Keys to More Efficient Decision Making

Posted on June 10, 2015 | 1 Comment
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Entrepreneur, Leadership

Many decision making processes are burdensome and slow. The faster you can make better decisions, the better your organization will perform.  Here’s some guidance on how to make those better, faster decisions.

The other day I had the privilege of being interviewed by Dave Crenshaw on the topic of decision making. Here’s a piece of our conversation.

DAVE: So let’s talk a little bit about decision-making. Funny, just before this call, I was working with somebody. They said they were a horrible decision maker. What do you typically see as the biggest problem people have when it comes to making decisions?

MIKE: I think there are issues in terms of the style. It’s the biggest one that I see. And in organizations, we tend to default to a consensus-based decision-making style, where we can’t make a decision until everybody has been briefed, and everybody agrees. Unfortunately, that’s not necessary with the right decision-making style for a lot of decisions we are making every day. That approach tends to slow things down and gum things up.

DC: Why do you feel we’re so dependent on the opinions of others when it comes to that decision?

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6 Questions You MUST Ask to Prevent Bad Customer Service

Posted on June 8, 2015 | 3 Comments
Categories: Books, Customer Service, Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Leadership, Sales

Bad customer service has an incalculable cost and long-lasting repercussions.  Here are 6 questions you can ask to prevent those issues from happening in the first place.

Today’s post is by Angie Morgan, author of Leading from the Front (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

It was 1984.

A colleague of mine had an unpleasant exchange with a ticket agent who was rescheduling his flight. The agent made a snarky remark, further frustrating the process, and my colleague said, “I’m done with this airline.”

Fast forward 31 years. My friend still hasn’t flown on the offending airline, but he has accumulated 3,000,000 miles on others. He’s now a senior leader at a Fortune 50 firm and recently held a national conference and made a request to his team not to fly on this airline either.

Now, my friend’s boycott seems extreme. But is it, really? You’ve likely taken similar stands when you’ve received bad customer service. Maybe you made a silent protest, vowing never to visit a business again. Or you’ve publicized your displeasure by telling your network or writing an online review.

Whenever bad service happens, there’s a cost. It could be a damaged relationship, a missed opportunity, or a dropped account. It can even result in millions of dollars of lost revenue.

If you’re a manager reading this, you understand the potential impact your client-facing team has on the business.   But when was the last time you challenged yourself to see if you’re doing everything you can to prevent poor customer service from happening?

Ask yourself:

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How engaged are the members of your team?

Posted on June 4, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How engaged are the members of your team?

– Highly engaged: 27.49%
– Mostly engaged: 48.86%
– Somewhat engaged: 17.76%
– Not engaged: 3.65%
– Actively disengaged: 2.43%

You need them all engaged. While it’s great that almost 80% of you have a mostly or highly engaged team, having 20% of people out there who aren’t is a huge drag on the organization. You’re likely spending 80% of your time on that 20% group of disengaged people. That’s a tremendous productivity drain because engagement matters more than you think it does. Spend a few days figuring out not now to cure the symptoms of their disengagement but rather how you can change their role or their perspective on their work to get them more engaged. Everyone will benefit from that small investment of time on your part.

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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4 Ways Your Competencies Drive Your Strategy

Posted on June 3, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Leadership, Strategy

Definition of the word Competency highlighted with green markerCore competencies can help you decide which initiatives to pursue and which ones to avoid. By appreciating what you’re great at and applying it to your initiative portfolio, you can achieve a much higher level of success.

One critical aspect of strategic planning is deciding where you will or will not compete. A way I encourage organizations to think about that is to look at their core competencies. A core competency is something your organization is great at. I know your organization is probably good at a lot of things. But what are the two things you would hold up and say “we’re better than anyone else at these two competencies”?

Core competencies could be things like the quality of your product, your ability to innovate, the efficiency of your supply chain, the strength of your brands, or your technology infrastructure. There are a lot of things that you could be good at, so take a step back and ask “how do we compete in the marketplace?” Your organization likely has a primary and secondary core competency. The primary competency is the one you’re going to play to first. The secondary competency is often a “platform” for making your primary competency strong.

Allow me to offer a couple of examples.

Starbucks. I would argue that their two core competencies are the quality of their product (primary) and their service (secondary).

Procter & Gamble. Their core competencies would be product development (primary) and marketing (secondary).

Once you’ve identified your two primary core competencies, it’s helpful to evaluate your initiative portfolio using those competencies as a lens. Look at Competency One and Competency Two relative to one another. Get an understanding of whether the market, the product, or the initiative you’re pursuing relies upon that core competency. Analyze the relative importance of those competencies as they relate to your ability to successfully complete that initiative, launch that product, or enter that market.

Prioritizing Your Efforts Based on Competencies

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4 Steps to Transform Big Man Leadership Into Change Agent Leadership

Posted on June 1, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Leadership in a Fractured World by Dean WilliamsMoving from “big man leadership” to demonstrating “change agent leadership” requires you to approach your work in new ways.  Here are 4 steps to making that transformation.

Today’s post is by Dean Williams, author of Leadership for a Fractured World (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Leadership for a fractured world is a complex topic, and no single theory can do it justice. Traditional big man leadership that relies on prominence (“look to me”), dominance (“listen to me”) and tribalizing (“follow me”) to get things done, isn’t working anymore.

Leaders who are global change agents, men and women who can act with or without formal positional authority to mobilize diverse factions to face reality, participate in interdependent problem solving, and contribute to innovative solutions with focus and speed.

Big man leaders operate within the boundaries—they protect boundaries and manage boundaries, while global change agents lead by 1) crossing boundaries, 2) busting boundaries, 3) transcending boundaries, and 4) building bridges.

Crossing boundaries

This is about crossing the cultural, gender, geographic, structural, and professional boundaries that separate people and groups. Interdependent problems necessitate that multiple groups in a social system be mobilized as problems cannot be brought to resolution by one group acting alone or in isolation. Leadership, therefore, must be exercised not just into your own group, but into various groups and factions connected to the challenge.

I recently met with some managers of a large, multinational Silicon Valley IT company. They explained how a group of senior managers in the headquarters were reluctant to cross boundaries and connect with important regional and international offices to include them in important problem solving process. Protecting turf and resources had become more important to them than promoting interdependent problem solving.

Busting boundaries

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Which of these threats pose the greatest risk to your business?

Posted on May 28, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Leadership, Poll, Strategy

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: Which of the following poses the greatest risk to your business?

– Lack of diversification: 14.29%
– Rapidly changing markets: 22.53%
– Access to the right talent: 31.68%
– Aggressive competition: 19.6%
– Shifts in technology: 11.9%

Many Threats. Threats abound. Market shifts, lack of talent, competition, and lack of diversification all threaten us every day. The question for leaders is are you proactively assessing these threats and steering your organization past them? If not, you’ll constantly be reacting to the changes and your business will always be a step behind. If you take some simple steps today (for example, taking these measures to diversify your business) you can avoid major headaches down the road.

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 We Can Make Leadership Real Again

Posted on May 27, 2015 | 2 Comments
Categories: Books, Leadership

Change This Leadership ManifestoLeadership isn’t about buzzwords or frameworks. It’s about real connections between real people.  When we can be brave enough to truly be ourselves and be authentic, we can make those connections.

I’ve written my manifesto (no, I’m not wearing sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt so call off the FBI and ATF). It’s a leadership manifesto. Why can’t we just make leadership real again?

We’re full of crap.  I’m tired of it.  I know you are too judging by the comments I get on the blog and the emails I receive.  I’d like us all to fix this.  To that end, I’ve written a ChangeThis manifesto.  Below is the beginning of the document.  You can read and download the entire thing as a PDF too.

The Leadership Model is Broken.

What has happened to leadership? With all the crises and challenges we face, and the increasingly risk-averse environment in which we operate, leadership has become generic, ephemeral, and bland.

We have devolved from leaders into managers. Admiral Grace Murray Hopper said it best, “you manage things, but you lead people.” The problem is we’re no longer leading. We’re hiding behind committees. We’re using the crutches of data and metrics to make our decisions for us. We blame policies and corporate culture for the problems our teams face rather than delivering the tough messages with a sense of ownership.

The result of all of this is our people don’t trust us anymore. Work has become transactional. They do the work and we pay them. It’s a fee-for-service mindset. When they find someone who will pay them more for their services, they’re gone. And when we no longer have need of their services, we simply cast those people aside. It’s a toxic environment. It’s hard for people to trust their leaders when they feel like they’re simply a cog in the machine.

We are Broken as Leaders.

Raise your hand if you’re burned out. Step forward if you’re worried about your own uncertain future. Shout if you’re feeling a little lost and unclear about where your career is headed. Stand up if you feel like your life is out of balance and you’re running out of steam. Now look around you and take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone.

The world has become hypercompetitive and change moves at a dizzying rate. More and more is demanded of us each day. In our “high performance cultures” it sometimes feels like a contest of who can burn themselves out the fastest.

And as we scurry along through a mind-numbing array of meetings, progress reviews, and workshops we lose something along the way—we lose sight of what’s important. We miss seeing the damage we’re doing to ourselves and our people. That’s not leadership. That’s failure.
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Leveling Lake Wobegon – 5 Ways to Fight Grade Inflation in Performance Ratings

Posted on May 25, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Career, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Balloon Being InflatedPerformance review ratings can be tricky business.  No one likes to hand out low ratings but no one wants grade inflation either.  Here are 5 ways you can prevent grad inflation from happening.

Today’s post is by Victor Prince, one of our thoughtLEADERS instructors and co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Lake Wobegon is a fictional town in Garrison Keillor’s long-running radio show A Prairie Home Companion where it is jokingly said “all the children are above average.” While I am conversationally dangerous enough in statistics theory to explain how this is possible – hint: average of what? – the point of the joke is insightful. Wherever there is a metric that people feel is important – e.g., income, height – it is basic human nature for people to want to think of themselves as “better than average” on that metric. That phenomenon is so typical there is even a name for it – “The Lake Wobegon Effect.”

One place where the desire for everyone to be “above average” can have negative consequences for organizations is in performance appraisal systems. If everyone is “above average,” what does that say about your average expectations? How does that affect your overall expenditure and distribution of annual bonuses if they are based on performance ratings?

Let’s imagine an example rating system that is typical of many organizations with 5 levels of ratings:
(1) the lowest rating for those who consistently performed below the expectations for their role,
(2) the second lowest rating for those who were inconsistent – a mix of meeting and not meeting expectations,
(3) the rating for those who consistently performed as they were hired, and paid, to do,
(4) the second highest rating for those who get the job done and sometimes go significantly above expectations, and
(5) the highest rating for those rare folks who consistently performed above expectations

Which of those ratings will be the one with the highest share of people rated in it? Common sense suggests the middle rating of 3. After all, if your organization met its overall expectations for the year, you would think that on, on average, the organization’s employees met their individual expectations to get them there.

More typically, however, the Lake Wobegon Effect takes over and the box in the middle is not the most populous. The one right above the middle one – the “performing as expected and then some” is typically the most populous.


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Which of these characteristics is the most dangerous leadership trait?

Posted on May 21, 2015 | 1 Comment
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: Which of these characteristics is the most dangerous leadership trait?

– Excessively ambitious: 6.53%
– Being short-tempered: 13.46%
– Indecisiveness and over-cautiousness: 32.3%
– Lack of vision: 22.02%
– Selfishness: 25.69%

Dangerous Traits. From the looks of it, folks find short-sighted, indecisive, selfish leaders to be the worst of all. Each has its risks. You must remember your role as a leader is to put others before yourself, set direction for them, and make the difficult calls that others are afraid to make. If these things make you uncomfortable, either build your skills in this arena or seek a role with less responsibility. One key to your development is first understanding what kind of leader you are. Once you understand that, you’ll be better equipped to build the relevant skills.

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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Why You Need to Drive Toward Solutions

Posted on May 20, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Communications, Innovation, Leadership

Danger Road Sign with the Word Think on itIn addition to leading your people, you need to lead the thinking. Here’s a simple way to push your thinking further along before you start advancing your ideas.

The following is an excerpt from One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

As a young management consultant, I was assigned to a particularly difficult project. Not only was the problem complex but some members of the client team were not willing to devote sufficient time to making the project succeed.

As I walked the halls of our home office one Friday afternoon, one of our senior consulting partners stopped me and asked how things were going. I began unloading a stream of complaints about deadlines, problem complexity, and client team member recalcitrance.

The partner listened attentively and allowed me to vent for a few minutes. When I finally paused and caught my breath he asked “What’s your solution?”

I stared at him blankly. I did not have one. That’s when he dropped the bomb.

“Don’t bring me problems. Bring me solutions.” With that, he walked away. I was speechless.

When I discussed the interaction with my project manager, she coached me to always have a solution to the problems I bring to others, especially to senior clients or senior consulting partners. She explained I did not need to have the final answer to solve the entire problem but I did need to have at least some preliminary suggestions on what steps I thought we should take.

In this case she pointed out I should have had a recommendation we sit down with senior client team and discuss the lack of commitment some of their team members were displaying. Having the start of a solution was better than having no solution at all.

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