7 Ways to Communicate More Effectively in a Digital Age

Posted on October 1, 2014 | 2 Comments
Categories: Books, Communications

Blue Lights in MatrixToday’s post is by Frank Pietrucha, thoughtLEADERS instructor and author of Supercommunicator (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Are your communication skills up to digital snuff? We all know hairstyles and hem lengths change but now styles of expression are also evolving… just like a fashion trend.   Do you automatically think “document” or “PowerPoint” when tasked with originating content? If you’re still writing long, linear prose that sits on paper like a lump, chances are you could benefit from a communication makeover. Don’t wait until your boss or client stages an intervention. It’s critical that you communicate in a digital-friendly style.

The art of communication is very different today than it was a mere two decades ago when our access to data was limited. The Internet has altered not only how we get information but also how we express ourselves. Digital technology is re-wiring our brains and reshaping how we communicate. The Internet has turned careful, deliberate readers into hungry information predators. Power scanning, instead of deep reading, is something we all do.

New digital tools make it easier for people to access content. The rise of video, audio, graphics and interactive features gives content producers the ammunition to fight battles in the name of knowledge. Words, pictures, and symbols – the very shape of content – is evolving before our eyes. The written word isn’t going away, but is being transformed. The days of straight running text on paper as our principal means of expressing ideas and delivering information are numbered as new digital tools change our communication landscape. New tools and technologies, along with new attitudes, are changing all that. For some this transformation is liberating… for others, it’s terrifying.

Here are a few suggestions and techniques to help you manage the transition:

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The Leader’s Edge – Paradox Thinking

Posted on September 29, 2014 | 4 Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Innovation, Leadership

The Power of ParadoxToday’s post is by Deborah Schroeder-Saulnier, author of The Power of Paradox (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

A company wants to be known for innovation at the same time customers embrace it for its stability, to thrill shareholders with strong short-term revenue results and concurrently take actions to ensure long-term health. From those two examples alone, it should be easy to see how failure to manage a critical pair of opposites results in the company stumbling and, perhaps, failing.

Paradox thinking is “and” thinking. It is thinking that identifies pairs of opposites and determines how they are interdependent relative to a key goal. In the previous examples, one pair of opposites is “short-term revenue and long-term health.” They are interdependent because both are vital in achieving the goal of a thriving organization. Failure to manage the pair of opposites may result in the company going out of business; at the very least, it will result in its slow decline.

Affirm Health (real company with name changed) has ascended to the summit of its industry during its 100+ year history. It is one of the largest hospital systems in the United States, and in staying true to its aim to provide care regardless of ability to pay, it is a top provider of care to people who are uninsured and underinsured.

Affirm Health has a corporate structure that inherently involves two set of needs because it is a health-care system and a collection of hospitals. Affirm Health’s mission is to serve the healthcare needs of all people, including those who need assistance with paying. At the same time, the organization’s vision statement refers to a strong, vibrant health care business, which is something that cannot be accomplished without decent margins. The analogous tension between addressing needs of the community and corporate, or hospital, needs is also central for Affirm.

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When does providing feedback become too distracting?

Posted on September 25, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: When does providing feedback become too distracting?

– Never. All feedback is great to give and receive: 12%
– Sometimes. People don’t always provide actionable feedback: 71%
– Often. Too much feedback becomes distracting and confusing: 14%
– All of the time. Enough with the feedback already. Let’s do some work: 3%

Our feedback needs work. Many of you expressed frustration, it seems, not only about the quantity of feedback but also whether it is actionable. Unless feedback has a “request for change” with it, sometimes it’s hard for the recipient to do anything with it. That leaves people frustrated. When you provide feedback, make sure you give the person actionable behavior to change. Or, if the person has done something well, make it known specifically what action should be replicated. If you’re the recipient and the feedback isn’t actionable, ask the giver to suggest what you should do differently. If you do this consistently, the quality of feedback should improve.

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 Key Skills You Must Have to Lead a High Performing Team

Posted on September 24, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Entrepreneur, Leadership, Training

Bean Curd Person of High Skill SignAs the leader of a high performing team, you’re personally responsible for making sure your team has the required set of skills to succeed and execute against all the initiatives on your prioritization list. You need to evaluate your team’s mission, look at the key initiatives, and then map out the skills and capabilities required to succeed. Once you’ve done that, you have to assess your existing team and see which skills they have, which ones they don’t, and which team members might be detractors from what you’re trying to achieve.  If you’re lucky, you too might have a Bean curd person of high skill on your team already.  (Seriously, when I saw that pic on flickr when I was searching for “skill” I simply had to use it).

You also have to think about and understand your team’s culture which is driven by the vision of what you’re trying to achieve as well as the broader organizational culture. Quickly figure out “Do my team members fit within that culture?” We’ve all seen people who are great performers and can get the task done, but they don’t work well with other members of the team. You need to either help them fit in or find people who are going to be more appropriate fits for the team.

To successfully build this team, you have to think about several types of skills that are required for delivering outstanding performance:

1. Technical skills. Perhaps it’s coding, doing analysis, writing, or creating documents – every team needs a specific set of technical skills to turn out the products and services it is responsible for.

2. Functional skills. Skills like problem-solving, strategic planning, decision-making, communicating, and presenting are examples of functional skills your team members might need to have.

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What Makes a Group Smart?

Posted on September 22, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Guest Blogger, Innovation, Leadership

Blue Brain in Transparent Man's HeadToday’s post is is adapted from a longer interview with Thomas Malone, conducted by Art Kleiner of strategy+business.

What if you could measure the intelligence of a group? What if you could predict which committees, assigned to design a horse, would end up with a camel, versus which would develop a thoroughbred—or a race car? The MIT Sloan School of Management’s Center for Collective Intelligence (CCI) was set up to accomplish just that sort of evaluation. Under the leadership of its founding director, Thomas W. Malone, the center’s ambition is to put forth a new theory of group performance, bringing together insights from social psychology, computer science, group dynamics, social media, crowdsourcing, and the center’s own experiments in group behavior. The results could help business teams produce more thoroughbreds and fewer camels.

S+B: How did you make the leap from individual to collective intelligence in your own research?
 We started with our basic definition: an intelligent group of individuals is one that acts together in ways that seem intelligent to an observer. As with individual intelligence, the observer has to pick some set of goals with respect to which to evaluate the group’s intelligence. But notice that in this case, the goals the observer uses may not be the same as those of any individuals in the group. For instance, you might evaluate the “intelligence” of a group of pedestrians on a busy New York City sidewalk on the basis of how evenly they distribute themselves over the sidewalk, even though each individual is just trying to get to a destination without colliding with someone else.

S+B: Are you more likely to have mediocre people become a smart group, or are you more likely to have smart people become a mediocre group?
 Statistically, either could happen. Of course, we all know from our own experience that you can have very ineffective groups made up of very smart people. Now we have a precise, scientific demonstration of that.

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How do you deal with team members who disrupt the team dynamic?

Posted on September 18, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How do you deal with team members who disrupt the team dynamic?

– Coach them and better integrate them into the team: 65%
– Remove them from the team for the greater good: 18%
– Accept it and work around them: 17%

Disruptive team members can be more destructive than your competitors. Simply accepting the negative impact they cause isn’t acceptable as a leader. Those of you making the hard choice to coach and integrate those folks into the team should be applauded. And for those of you taking the most difficult step of removing a problem team member once coaching stops working are performing admirable work. It’s unfair to let others suffer because of a disruptive team member who doesn’t respond to coaching.

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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5 Keys to Successfully Allocating Work Across Your Team

Posted on September 17, 2014 | 2 Comments
Categories: Leadership, Project Management

Post-it Notes and PrioritizationAs the leader of a high-performing team, how you distribute and balance work across the members of that team is a critical success factor. It needs to be done fairly. Note, I didn’t say equally. Work allocation needs to be done fairly because you want your team to operate on the basis of equality. You want people to work on things they’re good at but also that they’re excited by. There are five criteria to think about as you think about distributing work.

1. Priority

Consider the work’s priority. Priority needs to drive everything. If you’ve been rigorous in your prioritization process, start at the top of the list and begin allocating work from there. That list should be based on the team’s and the organization’s goals. This has to be the first consideration in terms of how you distribute work. If a project is a top priority and somebody is available to do that work, they should be tasked with that work.

2. Skill Sets

Evaluate the skill set of the people who you’re thinking about distributing the work to. If they have the right skill set, you’re going to get a high quality result. The end product will be something that meets your customer’s needs. This also reduces the likelihood of people failing because you’re not giving them work that they don’t have the skill set to perform. You’re giving them something they can be successful with.

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How Embracing Risk is the Key to Business Success

Posted on September 15, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Innovation, Leadership, Strategy

Boy Jumping Into Lake From DockToday’s post is by By Tom Panaggio, author of The Risk Advantage: Embracing the Entrepreneur’s Unexpected Edge (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

The time has come for the reprogramming of American business leadership. No longer can companies simply “play not to lose” by anchoring to the archaic habit of detailed five year planning, staunchly imposing boundaries by way of organizational charts or the avoidance of any risk lest we kill stockholder value. An entrepreneurial tsunami must wash this academic corporatism out to sea and replace it with a new paradigm, an entrepreneurial mindset. My advice, do not get out of its way. Let this massive wave of uncorrupted idealism and purposeful enthusiasm wash our corporate minds clean of the sludge of bureaucracy, fear of risk, and the clinging to irrational formalities.

Market supremacy will be achieved by those who recognize that risk holds the key to long term success and is not to be avoided, minimized, or mitigated but instead embraced.

How I envy the newborn entrepreneur. In the face of incredible odds and with little chance of survival they blindly press on with a singular focus that sees nothing but opportunity. How refreshingly naïve and idealistic, yet profoundly visionary, in a business culture in desperate need of change, the student should be educating the teacher. The lesson to be learned is today’s business leaders need a new mindset, an entrepreneurial mindset where they have the courage to step outside their comfort zones and embrace risk each and every day.

Success comes from identifying a worthy risk and having the courage to embrace it.

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How would you describe your organization’s culture?

Posted on September 11, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How would you describe your organization’s culture?

– A great deal of talking, very little doing: 43%
– A good balance of talking and doing: 37%
– Too much doing without talking about it enough: 20%

A significant portion of you find your organizations are talking too much and not doing enough. It’s a classic risk-averse behavior. This happens when folks are afraid to make a decision because they fear the repercussions (both for the organization and for themselves personally). Try breaking the big decisions into smaller, less risky ones and try to push forward smaller actions faster rather than larger actions more slowly. It’ll help you gain momentum and build a bias toward doing. For those doing too much without enough talking, be a little more rigorous on understanding the risks you’re taking and be clear that they’re acceptable. Communicate those risks and your willingness to take them, and your teams will be more comfortable.

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…

Think Like a Senior Executive and Ask More Questions

Posted on September 10, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Innovation, Leadership, Strategy

White Question Mark on Black BackgroundDo you know the difference between a “worker bee” and a senior executive? Have you ever wondered what it takes to move up in the world to those loftier roles? It’s pretty simple. You need to move from a world where you provide all the answers to a world where you ask all the questions.

I know there’s a cheeky clueless executive joke in there somewhere but I’m actually not joking around (which I know comes as a shock to you longtime readers).

As we enter organizations and rise through the ranks, we’re expected (and trained) to have the answers. We, after all, are the front line. We do the work. When someone more senior asks us for information, our job description is to provide it. And provide it we do. We become experts in our field. We know all the answers. We become that “go to” person Scott Eblin describes in this post.

And every day we kick butt. We know everything that’s asked of us. Heck, we get to a point where we’ve created everything around us. But one day we wake up wondering why we’re not getting promoted. We can’t figure out why we, the expert of all experts, isn’t rising to the executive ranks. After all, those guys are clueless. All they ever do is ask questions that we have to provide the answers to.

And that my friends is the key to the paradox of advancing to senior management. Questions.

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