Leadership and Success

A discussion about the fundamentals of leadership and success.


Learning to Love “The Numbers” — One Key to Improving Your Margins

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

— Albert Einstein

A lot of businesses suffer because their owner-operators have a fear of numbers, a problem that is more common than assumed. This often leads to sloppy accounting practices that undermine profitability, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By dealing realistically with the “math phobia” that afflicts so many, a lot of struggling business owners can stop getting in their own way and begin to improve their margins. 

Understanding Reciprocity: Essential for Success in Business and Life

“Pay every debt, as if God wrote the bill.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Behavioral scientists have conducted extensive study of the “norm of reciprocity,” a social convention that governs exchanges between human beings. Its importance in various business functions (sales, leadership, teamwork, and bargaining) is often underestimated. Its workings are often subtle and nuanced, but its power cannot be overstated. It deserves our utmost respect and understanding.

Getting America Back in Touch with Reality: Essential for Economic Redevelopment

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” Walt Kelly

A quick review of the news makes it evident that America is currently facing both internal and external challenges that are unprecedented in the lifetimes of most of us, and innumerable polls indicate that Americans feel that we’re lacking the kind of leadership required to meet those challenges effectively. But by facing certain realities squarely, “we the people” can be the key to our own better future.

In and Age of Complexity and Rapid Change, Wisdom is More Important Than Ever

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

— Albert Einstein

In our technology driven information age, we’ve accepted that clinging to old ways of thinking and doing things can be detrimental to business success. But information technology used independently of the timeless and unchanging principles that define wisdom and integrity can breed as many business failures as successes.  In an age of complexity and rapid change, it’s important to remind ourselves of that reality.

Self-Defeating Behavior: Common (and Costly) in Business

“Sometimes you hit a point where you either change or self destruct.”

-Sam Stevens

 We all know of the antics of people such as Bernard Madoff, or Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling of Enron, who wrecked their own multibillion business concerns through behaviors that seemed bizarre to most of us. But these are just spectacular examples of a very common syndrome of self-destruction that affects businesses of all kinds. It’s more common than we think, and we should all be wary of it.

America’s Troubled Educational System: A Threat to Our Economic Future

“America is the best half educated country in the world.”  Nicholas M. Butler

Historically, education has been touted as the key to success in America, but for decades our educational system has been in decline in ways that range from the subtle, to the blatantly dysfunctional. In the meantime, the costs of education are skyrocketing. What follows is a discussion of the problems plaguing our institutions of learning, and some suggestions for how business leaders might help.

Improve Your Profit Margin by Using Your Time Wisely

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

John Wooden

Benjamin Franklin said, “time is money,” and spoke truth in doing so. But far too many businesses suffer because of the mismanagement of this invaluable resource. It’s the one thing that we can never replace and in an age of complexity, chaos, and competition for our attention, so we all need to be continually improving our use of it. The following discussion offers hope for devising means for doing exactly that.

Five Common Errors That Cost Sales and Harm Business

First Law on Holes: When you’re in one, stop digging!

Denis Healy

There’s no shortage of advice regarding new things we can do to improve our sales, but sometimes our problems are coming from things we need to STOP doing. Despite the current focus on positive thinking and affirmations, one problem that holds sales reps back is self-centeredness. When that’s the case, the quickest route to improvement is to face that fact, correct the habits associated with it, and move on.

Human Error in Business Systems: Costly and Pervasive, but Avoidable

“Error is a hardy plant; it flourishes in every soil.”

Martin F. Tupper

With the current emphasis on positive thinking and affirmations, people often overlook one of the biggest drains on profit margins— human error. Outside of engineering circles, it rarely gets discussed. But acknowledging, understanding, and incorporating the problem of human error into strategic planning processes can be very good for the bottom line, no matter what business you’re in.

Improve Your Profit Margin by Sharpening Up Your “Emotional Intelligence”

“All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.”  Bob Burg

Using hard data such as productivity and profit margins, psychologist and business specialist Dan Goleman has demonstrated the importance and power of “emotional intelligence” as a determinant of financial success. His work should not be confused with various fads that have ruined workplaces in the past. It’s serious business and should not be taken lightly.

Several Societal Trends That Threaten America's Future

“We have met the enemy, and he is us.”  Walt Kelly

Innumerable surveys and polls indicate that a large majority of Americans feel that our country is “going in the wrong direction,” and express deep concerns about our future.  Few however, are very specific about exactly what’s wrong, and are able to do little more than point fingers at “the government” as the major reason for their pessimism.  I think however, that we’d also better take a look at ourselves. 

Improving Your Sales Skills: Six Principles to Keep in Mind

This article is about sales, but its focus is on principles, not tactics. There is a difference, and it’s important. Tactics are scripted ruses that are intended to increase sales but usually don’t.  In contrast, principles are timeless and unchanging truisms regarding how people perceive, respond, and relate to one another. Successful sales professionals value principles— amateurs depend upon tactics.

Influence:  Science and Practice

The Ability to Listen: An Invaluable But Underdeveloped Business Tool

“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”

Bernard M. Baruch

The ability to communicate our ideas to others is essential for success in business. Less often discussed, however, but just as essential to effective communication is the ability to listen. As simple and obvious as this seems, it remains a major problem in business, underlying innumerable breakdowns and failures. Fortunately, the dysfunctions associated with this can be corrected by those who truly wish to.

Four Errors That Can Bring Down Any Business

“Error is a hardy plant; it flourishes in every soil.”

Martin F. Tupper

As a long-term analyst of business and industry, I’ve witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly in regard successes and failures in enterprise. Human beings are prone to error by nature, and successful entrepreneurs know this and are wary of their own fallibility. This knowledge and wariness are both invaluable tools for avoiding disaster in a competitive and rapidly changing economy.

The problem of human error

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