Skills for Success: The Experts Show the Way

In Skills for Success: The Experts Show the Way, the Soundview Editorial Staff summarizes the keys to achieving success in business and life. It is an oldie (1988), but it is well worth reviewing even today, 23 years later.

  • How to Get the Most from Yourself
  • You can be successful
    • Common Sense – to reduce one’s understanding of a complex problem to the simplest terms.
    • For achievers, the monetary measures of success lose their importance. But, the achievers continue to strive for a sense of personal worth and self-respect.
  • Set goals for yourself
    • Commit at least 30 minutes first thing every morning to a planning session when you will translate your long-range and intermediate goals into immediate goals.
    • Make a daily schedule, blocking out chunks of time to handle the most important items.
    • Positive Mental Attitude is composed of faith, optimism, hope, integrity, courage, generosity, tolerance, tact, kindness, and good sense.
  • Creativity: Open your Mind
    • Snap yourself into a creative mood by doing your thinking in a different location – airplane or driving home by a different route.
  • Listen and learn
    • To develop a team concept, you must listen constantly, share ideas and information, recognize achievement, and celebrate the small victories in day to day performance.
    • One of the best ways to get people to listen to you is to listen to them.
  • Effective speaking
    • In speaking, sum up in one sentence what message you want to leave with your audience. Tackle only 2 – 3 ideas in one speech.
  • Manage your reading
    • Read headlines and skim.
    • Read ideas and opinions that most others are not reading.
  • Make the best decisions
    • In decision making, it is almost always the decision-maker, and not the choice, that makes it work. So, decide only on those things that you are committed to seeing through to the end.
    • Decisiveness in decisions is vital. Make 80% of your decisions on the spot; 15% need to mature; 5% need not be made at all.
  • Manage your stress
    • To help defeat stress, consider 2 twenty minute a day times of “meditation” or “restful alertness.”
  • Avoid Burnout
    • Managers should provide adequate feedback, support, etc. to help employees avoid burnout.
  • How to Make the Most of Your Career
    • Get organized
      • Cut down on business reading – learn to skim.
      • Attend only the most important meetings.
      • Prioritization – “Is this the most important thing I could be doing right now?”
      • Daily To Do list.
      • Learn to say “No”
        • “I’m willing to put in the additional hours of work, but which of these items would you like me to postpone so that I can do what you have just given me to do?”
      • Help your staff become more independent.
        • Before they bring you a problem, have them write out the problem, suggest three possible solutions, and identify the best solution of the three.
    • Evaluate your daily activities against your long term goals.
      • Schedule those top priority tasks during your “personal prime time.”
      • Schedule appointments and meetings into a block of time.
      • Stop procrastinating – the dirty little secret is that most tasks do not take very long to do.
    • The Phone and E-Mail – Friend or Foe?
      • Cut Back the Paperwork
        • TRAF Paperwork or E-Mails – Toss it away, Refer it to someone else, Act on it, File it.
        • Ask yourself – what is the worst thing that could happen to me if I tossed this out?
        • Cut your production – see if a report is needed; delay distributing it and see what happens.
        • Ask employees for “exception” reporting.
        • Conclusion: the job of eliminating unnecessary reports falls to senior managers.
    • Communicate
      • Rapport, the business of building a sense of faith or trust in the other party, is the most important part of any interaction.
      • Communicate in plain talk.
      • You are on stage.
        • Self-market with class and honesty
    • Skills for the future
      • Creative Insight – asking the right questions.
      • Sensitivity – doing unto others.
      • Vision – creating the future.
      • Versatility – anticipating change.
        • Change is unavoidable; there is no point in resisting it
      • Focus – implementing change.
      • Patience – living in the long term.
        • Move away from the emphasis on short term returns on investment and fast track careers


  • How to Get the Most from Other People

    • Hire the Right People
      • The only way to get anyone to do anything is to make the other person want to do it.
      • In short, when you have a brilliant idea, let others cook and stir it themselves.
      • Hire the right people.
      • Do not hire anyone until everybody is overworked. That way your people will welcome the newcomer no matter whom.
      • Promote from within whenever possible.
      • But, fresh blood with new and different ideas can be crucial, especially if the organization is stagnant.
    • Firing
      • It must be done.
      • The most difficult of all is firing the person who works hard, who is doing the best he or she can, but whose confidence in himself far outstrips his abilities.
    • Motivation: It is Up to You
      • People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference to them to do so.
      • Managers focus on the 20% of the time when workers are performing under par and allow the time that they work well to go unnoticed.
        • Big mistake.
        • Good productive behavior that goes unnoticed tends to decrease over time.
      • Remember: at all levels, each of us needs to have some kind of start to finish responsibility that keeps him from feeling like a cog in some vast, impersonal machine.
      • Praise the sales force and overinvest in dollars and people for your front line sales, service, and distribution people and those who support them.
    • Give Valuable Feedback
      • Deliver feedback in a matter of fact manner with little or no emotion.
      • Have an employee development programs that allow the individual to build job, leadership, or personal skills help keep workers sharp.
    • Improve your Delegating Skills
      • The most common reason for failure to delegate is deep seated insecurity.
      • Delegate for results. The key is accountability. Set standards and make sure staffers know they are responsible for meeting those standards.
        • For example, do not re-write poor work. Return it with comments and the demand for a better job.
      • There is no more powerful demonstration of trust and respect than the delegated decision.
      • Slowly reduce supervision.
      • Don’t harp on errors. Those making them usually know it. Instead, give them a chance to correct them.
      • Wise managers reward exceptional performance with exceptional salary increases, promote individuals who consistently perform well, and frequently thank everyone whose efforts they appreciate.


  • Negotiate to Win

    • In negotiation, you may encounter opponents who won’t budge from their positions. Don’t push back. Silence is your best weapon.
    • Negotiation is communication. Don’t confuse the main issues by heaping on irrelevant factors.
    • Start a negotiation by getting the other person to answer this question:
      • “Look, if you could write the script for the deal that you want, what would you want?”


  • Make Meetings Worthwhile

    • Many reasons for poor meetings (in order)
      • Get off the subject
      • No goals or agenda
      • Too long
      • Poor preparation
      • Inconclusive
      • Disorganized
      • Ineffective leadership / lack of control


  • Leadership – The Real Test

    • Leadership is the ability to inspire other people to work together as a team, following your lead in order to attain a common objective.
    • The ability to lead is acquired through the experience of everyday life.
    • Five leadership styles
      • Tell – Based on my decision, here is what I want you to do.
      • Sell – Based on my decision, here is what I want you to do because…
      • Consult – Before I make a decision, I want your input.
      • Participate – We need to make a decision together.
      • Delegate – You make a decision.
    • “He that gives good advice builds with one hand. He that gives good counsel and example builds with both. But he that gives good admonition and bad example builds with one hand and pulls down with the other.” Francis Bacon
    • Beware the Ivory Tower Syndrome – the farther an executive moves from the root of the business, the harder it is to keep up with what is happening in the business.
    • Leaders should maintain contact with the front-lines and with customers.
      • This allows for truthful information gathering unhindered by the filters (and personal agendas) of the different layers of management.
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About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
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