David E. Nielson: How Business Leaders Produce Conscious Success


Early in my career as the Director of Organization Development (OD) for the Coors Brewing Co., I experienced some training in the quality methods of W. Edwards Deming, the famous quality guru.  One key concept from that training really had an impact on me.  It was the basic principle that; the success or failure of any process can be absolutely determined in the first 18% of that process.  That notion stayed with me for many years in my OD career and owning and operating my own management consultancy.  As I worked with many organizations and coached many business leaders, I would find that as we focused on problem solving and continuous improvement, repeatedly the source of major issues, did indeed exist in the very early stages of a process or the history of the problem.  Just like preparing a fabulous meal, starting out with the proper ingredients is a critical beginning.


Leadership IQ, founded by author Mark Murphy, recently conducted a study which revealed that 46% of newly hired employees fail within 18 months and only 19% will achieve unequivocal success.


Interestingly, the failures are not due to lack of technical skills.  Instead, poor interpersonal skills dominate the list.  The study finds that 26% of new hires fail because they cannot accept feedback, 23% because they’re unable to understand and manage emotions, and the list goes on to highlight other causes of failure.  Only 11% failed because they lack the necessary technical skills.


It saddens me to see these results.  I believe that all of us can inherently be business leaders since leadership is essentially about influence.  I believe business leaders; especially those starting their careers, can benefit by having a bit of a roadmap to address that first 18%.


Part of my motivation in writing about the 9 Dimensions was realizing that whilst I had been successful, many of the lessons about which I write were a result of trial and error.  I have always thought there is a better way.


After about 30 years of consulting to organizations and coaching others, I found myself motivated to pass on, particularly younger folks starting their careers, some of the things I had learned – often the hard way. I wanted to give back.


So, I wrote and published, “The 9 Dimensions of Conscious Success, It’s All About YOU!”.  Based on my experience and my research in writing the book, I identified nine key elements which will ultimately enhance the effectiveness and success of anyone beginning their career.



In the model below, you can see the nine dimensions are broken into two categories we call foundational elements and differentiators.  I think they are easier to remember if you think of

3 + 6 – 3 foundational elements – Purpose, Self-Awareness, Social Awareness – plus6 Differentiators – Authenticity, Work Ethic and Personal Responsibility, Listening, Articulation, Humor and Gratitude.


Start at the middle of the model and work outward.




Mark Twain famously said, “the two most important days of your life are the day you’re born and the day you figure out why.” The starting point, then, is trying to determine your purpose.  We provide guidelines in the book for gaining clarity and writing your own personal purpose statement.


Moving outward from purpose we then focus on Self Awareness and Social Awareness, two critical pieces of emotional intelligence which can position anyone for better interpersonal connections.


After establishing the foundation, the Differentiators zero in on the 6 things our research revealed will really set you apart from others in being an effective business leader.  The research narrowed the focus from a possible 20 or so success factors to: authenticity, work ethic and personal responsibility, listening, articulation, humor and gratitude.  You can see that for many of these we are addressing observable behaviors. Let me focus here on just a couple.


George Bernard Shaw said; “Be yourself, everyone else is taken!”   Authenticity seems so obvious and simple.  In my work with individuals and groups, it is startling how easy it is for folks to quickly identify people they encounter who are not authentic.  In the book we address why people try to be what they are not, and the price paid for same.  We provide some tools for addressing this important dynamic.


The second differentiator we will address is work ethic and personal responsibility. Any definition related to being an effective business leader would undoubtedly include hard work, and we provide a simple 4-step process for demonstrating a good work ethic.  Combined with work ethic is the very important element of personal responsibility. We introduce the model of 100% Responsibility which is a model for eliminating blaming and justifying non-results, so business leaders can truly produce more results in life.


Again, to really apply and benefit from the dimensions, the focus is on the first 18% of someone starting their career. Any business leader can be successful with a basic model or roadmap for starting out.   It’s important to note that most of what we emphasize in the book correlates closely with the research from Leadership IQ.  The foundation of interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence is critical.  How one “shows up” in life is frequently more important than technical qualifications.  The ability of individuals to effectively connect interpersonally is really key.  This is so important as more and more organizations realize the benefits of collaboration in producing solid business results.


So, hopefully business leaders can see there is a better way than trial and error to chart their path to success.  All of us can define our own success and with a basic roadmap we can get to our destination with greater effectiveness and less pain.



By David E. Nielson


About David E. Nielson


David E. Nielson is a management consultant, leadership coach, keynote speaker, and author of The 9 Dimensions of Conscious Success. For more info about the book and related products, including workshops and the Personal Assessment, please visit www.DavidENielson.com.      

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