How Principle-Based Behaviors Drive Culture and Accountability

Posted on September 9, 2015 | 2 Comments
Categories: Career, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Training

Accountabilities DefinitionCulture is the sum of your daily actions. How can you direct the actions of large organizations without micromanaging everyone? Simple. Use principle-based leadership tied to accountability to drive the behavior changes you’re looking for.

Once you understand your accountabilities as a leader, and you’ve clearly defined them for the members of your team, you need to start thinking about the broader organization and how you can create a culture of accountability. Culture is nothing more than the sum of our daily actions. To change culture, you’re going to want to put in place a set of principles for how you want people to behave. Those principles are going to drive daily behaviors.

Make no mistake about it – changing your culture will take time. Culture will not change overnight. But reinforcing small behaviors every single day, over time, are going to create that strong culture of accountability.

Your values need to be articulated and clarified in a manner that everyone in the organization understands them. You also need to give your people the latitude to behave in a manner where they’re not afraid of taking a risk and trying to live up to those values.

For example, I ran a large customer service organization at one point and we said we wanted to commit to the customer to give them great service. We knew we had financial obligations to the broader organization. What we did was we said we’re going to tell our associates who are on the phone with our customers to ask themselves one question: “Is this right for the customer?” Whatever they were thinking about doing during the interaction with the customer, they had to ask themselves “is this right for the customer?”. If the answer was yes, they should do it. If the answer was no, they needed to find some other solution.

We got some great behaviors because of that values-based approach. Read More…

Why I Stopped Using PowerPoint – And Why I Started Again

Posted on September 7, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Communications, Guest Blogger

The Simplicity CyclePowerPoint is a great tool but only if used correctly. Walking away from it for a year can teach some great lessons on how to be a better communicator.

Today’s post is by Dan Ward, author of The Simplicity Cycle (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

In January of 2014 I began a year-long experiment in professional communication. The experiment was simple: I abruptly stopped using PowerPoint.

At the time I was an active duty military officer in charge of an $84MM radar program, so this was not exactly a common practice. I also frequently speak at conferences and give guest lectures at local universities. PowerPoint is very much the default and I wanted to see what would happen if I took an alternative path. Spoiler alert: it worked beautifully.

To be clear, I’ve seen and given plenty of good presentations using PPT charts over the years. I read Garr Reynold’s outstanding book Presentation Zen and took it seriously. I studied the best presenters I could find, the TED talkers and Edward Tufte’s of the world, blending their techniques with my own style. I dedicated myself to the discipline of making charts with clarity and empathy, charts designed to foster genuine human connections. Then one day I quit using PPT entirely. I loved it, and apparently my audiences did too.

This new approach meant I spent zero time fussing with fonts and formats, looking for lame clip art (or non-lame clip art), or polishing bullet points. Not that I was doing a lot of that previously, but now I did none of it.

Read More…

How effective are you at driving innovation?

Posted on September 3, 2015 | 1 Comment
Categories: Innovation, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How effective are you at driving innovation?

Very — I generate a ton of innovative ideas: 37.68%
Kind of — I’ll be inspired from time to time: 51.84%
Infrequently — Inspiration is hard to find: 7.65%
Rarely — I can’t remember my last great idea: 2.83%

Innovation takes Time. The day to day can consume us leaving us precious little time for innovation. And there’s a big difference between incrementalism and true innovation. To generate those truly big ideas, try carving out at least two focused hours per month for you and your team to ask some challenging innovation questions that will help you find those big ideas. Dedicated time and a rigorous approach to innovation will make all the difference between ideas and big ideas.

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 Common – and Dangerous – Myths About Business Plans

Posted on September 2, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Customer Service, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Sales, Strategy

Business PlanBusiness plans aren’t only for entrepreneurs. Any new venture requires thorough planning before you launch it if you want a reasonable chance of success. There are a lot of myths about business plans out there. Today I’d like to debunk three of the biggest ones.

It’s exciting launching a new business. Whether you’re building a new venture from scratch or creating something new within a large corporation, remember the old adage that “only fools rush in.”

One of the biggest mistakes you can make during an exciting launch is saying, “I’m too busy to write a business plan.” More often than not, that lack of planning will come back to haunt you.

There are three common myths about writing a business plan—and buying into them can signal the beginning of the end for your venture.

Myth 1: Business plans are only for new startups seeking funding

“I don’t have to write a business plan! I’m not launching some brand new startup.”

Notice it’s called a “business plan”—not a “startup plan.” If you’re going to invest in building a business venture, you need to think things through. You’ll be risking money, time, energy, and effort in the hopes of building something great. Isn’t that investment worth a little planning?

A good business plan will help you think through how you’re going to spend those investments wisely. It’ll also point out where your biggest risks are and provide direction on how you can mitigate them.

If you are launching a startup, you absolutely need a business plan even if you’re not seeking outside funding. You’ll be investing your own personal time, energy, and funds and those investments come with a true opportunity cost as well.

But business plans for existing organizations looking to expand or build new divisions are even more critical than business plans for startups. The stakes are much higher for larger businesses simply because the investments are larger and a failure of the new venture can also harm the existing business.

Myth 2: Writing a business plan is a huge ordeal

“Business plans take forever! I don’t have time for that! I need to be working on launching the business!”

Read More…

6 Tips for Advancing your Career

Posted on August 31, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Career, Guest Blogger

Career Button on a KeyboardIf you’re looking to advance your career (who isn’t?), these 6 tips will help you clarify where you’re going as well as how to get there.

Today’s post is by Alex Jones of DeVry University.

Advancing your career is something that you should always be thinking about. If you aren’t working to advance your career, you may fall behind. No matter what sort of situation you’re in, even if you’re comfortable in your current job, you should keep your mind open to opportunities and ways you can move forward.

One of the most important things to remember about your career, especially career advancement, is that the only person working on your career is you. What this means is that if you want to move in a new direction or to move up within your current field, you need to take responsibility and action in order to make it happen.

While showcasing hard work and proving yourself as a valuable asset at work is a great way to earn a promotion and advance your career within your current company, oftentimes people need to look outside their current job to further their career. If you are looking to advance outside your current job or want to make a larger career change, there is more that you can do than put in extra effort.

Check out this list of tips to help you advance your career or to make a career change:


This may be the most important aspect of making a career move or advancing your career. Without goals to guide you, it’s hard to know what direction you’re going to move toward. Sit down and make a list of what you want, whether it’s a type of work, raise in salary, new title, amount of responsibility or other traits you want in a job. If you know what you want for your career, it will make the steps necessary to get there clearer, which will make reaching your goal(s) easier.

Talk with your boss

Read More…

If someone on your team hates their job, what do you do?

Posted on August 27, 2015 | 1 Comment
Categories: Career, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: If someone on your team hates their job, what do you do?

– Nothing — it’s up to them to find happiness: 7.24%
– Point out the good things about their role: 27.35%
– Change their role to make them happy: 7.81%
– Encourage them to find another role: 57.6%

If you don’t like the job, take action. We’ll frequently have team members who aren’t happy in their roles. Your job as their leader is to help them find their passion for their job. One way to do so is to help them see their work through a different lens and point out the good about their role. The second is to encourage them to find a role that’s better suited to them. Sometimes you have to push them and remind them that if they don’t like their role, they should actively seek out a new one. Don’t just sit there and do nothing – push your people to where they’ll be happiest, even if that requires leaving your team.

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!

Read More…

11 Business Lessons You Can’t Survive Without

Posted on August 26, 2015 | 1 Comment
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Books, Business Toolkit, Customer Service, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Sales, Strategy

Birthday Cake with 11 CandlesRunning a business is an exercise in fear, excitement, fear, elation, fear, hard work, and fear. Did I mention fear? In the 11 years I’ve been running my firm, I’ve learned a few indispensable lessons that apply no only to entrepreneurs but to business folks in all walks of life.

Yesterday was our 11th birthday.  11.  thoughtLEADERS, LLC turned 11 yesterday.  I’m still in shock over the milestone.

“Why are you in shock, Mike? Don’t you believe in yourself and your business?”

Absofrickinlutely. That’s the only reason it’s survived 11 years. I believe in it more than you can imagine.

During that time, I’ve learned a great deal and I’ve grown as a businessman every single day. Every setback was a learning opportunity. Every success has pushed me closer to the next chasm to jump.  What I’d like to do today is share 11 pieces of advice that can hopefully help you be more successful in your work (and life) as well.  This guidance doesn’t only apply to entrepreneurs. It’s for business people in all walks of life. I hope you find them helpful.

1. Your business will change. Either you can change it or the market will change it for you. Change is the constant. It’s easy to get locked in on a model that works to the exclusion of other opportunities or ideas. For the longest time I railed against putting our content in video form. “You can’t learn our stuff from online videos.” It took me a while to come around and only once I met the amazing folks at did I warm to the idea. My fear was putting our stuff on video would cannibalize our core in-person training. Instead, it’s reinforced that training and has given us broader visibility to new customers. So far I’ve put a bunch of our courses online and more will follow. I’m thrilled with the results. Be open to changing your business. When the market makes changes for you, it usually sucks.

2. A deal’s not a deal until it’s a deal. I’m an excitable guy. If I had a nickel for every deal I thought would go through that subsequently fell through for some reason, I’d be retired by now. Early on, I placed a lot of value in those “tentative but definitely coming through” deals and I planned for that. When they didn’t materialize, fear and panic ensued. Since then I’ve learned to temper my enthusiasm. In my eyes, it’s not a deal until I’m stepping onto the podium. Be sure you balance your expectations with reality and have contingency plans for when things don’t go as expected.

Read More…

Lessons in Trust from a Navy SEAL

Posted on August 24, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Two Navy SEALs in Swim TestTrust is the glue that holds a team together. Without it, the team becomes dysfunctional. A leader’s role is to build and foster that trust to such levels that the team members know their colleagues have their backs.

Today’s post is by Rob Roy, author of The Navy SEAL Art of War (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

“I knew wherever I was that you thought of me, and if I got in a tight place you would come, if alive.” – General William T. Sherman to General Ulysses S. Grant

I love this simple note from Sherman to Grant. It spoke of the remarkable bond of trust between two military men—a bond that is the very bedrock of what it means to be a SEAL team member.

Without trust, there is no SEAL team. Some people think I am crazy to consider entering a smoke-filled room filled with bad guys with guns who want to shoot me. But I do it with gusto because I trust my teammates. And because of that trust, the attack can proceed. I can’t do my job—clear the left side of the room—unless I can trust that the guy coming in right behind me will do his job and clear the right side. We trust and rely on each other.

Just to be clear, it takes a tremendous amount of discipline not to look to the right when I am clearing my left-side space. But that’s the beauty—and the benefit—of trust. And it’s funny—with trust comes success.

For the record, there are plenty of guys I didn’t like or could not stand on my Teams. But I trusted them. I trusted their professionalism and talents. Through the prism of shared adversity and experiences, I grew to have faith in the competence, integrity, and motivation of my fellow SEALs and our leaders.

Read More…

How transparent are you in sharing information with your team?

Posted on August 20, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Communications, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How transparent are you in sharing information with your team?

– Completely — they know everything I know: 14.47%
– Very — they know most things, but I hold some things back: 74.47%
– Somewhat — they know the things I think they need to know: 8.3%
– Not very — I share on a need-to-know basis: 1.91%
– Not at all — I rarely share information with them: 0.85%

Transparency rules. The more you share, the more they trust you. Even if you’re in the “very transparent” camp, you can probably share more information. Don’t just think about sharing “final” or confirmed information – giving people transparency into information in real time can quell rumors and strengthen bonds. While you may think you’re being transparent, by waiting to share information until it’s final, you’re actually promoting unhealthy dynamics on your team. So ask yourself – do I really have to withhold this information? If not, share away!

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!

Read More…

Get Better Results by Looking at Your Team Differently

Posted on August 19, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Leadership

Same Thinking Same Results LoopGetting results out of your team is your primary responsibility. But are you thinking about their results on a relative or absolute basis? By assessing them relative to expectations not only on hard metrics but on soft ones, you’ll have a better sense of how to help them improve.

Today’s post is an excerpt from my new book Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Why do you pay your team members? If you asked them, they might answer “You pay us to work.” If you ask an office-based worker what “work” means to them, you’ll get a list of typical workday activities. They read and write emails. They write reports. They go to meetings and attend conference calls. Those activities that sound appropriate enough, but they don’t give a complete picture of what “work” means to you.

There are two different definitions of “work” in the dictionary. Your team members likely subscribe to the one that defines “work” as “mental or physical activity as a means of earning income; employment.” Given you’re responsible for your team achieving its goals, you probably lean toward the other one which defines “work” as “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.”

The two definitions are similar in that they revolve around physical or mental activity but they differ significantly on the purpose of the work. The implication here is you must hold your team members accountable for the results they achieve – not the activities they perform. That accountability contributes to the collective results your team delivers. Activities your team members think of as “work” are the inputs that go into getting the real outcome you desire – results that lead you to achieve your goals.

Read More…

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