The Secret Keys to a Great Pitch

Posted on May 6, 2015 | 1 Comment
Categories: Books, Business Toolkit, Communications, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Sales

Pitcher Delivering a PitchPeople pitch ideas all the time. Most of those pitches never get heard. Why? Because they don’t consider the audience.

I get pitched ideas all the time.  My inbox is flooded by emails from PR professionals asking me to carry guest blog posts, do book reviews, share their infographics, and interview the people they represent.  The vast majority of all those pitches have one thing in common.

They suck.

Honestly.  They’re horrible.  It’s some out-of-context, ponderous press release on a topic I may or may not care about.  The request is opaque at best and nonexistent at worst.  They’re ham-handed ways to get me to do their bidding.  They’re lazy and are banking on the recipient having nothing better to do than jump all over their pitch and do a ton of work on it.

I’ll bet you send similar pitches.  No?  Really?

Have you ever emailed a sales prospect and sent them a big presentation or white paper on why your products are awesome?

Have you ever written a senior executive trying to get time on their calendar to share your awesome idea and get their support?

Were you successful in these efforts?  If so, you’re either lucky or good (or some combination of the two).  If the answer is “no” it’s probably because your pitch sucked.

Here’s the secret to fixing it:

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5 Key Skills for Sharing a Vision

Posted on May 4, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Leadership, Strategy

Globe in EyeTo get your team to rally behind your shared vision, there are 5 key skills you must build and employ.  If you’re able to create that shared vision, your team’s performance can soar.

Today’s post is by Jeff Wolf, author of Seven Disciplines of a Leader (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

New leadership roles require new leadership disciplines. Three of the most critical disciplines are building shared vision, surfacing and challenging mental models, and engaging in systems thinking. These disciplines can only be developed through a lifelong commitment. And in learning organizations, these disciplines must be distributed widely because they embody the principles and practices of effective leadership.

How do individual visions become shared visions? A useful metaphor is the hologram, the three-dimensional image created by interacting light sources. If you cut a photograph in half, each half shows only part of the whole image. But if you divide a hologram, each part, no matter how small, shows the whole image intact.

Likewise, when a group of people come together to share a vision, each person sees an individual picture of the organization at its best. Each shares responsibility for the whole, not just for one piece. But the component pieces of the holograms are not identical. Each represents the whole image from a different point of view. It’s something like poking holes in a window shade; each hole offers a unique angle for viewing the whole image. So, too, is each individual’s vision unique.

When you add up the pieces of a hologram, the image becomes more intense, more lifelike. When more people share a vision, the vision becomes a mental reality that people can truly imagine achieving. They now have partners, co-creators; the vision no longer rests on their shoulders alone. Early on, people may claim it as their vision. But, as the shared vision develops, it becomes everybody’s vision.

Building shared vision involves these five useful skills:

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How frequently do you worry about getting fired?

Posted on April 30, 2015 | 1 Comment
Categories: Career, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How frequently do you worry about getting fired ?

– Never — I’m irreplaceable: 20.49%
– Sometimes — when projects go wrong or bad things happen: 55.74%
– Often — I am frequently on edge: 17.49%
– All the time — I live in perpetual fear of getting fired: 6.28%

Fear of Firings. Clearly the vast majority of you are in fear of losing your jobs on a regular basis which is disappointing. You should never have to question where you stand with respect to job security (this means also knowing if you are in danger of losing it). If you are wondering if you’re at risk, there are some pretty easy ways to know if you’re about to be fired. One implication for you leaders – I’ll bet your team members feel the same way as these poll results reflect. When people are worried, they’re distracted and morale/performance suffers. If you can give them a little security with some simple conversations, you would be well advised to do so.

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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SWOTting Your Strategic Problems Away

Posted on April 29, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Leadership, Strategy

SWOT AnalysisUnderstanding the strategic environment you’re competing in is the foundation of any worthwhile strategic plan.  Fortunately there’s an easy way to get your arms around the complex market dynamics you face.

Strategic planning requires you to understand the competitive landscape in which you’re operating. A great tool you can use to assess the environment is called a SWOT Analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

For strengths and weaknesses, those are typically within your own organization. They’re capabilities you have or don’t have. As far as opportunities and threats, they can either be internal or external market-facing opportunities and threats.

As you build a SWOT Analysis you’ll want to have the team together and have people throw out their ideas in each of those quadrants. It’s generally a brainstorming session. Your job is to capture all the ideas. We’ll synthesize them later. Let me walk through an example.


Perhaps we start our SWOT Analysis and we look at our strengths. Our strengths consist of:

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The Leadership Mistake You Don’t Realize You’re Making

Posted on April 27, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Turn Your Ship AroundWhen you solve problems for the members of your team, you’re depriving them of the opportunity to learn and grow.  Learn to recognize if you have this tendency. The good news is there are ways to fix it if you do.

Today’s post is by David Marquet, author of TURN YOUR SHIP AROUND! A Workbook for Implementing Intent-Based Leadership in Your Organization (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

One of the problems I had when I arrived as captain of the USS Santa Fe was a dispirited crew that wanted to be told what to do. I inherited a dysfunction codependence with my crew where I ran around giving explicit instructions and making all the decisions and the crew waited passively for instructions. The crew had long ago given up on ownership, engagement, and job satisfaction. If you want to create leaders, stop telling your people what to do. Instead, get them to tell you what they think.

This is good for the organization and the team. It is good for the organization because it expands the thinking upon which decisions can be made, often drawing in people who are closer to the problem. The organization also benefits from increasing its decision making capacity. It is good for the team because it is the first step toward building the ability to solve problems and make decisions – the first step toward building leaders. People feel good about being more involved, and naturally are more engaged.

On the submarine, I had many opportunities each day where people would bring me problems without proposed solutions. This is a camouflaged “tell me what to do.” The idea was that I would take the problem, solve it, and return it to my midshipmen. We later called this poaching because you are depriving your ability to grow into leaders when you did this. I needed to train myself to recognize all the ways people would fall in to “tell me what to do” and resist the impulse to provide the answer. This was particularly hard when I already knew what we should do. This will happen to you to. As the leader, the one with more information, higher perspective, technical competence, or clarity of purpose, you will likely see the answer first. It is supposed to be this way but that does not mean you need to tell people it. Suppress the instinct for the quick response and see what your people can come up with.

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Do your team members bring you problems or solutions?

Posted on April 23, 2015 | 1 Comment
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: Are your team members more likely to bring you problems or bring you solutions?

– All they do is come to me with problems: 11.03%
– They mostly bring problems with an occasional solution: 66.91%
– They bring more solutions than problems: 20.07%
– They always bring me solutions: 1.99%

Teach them to be problem solvers. If your team members only bring you problems and rarely offer solutions, you may be the problem. You’re an enabler if the behavior continues. A big part of your role is teaching your team how to solve problems on their own. If you build their capabilities to do so, you’ll free up your time and energy to focus only on the most pressing problems and you’ll be improving the skills of the organization at the same time. Stop solving their problems for them and instead offer guidance on how they can become more self-sufficient.

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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7 Great Leadership Lessons in Less than 10 Minutes Each

Posted on April 22, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Communications, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Sales

True Story on MarqueeToday’s post is the third in a series by Paul Smith, thoughtLEADERS instructor and bestselling author of Lead With a Story

As I’ve shared previously, I’d like to provide you some more great leadership lessons that you can immediately apply to the work you do.  Below are seven great lessons in easy-to-digest 10-minute podcasts you can listen to at your convenience.

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 seven episodes will help you make a better first impression, avoid the worst mistakes in a sales meeting, explain complicated ideas simply, trust your own judgment, and leave a lasting legacy.

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Eliminating Your Blind Spots – Your Worst Enemy is Within

Posted on April 20, 2015 | 2 Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Leadership, Strategy

Blind Spot on MirrorBusiness blind spots can lead intelligent leaders to make uninformed, poor decisions. Having regular access to new perspectives is key to avoiding blindspots.

Today’s post is by Dr. Ben Gilad, author of Business Blindspots.

In September 2014, RadioShack announced that it may be closer to bankruptcy than previously thought. The venerable electronic retailer which opened its first store back in 1921 didn’t die overnight. Its slow decline matches the rise of online retailing, the competition from huge wireless service providers, and its failure to bring unique value to customers. All of these developments were obvious for more than a decade and yet RadioShack kept its same basic strategy in place until 2013.

What makes smart, informed executives cling to a strategy that no longer works?

Leaders’ Blinders

Back in the early Precambrian era (circa 1994) I wrote a ‘pioneering’ book titled Business Blindspots. Business Blindspots refer to the failure of executives and their companies to recognize the (changing) competitive reality in their industries and in their markets until it is too late. (For a full treatment of the cognitive processes behind blind spots I urge you to read the excellent book by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow). In a nutshell, the message is: Leaders can be lulled into believing they are well informed when they are not.

The Biographies’ Worshipers

We all like to read about success. We devour the biographies of luminaries like Buffet, Jobs, Welch, Gates (and ironically also Iacocca and Trump). Unfortunately, in our search for “positivity,” we avoid learning from failures brought about by wearing “blinders.”

They’re Not All Bad, But When They Are

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Do your team members focus on the positive or the negative?

Posted on April 16, 2015 | 1 Comment
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: Do your team members focus more on what worries or what excites them about their work?

– They constantly focus on their worries: 67.56%
– They spend their time focused on what they’re excited about: 23.06%
– I have no idea what they focus on: 9.38%

Too much negativity. While our worries and troubles seem to be our daily chores, as leaders we need to get our teams focused in the right direction. Help them see what’s good about their work. Create new opportunities for them that they’ll find interesting and exciting. Help them see how they have a positive effect on the bottom line. Spending too much time on the negative and not on the positive can have terrible results. And if you’re in the group of folks who are clueless, stop reading email newsletters and go talk to your people. It’s what you get paid to do.

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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A Better Way to Resolve Conflict

Posted on April 15, 2015 | 2 Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Leadership

Herdbeast Locking HornsConflict is a part of life. Being a great leader requires you to stop being a mediator of that conflict and instead teach your team members how to resolve the conflict themselves.

More often than not, high performing teams operate in high pressure environments. Many times on a high performing team you have some strong personalities at play. When you combine pressure plus strong personalities, there are plenty of opportunities for conflict between the members of your team.

Your job as a leader is not to mediate those conflicts and be a referee. Instead you need to teach the members of your team how to resolve those conflicts with one another because it’s going to help them build relationships. Ultimately it will build their interpersonal skills.

Teaching them to work things out on their own keeps you from having to dedicate a significant amount of time and energy every time somebody has a conflict with another member of the team. Your job when there’s conflict is first to recognize it. Identify when you have team members who are butting heads and figure out what the root issue is. Then suggest that they go figure it out and come back to you when they have developed a solution on their own.

Hopefully if they’re really high performers they can go in a room, hash it out, and come up with a solution that will be acceptable to both of them. However there will be certain opportunities that you’re going to have to take advantage of to get involved in it and teach them how to resolve conflict better. When you do so, first sit them down and acknowledge the conflict and get to the root of the issue.

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