Which do you manage more closely: your personal finances or your business’ finances?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 220,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

Which do you manage more closely: your personal finances or your business’ finances?

  • I manage my personal finances much more rigorously: 29.7%
  • I pay much more attention to my business’ finances: 30.6%
  • I strike a good balance on managing both equally well: 36.1%
  • I don’t manage my personal or my business finances well: 3.5%

Money matters. Most of you report paying a lot of attention to business finances, but be careful that attention doesn’t come at the expense of your personal finances. If your own finances get messy because of mismanagement, it can cause issues with job performance. This isn’t only about making sure your checking account is full and retirement plan is maxed out. Take care of all aspects of your financial well-being. That includes protecting yourself from identity theft and fraud. Those two items alone can cause you problems when you go to get a job, move or get a loan. Protect your identity from theft, and manage your credit carefully. With all the high-profile security breaches of late, it’s probably a good idea to pay some attention to that part of your life.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."

How well are your people’s incentives aligned with your organization’s strategy?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 220,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How well are your people’s incentives aligned with your organization’s strategy?

  • Very well: there’s a clear link between strategy and incentives: 14.0%
  • Well: incentives are generally linked to strategy: 30.5%
  • Not well: it’s unclear how strategy is tied to incentives: 37.8%
  • Not at all: our incentives have nothing to do with our strategy: 17.7%

Incentives drive behavior. Behavior drives strategy. An alarming percentage of you report there’s no link between your strategy and your incentives. That’s a problem. People do what they get paid to do. If you want your strategy executed, you need to align incentives with achieving those strategic goals. The stronger the link between strategy and incentives, the more likely you are to drive behaviors consistent with your strategic direction. When you notice misalignment between incentives and strategy, drive clarity quickly. Involve your compensation and HR teams in the conversation when you set strategy. If you don’t, don’t be surprised when people are working on things that have nothing to do with your strategy.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."

When you take on a new role, how effective are you at quickly establishing trust with the team?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 220,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

When you take on a new role, how effective are you at quickly establishing trust with the team?

  • Very: I can build trust quickly: 58.8%
  • Somewhat: it takes me a little while to build trust: 37.6%
  • Not very: I struggle to build trust with the team: 2.8%
  • Not at all: I don’t know that they ever trust me: 0.8%

Building trust takes time and effort. Getting your team members to trust you needs to be a deliberate endeavor. If you leave it to chance, it’ll take a while to build that trust. The trust you build serves as both a foundation for the efficiency of your team and a way to improve loyalty and morale. There are plenty of great techniques for building trust. Find other leaders who do it well, and ask them how they’re doing it. I can almost guarantee it’s something they focus on and take action toward on a regular basis. The faster you build trust, the more you can empower your people and expect them to deliver great results.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."

Would you rather lead as a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 220,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

Would you rather lead as a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond?

  • I like leading as the big fish in a little pond: 48.7%
  • I like leading as a little fish in a big pond: 51.3%

Different ways to swim. It seems folks are very evenly split on preferring to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big one. Each has their benefits and drawbacks. For you big fish, the leadership challenge is making the pond bigger for the benefit of everyone. If you have a position of importance or power, think about how you can expand growth opportunities for everyone around you. For you little fish, consider focusing on your own development and growth. Explore more of that big pond and build your skills and perspectives as you do so. In both situations, it’s not really about your environment or your position in it – it’s about what you do with the opportunities presented to you.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."

How likely are you to lead a revolution when you see change that needs to happen?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 220,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How likely are you to lead a revolution when you see change that needs to happen?

  • Extremely: I’m the first one to call for big change: 18.4%
  • Very: I often take up new causes: 39.6%
  • Kind of: I’ll lead change but only if I’m really passionate about it: 39.0%
  • Not very: It would take a lot to get me to step forward: 2.8%
  • Not at all: I’ll always let others lead big change: 0.3%

Rebels with a cause. It’s encouraging to see 60% of you taking up causes you believe in. The question to ask is if your cause is having the desired effect. Does it pick up momentum and lead to real change, or does it tend to sputter out and be forgotten when you move on to the next cause? To have a real impact, nail down the core components of a revolution: find a big problem, find other people sick of the same problem, define the future state and galvanize the masses. If you’re going to take the risk of starting something, put the conditions in place to see it through.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."

How well do you remember to treat your team members like the individuals they are?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 220,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How well do you remember to treat your team members like the individuals they are?

  • Very – I treat everyone like an individual.: 70.1%
  • Mostly – sometimes I forget to treat them as individuals.: 27.9%
  • Not very – I often treat them like cogs in a machine.: 0.8%%
  • Not at all – I tend to treat them all the same.: 1.1%

No one wants to be a cog. The more you treat people like individuals, the more likely they are to commit to your leadership. One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is failing to understand this principle. It doesn’t take much to make someone feel like a cog in the machine. Common mistakes like referring to people by title or role rather than name can signal that you don’t see them as an individual. It’s these small daily behaviors that set the tone for how your people feel. Be aware of these habits and fix them if you find yourself making those mistakes. Diane, Kendall, Buddy, Elroy, and the rest of your team members will appreciate you knowing who they are as individuals.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."

Has your boss ever sabotaged your efforts to take on a new role?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 220,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

Has your boss ever sabotaged your efforts to take on a new role?

  • Absolutely. They ruined a good opportunity for me.: 49.6%
  • Maybe. They didn't support me the way they should have.: 28.3%
  • Never. They've always encouraged me to take new roles.: 22.1%

Talent hoarding is career sabotage. Unfortunately the majority of you report you’ve had a boss who has stymied your attempts to take on a new role. The likely reason behind it is talent hoarding on the part of that boss. If you’re a solid performer, they don’t want to go through the pain of losing you. That means they’ll sometimes go to unsavory ends to keep you around. If you’re worried about being sabotaged, a few simple techniques like getting a written reference and alleviating their concerns about your transition can help them get comfortable with your departure. If that doesn’t work, sometimes you just have to either confront them about it and make the leap for that new role. I also encourage you to ask if you’ve ever held back someone on your team and if so, how can you prevent that from happening in the future.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."

Which is more important: having a great technology to sell or a great operation that sells it?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 220,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

Which is more important: having a great technology to sell or a great operation that sells it?

  • It’s all about the tech. It’ll sell itself. :15.5%
  • Operations and execution is where it’s at.: 84.5%

The tech is the easy part. No matter how great your technology is, if you can’t sell it and execute your business plan, the tech is worthless. Ensure you invest appropriate time and energy in thinking through your operating model and managing execution. It’s much more important to get the basics right: define a strategy, hire the right people, sell like crazy, execute your plan and give up control to let the talented people you hire do their jobs. If you stay too focused on the tech, you’ll find you own 100% of a cool code base or product that no one uses.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."

Have you ever considered starting your own business?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 220,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

Have you ever considered starting your own business?

  • Yes, I’ve started my own business and currently run it : 24.6%
  • Yes, I’ve thought about it but never made the leap: 52.8%
  • No, I’ve never seriously considered starting a business: 22.5%

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. A long time ago I heard a quote that stated “an entrepreneur is the only person I know who’s willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” It’s not for the faint of heart. If you’re one of the 53% of people who have considered running your own business but haven’t made the leap, be sure to seek out real-world perspectives on what it takes to run your own firm. The challenges are numerous and you’ll be tested well beyond your expectations. That said, the rewards can be tremendous – ranging from control over your schedule, financial benefits, and job satisfaction. If you’re seriously considering taking the leap, an informed perspective can help you see how far you’ll really have to jump.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."

How important is it that training content be fully customized for your organization?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 220,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How important is it that training content be fully customized for your organization?

  • Not at all. It’s about the methods, not the customization: 56.1%
  • Not at all. It’s about the methods, not the customization: 25.3%
  • Very. We demand the majority of training be customized: 9.9%
  • It’s critical. We won’t conduct training unless it’s customized: 8.7%

Beware of Customization. The vast majority of you are looking for customization of your training. While this is absolutely true of technical training related to your business processes or industry-specific skills, beware of customizing all your training. As someone who’s offered training services on soft skills for well over a decade, I’ve seen the downside of customization. When you’re training people on core skills like leadership, communication, problem solving, decision making etc., if you customize the session with custom case studies and examples, two unhealthy dynamics occur. First, participants tell you everything that’s inaccurate in the example. Second, they focus on solving the example versus learning the method at hand. Those dynamics can ruin an otherwise productive training session. Avoid the temptation to customize everything. It’s not always a good idea, and in many cases it can defeat the purpose of conducting the training in the first place.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."