The Hardest Question to Ask

Posted on August 1, 2016 | 4 Comments
Categories: Books, Communications, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Coach and Baseball PlayerBy asking “and what else?” you can be a better leader and coach. You’re changing the tone of the conversation and empowering the person you’re talking to.

Today’s post is by Michael Bungay Stanier, author of The Coaching Habit (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

What is the hardest question to ask? What comes to mind for you? There are plenty that set you up for a potentially awkward social moment, for sure.

How much do you earn?

Will you marry me?

What’s this rash?

Is that it?

But I’m not really talking about those.

I’m talking about the questions you use in your day-to-day working life, the questions you ask to become a more effective manager and leader.

And there’s one question that’s the hardest of them all.

It also happens to be the most powerful coaching question in the world.


Now, there’s a problem with making a claim like that. People lean forward, expecting the big reveal. And hoping for something David Copperfield-esque, something big and impressive.

And the hardest/best coaching question in the world is actually a little anticlimactic on first reveal.

Just three words:

“And what else?”

Already I can sense you raising your eyebrows, a little skeptical. “Is that it?”

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Have you ever had difficulty quitting something but it was a great decision?

Posted on July 28, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Career, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue LineOur reader poll today asks: Have you ever had difficulty quitting something but found it was a great decision?

– Yes — I’ve left something I liked, but it turned out great in the end: 81%
– Yes — I’ve left something I liked, but it was the wrong decision to leave: 9%
– No — I’ve never quit anything, although I probably should have: 9%
– No — I’ve never quit, and that’s always been the right choice: 1%

Close one door and open another. It’s not easy leaving something you enjoy but there are those times you absolutely need to. Whether it’s a job, a role, or an interest, walking away from something that’s no longer right for you can be a frightening proposition. But when you know it’s the right thing to do, rest easy knowing that many others have left things before you only to find things worked out great. See these poll results for evidence. So, be deliberate and thoughtful but do make your decision and move on. Great new things are awaiting!

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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12 Characteristics of Great Leaders

Posted on July 27, 2016 | 2 Comments
Categories: Leadership

Word Twelve Stamped in Concrete

The differences between a good leader and a great one boil down to a handful of traits that set the great leaders apart. Fortunately, all these traits are skills you can build over time.

Most of us are good leaders. Most of us aspire to be great leaders. Few are. What’s it take to transcend “good” and become “great?” What’s the secret?

There isn’t one.

The foundation for being a great leader is building a set of traits that inspire people to follow you and achieve outstanding results. In my experience, there are a dozen traits that are required before a leader can even hope to be great.

Building and demonstrating these traits does not guarantee greatness. Not by a long shot. But the absence of any one of these twelve traits will definitely hold you back from being great. In no particular order, here are some key leadership differentiators. Great leaders are:

Authentic – what you see is what you get. They share their hopes, fears, dreams, and failures. They truly care to know you as a person and want you to know them the same way. They strip away the façade and reveal their true selves to their team every day.

Visible – they’re known throughout the organization. They’ve built meaningful relationships with peers, subordinates, and superiors in seemingly every corner of the company. Their reputation precedes them in positive and powerful ways.

Influential – they can sway an audience with their words. They can make a case that’s clear and moves people to action. They’re able to explain not only what they want done but also why it’s beneficial for the listener to support their idea.

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Leadership and Influence Through Storytelling

Posted on July 26, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Books, Communications, Leadership

Rectangular Conference TableIf you want a lesson to be meaningful and memorable, the best way to deliver it is through a story. Storytelling is an oft-neglected leadership skill. If you master it, it can truly set you apart from the pack.

Today’s post is by Paul Smith, thoughtLEADERS instructor and author of Lead With a Story. He’s also a featured speaker at Executive Insight 16.

Which of the following do you think would work better?

Imagine you’re an executive at a large, multi-national company. You have a crop of 25 newly hired research analysts in large conference room waiting for some wisdom and inspiration from you, the boss, on their first day on the job.

You have one piece of advice to impart that you think will make the biggest difference in their ultimate success or failure in their first two years. Among your other welcoming remarks, you share the following:

Option A:

“I’ve been in this business for 25 years. I’ve seen good research and I’ve seen bad research. I’ve seen good analysts come here and do well, and I’ve seen poor ones leave before the end of their first year. I’d love to see all of you succeed here well enough to take my job someday. So let me just cut to the chase. If there’s one thing I could share with you that will make the biggest difference early in your career it’s this – make sure you’re clear on your objectives before you start your research project, not after. If you wait till after, you may be sorely disappointed in the result.”

“Not bad,” you think to yourself. “Clear. Succinct. Genuine. Caring.” And you’d be right. But how effective was it? To find out, ask yourself this. If you were one of the new hires, how would you respond to being told that you should get clear on your objectives before you start your research project? You’d probably find that to be a blinding glimpse of the obvious, and therefore perhaps a bit insulting. After all, nobody thinks it’s important to be unclear on their objectives before starting a project. Chances are, that advice will go in one ear and out the other.

Now, consider this alternative from Jayson Zoller, V.P. of market research at Kao Corporation.

Option B:

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Random Acts of Kindness and the Trusted Executive

Posted on July 25, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Giving a Flower as an Act of KindnessBuilding trust isn’t about grand gestures – it’s about small acts of kindness on a regular basis. Leaders would do well to understand the impact such small acts can have on their relationships with their teams.

Today’s post is by John Blakey, author of The Trusted Executive (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

A random act of kindness (RAK) is a selfless act intended to bring help, happiness or joy to another person. The phrase is sometimes credited to the writer Anne Herbert, who wrote ‘practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty’ on a place mat at a Sausalito restaurant in 1982.

RAK initiatives have since sprung up in many different guises, often catalyzed by social media. For example, #feedthedeed is a social media initiative started in 2014 whereby participants film themselves performing a random act of kindness and then invite their followers to do the same. In the first two months of its launch, 10,000 #feedthedeed posts were recorded across 30 countries.

But choosing to be kind is a well-established habit in some communities. The working classes of Naples have a tradition hereby any person who has experienced financial good fortune pays for two coffees at the local café, but receives and drinks only one. The second coffee is referred to as the ‘caffé sopesso’ and can be claimed for free by anyone who asks if a sopesso is available.

Do you offer random acts of kindness in your corporate community? Do you have any free sopessos available for your stakeholders?

Choosing to be kind can be an isolated act that requires no further justification. However, we can see that choosing to be kind is at the heart of the trust-building challenge within organizations. And choosing to be kind is important regardless of our prowess in the habits of ability and integrity.

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How effectively do you resolve conflict with others?

Posted on July 21, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue LineOur reader poll today asks: How effectively do you resolve conflict with others?

– Very — conflicts don’t last long as I resolve them quickly: 32.83%
– Somewhat — some conflicts are difficult to resolve: 62.92%
– Not very — I have more conflict than I can handle: 3.04%
– Not at all — my work life is nothing but conflict: 1.22%

Guiding versus driving conflict resolution. While none of us enjoy conflict, we have to resist the urge to resolve it. Your job as a leader is to teach others to resolve conflict on their own. If you’re constantly mediating disputes, you’re an enabler of bad behavior. Everyone will keep arguing and coming to you to solve their problems. They’ll never learn to resolve things themselves. So the next time people come to you to resolve an issue, guide them on how to resolve it versus driving resolution yourself.

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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3 Tips for Making a Successful Leap to the Next Level

Posted on July 20, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Career, Communications, Leadership

Little Girl with Glasses Looking Up at Big TableJumping from one level to another – like going from manager to director – requires a shift in the way you think. The biggest adjustment is recognizing and accepting that you deserve your seat at the table.

I remember my days as a manager. I had multiple layers of bosses between me and the executives in our C-suite. I worked for a director who worked for a VP who worked for an SVP who worked for an EVP who reported to our COO. I was way down the food chain. And life was good.

I had a perception that the members of our C-suite occupied some ethereal world up high on Mount Olympus. You didn’t talk to them. You didn’t look them in the eye. You just respected their existence and appreciated that they chose to let you continue yours.

After a change of jobs, I was a VP. My boss reported to the CEO. When I first took the role, I was in a meeting with members of the senior leadership team including the CEO. I sat there quietly like I was supposed to and I listened attentively to the conversation going on around me. At one point pretty far into the conversation, the CEO looked at me and asked “Hey… You… You just gonna sit there and listen or do you have anything to contribute to this discussion?”

I was caught off guard. Why would he be asking me for my perspective when he was the CEO and there were all these other senior people sitting around the table? Didn’t he realize who he was and how far above me he was in the food chain?

Then it dawned on me. I screwed up.

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Your Brain on Work: How Stress Hijacks Your Health and Happiness

Posted on July 19, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Books, Communications, Entrepreneur, Leadership

Pulling Hair Because of StressStress is part of our everyday lives. We can either control it or let it control us. The difference between those two situations is how we manage our “alarm” and our reactions to the daily stressors we face.

Today’s post is by Jon Wortmann, thoughtLEADERS instructor and author of Hijacked by Your Brain. He’s also a featured speaker at Executive Insight 16.

As the global head of sales hit the stage, he cracked. He looked out at the audience of colleagues and saw nothing but failure in his people. All his brain could focus on was their missed opportunities, laziness, and a collective bad year. Without thinking he said, “You are simply the worst team I have every worked with.”

For more than fifteen minutes he continued ranting before transitioning into an update of the quarter’s results. No one stopped him. When the CEO assessed the damage after the meeting, he fired his sales chief. At the exit interview, the head of sales didn’t even realize he had done something wrong. I wish it weren’t, but this is a true story.

When stress hijacks your brain, we get stuck on the short loop. The alarm, the tiny region called the amygdala which keeps us alert and out of danger, can misfire after exposure to too much stress. You lead. You manage. You innovate. You solve people problems. You save the day. To say you are exposed to stress is like saying London or Seattle get some rain.

Some days, you crash. Other days, your people call you a grumpy bear. Occasionally, after months of deadlines, events, and emergencies you melt down. Hopefully we don’t melt down on stage or in front of our teams, but it happens and we are not, in fact, crazy when we do.

The answer to stress at work is not actually as complicated as it might seem. While our brains still have some of the same regions as the dinosaurs, we also have evolved to the level of mental capacity where we can intentionally change the way we manage complex and complicated stimuli.

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Using Speed, Agility and Innovation to Beat Your Competition

Posted on July 18, 2016 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Innovation, Leadership, Strategy

Jack Russell on Agility CourseInnovation, speed, and agility can be a winning combination if they’re used appropriately. Those elements must be tied closely to your strategy if you really want to win.

Today’s post is by Jeffrey Phillips and Alex Verjovsky, authors of OUTMANEUVER: OutThink, don’t OutSpend (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Every executive knows speed is important. Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard declared recently that “the future belongs to the fast.” But is speed enough? If you can simply accelerate the current activities, products and strategies that your business implements, will that help you win in the future?

Or what about being more “agile.” Agile was originally a software technique, meant to shorten software development times and make the development team more accountable to customer needs. From there, everyone is adopting the concept of “agile.” There’s agile marketing, introduced by thought leaders at CMG. Can agile help you win more? Of course. Is it, by itself, enough? Probably not.

Or, think about innovation. There’s probably no other topic that has the same level of emphasis across industries and geographies. Everyone knows innovation is important. But again, if you can innovate successfully, is that enough? Do any of these factors, by themselves, help your company win?

We believe that each of these factors is important, but left to themselves, implemented in a discrete fashion, without integration or coordination they won’t make a significant difference. But if you could create a framework in which each of these activities were a vital component leading to a completely new way to compete, then you’d see a significant impact on your revenues, profits and market share.

Maneuver Strategy

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How well do you negotiate?

Posted on July 14, 2016 | 2 Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue LineOur poll today asks: How well do you negotiate?

– Very well — I always have negotiating success: 12%
– Well — I come out ahead in most negotiations: 65%
– Not well — I come up short in most negotiations: 20%
– Not at all — I almost always fare poorly in negotiations: 3%

Are you doing as well as you can? When 77% of people say they come out ahead in negotiations, that math doesn’t add up. Are you really getting everything you can? Or is it that your negotiating partner is getting the best of you but doing a good job of maintaining your relationship? Learning techniques like anchoring and approaches to managing the relationship after the deal are key determinants of your negotiating success. Always challenge yourself on the notion of whether you’re doing as well as you could – you could be leaving value on the table.

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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