4 Keys to Overcoming Conflict and Giving Good Feedback

Posted on November 26, 2014 | 3 Comments
Categories: Career, Communications, Leadership

Politically Incorrect SignIt’s nauseating to hear – someone soft-shoe dancing around an issue because they’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. They do so because they might receive negative feedback in a 360 review that they were abrupt or too direct in delivering feedback on that issue. So rather than going the direct route, they water down their message until it’s a mealy mouthed blathering stream of meaningless crap (yes, I’m fired up as I’m writing this).

Let me ask you this – do you want to follow a “leader” who doesn’t speak his or her mind? Someone who is more concerned with how their actions will be perceived rather than saying what they really think? Do you want to follow a leader who is more interested in doing nothing wrong (and hence not doing much of anything) or would you rather follow someone who takes a stand for what they believe in and suffers the consequences as appropriate?

Me? I’ll choose option B.

Conflict avoidance has invaded Leaderville and it’s an ugly blight. IMPORTANT: realize, I’m not advocating or approving of hateful, cruel, rude, or offensive behavior and words (although some idiot won’t bother to read this sentence and they’ll leave an anonymous comment to the effect that I’m a hate-monger or some stupidity of similar ilk). Those words and behaviors have no place in any workplace (or our lives for that matter).

What I’m attacking is a belief that we as leaders can’t speak our minds because we might hurt someone’s feelings. It’s that mindset that erodes the core of leadership over time and turns it into gentle corrective actions that end up having no impact whatsoever. Sure, no one felt corrected or had their feelings hurt but they now effectively have no freakin’ idea what they’re supposed to do or what they did wrong in the first place because the message was diluted.

We need to fix this. Now. So here’s what I propose:

Read More…

The Importance of Continuously Learning from Others

Posted on November 24, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Career, Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger

Student Listening to TeacherToday’s post is by James Rosseau, author of Success on Your Own Terms (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

During a project completion celebration gathering at Wilmington Savings Fund Society (WSFS), I had the opportunity to chat with the CEO, Marvin “Skip” Schoenhals. Up until that point, all of our conversations had been pretty transactional, dealing with in-the-moment HR issues and planning. However, that celebration gathering gave us some time to just chit chat a bit. Among a number of things we discussed during the conversation, he asked “what inspires you to work so hard?” I didn’t know how to answer the question initially as it caught me off guard. But I recalled, at one point that Skip mentioned to me that he was surprised that someone as young as I was had such an important role in our company (I was in my early twenties at the time).

My response was simple, “Skip, I don’t see many people from my neighborhood make it big. I want to be able to go back to the neighborhood one day, driving a Lexus and not only show what I had attained, but how they could do it as well.”   My point was that I wanted to prove that inner-city youth, in particular, African-American males, were not limited to the stereotypes of success that we are often associated with. In other words, I don’t have to be an athlete, rapper or drug dealer to have a nice home, car, or lifestyle, etc.

That conversation sparked a relationship between Skip and me, and from there he became a mentor. He made himself available to me, coaching me through a number of key things I was trying to accomplish. I had a business idea that I wanted to bring to fruition. Skip participated as I worked through the process of doing a business plan through a program sponsored by the Philadelphia SBA office, reviewing the plan with me on several occasions and even assisting me in meeting with some venture capitalists, in order to get an objective view. All of this provided me with invaluable insight very early in my career.

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As a leader, how much of a project’s success can you influence?

Posted on November 20, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Leadership, Poll, Project Management

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: As a leader, how much of a project’s success or failure can you influence?

– I can affect every aspect of a project, and I’m a big factor in its success or failure: 17.28%

– I can affect many aspects of a project’s success, but some are out of my control: 62.3%

– I can affect some aspects of a project’s success, but many are out of my control: 16.58%

– I can’t affect most aspects of a project’s success or failure: 3.84%

We own our project results. Eighty percent of you know and believe that you, as a leader, have a big impact on project outcomes. For you, the challenge is stepping up to greater challenges and letting your team grow into bigger roles. If you have things under control, why not take a risk on someone and give them a chance to further develop? Hopefully you’re also having an impact outside the project scope by being a project leader rather than just a project manager. For those of you who lack control over aspects of your projects, see how you can expand your impact. Ask to take on more responsibility or simply take action where you see action is required. Initiative is almost always universally rewarded.

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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The True Value in Walking Away from Money

Posted on November 19, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Books, Entrepreneur, Leadership

Ben Franklin on the Hundred Dollar BillI have been in my share of uncomfortable situations where all the choices before me were painful ones. As much as I would have liked to have punted on the decision, I was the leader and I had to make the choice. Those uncomfortable moments were and continue to be perfect times to rely on my leadership maxims to assist me with my decision making. Over the years I have learned to rely on one maxim for these purposes. It is:

What would Nana say? (For reference, Nana is my grandmother.)

This maxim is straightforward and simple. It evokes strong emotions for me. Whose nana wouldn’t stir emotions in their heart? It enables me to step outside myself and ask what another person would think about my behavior.

It is one thing to disappoint myself. It is another thing entirely to disappoint Nana. The thought of letting her down and doing something of which she would disapprove is a powerful deterrent to bad behavior for me. This maxim is easy to explain and understand. It is much harder to put into practice especially in high-pressure situations. Permit me to share an example.

I had a client sign a contract for training services with my firm. Our verbal agreement called for a specific price per participant in the class and guaranteed a minimum number of participants. When I received the written contract, I noticed the client’s procurement team made an error in the wording of the pricing section. The way they had worded it would have led to them paying me substantially more than the verbal agreement called for. I asked “What would Nana say?” The answer was immediately clear.

I emailed the client and let her know there was an error in the pricing section of the contract. I sent her a corrected version of the contract and explained how the way it was originally worded would have resulted in them paying me several thousand dollars more than we had verbally agreed upon.

Her response was one of disbelief. Read More…

How You Can Get Off the Career Treadmill

Posted on November 17, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Books, Career, Guest Blogger

Enhancing Your Executive EdgeToday’s post is by Kerry Preston and Kim Zoller, the co-authors of Enhancing Your Executive Edge (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

We recently worked with a male executive in the fast moving consumer goods space who made a decision to change his career direction. His name is Bob. He had been working in a training function and loved helping other people grow and develop. Bob had some aspects of his job that were draining, e.g. lots hotel stays, long days, and a boss that was a micro-manager who didn’t give him a lot of opportunity to really lead. Bob was working in a world of crisis, last minute fire drills and stress mainly driven by his small work team. Bob was simply managing the day-to-day and fighting fires.

One day Bob decided to take a risk and stop doing what he had always done. He saw a new internal job posting that revolved around talent and training. He expressed interest through the appropriate channels, interviewed and obtained the job. Bob was elated and eager to start his new role within the company. Many of the people that worked with Bob begged him to reconsider and stay in his current role. He made their lives easier and did a good job. Bob knew in his heart that he was on a career treadmill and it was time to go outside and take a new route.

Bob felt a lot of fear and uncertainty in making this career shift. He said to me, “I have always been a product trainer and not a talent and training expert. I know I work hard and learn fast but I am still petrified of not succeeding.” Bob started doubting himself and was afraid he may not perform to the expectation level. The reality is Bob has always succeeded and his past performance earned him the new job. Everyone else sees Bob’s strengths and recognized the value he brings to the organization.

It has been two months since Bob has been in his new role. Read More…

How much of your team’s work is a waste of time?

Posted on November 13, 2014 | 2 Comments
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How much of your team’s work is irrelevant or a waste of time/efficiency?

– Less than 5%: 15.5%
– 6% to 15%: 33.04%
– 16% to 25%: 31.14%
– 26% or more: 20.32%

Stop doing stupid stuff. More than 50% of you believe you’re wasting more than 15% of your team’s time on irrelevant work. More than 20% of you said it’s 25% or more of your time. Imagine how much more work you could get done if that irrelevant stuff went away. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to dictate the work your team does or doesn’t do. This comes down to making hard choices and holding both your team and your partners/customers to supporting those decisions. The good news is there are easy ways to decide what to stop doing. Let’s all resolve to get more efficient.

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 Balanced Life is Achievable – if You Work at it

Posted on November 12, 2014 | 11 Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle

Defibrillator SignI had a heart attack.

Wait.  Calm down.  Not another heart attack.  Geez.  Relax.

I had a heart attack almost a year ago to the day.  I never saw it coming.  I was a healthy (so I thought), energetic entrepreneur running a great business.

Sure I had stress in my life.  Tons of it.  Still do.

And then I got short of breath.  Next thing I know I’m in the ER, an ambulance, and eventually a cardiac cath lab where they stuck a couple of stents in my heart because one of my arteries was 100% blocked.  It kinda sucked.

Afterward I saw what I had done to myself.  My diet was terrible.  “I don’t have time to eat well and look at me – I look just fine.”  I didn’t look fine.  “I don’t have time to exercise.  I’m too busy.”  I had time.  I simply chose not to.

But I’m better now.  Much better.

But man I have worked my ass off to make it happen.  I’ve fundamentally changed my lifestyle.  And it’s been hard.  And worth it.  You’ll see the results of my efforts toward the end of this post.

If you’re fat, out of shape, have a lousy diet, lack energy, sleep poorly, and feel stressed out in general, there’s something you can do about it too. Read More…

Why there’s No Right Way to do Things Like Strategy

Posted on November 10, 2014 | 5 Comments
Categories: Entrepreneur, Guest Blogger, Social Media, Strategy

Two Paths DivergingToday’s post is by Natasha Golinsky, founder of Next Level Nonprofits.

I saw an article on Harvard Business Review this week that I thought was dead on -Why Smart People Struggle with Strategy. As I read the quote “The problem with smart people is that they are used to seeking and finding the right answer; unfortunately, in strategy there is no single right answer to find” my entire life flashed before my eyes. I saw myself in high school on an event planning committee totally stressing out over the details of something. I saw myself as a young professional totally micro-managing the development of a course I was writing. I saw myself yesterday almost melting down as my kids were being graded for their final home-school report cards. My entire life has been a chronic search for the “right way” to get a job done.

If you’ve been at a startup for any length of time you’ll know that there is no recipe for success. During my first ten years in business I would regularly go out of my way to meet other leaders who were experiencing a lot of success in my field and ask them “what did you do to achieve your results” and they would give me an answer that was totally opposite of what the person I had sat down with last week had said. The inevitable result of each weekly coffee date was total confusion and discouragement. I would find myself trying to create a master strategy by fusing together everyone’s best tips hoping I would strike gold. The mix and match approached never really worked out financially but did a great job of driving my confidence as a business leader way down. I was following the best advice I knew and was getting nowhere.

Have you ever felt like that? You read a great blog post about what it takes to succeed only to read a totally contradictory post the next day but both are working for those individuals? “Who’s right” is probably what you ask yourself. My best response: instead of looking at what they’re doing differently, look at what they’re doing that’s the same. One of your competitor organizations may be having a lot of success gaining visibility through Facebook while another doesn’t use Facebook at all but uses Twitter. Who’s right? Both. Both invest in communicating with their stakeholders. No one method is the right way. What works for one may or may not work for the other; you’ve got to remove all expectations, try it out and see what happens for yourself. Who knows? It may work great or it might not work at all. Unfortunately there is no other way to really know for sure.

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How often do you overcommit yourself and your team?

Posted on November 6, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How often do you overcommit yourself and your team?

– All of the time. I never say “no” to any request of me or my team: 7.19%
– Frequently. I usually take on too much work: 33.87%
– Sometimes. I occasionally stretch beyond resources: 54.29%
– Never. I manage priorities and resources rigorously: 4.64%

Just say “No.” Forty percent of you are overstretching either all of the time or frequently. You think you’re choosing the lesser of two evils — either saying no or being stretched or doing rushed or shoddy work. The latter is much more evil. Sure, saying “no” is hard, but it’s much harder to revive a burned-out team. It’s harder still to recover from making errors or doing poor work because the team had to cut corners to get the work done. Prioritize rigorously and practice saying “Yes, if …” instead of “No” because that “if” helps you make a case for more time or resources to do the job properly.

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…

Why Leaders Should Seek to be the Head of a Dog

Posted on November 5, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Books, Leadership

Parenting With a StoryToday’s post is by bestselling author Paul Smith. It’s from his newest book Parenting with a Story: Real-life lessons in character for parents and children to share (CLICK HERE to get your copy). He’s also the author of Lead with a Story – the basis of our course on Influencing through Storytelling.

Renaissance artist Michelangelo once said, “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” It’s echoed in the advice of many Western business leaders that it’s better to set lofty goals even if we don’t achieve them.

But of course, the kind of goals deemed worthy could vary over time and across cultures. In Asia, for example, setting lofty goals and falling short of them might not be what most leaders would call success. In fact, there’s an ancient Chinese saying that it’s “better to be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion.” Let’s look at how that value might play out in someone’s life and career, and then you can decide which is right for you.

Junichi Endo grew up in Saitama City, Japan, about twenty miles north of Tokyo. Like every other student, when he entered O’Hara Junior High School he was encouraged to join one of the extracurricular clubs on campus. Junichi loved baseball in elementary school, so that’s what he signed up for. It’s important to understand that in Japan, baseball was the most popular sport among boys his age. So it attracted the best athletes in the school. The good news was that thirty boys were allowed to join the team, including Junichi. But since only nine can play at any given time, earning a starting position would be difficult. The other thing he discovered was that the first-year players had to collect the senior players’ balls and equipment after practice—something of an initiation ritual.

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