Tips for Working Together

Successful and high performance teams according to Google have the following 5 characteristics.

  1. Dependability
  2. Structure / Clarity
  3. Meaning
  4. Impact
  5. Psychological Safety

In your team environments which of the above are present?  Which are missing?

Do let me know as a I am genuinely interested.


Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Solo and Small Biz Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at

What Makes for a Productive Work Day?

There has been a great deal of debate as to the productivity to an 8 hour working day.  Some people claim a 6 hour workday is best for productivity.  Others claim working 12 hour a day is necessary to keep up or move in front of your competition.

Another point of view suggests starting early at 6:30 and working for 5 -6 hours.  An alternative approach suggest starting at 10 AM and working for 8 hours.  Others advocate working an 8 hour day and scheduling a 15 minute break at the end of every hour.

Some of the options presented work best when self-employed.  Others may be incorporated into a structured work environment within a business organization.

What strategy for productivity at work have you found is best for you?

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Solo and Small Biz Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at

Organizational Development – Core Aspects

Businesses whether small, mid-sized large or sole practitioners need to go through a process of re-alignment and change to continue to be relevant.  Crucial to the change process is the investment into HR as a pivotal component in the organizational development process.   Companies that do not a have dedicated HR function are missing out on having someone who is the champion for the change and who is committed to bringing employees on-board.

There are many aspects to organizational development and the role of HR within each.  The focus here is on 5 core areas.

  1. Employee Engagement

A business that is in the process of re-branding or changing the scope of work activities needs to ensure that the employees are engaged.  HR is the catalyst for having that engagement happen through working with teams, and individuals addressing the issues arising.

  1. Talent Management

Every business needs to do its best to provide opportunities for employees to learn new skills and become engaged in new processes.  HR is in a unique position to assist with employee development including those employees who are a challenge to manage within the business.

  1. Strategy Development

HR plays a significant role in a business that is expanding or contracting.  The subtle and significant changes within a business during an expansion or contraction phase cause employees to be reactive.  The role of HR is crucial as a communications conduit throughout the process.

  1. Team Effectiveness

Working with both team leaders and the team members is imperative when it comes to addressing effectiveness.  The relevance of HR in this area is focused on having each team member contribute.  Team leader are then able to put into place other features that have the overall team performance improve.

  1. Work Process Redesign

Streamlining or restructuring workplaces is a relatively common practice.  HR is vital in any redesign.  Work roles are redefined, employees are shuffled, this requires a HR person to fulfill as the changes require utilization of several skill areas including individual assessment, training and in some cases redundancy.

Organizational development is a complex area that demands a qualified and experienced HR presence.  Businesses that gloss over the importance of the HR function do not fare as well as those who have invested in it.


Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Solo and Small Biz Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at

Soft Skills and Their Importance

Working with hiring managers in several different industries including mining, health and safety, manufacturing and health care the one common denominator for skills from the Executive Suite to the front end office has been soft skills.  Most managers agree that technological skills are able to be taught in higher education or learned on the job.  Soft skills on the other hand are those skills that have people work well with others in their workplace.  These skills require practice to develop and are behaviors that are not easily learned.

Soft skills in this case refer to interpersonal communication skills, relating to others, being approachable, having a good attitude, being pleasant to work with, having cognitive or emotional empathy, and having harmonious interactions with others.  Mastery of these skills enables a person to engage and influence others.  That includes managing upwards and the politics of a work place.

Self-management is part of the soft skills repertoire.  The person with great soft skills leads with confidence.  They are also able to manage stress.  Another attribute is patience- knowing when to take action and when to slow things down until the timing for a change or process is more fully aligned.

Having a good work ethic in terms of being present to the situation, with a willingness to learn something new for implementation is part of having well developed soft skill base.  Lastly engaging in appropriate business behavior that mirrors ethic and integrity is a key aspect of the soft skills tool box.

What areas of your soft skills aspects need to be developed?

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Solo and Small Biz Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at

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.

Solo and Small Biz Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at


Intuition and Managerial Competencies

Intuition and Managerial Competencies

Recently I read an article by Bruce Kasanoff an Influencer on LinkedIn where he was writing about Intuition being the highest form of intelligence.  I agreed with his summation.  That prompted a look at managerial competencies in the business world that are often the result of paying attention to intuition.

  1. Action Orientation 

Taking action at the right time is crucial in business.  Whether the action is quick or over a prolonged period of time may be an intuitive decision.

  1. Dealing With Ambiguity

Trusting that change is the order of the day is an important intuitive aspect.  Being able to live with the change and make operational decisions in trusting that gut feeling requires a capacity for discomfort.

  1. Approachability

Being open with others is important even when the final outcome is not clear.  Trusting the intuitive sense of pursing the course and communicating that the final outcome may be somewhat changeable is truly an innate process.

  1. Business Acumen

Being able to read the market place and make decisions based on the goings is perceptive and shrewd at the same time.  Taking action to support those insights as quickly as possible is invaluable.

  1. Managerial Courage

Having the courage to take action on what is often perceived as a lack of evidence or an unsubstantiated hunch is not without its risks.  However it may pay off in the long run and the daring person who trusts that intuitive pull may just win the day.

What decisions have you made in business that was based on something other than logic?   What was the end result?  Do let me know as I am genuinely interested in the outcome.

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Solo and Small Biz Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at

Culture and Transparency

As a change manger with project, operations, and human resource experience the area of company culture is one that I frequently address.  Having worked in mining, construction, industrial supply, and healthcare the observation is that the permeating culture of an industry is either shaped by the entire organization, or, there is an undertone that is shaped by the employees.  In the case of culture being shaped by employees there is often a disconnection between what the leadership proclaims and the day-to-day operational practices.

Transparency in culture is a challenge that requires alignment from the executive all the way to casual staff.  One of the companies I had the privilege of working for provided a blueprint for that alignment that is worth sharing.

  1. Take the time to develop a code of conduct and ethics.
  2. Ensure you have input from all levels of the organization when developing the code.
  3. Orientation for all employees from the CEO / President to the part time casual staff is mandatory.
  4. Ensure employees to understand and appreciate that decisions they make and activities they engage in reflect the principles in the code of conduct.
  5. Encourage employees to refer to the code when faced with a decision or challenge.
  6. Provide a safe and confidential method for employees to voice concerns, code infractions, or areas that may need to be reviewed.
  7. Engage a random selection of employees from different divisions or departments to review the code of conduct every 2 – 3 years.
  8. Incorporate recommended changes to the code and have all employees re-oriented to the differences.

This company had a transparent culture that employees were all aware of.  Transparency was present at every level as was the level of engagement.  Employees typically had buy in and those who did not left to pursue other opportunities.  The overall attrition rate was less than 3 percent annually.

What experiences have you had with company culture and transparency?


Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Solo and Small Biz Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at

Reasons for Small Business to Have a Code of Conduct

Large, small, or somewhere in between does your business have a code of conduct in place?  From a small business point of view it may superfluous to even bother with having one in place.  You and your employees are likely working flat out to be visible and sell your product or service.

As a small business it is necessary to have a code of conduct in place for the growth and longevity of the enterprise.  This applies to family owned businesses as well.

  1. Having a code of conduct in place articulates the ethics that as a business owner you expect of people in your employment.
  2. It provides a blue print for addressing conflict.
  3. Involving employees in the creation of the code allows for buy in and cooperation within the business.
  4. It sets out the parameters for clear decision making by the employees.

Working with small businesses that have a code of conduct in place provides for a positive work environment and a general attitude of cooperative of cooperation.  The investment of time on the front end to develop one saves countless hours and disputes over time.

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Solo and Small Biz Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at

Signs of Influence at Work

Are you wondering about your influence at work?  Do you have clarity as to how to measure your influence ? Where do you look to in your organization to verify or validate the influence you have?

Most managers and executives would state that they have a strong influence overall within the business they are in.  That may simply be their view on the matter without evidence to support their assertion or belief.

  1. Personal attitude and behavior are the platform for influence.

Being approachable and listening to employees at every level of the organization is vital to having influence.  Partnered with that is the need for a consistent message along with consistent body language on our part.  Speaking to others in neutral tones, having an open body posture, and making eye contact with people while speaking to them, are all indicators of consistency.

  1. Continuing to be approachable.

Meeting with the first line of employees conducting the day-to-day operations, or having meetings with the managers the importance of being approachable cannot be overstated.  Maintaining your listening skills and requesting suggestions from those working in the front lines is invaluable.  The crucial aspect of having influence is in engaging those around you and in implementing their best suggestions for change.

  1. Requesting feedback from employees.

When you request constructive feedback form employees you are opening yourself to a degree of criticism.  You are also opening yourself to receiving feedback that assists in confirming and enhancing the degree of influence you have.

  1. Increased cooperation for change and new initiatives.

When those employees who report to you and colleagues rally around you to cooperate, champion, and assist whole heartedly with the implementation of your programs or projects you can clearly see the evidence of being influential.

Like anything else influence may be achieved and lost.  To maintain the momentum that has started be sure to keep your behavior and attitude consistent and open to receive feedback from those around you.


Having difficulty making changes to increasing your influence?  Contact me for a consult.

Solo and Small Biz Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at

Essential Small Project Checklist

In a busy PMO small scale projects may be overlooked or not given the attention they deserve.  Even those who are seasoned project managers need to review the essentials for the successful completion of the small projects on our horizon.

As is the case with all projects the essential areas to cover are:

  1. Project Name
  2. Goal – Scope Statement
  3. Objectives
  4. Constraints
  5. Risks
  6. Assumptions
  7. Estimated Costs
  8. Breakdown of Deliverables (Gantt Chart)
  9. Tracking Progress (Gantt Chart)
  10. Project Closing – Shared & Lessons Learned, Thanks, Final Report, Close Contracts and Accounting Codes

As with any project the last area is essential and one that deserves the attention and participation of all project stakeholders.  Thanks and the sharing of lessons learned is invaluable for other projects whatever their size may be.

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Solo and Small Biz Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at