Interview with Mike Figliuolo of thoughtLEADERS LLC

Today, I have the opportunity to interview Mike Figliuolo (@thoughtLEADERS) Managing Director of thoughtLEADERS LLC.  Mike was recently named the Columbus, Ohio Small Business Leader of the Year for 2010 and just released One Piece of Paper, The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership

Henry – Mike, thanks for doing this interview.  Could you share a bit about your business, focus and practice?

Mike Figliuolo | Lead Change GroupFigliuolo - thoughtLEADERS is a leadership development training firm.  We’re different because all our instructors are practitioners of what we teach.  No one is a career trainer – we work in companies large and small and apply the methods we teach every day.  We work primarily with Fortune 500 companies and teach courses on leadership, communication, decision making, problem solving, innovation, strategy, and other critical business skills.  We work at all levels of the organization from individual contributors (analysts, project managers, etc.) up to the C-suite.  Our clients cut across industries and functions – healthcare, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, financial services, manufacturing, etc.

Henry – What made you decide to take thoughtLEADERS in the direction you did?

Figliuolo - We build our business based on our client needs.  We create new courses when we identify a problem that several of our clients have.  Over time, that approach has dictated which courses we should deliver and what kind of instructor to add to our team.  It’s a constantly evolving process for us and we’ve found that taking the approach of “client first” with a dash of pragmatism has driven great partnerships with our clients and classroom participants.

Henry – Where did the idea for One Piece of Paper come from?

Figliuolo - The book is based on our Leadership Maxims training course that I’ve taught for several years.  The course is designed to help leaders articulate and clarify their personal leadership philosophy.  The leaders clarity removes uncertainty about how a leader will act and it gives the team clarity.  Team clarity forms the foundation of trust between the leader and the led.  The book was born from that method.  Essentially One Piece of Paper takes the classroom method, expands upon it, and makes it accessible to any reader such that the reader can articulate their own leadership philosophy by following the method outlined in the book.

If you follow the method outlined in One Piece of Paper, you’ll have a better sense of who you are and who you want to be as a leader.  You’ll set your own personal rules of conduct and behavior and do so through a set of easy-to-remember maxims (rules).  When you do this, you’ll achieve the authenticity so many leaders seek because the method in One Piece of Paper is inherently about sharing your personal story and how it impacts the way you want to lead.  You’ll find that after articulating your leadership philosophy and sharing it with your team the bonds of trust and clear expectations will improve both your performance and the performance of members of your team.

Henry – What’s the purpose or importance of the maxims?  Why not just write out your story and remember that?

Figliuolo - Think of a maxim as a trigger.  When you hear that phrase, image, lyric or quote, it should evoke the story in your mind and in your gut.  It’s not practical to walk around with a sixteen-page document that lists out and explains all your stories.  People won’t read it (nor will you).  If instead you have a single page you can tack up on your wall and those short quotes/sayings/images on that page can remind you of your stories, you’re much more likely to use your leadership philosophy more regularly.  It is that regularity that will ultimately lead to behavior change.

Henry – We also have several would-be authors who check in here from time to time.  Any advice on writing a book you’d care to share?

Figliuolo - If you’re thinking about writing a book, first realize you need to do it because you love it – not because you want to make a lot of money.  Writing is a labor of love.  You must also be open to very critical feedback and guidance.  Sometimes it’s hard to let go of something you believe to be right but in doing so, you’ll find you end up with a much better product.  If you’re wondering whether to self-publish or work with a publisher, I’d advise seeking out the latter.  The feedback and assistance I received in crystallizing my ideas and presenting them in a compelling way was the most powerful part of the process (and that’s something you won’t necessarily get with self-publishing).

Thanks Mike for sharing your time and this information with us.  Please take a minute and connect with Mike Figliuolo at The thoughtLEADERS LLC website or @thoughtLEADERS on Twitter and also check out One Piece of Paper, The simple approach to powerful, personal leadership.