Carefully Crafted on July 19

Author Q&A: Leading Inside the Box

A “cookie cutter” approach rarely works in PR. Same goes for leadership. Each employee in your organization is likely motivated by different things. They prefer to receive feedback in different ways. Yet, too many managers and execs think a one-size-fits all approach to leadership is okay. My friend Mike Figliuolo recently published a new book — Lead Inside the Box — to help managers get the best out of their teams by focusing their energy where it will make the biggest difference for each individual. I asked Mike a few questions about the book and how his insights translate to the PR world:

For those who aren’t familiar with the book, what’s your “social media summary?”

Leaders need to do a better job of allocating their scarce time and energy. By better investing this “leadership capital” they can get better results from their team while improving their own performance at the same time. Using a tool called the Leadership Matrix, we give leaders an understanding of which team members are consuming their time and the return they’re getting in terms of results. We offer techniques for leaders to improve their “return on leadership capital” and do so through real world examples. We have a simple assessment leaders can take to see how they’re spending this time and energy and if they’re doing so effectively.

In your experience, where do leaders typically “waste” the most time/resources? What should they be doing instead?

They waste time either by spending it with people who don’t need their time/energy (like high performers) or on low performers who are unmotivated or in the wrong roles. They spend it with high performers (folks we call Exemplars) because they’re either micromanaging or they simply enjoy being around people who do great work. They waste it on low performers (Detractors) who aren’t motivated (Slackers in our framework) or with folks in the wrong roles (we call them Square Pegs). These latter two situations are ones where leaders can apply better leadership techniques to improve performance so it’s an effectiveness issue. Leaders should instead be focusing on folks who are “hiding” and not delivering results or spend that energy weaning some of their demanding higher performers from needing them so much. It’s all about time allocation as well as being more effective with what they do in that allocated time.

How do your tips translate to mid-level employees (for example, an account manager who’s not technically “the boss,” but is responsible for managing/leading entry level employees)?

These techniques apply in both formal and informal leadership situations. It doesn’t matter if the box links directly in an org chart. A leader is a leader and they can benefit from being more deliberate and thoughtful about where they spend their time and energy. I’d submit that informal leaders can get a great deal from this approach because it will help them better understand the motivations of their team members and lead them in a manner better suited to getting results from them.

Similarly, what insights/advice can you offer to someone making the leap from peer to boss?

I’m glad you asked! We have an entire section dedicated to that very sticky and challenging transition. Leaders who make this shift can and should use the Leadership Matrix to help them assess their team more objectively. In doing so, they can be intentional about where they spend their time instead of getting sucked into the trap of spending it with their former peers who are high performers and easy to hang around.

What about managing clients/partners … or even media? How does leading inside the box translate to external teams?

Again – a leader is a leader. I don’t care what the context is. Formal, informal, internal, external, for profit, not for profit. It doesn’t matter. If you’re leading a team, you need to understand how you’re allocating your time and energy and appreciate the “return” your getting on those investments in terms of team member results. The assessment is the same as are the recommended actions. Seeing how you interact with a member of your team and applying appropriate leadership techniques for that unique situation is what can set you apart as a more efficient and effective leader.

Lastly (we’re speaking to PR pros, after all!), what’s the most important PR lesson you’ve learned from writing/launching this book?

This time around I appreciate the importance and power of my platform much more. On my first book, One Piece of Paper, I had a solid platform and worked with a wonderful PR firm (their name is Geben… perhaps you’ve heard of them…). We got some great placements and word of mouth. This time around, my platform is much larger because it builds upon the success of that first book and the growth of my business, thoughtLEADERS, since then. We’ve been doing a great deal of outreach and the response and support we’re getting from my platform has been fantastic. I think this book is going to make a pretty big splash.

Mike Figliuolo is the co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results and the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. He’s the managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC – a leadership development training firm. He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog.

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