How to Solve Big Problems by Creating Small Problems

Posted on March 26, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Innovation, Leadership, Training

Mike Figliuolo Teaching Problem Solving Logic MapsWe all face large, ambiguous problems every day.  The real challenge is getting our arms around that problem and understanding what’s really driving the issue.  Until we can do that, we’ll never be able to solve the challenge we’re facing.  To break those big issues down into smaller ones, I’d like to introduce you to a problem solving tool called the logic map.

If you’re really interested in getting better and faster at problem solving, you can either check out our problem solving course or you can learn our entire problem solving method in video form in 39 minutes and 3 seconds at  Just CLICK HERE to check out the video version of the course.  Now, let’s explore creating and using a logic map…

At one point, I worked for the financial services firm, and we had a program where we were making offers to consumers. And when that program first launched, we were making about $5 million a year. The problem was, after a few months, we started losing $5 million a year. This was a huge issue. And there were a lot of things that could contribute to it. We used the problem solving process to get a better understanding of what issues are really driving the problem before we rush off and solve it.

We broke it down into what’s called a logic map. We looked at technology. We looked at training. We looked at systems. We looked at hiring. We looked at processes. And we broke that really big problem down into smaller issues that we could bite off and actually solve. Now the good news is, once we broke the problem down, we identified the core issue, followed the rest of the problem-solving process, and turned that program around from losing $5 million a year to actually making $20 million a year a few years after that.

Let me walk you through what a logic map is, and how you can use it to break down your own problem solving. Read More…

The Day My Business Almost Went Up in Flames

Posted on March 24, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger

Firefighters Putting Out Fire at Burning BuildingToday’s post is by Mike Kappel, President of Patriot Software.

When you start a new business, you’re occupied by thoughts of your next sale, equipment investment, or whether you’ll have time to break for dinner. You’re generally not thinking about being sued, cited by OSHA, or arrested.

But in business, your fortunes can turn on a dime. Here’s what happened to me and my business.

My partner and I had started our network of executive recruiters four years earlier, and it looked like the business might finally take off. Still, we were essentially broke, with less that $250 in our account, on the day that our pressman, George, decided to go to the local laundromat to wash the rags that we used to clean our printing presses. (This was not our standard procedure; we advised George to manually clean and line-dry the rags. Instead, George decided to take a shortcut and go to the laundromat instead.)

And then George put the chemical-soaked rags in a gas dryer.

The pilot light from the gas dryer ignited the rags, throwing George over a row of washers and slamming him into the wall. The laundromat caught on fire.

After I got the call from George and arrived on the scene, I saw fire trucks blocking the streets, firefighters spraying down the building with a huge plume of water, police diverting traffic, lights, sirens, and barricades everywhere. Basically, a business owner’s nightmare.

Read More…

What do you do when you know an initiative is doomed?

Posted on March 20, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Leadership, Poll, Project Management

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: When you know an initiative is doomed regardless of what you do, how does your organization respond?

- We immediately cut our losses, learn from it, and move on: 38%
- We keep trying to make it work through heroic efforts: 24%
- We stop working on it and let it wither without explicitly killing it: 19%
- We make some effort to make it work but eventually declare defeat: 19%

Losses are painful to take.  I applaud the 38% of you who see the lost cause and act decisively.  Throwing good money (and time and effort) after bad only compounds the problem.  Try to look at the problem objectively and realize it is a sunk cost.  Ask yourself: “Knowing what I know today, is it a good investment to put another dollar or hour into this project?”  If the answer is no, step up as a leader and stop the bleeding. Go invest your resources in other more promising ventures.  Your organization will be better off when you 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!

Read More…

How to Drive Decisions Without Saying a Word

Posted on March 19, 2014 | 2 Comments
Categories: Communications, Leadership

Woman Wearing Sunglasses with Finger on Mouth Saying ShhhAll too often, leaders seek to build support for an idea by talking – a lot. They go on and on about why the decision is a good one – detailing its benefits, the reasons others should support it, and the path forward. There’s passion and excitement behind the talk and the leader lets it show through in the form of focused enthusiasm. At best, the leader is pegged as long-winded, overbearing, and insecure. At worst, the decision doesn’t get made because no one buys in or it’s pushed through despite active resistance that will almost certainly derail implementation.

Here’s a more effective way to make decisions and get people to support their implementation: be quiet.

Know Your Destination

Heading into your meeting, be clear about the desired outcome. Are you there to secure overarching support for your recommendation? Or are you simply looking to sell a few key stakeholders? Are you seeking approval for a pilot? A full roll-out? By being explicit about the meeting’s objectives, you’ll increase the likelihood of achieving them.

Kick off the meeting by clearing stating the objective in an affirmative way: “We’re here to approve the full roll out of the new compensation plan.” In other words, point everyone in the right direction.

Know When to Ride…

Read More…

4 Tips to Up Your Leadership Capacity

Posted on March 17, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Number 4 Painted in Gold on a WallToday’s post is by Brad Farris, founder of EnMast.

Have you ever heard the saying, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying?” For the most part, I feel that statement is true. When you get lost in the day-to-day details, the ability to think “big picture” starts to diminish quickly. Thinking ahead and planning for the future is what helps your business move forward. Capacity building needs to be at the top of your list. Write that down. I’m serious.

I’m a list-checker. I push hard throughout the day and love the satisfaction that comes with each swift checkmark. Can’t you just hear that crisp swipe of the pen?

But as much as I love working on that list, I also make time to think strategically and step away from my project-based work each day. It keeps me sane and is extremely important to for me as a leader—and for those whom I’m supposed to be providing direction. Really, it’s good for all of us.

I’m not saying capacity building has to take the same form for everyone; but allow your brain to recharge for a moment–with whatever it is that makes you reflective. For me, it’s a few moments early in the morning before I dive in that I devote solely to being quiet. After that, my brain is like a gerbil on a wheel until it’s quitting time.

Here are a few helpful tips for building leadership capacity.

Read More…

How do you deal with disruptive colleagues?

Posted on March 13, 2014 | 3 Comments
Categories: Communications, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How do you deal with colleagues who are disruptive in meetings?

- I don’t say anything in the meeting but do provide feedback afterward: 49%
- I call them out and confront them directly in the meeting: 35%
- I don’t say anything but I let their managers know about the problem: 12%
- I don’t do anything and figure someone else will fix the problem: 5%

It’s a good thing the vast majority of you are nipping a problem early.  Not only do disruptive colleagues get your meeting off track, they can poison your culture.  It’s one thing to dissent and problem solve productively in a meeting and another thing entirely to be rude.  Direct feedback that is timely is the most powerful tool you have.  For the 12% of you passing it on to the person’s manager, I suggest when you do so you ask that manager to give you an update after the feedback has been delivered because in many cases, that manager will not provide the feedback to your colleague since they weren’t in the meeting and they’re likely “busier with other things” (translation: avoiding giving the feedback).

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…

How to Lead People Who Have Never Followed

Posted on March 12, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Entrepreneur, Leadership

Ducklings Swimming Behind Mother DuckWhat’s the biggest risk facing the leaders of most entrepreneurial ventures? It’s not closing that first round of funding or landing a cornerstone customer. As with most things, it all comes back to people — and your ability to lead those who don’t have much practice following.

It’s easy to get seduced by the investors, the technology, the contracts, and the customers. It’s even easier to focus on those things when you don’t want to take on the challenge of leading a green team. But, in the end, it’s your people who hold the fate of your venture in their hands, and leading them well may be the most important work you do.

Whether you earned your stripes in corporate America or as a serial entrepreneur, you carry many embedded assumptions about the way people should follow their leaders. Unfortunately, no one has ever explained that to the members of your team. That’s your job. You have to teach them how to be good followers and team members.

It’s Not About Hierarchy

Most of your team members are part of your entrepreneurial venture because they enjoy the absence of excessive structure and bureaucracy. Try to teach the art of following by enforcing a hierarchy, and you’ve taken the first step toward killing your company culture.

Read More…

How Being Different Strengthens Your Leadership Style

Posted on March 10, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Guest Blogger, Leadership

Pink Sneakers Walking the Wrong WayToday’s post is by Ron West, author of Corporate Caterpillars: How to Grow Wings (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Have you mastered awareness? Have you developed associations and rituals to help you quickly restore and maintain a state of awareness? Have you used that state to get real about yourself? Did you, perhaps, discover that you were not quite functional in the world and had to make essential changes? Later, you found your purpose in life and started setting goals to help live your purpose, maybe? You recruited help and then came the obstacles to your success. Since then you have been diligently working through your limiting beliefs to get where you are going. Congratulations. You have mastered half of what you need to master.

What so often happens, especially with managers in a business, is that they focus on doing what they believe needs to be done. They are typically very results-focused and sometimes short on what we might label the ‘soft’ skills. Leadership is much more about how you show up; how you are being. We are taught that we take actions to have results. Leaders do not control so much as influence to co-create outcomes. How can they do that?

An example might help.  There is much great, published work on trust. There are certainly techniques offered that could help restore or establish trust. But a leader that learns and applies a series of techniques is quickly discounted. It does not feel genuine to anyone else. Being trustworthy and being trusting are a complete mindset; not a few techniques added later. So instead of worrying about what we want to have (our vision) or even how we will achieve our vision by deciding what we must do (our mission), what we focus on instead is first how we will be (our values). What we value will define how we are going to be.

So how can a leader more consistently live from his or her values? Read More…

How charitable is your organization?

Posted on March 6, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: What is the most common way your organization supports charitable causes?

- We donate cash and our time: 76%
- We give them cash only: 12%
- We don’t give to charity as a company: 8%
- We donate our time only: 3%

It’s encouraging to see 92% of you are helping make your community a better place. For those giving only cash, I encourage you to identify ways to enable your associates to personally get involved and give the gift of their time. It will strengthen your organization’s connection with your community, as well as help your associates feel like they’re making a bigger contribution. Cash is wonderful, but relationships can generate tremendous benefits as well.

During times when we’re all feeling the stress of the recession, catastrophes and being disconnected from the people around us, a little personal involvement can go a long way.

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…

Are you up for the challenge of a leadership crucible?

Posted on March 5, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Career, Leadership, Training

Crucible Being Glazed with FlamesAs leaders, we rarely get the time for self-reflection and development.  When we do, we need to ensure the experiences we have can fundamentally alter our trajectories in a positive way.  I’ve found that those types of experiences require immersion in a challenging environment because those situations teach us a great deal about ourselves in a very short period of time.  Today I’d like to highlight one of those experiences.

The instructors I have the privilege of working with are practitioners of what they teach. They bring a healthy dose of the real world to the podium.  Speaking of real-world, our instructor Jan Rutherford is leading the Self-Reliant Leadership Crucible expedition this summer.  I had a chance to sit down with Jan and his partner for this expedition, Brad Billingsley, to ask the about their venture.

Mike: What’s a crucible and how does it define you as a leader?

Jan: A crucible is a difficult test or challenge; a place or situation that forces people to change or make difficult decisions.  We all face adversity amidst physical, mental, and emotional challenges, and I wrote a book, The Littlest Green Beret, about the adversity I faced becoming a Green Beret at five feet four inches and 114 pounds.  That adversity – crucible if you will – made a significant impression on my perspective about what makes a leader.  The Self Reliant Leadership Crucible is about bringing the book to life through the practical application of self-awareness; relying on yourself for self-development; having the discipline and ability to endure hardship to strengthen one’s resolve; and achieving a balance between independence and the interdependence to accelerate your personal growth.

Mike: What were you hearing from business leaders that made you think people would want to spend seven days backpacking in the Wyoming wilderness?

Read More…

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