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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A Tale of Two Retailers and Trust

Posted on April 13, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Customer Service, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Trust Written Across a Brick ArchwayLeaders who empower their team members get better results.  They make faster decisions, have the ability to act, and create dramatically better experiences for customers.  Here’s how you can empower your teams.

Today’s post is by Dianna Booher, author of What MORE Can I Say? (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

“Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” observed the Russian philosopher and novelist Leo Tolstoy. The same might be said of large retailers. Successful retailers operate on the same principles to achieve happy customers. Struggling retailers fail for different reasons.

Recently, I had to replace two major household items in the same week: a clothes washer and a TV console. The experience at Retailer A to buy the washer proved a disaster. For starters, we asked the salesperson several questions before making our final decision: 1) Is the advertised in-store sales prices the same as the online price? 2) Can we get next-day delivery? 3) Are both colors available now? 4) Are the “pedestal” drawers deep enough to store typical detergent containers? She answered yes to all four questions.

As it turned out, Retailer A could not deliver our color choice for a month. We opted for second choice. When they delivered the washer, it was badly damaged. The optional purchase “pedestal” drawers were not deep enough to store even the shortest detergent containers. When we called to get the damaged machine replaced, the contractor who delivered it confirmed that Retailer A had a backlog of “at least” another month before they could replace it with another machine. And it took more than an hour on the phone with two levels of management in three different departments (warehouse, scheduling, credit) to get the paperwork handled and the replacement machine rescheduled for delivery.

But by comparison, the tale at Retailer B put Retailer A to shame.

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How do you view HR’s role as an employee advocate?

Posted on April 9, 2015 | No Comments
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our poll today asks: How do you view HR’s role as an employee advocate?

– They’re not strong enough advocates for our employees: 65.32%
– They’re good at balancing employee needs versus business needs: 25.9%
– They advocate for employees at the expense of the business: 8.78%

Employees need a champion. A leader is an employee’s first line of advocacy. Sometimes leadership fails and employees need additional resources and assistance. The vast majority of you don’t see HR advocating strongly enough for your associates. If you’re not happy with the level of support your HR business partners provide, have an explicit conversation with them around service level expectations, boundaries, and your view of their responsibilities. HR just might be treading lightly because they’re not wanting to overstep their bounds and upset leaders of the troops.

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 Simple Fix for Better Board Meetings

Posted on April 8, 2015 | 3 Comments
Categories: Communications, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Strategy

People Sleeping in MeetingBoard meetings are a total pain. They can also be some of the most powerful get-togethers for your company. The difference between the two is how you approach the meeting itself.

Before you say “I never present to the board” and stop reading, allow me to expand the definition of a board meeting. A board meeting is any meeting where a group of impartial outside observers of your organization get together to discuss your business with you in a candid and long-term focused way. Board meetings can be with your advisory board if you’re an entrepreneur, an executive steering committee if you’re running big projects, or any other assemblage of brain power that is willing to focus on improving your business. Now keep reading.

Most board meetings suck. Bad (or should that be “badly?”). That’s because folks want to update the board on all the great things they’ve been working on. Between that dynamic and the insecure paranoia of not wanting to have any question unanswered for the board, most organizations completely overprepare for the meeting. That overpreparedness becomes totally dysfunctional very quickly.

The good news is you can make board meetings productive, insightful, and enjoyable. You merely have to understand the current unproductive behaviors and shift your thinking on how you want to approach the board and what you want out of them. Here’s how to do that:

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