Company Culture – What is it?

There is a lot of discussion about company culture these days.  Often the articles focus on the success of giant multinational corporations and their seeming success in having great work place cultures.  On occasion there is focus on these same gigantic companies and their failures in having a functioning and articulated company culture.

Whether praising or decrying a company culture the proposed solutions focus on adapting what worked someplace else to your own workplace.  On the surface that may seem like a reasonable idea.  It is not.

Company culture is dependent on the people who are part of the workplace.  It may start out as an informal set of guidelines that employees at all levels align with it.  Or it may be a more formalized approach setting out the parameters for the tolerance of risk and out of the box thinking.

Your company may have an atmosphere of casual dress, a games room, onsite child care, or well stocked kitchens accessible to all employees at no cost.  These are not cultural features.

Culture is deeper – it is what has formed over time and is based on surviving downturns, upturns and everything in between.   Shared assumptions leading to shared values, and historic data along with people who are rooted in the experience of sharing that data, are company culture foundations.

What is your experience and perception of a finely tuned company culture that employees chose to be a part of?

Let me know – I am genuinely interested.

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Business Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at

Saying “No” is Powerful

As difficult as it seems to be saying “no” is an essential business skill.  The value of declining opportunities, invitations, and even clients is an invaluable asset to anyone.  It is especially valuable in solo or small business.

  1. Saying no garners respect.

When working for and with others I have learned that declining people is powerful.  For example it is powerful to let people know when they have not been successful in terms of a promotion or hiring process.  The person receiving the no has often thanked me for being transparent with them in providing feedback.  These same people have often stayed in touch and have utilized my services in other areas.  To me that indicates a respect for the work done and for me as a person.

  1. Declining opportunities frees up your time.

I have worked with a number of people who say yes to something and then spend their time complaining about the increased workload.  When presented with an opportunity that you think you may want – think it over carefully before you accept.  It may not be what you want at this point in your life.  At the same token it may have been appealing at one period and now it is not.  Saying no to something that you no longer have an interest in frees up your time and energy for a project that does.  Give yourself the permission to say no and reap the reward of time for what fits for you to show up.

  1. Regretting part of social work related invitation may be to your benefit.

At one time or another each of us has accepted a social work based invitation that has been frustrating at best.  It has been my experience as a manager at social events involving those that I work for and those who report to me that not everyone is on their best behavior.  Interacting with a co-worker or colleague who is incapacitated or angry at a social function is less than desirable.   For myself I make it a practice to show up for a brief period including the forma portion of the event.  After that making my regrets and leaving is a priority.  The people I work with know me professionally and by departing early my integrity is upheld.

Learning to say no is a powerful game changer in life and in business.  It has certainly served me and my clients well.

Need more clarity – contact me to discuss.

Business Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at


Grit and the Art of Staying with It

At work and home most of us lead fast paced lives that require a certain level of commitment. For myself before the day is complete at the office or on an assignment I need to spend 10 minutes at least prioritizing the areas that need to be addressed the next day. That gives me a sense of completion. It allows me to be able to move from work mode to home mode. At home there are inevitably several areas that require and need my attention. I use the same practice of writing down the areas that need to be addressed the next day just before getting ready for a good night’s sleep. In my experience being well rested is crucial to maintain the pace of life and my physical well-being.

Grit is that determination and passion that fuels me through the rough spots or the maze of a work and home day. Having grit is really the art of staying with something to have it come to fruition. Staying the course in the midst of a change management process has brought the importance of grit home to me. Giving in to circumstances that do not align with the project and the expressed purpose of the change does not serve.

When challenged or confronted by difficult circumstances or people I rely on grit to kick in and carry me through.  The truth is that it has done so whatever the challenge has been.

Where does grit show up for you?

Body Language Impacts Listening Skills

I am constantly reminded of the importance of body language in listening.  Pay attention to what your body is doing to improve your overall communication skills.

  1. Leaning Back

Leaning back signals that you are disinterested and day dreamy

  1. Slouching

Having your body slouch has the appearance of lethargy or lack of energy.

  1. Crossing Your Arms (Or Legs)

Crossing your arms has you appear closed off or unwilling to cooperate.   Crossing your legs can be interpreted similarly so be aware if your legs are visible not to sit with crossed legs.

  1. Feet Point Away

Your feet point to where you want to go. When someone is listening intently to another person, his or her feet will point towards them.

  1. Turning Away

Your body will point to where it is focused.  To make a strong impression, move your body slightly to angle toward whoever is speaking during a meeting.

The shifts you make in body language may or may not be noticed.  Making the shifts will have others think you are a great listener.  Having that realization even at an unconscious level is worth the effort of paying attention to your body language.

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Business Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at

Influencing Tools – Which Ones Do You Use?

Whatever your organization or business the skill of influencing others is becoming increasingly important.  The effective use of influence provides opportunities for increased communication, collaboration, innovation and desired results.

Aspects of influence include

  1. Empathy:

Think more of “What’s in it for them” and less of “What’s in it for me.”

  1. Intent

Define how your desired outcome will benefit the other person, your organization and yourself.

  1. Reciprocity

Give as much as you take.

In business, understanding human behaviour and how the people you are working with will act, or react, in certain circumstances is essential.  That is where developing the above skills will serve you well.

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Business Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at


The Best Way to Listen

In a recent article Steve Johnson cites some research done on listening and the best way to do so that actually provides the listener with a surprisingly accurate take on the emotions of the person(s) you are listening to.  The best way to listen and increase you accuracy of reading people’s emotions – close your eyes while listening.  Yes that is the key.  Keeping your eyes closed provides an accurate read of the emotions of those you are listening to.

When I think about it the result is not that startling.  Much of the work I do is over the phone.  My perception of the emotions of others is quite accurate.  When listening without the benefit of seeing the other person your other senses kick in.  Equally important you are not distracted by the visuals around you.

Now I am not recommending that you keep your eyes closed when in communication with someone.  I am suggesting that you give yourself the opportunity to converse with others over the phone or where you have fewer distractions and discover how your listening processes improve.

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Business Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at

Conflict Resolution

Conflict it is one thing that we all deal with at work and in our personal lives.  Common strategies for addressing conflict include withdrawal, giving up and giving in, and using aggressive behaviour or language.  The behaviours mentioned above are not recommended as they tend to add more stress to an already tense situation.

A strategy that does not add to the pressure of conflict and its resolution involves addressing the problem productively.  Meaning that diplomacy, compromise and negotiation skills are required and need to be fully utilized to resolve the strain.

When you are in conflict you are in a situation of distress and that generally lowers your levels of well-being.  Having the flexibility to resolve the conflict by utilizing the skills noted above will actually boost your overall well-being.

It certainly works for me when I remember to use it.  And there are times when simply withdrawing is the best solution.  I recommend giving diplomacy and compromise a try.  If it does not work you can always withdraw yourself or walk away from the situation.

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss. Business Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at


Being an Authentic Communicator

Communication – sounds simple and yet we all have had experiences that indicate it is a complex process.  Whether at work or at home being an authentic communicator may present a challenge that many people are not that aware of.

The art of authentic communication is based on speaking or writing for yourself.  That’s right – speaking or writing for yourself.  Much of the time what we try to pass off as authentic communication is actually an attempt to have our audience responds in a certain way.

Messages are carefully crafted to have that audience be taken by the content.  The flaw in this is that we have absolutely no control over how another person will react to what we have written or spoken.

Try communicating for yourself and track the results.  You may find it curiously liberating and find that the message may even carry a greater impact.

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Business Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at


Resistance to Change is Normal

It is quite normal to resist what appears to be occurring especially in the workplace where the changes have the potential to lead to sometime of loss.

Four additional factors that cause resistance during a change initiative follow.

  1. Loss of Support System(s)

Changing organizational structures usually shakes the workplace up and support structures are viewed as being eroded.

  1. Previous Change Experience

Attitudes toward change are determined in part by the way we have experienced change in work and personal life in the past. Those employees who have lived in the same neighbourhood, driven the same route to work, and done the same job over many years are likely to be discomfited by any change.

  1. Peer Pressure

Employees tend to resist change as a form of protecting one another and thereby demonstrating workplace loyalty.

  1. Lack of trust

When employees trust that a change process will have them be treated respectfully there is a marked decrease in resistance to change.

All sources of resistance to change need to be acknowledged.  As people our emotional response to change requires validation.  It is a change agents’ role to try and foresee objections.  Doing so may save you valuable time and effort in having fewer if any fires to put out.

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss. Business Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at

Remembrance Day – the Symbolism of Poppies in the Language of Flowers

This Remembrance Day with the focus on poppies it seemed appropriate to share what the poppy symbolizes in the language of flowers.

For many cultures, the Poppy is a symbol of:

  • Restful sleep and recovery
  • Consolation for a loss or death in the family
  • Remembering – the fallen of various wars and armed conflicts
  • A lively imagination
  • Peace in death
  • Messages delivered in dreams
  • Resurrection and eternal life
  • Beauty and success
  • Extravagance and luxury

The symbolism of the Poppy varies greatly from country to country, but most of them share at least one or two common meanings for this particular flower.