SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 190,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

Where does the biggest threat to your organization come from?

  • From within — we’re our own worst enemies: 76.82%
  • From the outside — the market is our biggest threat 23.18%

Why is this so hard? It’s surprising and discouraging how many of you feel like the biggest threat to your organization’s success comes from within. 77% is a staggering number. Remember – change can start with you. Spend some time identifying the biggest roadblocks (politics, personalities, decision making approaches, bureaucracy) and resolve to fix some part of that – even a small one – every week. Enlist others to do the same. Change is slow and painful but 77% of you being in your own way hurts even more.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS, author of “Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results” and “One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership.” (read more…)

‘The Leadership Challenge” by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner shared the findings of extensive research that surveyed thousands of people asking, “What values, personal traits, or characteristics do you look for and admire in a leader?”

After further empirical analysis, they reduced the results to a list of 20 characteristics and surveyed more than 75,000 people around the world. The survey began in the 1980s and was repeated every five years over six continents, concluding in 2007. Would it surprise you to learn that over the entire research period, only four of the characteristics nearly always received over 60% of votes and were consistently ranked at the top across different countries?

Those four characteristics were:

  • Honest
  • Forward-looking
  • Inspiring
  • Competent

I believe that brilliant piece of research also summarizes perfectly exactly what people want the world over from leaders each time they speak.

Having spent over 20 years leading from the front in executive positions, the one thing I am clear about above all else is that that when leaders fail to communicate they fail to lead. (read more…)

Diversity in company culture makes organizations better, period. Studies and feedback on some of the top work environments support this, and companies with any interests in achieving an optimal company culture are working hard to diversify their employee population.

Sometimes, in all of the effort to reach a peak ratio or makeup of people, the actual definition of diversity gets lost. Because really, what is diversity? Diversity is a unique, case-by-case term that has a varied meaning in different organizations.

Wrong definition

When the term diversity is mentioned, the common immediate reaction is to subconsciously think of some sort of stereotype. We have been programmed to associate diversity with race, ethnicity and gender, all while having lost site of the true value of being diverse. I managed a diversity hiring project for a mid-size healthcare company once where white males were the minority and therefore sought for diversity. Not typically what is top of mind when you hear the word diversity. (read more…)

Anyone who is seeking to persuade, negotiate, or sell something is wise to learn the art of the sound bite.

Good sound bites are brief, pithy statements that sum up what you are trying to say. Short, sweet and to the point.

Proficient users of sound bites are attuned to their usage. This comes from being well read. Keep up with the issues but also read for pleasure.

The purpose of sound bites is simple — help people remember what you said and why you said it. When concise and colorful they reflect the speaker’s personality and amplify the message.

John Baldoni is chair of leadership development at N2Growth, is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2014, Trust Across America named him to its list of top 100 most trustworthy business experts. Also in 2014, Inc.com named Baldoni to its list of top 100 leadership experts, and Global Gurus ranked him No. (read more…)

Catch them doing something right.

In today’s busy work environment, we’re all wearing multiple hats and moving at the speed of sound. It’s easy to get caught up in the web of customer demands, staff workload and the drama that occurs when things go wrong. Deadlines missed, customer complaints, quality of work issues… it seems commonplace to follow-up on an issue when something goes wrong with an employee, but how often do we catch our people doing something, right?

If you know the three practical secrets of managers who effectively use techniques from “The New One Minute Manager,” you will experience real results with a more effective workforce and increased productivity – which spells profitability for your organization. Out this week, “The New One Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, M.D., has been updated for a new generation, and is an easily read story that reveals three very practical secrets:

  • One-minute goals
  • One-minute praisings
  • One-minute reprimands

When effectively managing a team, it’s important to understand what success looks like and that’s why setting up goals is a vital step. (read more…)