter continued to chop vigorously.

This continued throughout the day with one woodcutter stopping for ten minutes and the other working non-stop. The first woodcutter was completely certain he had won the prize but was dismayed to learn that he finished a distant second to cutter number two. “How did it happen?” he asked his competitor. “Very simple,” answered the second woodcutter.” “Each hour, I stopped my work for ten minutes. And when you were busy continuing to cut trees, I sharpened my ax.” There is no doubt that both woodcutters worked very hard, but the second woodcutter secured his victory by working smart and efficiently.

Building Your Network

Building a world-class network takes hard work, time, and smart organization. With each passing day, one needs to do something to scale up his or her network to make it as efficient and usable as possible. To scale up your network effectively, you have to do two things: work hard and work smart.

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How clear is your decision-making authority?

Posted on July 31, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How clear are decision-making authority and decision rights in your organization?

- Crystal clear — everyone knows who gets to make which call: 21%
- Pretty clear — there’s some confusion as to who makes the call: 46%
- Hazy — we’re usually not sure whose call it is: 24%
- Mud — no one has any idea who gets to make which call: 10%

Who’s calling the shots? From the looks of it, many of you need to clarify decision-making rights in your organization. If more than 30% of you aren’t clear on who makes decisions, then invariably decisions don’t get made, or confusion and frustration set in when they do. Even for those in the “pretty clear” group, it’s still not good enough to have confusion over who makes the calls. If you can clarify decision-making authority, your organization will move more quickly, experience less frustration and spend more time executing than figuring out what you should be doing.

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 Find Your Internal Motivation in Difficult Times

Posted on July 30, 2014 | 2 Comments
Categories: Books, Leadership

Ernest HemingwayAs leaders, we’re always going to go through difficult times. When we were more junior we had other people to pick us up when we fell down. As a kid it was a parent or a coach who would dust us off and say “Get back out there.” We’ve had bosses who have been helpful when we faced crises.

But now, the higher you are in terms of leadership roles in your organization and the more people you’re leading, the fewer people there are to pick you up and dust you off. You need to be in a position where you can lead yourself out of those difficult situations.

Your team is watching you to see how you behave when you face adversity. Having a leadership maxim to help you motivate yourself and lead yourself through that difficult situation to get to the other side can be a very powerful tool to have.

I’d like to ask: when you fall down, how do you pick yourself back up?

For me my leadership maxim is “But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed, but not defeated.”

That quote is from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. I read that book when I was in eighth grade. You’re not exactly the most cerebral kind of guy as a 15 or 16-year old boy but I remember reading those words “Man is not made for defeat.” To me, defeat is about giving up. It’s about surrendering. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” That maxim has served me very, very well through some very difficult times in my life.

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Driving Strategic Change by Focusing on Fundamentals

Posted on July 28, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Brass Chess Pieces CloseupToday’s post is by James M. Kerr, author of The Executive Checklist – A Guide to Setting Direction and Managing Change (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

How does a company position itself to respond to the changes that the era of business globalization holds in store? Certainly, we can attempt to define the next “big thing” in strategy development. But, if we fail in our attempt, and most of the time such attempts fail, we will not deliver the value that stockholders seek. Instead, why not return focus to the fundamentals, much like a slumping athlete would when trying to return to world-class form?

By embracing what might be called a “Simply to Win Philosophy” that focuses attention on sound fundamentals, businesses can begin to introduce new, and extend existing programs, that position them to be nimble and quick, while still growing and evolving into broad-reaching and highly profitable organizations.

From my perspective, there are five essential areas of focus:

1. Strategic Planning – You need a vision and a plan to get there. Planning should be active and managed and maintained on a daily basis;

2. Employee Engagement – The people responsible for delivering products and services to the marketplace must be engaged and involved in the work of the organization. Deliberate effort must be expended to inspire and gain their commitment to success.

3. Transparent Communications – Communications channels and devices must be designed and available that allows stakeholders, from both within the enterprise and outside of it, to get accurate and timely information;

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How quickly does your organization react to challenges?

Posted on July 24, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How quickly does your organization react to challenges?

- We see challenges as they get close, then we act reasonably quickly: 46%

- We don’t see challenges until they become crises, then we react in emergency mode: 27%

- We see challenges coming way in the future and plan for them long in advance: 19%

- We don’t see challenges until it’s too late, then we go into damage control and recovery mode: 8%

As leaders, you are responsible for pulling up from your day-to-day operations and looking beyond the horizon. Based on the poll results, many of you are more in reactive mode than proactive. The 20% of you who see challenges way into the future are shaping the environment to which your competitors must react. (Congratulations! I’ll bet you’re winning, too!) For the rest of you, build the discipline of looking into the future regularly, and get your teams out of reactive mode.

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 Phrases that Make You Sound Ridiculous

Posted on July 23, 2014 | 28 Comments
Categories: Communications, Leadership

Sunset at the End of the Day “At the end of the day…”

You sound ridiculous.  You just don’t know it.

Word choice matters.  We spend countless hours in meetings with colleagues discussing big, important ideas.  We write hundreds of documents making our case for one initiative or another.  We write thousands of emails.  We give dozens of presentations.  And you know what?  We sound ridiculous.  Using buzzwords can make us sound like hypereducated idiots who swallowed a thesaurus.

In our efforts to sound more intelligent and compelling, we use big words and bigger phrases we hear other smart and compelling people use.  The problem is, those words and phrases didn’t mean anything in the first place.  By adopting those vapid phrases as our own, we’re saying things that are just as meaningless as the first person who uttered them.

Stop.  Please stop.

Speak plainly.  Speak simply.  Speak directly.

Doing otherwise is a disservice to you and your audience.  There are two reasons you’re likely using these words and phrases: either you’re using them as verbal pauses (instead of “um” and “uh”) or you think they sound really intelligent.  If it’s the former, get comfortable with silence and simply collect your thoughts.  If it’s the latter, it’s having the opposite effect but your coworkers are too polite to tell you so.

Here are a few of my (least) favorite ridiculous words and phrases:

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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 | 3 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: Books, Guest Blogger, Leadership, Strategy

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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