Learning to Achieve Success through Failure

Posted on September 8, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Innovation, Leadership, Strategy

Opportunity Knocking by Lori Ann LaRoccoToday’s post is by Lori Ann LaRocco, author of Opportunity Knocking: Lessons from Business Leaders, (CLICK HERE to get your copy) and producer on CNBC’s Squawk Box.

Every leader, no matter what industry they operate in, has had a moment when they either rise to the occasion or fail. Wall Street is littered with the carcasses of corporate casualties, but what sets the spectacular success stories apart from the failures is the ability of leaders from both successful and failed companies to learn from their mistakes. In order to not repeat mistakes, you need to reflect on, analyze, and accept what went wrong regarding execution. Failure can be an important piece on the journey to success. The lessons you learn after each setback will help fortify your knowledge and approach future problems confidently by learning what you should — and shouldn’t — do.


Steve Case, the co-founder of AOL, would say that he is an example of such a journey. During his long career, Case has tasted both the sweetness of success and the bitterness of failure. While many people are familiar with the spectacular failure of the AOL-Time Warner merger, Case faced challenges even before that ill-fated corporate marriage. Years before AOL, Case left his safe and dependable job with a Fortune 500 company for Control Video, an up-and-coming technical disruptor.

But his expectations of greatness quickly turned into a nightmare. At his first board meeting with Control Video, he found out the company was collapsing. Instead of declaring failure, Case and some of his colleagues chose to view the closing of Control Video as a learning opportunity.

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Which promotion system seems fairest to you as a leader?

Posted on September 4, 2014 | 3 Comments
Categories: Career, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: Which system of promotion seems the fairest and most just to you as a leader?

– Seniority-based meritocracy –people should pay their dues for a time, then be promoted based on ability: 51%

– Meritocracy — people should advance as quickly as their abilities allow: 48%

– Seniority — people should pay their dues and demonstrate loyalty if they want to advance: 1%

Clearly, all of you place a heavy emphasis on merit-based promotions, but there’s still that “paying your dues” requirement in there. I’ll bet when you’re the one getting promoted, you want it to be all about meritocracy, but when others seek promotion, that’s when the “you have to pay your dues” component kicks in. Yes, seniority is important, but it is merely a proxy for determining whether someone is committed to the organization and whether they understands the nature of your business. Once people have achieved those two requirements, meritocracy should truly kick in as the deciding factor on a promotion.

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 Steps to Building a High-Performing Team

Posted on September 3, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Entrepreneur, Leadership, Strategy, Training

High-Performance Teams VideoWe all want to lead high-performing teams but where should one begin? Not every team has the ability to be high-performing but I guarantee it won’t be high-performing if you don’t focus on getting it there.

In my experience, there are 7 steps to building a high-performing team.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have been a member of and to have led high-performing teams over my career and they all share the same seven characteristics.

If you’d prefer to watch a full video course on how to build your own high-performing team, you can do so by CLICKING HERE and checking out the course over on  There’s over 2 hours of explanations and stories on how to build your own high-performing team.  In the meantime, here’s an overview of the seven steps you need to consider when building that team.  Under each step are some thoughts on the things you have to do or be able to do to achieve the goal of that step.

1. Setting Direction for a High-Performing Team

– Know the difference between a vision and a mission. Understand techniques for crafting them and sharing them.
– Translate a vision and mission into a shared purpose for the team and drive behavior through that shared purpose.
– Link the vision and mission to priorities and translate priorities into projects/initiatives. Use initiatives to drive resource planning and focus because focus leads to success.

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The Importance of Being an Improvisational Leader

Posted on September 1, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Books, Career, Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Leadership, Training

Billiards Balls in Motion at the BreakToday’s post is by Fred Cook is the CEO of Golin and author of IMPROVISE: Unconventional Career Advice from an Unlikely CEO (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Every night at clubs like the Improv in Los Angeles and Second City in Chicago, aspiring comedians make improvising look easy. Drawing from the archives of their own experiences, these professionals use cues from the audience and their fellow performers to craft a coherent narrative that leads to a logical conclusion and entertains along the way. Improvising requires skill and practice, especially in the business world. I should know. I’ve been doing it all my life.

Today, I am the CEO of Golin, an award-winning public relations agency with 50 offices around the globe. I have worked with some of the country’s most fabled business leaders, such as Apple’s Steve Jobs, Disney’s Michael Eisner, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. I have introduced the world to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pokémon and seedless watermelon. But my career was not always so glamorous.

Before joining the corporate ranks at the age of 36, I talked my way into a job as a cabin boy on a Norwegian tanker; peddled fake Italian leather goods to unsuspecting tourists; ran a rock-and-roll record company; started a service chauffeuring drunks home from bars; worked as a doorman at a five-star hotel; substitute-taught in Los Angeles’s worst schools; and winged it as a novice tour guide. These jobs taught me how to improvise.

Improvise by Fred CookImprovisation, like evolution, is a critical survival tool. Based on prehistoric genetics, evolution has allowed us to adapt to long-term changes in the biological world. Relying on present knowledge, improvisation enables us to adjust to real-time changes in the modern world. Life is too fast and too complicated for strict ideologies to determine our fate. Our future leaders must learn to play it by ear.

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How well-known are your emergency recovery procedures?

Posted on August 28, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How well-documented and well-known are your company’s emergency recovery procedures?

– We’re ready for anything, and everyone knows exactly what to do in a crisis: 28%
– We’re generally prepared, but it takes us time to get our act together: 42%
– We’re not very well-prepared, and our procedures aren’t well-known: 18%
– We’re not prepared at all, and our procedures are virtually nonexistent: 13%

It’s called an emergency for a reason. Not being prepared at all can be catastrophic. Even if the emergency isn’t life threatening, it can be business threatening if you’re not prepared to respond. Poor crisis planning and basic procedures will cost you customers and put your business at risk. It doesn’t take much time and effort to lay out the critical points of your business, contingency plan, and occasionally rehearse those procedures. Failure to do so only benefits your competitors.

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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10 Things that Took Me 10 Years to Learn

Posted on August 27, 2014 | 5 Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Career, Communications, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Sales, Social Media, Strategy

Birthday Cake for Ten Year-OldHappy Birthday to me! No, it’s not my birthday (although you can send me gifts if you like).  It’s thoughtLEADERS‘ birthday and the firm just turned 10.  10 years old.  Mind-boggling.

In those 10 years I’ve had ups and downs.  I’ve learned a great deal as an entrepreneur, an executive, a leader, and a person.  Good times, bad times, y’know I’ve had my share… (yes… Zeppelin).  I’d like to share some of those things I’ve learned with all of you.  My hope in sharing these things is that you’ll avoid mistakes I’ve made, be more successful than I’ve been, and enjoy your life more.

Before I launch into that top 10 list, I’d like to thank everyone around me who has helped me succeed with this business.  My wonderful clients who make it all possible.  The awesome participants in my classes (except that one guy that one time… you know who you are).  The fantastic colleagues who do such amazing work.  My friends and professional contacts who recommend me and my work.  My family members who have supported me throughout this crazy ride.  Without all of you, thoughtLEADERS is just a cool website.  Thank you for everything from the bottom of my heart.

Shutting up now.  Time to drop the knowledge.  Within each of these tips is a link to another post I’ve written on that topic so if you want to learn more about that particular topic, click on through to the other side (Jim Morrison… kinda).

10. Jump in with both feet.  If you’re considering starting your own business (or you’re taking on a major new project or role), you have to go all-in if you want it to succeed.  You can’t be half-pregnant.  When I first started the business, I ran it part time while I held a full-time job.  I reasoned I would go full-time with thoughtLEADERS when I had a big, stable, predictable client base.  Hey idiot – you won’t have a big, stable, predictable client base until you do it full time.  I have another venture I ran part time while running thoughtLEADERS. It’s not doing so well.  You’d think I would learn… Commit. Dive in.  You can be an entrepreneur with zero risk.

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How to Emotionally Jazz Up Your Technical Presentations

Posted on August 25, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Communications, Guest Blogger, Sales

Sherlock Holmes StatueToday’s post is by Dr. Vikas Jhingran, author of EMOTE: Using Emotions to Make Your Message Memorable (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

‘The Crime Scene’. My first slide, certainly not the norm for a technical paper on Vortex-Induced Vibrations. I could see the confusion and surprise on the faces of the audience. This was going to be very interesting.

A few years ago, I was presenting a technical paper at an international conference. The paper was about experiments that had been performed by our group, and the results had been rather surprising. After months of work, our team had come up with a controversial explanation – one that most researchers would not have intuitively guessed. My paper that day was about those experiments and the unusual results.

I wanted to introduce a story into my presentation and after some thought, decided to relate the presentation as a Sherlock Holmes mystery case. This controversial and hugely popular character seemed a good fit.

I planned my presentation like a Sherlock Holmes case and it began at the crime scene, which was our lab. The data that we collected was the evidence. In my presentation, I shared our struggles to find a solution, which were eerily similar to what Mr. Holmes goes through in his cases. Finally, the famous quote associated with Sherlock Holmes, “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” provided the perfect setup to introduce the controversial and unexpected hypothesis proposed to explain the experimental data. Like all Sherlock Holmes cases, once the observations were explained, it seemed obvious.

Scientific presentations, especially those that involve data, are difficult to present in an interesting manner. Among the sea of good research and interesting ideas, only a few stand out as memorable. Why do some technical presentations stand out? How do people bring a technical presentation to life?

Here are four suggestions that will help bring your data-rich presentation to life.

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How do you think your people would rate you as a leader?

Posted on August 21, 2014 | 2 Comments
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How do you think your people would rate you as a leader?

– They think I’m the best leader they’ve ever had: 12%
– They think I’m an above-average leader: 62%
– They think I’m an average leader: 21%
– They think I’m a below-average leader: 3%
– They think I’m a terrible leader: 2 %

A more critical approach: Well over half of respondents say their people think they’re better-than-average leaders. That math doesn’t work. I challenge you to ask your people what they really think. None of us wants to face flaws or criticism, but sometimes it’s the best thing you can do to improve your skills. Sit down with the members of your team and ask them where you really stand. Seek direct and actionable feedback. I guarantee that those of you who do so will end up in the “above average” group of leaders.

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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10-minute Leadership Lessons – One Story at a Time

Posted on August 20, 2014 | 2 Comments
Categories: Books, Communications, Guest Blogger, Leadership, Sales

Mother Reading a StorybookToday’s post is by Paul Smith, thoughtLEADERS instructor and bestselling author of Lead With a Story.

You’re busy as a leader.  You don’t always have time to invest in learning a great new leadership story to help you build your skills.  I recognize that and I’m here to help.  I’ve distilled down 6 great stories into easy-to-digest 10 minute podcasts for your listening pleasure.

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 first 6 episodes will help you grow sales, gain your organization’s commitment to your goals, help your employees find passion for their work, enable you to lead change more effectively, create a more diverse environment in your organization, and learn how to find world-class customer service stories in your company.

Episode 1: A customer-service story gone horribly right

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8 Tips for Avoiding Your Leadership Blindspots

Posted on August 18, 2014 | 7 Comments
Categories: Books, Communications, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Leadership Blindspots by Robert Bruce ShawToday’s post is by Robert Bruce Shaw, author of Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Leaders are faced with two conflicting needs. The first is to act with a deep confidence in their abilities and the strategies they are implementing. This allows them to pursue audacious goals and persevere when faced with adversity. The second is to be aware of their vulnerabilities and the need for a healthy dose of self-doubt. This allows them to see themselves and their situations accurately — avoiding, in particular, the hazards of over-confidence and excessive optimism. Those who fail to do so run the risk of having blindspots — which are the unrecognized weaknesses or threats that have the potential to harm a leader and his or her company.

Savvy leaders understand that blindspots, while they vary in severity and are different for each individual, are not the exception — instead, they “come with the territory.” The question then becomes: How do I surface and address the blindspots that matter? One way is to ask the right questions in the right way. Here are some guidelines for identifying blindspots:

1. Avoid yes-or-no questions. Closed-end questions (those that can answered yes or no) are efficient, but don’t surface information that may be critical to understanding a potential weakness or threat. Questions are called open-ended when they allow for a variety of responses and provoke a fuller discussion. For example, a closed-end question might be, “Are you going to deliver your business plan this year?” while an open-ended question is, “Tell me about the risks you face in delivering your plan and the actions you are taking to mitigate them?”

2. Don’t lead the witness. Hard-charging leaders often push to confirm their own assumptions about what is occurring in a given situation and often want to move quickly to a plan of action. This can result in questions that are really statements, such as, “Doesn’t this mean that we don’t have a problem with compliance in this area and can move forward as planned?” These types of questions, particularly when posed by those in positions of power, often prevent contrary points of view and necessary data from surfacing.

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