Team, Management & Leadership

In about 2007 or so and since one of the major trends in business has been leadership development. An important trait, however what about the areas of team and management development?  These two areas seem to have been given less attention in the business writings primarily on leadership.

Back in the day I was part of a training program that defined leaders as being the ones who made the call regarding the direction the business was taking.  Managers and by extrapolation – management had at its core the ones who stood for a particular outcome and took it on to have it happen.  Management or managers is where the rubber hit the road so to speak.  Leaders were the ones who said yes we are going in the right direction to accomplish our goals. Or stop we need to change directions because we are down a rabbit hole.

Team is what it took and still takes to have it all come together.  Without teams the accomplishment factor dwindles considerably.

Which of the above areas need to be tweaked in your business?

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


Be the Leader You Seek

Now not every work place is worth staying in.  Before you throw in the towel and leave focus on the following for a at least 6 months and honestly evaluate changes or lack of changes that occur.

  1. Hold off on leaving until you have been there a few months. Give yourself a chance to get to know the people you are working for and with.
  2. Look at your boss as a person – not the issue or problem – have some empathy.
  3. It that does not work – be the leader you want to have.
  4. If nothing changes and you are sure that quitting is the solution than put your energy into self-development and leave the protesting behind.
  5. Keep yourself grounded and look for the next position that offers greater scope and the prospect of enhanced fulfillment.

Try being the leader you seek.  You may end up in a surprising new employment area.

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

Complaining that Makes a Difference

Walk around the lunchroom or hang around any staff room for a while and listen to the conversation going on. More than likely you will hear bits and pieces of home and family life.  You will also hear more than a bit of complaining going on about the office, the government, the state of the world and so on.  The complaining will like grow in volume and become almost deafening in its intensity at times.  And the outcome of all of that effort and volubility will be nothing.  That is correct zero results will occur.

The scenario described is a common place form of complaining or making a complaint to someone or a group of people where there is no commitment to changing the situation.  I call it the uncommitted complaint.  It passes for general conversation and is made in places where change will not occur.

For change to happen a complaint needs to become what I refer to as the committed complaint.  It is made to someone or a group that has the authority to hear it and actually take corrective action to solve it.

For myself I make it a practice to make committed complaints to the appropriate source.  What is your experience of the complaint process?

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

Ingredients for Making Decisions

Many consultants and change agents know the value of asking good questions.  While the value of the art is known the doing of asking a good question is not always straight forward.

Stepping back from the immediate situation and evaluating the impact of your actions and decisions beyond what is currently known is a challenge.  A suggestion to incorporate a higher level thinking in making decisions is to ask yourself the following:

  1. What will my feelings about this situation and this course of action be in 10 minutes?
  2. What will my feelings be about this situation and this course of action be in 10 months?
  3. What will my feelings be about this situation and this course of action be in 10 years?

Mastering the process takes time and may not be applicable to all situations.  Try it over a period of time and track the quality of decisions you have made as a result.

At the very least it will prove to be illuminating.

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


Business Cultural Changes from the 70’s to Now

Over the past few decades a great deal of writing and discussion on the importance of culture in the workplace has been noted.  Just what is corporate culture?  It is has been described as the values, beliefs, principles, and norms of a business organization.  Others have broken down business culture into the areas of retention; work flow processes; and customer satisfaction.

It has been my experience that in an organization or business culture is complex entity.  It is also my observation that cultural is not particularly well understood and that changes to it often take time.

Having said that a recent meeting with a business associate during which we discussed work culture from the 70’s to the present time brought several noticeable changes to light.  Following are the highlights we noted.

  1. Behaviour in Business Customer Service

Working in customer service in the 70’sand 80’s for a telecommunications companies for example was largely a manual process.  Bills were generated by mainframe computers and sent to a customer.  Service representatives spent time addressing customer who called in with concerns over bills.  Typically each desk was equipped with an ashtray and smoking was permitted at your desk.

Cigarette breaks were common.  Extended lunches were okay.  An alcoholic beverage over lunch was not uncommon.  Work spaces were often open with little if any privacy.

Fast forward to 2017 and most workplaces monitor employees time quite stringently.  Extended or extra breaks for smoking are not permitted.  The days of smoking in an office or any building for that matter are long gone.  Consumption of alcoholic beverages during lunch breaks is no longer an acceptable practice.

Work spaces in some businesses remain open.  Others have cubicles allowing for a modicum of privacy.  For many private offices for managers and executives are no longer found.  Instead meeting rooms are utilized and booked for group meetings and private discussions.

  1. Technology

Mainframe systems and punch cards dominated larger corporations in the 70’s.  Smaller businesses relied on manual records.  The introduction of personal computers in the 80’s made a huge difference to workplace efficiency and streamlining of every area from administration to customer service to the supply chain areas.

Today most employees have a computer of some description, and often a smart phone for their use.  Technology dominates the workplace and automation is everywhere from robots to voice recognition software.  Connection to mobile devices is 24/7 and many people live their lives quite openly in an online world.

  1. Business Dress

In the 70’s and 80’s the standard dress for the men was a dress shirt, tie, sports jacket, dress slacks, dress shoes, or a full suit.  Women were typically dressed in dresses or suits, hose, and heels even if they worked in the steno pool.

With the explosion of technology in the 90’s the dress standards for men and women became casual.  Individuals working for tech companies showed up in jeans, tee shirts, and sneakers.

Today some corporate businesses still maintain a more rigid dress standard.  However, it is typical for even bank employees to have casual Friday’s where so called dressier blue jeans may be worn.  There are certainly dress standards in place for most businesses.  They are greatly relaxed from bygone decades with men not required to wear a suit and tie on most days.  Women are free to go to the office without the mandatory hose and heels.

  1. Hours of Work

Hours of business operation in the 70’s and 80’s were typically 9 – 5.  Banks were not open before 9 AM and in some cases 10. Retail hours of operation did not usually include evening or Sunday shopping.  Most employees were expected to be at work at 9 AM and stay until 5 PM.

Somewhere along the way (I first recall this being prevalent in the late 80’s) the hours of work were extended with employees expected to start at 8 AM and work until 5 PM.  Managers were expected to work as required and if that meant no breaks for lunch or coffee so be it.

Today with emphasis on 24/7 connectivity workers and managers alike seem to be expected to respond to queries from the workplace at any given time.  The emphasis on connection at all times has not necessarily resulted in an increase in productivity.  Employees today are highly monitored and workplaces are not as relaxed as they once were.

  1. Gender Specific Roles

In the 70’s and 80’s women were breaking into areas that were once the purview of men.  Women working in prisons as guards, as fire fighters, and as police officers are just some examples of areas where women were becoming more visible.  Men as nurses rather than orderlies were becoming more common place.  Women in executive roles other than HR were also more prevalent.

Fast forward to 2017 and the area that continues to be a common issue is one of pay equity for men and women.  It is a values dilemma that businesses have yet to conquer.  Women remain under represented at the executive level within business.  They are also under represented in the political arena.

Each of the areas mentioned has undergone tremendous culture change over the past 40 years.  Most of the changes have been welcome and have enhanced business operations.  The thorny issues of productivity and gender equity pay remain outstanding.  I wonder if it will take another 40 years for these to change for the better.

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

To Err is Human – So Be Human

People from all walks of life are apt to be caught up in catastrophizing at some point in time.  Even those of us who think we know better end up doing it often without being conscious of it. Speaking for myself I end up thinking I could have or should have done something differently.  Pretending that what I could have or should have done is not bothering me is counterproductive.

Two methods work when I have erred.  The first focuses on accepting that I made a mistake and to be aware of my inner monologue. Focusing on self-acceptance and allowing my humane side to show through accepting I made a mistake is a far better way to go. Treating myself with respect is essential to saying out of making the situation worse.

The second area that works is to give myself some perspective. I remind myself I am the same person I was yesterday – and that has me level out.  Seeing myself clearly and with compassion allows the human side of me with all of its imperfections to show up without the self-loathing judgement that catastrophizing causes.

What methods work for you when you make a mistake?  Do let me k now as I am genuinely interested.

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Business Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at

Optimal Hours to Work Based on Science

Alex Pang of Stanford University uses decades of science to assert that the optimal hours to be devoted to working by people who are knowledge workers is 4.  Yes that is the claim 4 hours.

Science seems to back him up.   He points to a collection of authors and scientists including Darwin, and John Le Carre who devote 4 hours of their days to their craft.  Anthropologists have also claimed that hunter gathers worked for 3 – 5 hours a day to keep everyone fed.

Optimal brain time is 2-3 hours in the morning, with the remaining hour early in the evening.  The question arising is what to do with the other 4 hours?  The answer is mindless administrative work, or spending time learning something new.

For my part the idea of being productive for 4 hours a day and then spending another 4 hours a day acquiring knowledge and cleaning up administrative trivia sound appealing.  What does working in this fashion suggest to you?

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Business Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at