S4E9. How to be Persuasive, Not Abrasive with Russ Riddle

Do you cringe when you hear the word ‘negotiation?’

Russ Riddle is known as the Anomaly at Law because he’s down to earth, clearly communicates, and lavishes others with levity. He has practiced marriage for 37 years, law for 29, fatherhood for 28, and braved adventures as a juvenile probation officer and professional speaker. His love of levity stems in part from an intellectual property law practice that has served such clients as Barney, Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine, and the voices of Jimmy Neutron and Larry the Cucumber.

As a lawyer Russ is no stranger to negotiation. Early in his career there came a time where he was set to negotiate with an attorney from San Francisco. His expectation was that some high brow attorney was going to assume he had a horse hitched outside and treat him condescendingly, but it didn’t turn out that way at all. He was all smiles, and that’s how Russ decided to respond: with a smile of his own. Negotiations are all about give and take, but by the end of it, Russ had negotiated most of what he wanted and the other man was still happy about it.

Negotiation used to be treated as a win-win endeavor. Somewhere along the way, the mindset around it changed — people now want to “win” a negotiation. But a successful negotiation develops the best outcome possible for both parties. A negotiation also involves two people, so if you enter a negotiation and the other party starts taking personal shots at you because they have a “win-lose” personality, the first thing you need to do is avoid reacting. Try talking them down, but if they keep escalating, especially if it gets overly personal, it is perfectly acceptable to dismiss the negotiation at that time. It’s important that — even though you’re being disrespected — you still do this with respect to them.

To become a better negotiator, you have to always continue learning. Learn everything you can about the difference between persuasion and manipulation, and how to avoid coming across as abrasive. Most of all, remember that negotiation is not personal. Negotiation is not about attacking you as a person, it’s about both people trying to get a result.

If Russ could sum up his negotiation advice in one sentence, it would be: “Respond, don’t react.” Keep calm. Treat the other person as human. Wear a smile. You won’t always get everything you want, that’s true, but negotiating doesn’t have to be painful when you’re both trying to make each other happy.


S4E8. Financial Leadership

Why is it that CFOs so often struggle to be understood?

First, CFOs speak in the foreign language of accounting. If they are not able to translate accounting jargon into English, then the people they work for will not understand the significance of what they are saying. Second, accounting has an image problem for non-accountants. It’s an image full of pages of mind-numbing numbers that make no sense, leading to ‘listener shut-down’ and creating a phenomenon that, in turn, leads to lack of accounting acumen within your organization.

What is the antidote to this mind-numbing issue? Leadership.

The best and most effective leaders have a good working knowledge of the company’s financial health, and their decision-making process is established in the financial truths of the organization. Armed with this accounting acumen, the effective leader can influence decision-making by conveying the tactical connection between the mission statement and the financial statements. 

To have a better understanding of the company’s financial health is to achieve a healthy business acumen. Business acumen is built on a foundation of accounting acumen, plus financial acumen, and every leader should strive for this excellence.

I hear stories all the time from CFO’s about how the sales team needs to grow their business by 25%, and yet, in the process, lose 15% in profits. In my interview with Ken “Mr. Biz” Wentworth, he calls this phenonium ‘the silent killer’ to all businesses. The silent killer of a business is not understanding the fundamentals of accounting and finance. We need this understanding and knowledge to make more informed, smarter, and more profitable decisions. If you understand accounting, you can understand finance. If you understand finance, you can understand your business.

We need to teach accounting and finance to non-financial leaders in a different way. We are not trying to turn them into accountants, but rather into leaders with financial acumen. We want to help them gain access to critical knowledge in a manner that removes the complexity of accounting/financial jargon and teaches in plain English.

When you switch the accounting and financial light bulb on and include it as part of leadership development, your leaders will make better business decisions because their business acumen has been fully achieved.

If you would like to learn more about the Color Accounting process, please contact me at peter@petermargaritis.com.


S4E7. Choose Respect Over Drama with Lauren Schieffer

Do you want to dump the drama, increase production, and lift morale? Do you want to have more engaged employees or members? How well do you handle conflict within your organization? Are you and your team having respectful communication with each other?

Lauren Schieffer can address all of those questions and more. She’s the daughter of an Air Force officer, and she grew up being uprooted and relocated every couple of years. This experience imbued her with profound independence and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. The lessons she learned from growing up have helped her make smart decisions and overcome adversity with humility and a sense of humor.

Lauren has navigated just about every aspect of corporate America in her varied career. From trucking to achieving top-tier Sales Director status for a global direct-sales cosmetics firm, to managing a nonprofit foundation. In her speaking career, she’s presented across the world to multiple organizations, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies to improve their communication effectiveness and reduce unnecessary conflict. Organizations and associations that hire Lauren find that their employees treat each other better, communicate more effectively — and respectfully, spend less time dealing with drama, and have a more unified focus.

As a leader, how do you disrupt the drama within your team or peer group? The best solution is always going to be prevention. If we are creating workspaces that do not lend themselves to drama, we can go a long way in preventing drama.

When you are in a leadership position, you cannot be conflict-avoidant. If you cannot prevent it, you have to face it head-on. If a leader isn’t confident in handling conflict, they leave that burden on their employees — and the outcome is going to be far worse than if management got involved.

If there was one thing you could apply every day, it would be to wake up and solidify two things for yourself: That you have value because you exist, and are therefore worthy of merit. And two, make a choice to treat people with respect regardless of what they think, say, or do. This does not diminish your value as a human being, it solidifies it. If everyone would embody these two things, the world would be a better place.


S4E6. Six Stress Busters That Work

What makes us happy? Happiness could be walking on the beach, spending time with friends and family, traveling, attending a sporting event, meeting colleagues at a conference, or going out to your favorite restaurant. And what makes us the opposite of happy? Stress!

Stress is part of our everyday lives, and it can come from so many sources: the daily frustrations of life, our jobs, our relationships, or just the ubiquitous challenges of living through a global pandemic.

But stress isn’t always bad – it can motivate us into action. And even in those situations that might initially seem like the negative kind of stress, you have the power to turn it into something positive. And I have found that having an improvisor’s mindset can help you take on the stress that comes with your job, family, and just the day-to-day responsibilities of life.


Some of the greatest comedies revolve around communication – or the lack thereof. With classics like Birdcage, Caddyshack, and Airplane, these movies are full of comedic sequences based on confusion. This confusion turns into the frustration that the characters feel and express, causing us to laugh as an audience. Why? Because we know better, and it’s funny when you’re not the one experiencing it! The problem is confusion, and lack of communication exists in our lives and our work every day. Adapting to the new normal of Zoom meetings, virtual learning, and a large remote workforce adds to the confusion. And when we’re the ones experiencing it, it’s not that funny.

Paying attention to improving our communication skills can reduce our stress and the stress of others. When people feel disrespected or discounted, stress intensifies. When they feel unheard, they shut down or respond with cynicism, distrust, or anger — and the situation becomes exponentially worse. Effective communication validates and motivates.


Being aware of your environment can help you control your involvement in whatever situation you are in. When you assess your surroundings, those around you, the actual location, yourself, your team, etc., that awareness will help you develop confidence and overcome the stress. Another way of looking at awareness is to examine how well developed your emotional intelligence is. Emotional intelligence is defined in Oxford Languages as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” Being self-aware of our emotions, socially aware of those around us, and having the ability to manage our emotions, helps build relationships and ease our levels of stress.

Awareness is the bridge between communication and adaptability. Awareness goes hand in hand with being a better listener and communicator, which results in adapting to situations quicker and more effectively.

Do you know what else can help you be more aware and stress-free? Being prepared. The more you understand the environment and variables in the environment you may be going into, or are frequently in, the more comfortable you’ll be focusing on what is happening at the moment. Without preparation, you’re more concerned about your anxieties – including not being prepared! You can’t foresee the unexpected, but you can be ready for it with preparation and the confidence it brings – allowing you to be more aware of changing dynamics.


Adaptability is improv. Many things in life can be stressful, but we can “go with the flow.” It takes flexibility and confidence to address change head-on – and let’s face it, things are always changing.

There’s a game I give audiences in my seminars to exercise adaptability

  • I begin by asking three volunteers to sit up front and face the audience.
  • Together, these people are Dr. Know-It-All, and can answer any question — but just one word at a time.
  • Inevitably, each volunteer has formed some plan – or agenda – in their mind for how they want to answer. However, when the player before them doesn’t say something that fits their agenda, they get flustered and have to scramble for a response.

That’s what happens in life – we come up with scripts or ideas before the person has even finished or started. Why? We don’t want to look dumb. And yet, we don’t respond appropriately with our scripted responses because we’re not really paying attention to the person and therefore unable to adapt based on what was said. When you start to focus, you can adapt and reduce your stress at the same time.


There is a vast difference between “I will do the best I can” and “This is going to fail.” If you adopt a better attitude — one that doesn’t broadcast defeat — you might find that you are doing pretty well. No matter your stress source, your success at overcoming stress depends on your ability to perceive things positively. You either can see your situation as a challenge and make the most of it, or you can succumb to it and let the stress win.

One of the most significant ways to achieve the kind of attitude that will yield success is learning to shift your perspective from “yes, but…” to “yes, and…”. “But” stops a thought in its tracks and introduces something else. “And” connects an additional idea to be considered jointly. Even if you don’t ultimately agree on what’s being proposed, you’re at least allowing for the possibility of something happening — thereby showing respect and support for your associate.

It works when talking to your inner critic as well! Doing this small yet significant shift in language promotes positive attitudes from all and encourages an atmosphere of acceptance and possibilities, not rejection and defeat. As a result, the workplace culture thrives.


“Don’t panic.” If you ever hear someone say that it’s almost a trigger to go ahead and start panicking. You don’t have to, though – it certainly won’t help you. When you’re staring chaos in the face, you must refuse to tell yourself that you can’t do it. The fact is, you can – and awareness, adaptability, communication, all the improvisational techniques, help you operate clearly without panicking. You’ll always know you can figure a way out.

A big part of staying calm in chaotic moments is learning to manage your inner critic. We’re all familiar with it, the voice that tells you you’re not good enough, not smart enough, that you shouldn’t be here. What can you do?

You have to change the lines and start programming your brain to use “yes, and…” instead of “yes, but…”. When you do, you develop confidence. You tell yourself, “I can do this,” and the more times you repeat it, the more you will believe it. Here are a few examples of how to incorporate this line of thinking: “Yes, I know I will make mistakes, and they will not hamper me. Yes, I will not be perfect, and that means I can only get better.”


So many workplaces seem devoid of humor. I often ask my audiences, “When was the last time your coworkers burst out into laughter, and it wasn’t at your expense?” The answer depends on your culture and your colleagues. A regular dose of laughter, however, reduces stress, and it’s desirable. A Forbes article by Jacquelyn Smith validates the importance of humor: “A Robert Half International survey, for instance, found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement; while 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job. Another study by Bell Leadership Institute found that leaders’ two most desirable traits were a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor.”

A regular dose of laughter reduces stress – it is the best medicine. It loosens us up and bolsters the immune system. Stress, on the other hand, can get us sick, causing productivity to plummet. So, start laughing and get your coworkers to chuckle as well.

Whether your stress in life results from a physical condition, a family member, or your workplace demands, so much of your success in overcoming these challenges depends on your ability to perceive things positively. Either you win, or you let the stress win. Choose to beat it with improvisation.

If you want to learn more about how you and your team can manage their stress during uncertain times, please contact me at peter@petermargaritis.com.


S4E5. Illuminating Women’s Financial Wellness with Heather Ettinger

Heather Ettinger is the author of “Lumination: Shining a Light on A Woman’s Journey to Financial Wellness.” As a champion for women and girls for over 30 years, Heather is widely recognized for her dedication to helping women build their financial acumen and wealth, culminating in the founding of Luma Wealth Advisors in 2017. She specializes in helping clients align their resources around their family values to create impact in their communities — shattering old-school beliefs about women and finances in the process. 

Heather wanted to educate and empower women, arming them with the information and confidence they need to be agents of social change. She learned in this process that the way we were teaching women wasn’t working. They do not learn best by being told what to do, but from anecdotes and stories, and by having a framework to think about what money means to them.

Heather begins teaching women by showing them how much power they have. Women make 80% of the purchasing decisions and control the majority of wealth in this country. She also invites women to reflect on their own money history and the different role models or influences on them. Then she brings them to understand their own health and wellness and what gives or takes energy. She would then have you assess these six areas of life: job purpose, relationships, community, health, spirituality, and play. You would then build your own illumination plan on how to move forward.

Her book, “Lumination: Shining a Light on A Woman’s Journey to Financial Wellness.” is a great way to reframe your thought process around finances and learn how to take ownership of that part of your life.

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