Listening Skills – Are you Paying Attention?

When asked most managers and business people would say that they listen well and would probably be able to repeat what has been said verbatim.  The question becomes is that what true listening is?  From my perspective that is not quite what listening is.

Listening only occurs when you are present to the person doing the speaking.  Distraction is common when people think they are listening and includes the following:

  • Being in your head preparing a response;
  • Eager to speak so that you are able to show that they’re wrong or that you disagree;
  • Having an emotional response to what they’re saying;
  • Putting together your shopping list instead of listening openly.

Pay attention to what you are thinking about when you are listening.  People are able to sense when you are authentically being present when they are speaking. Track your results. Let me know what happens.  I am genuinely interested.


Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Business 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.

Business Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at



Management of Change and Resistance

There are 12 common reasons why people resist change in the workplace:

Today the focus is on 4 of those areas.

  1. Job Loss

Any process, technological advancement, systems, or product change will include streamlining, working smarter, cost reduction, efficiency, or faster turnaround times. Staff and or managers will resist the changes that result in their roles being eliminated or reduced. From their perspective change is harmful to their position.

  1. Poor Communication Strategy

An inability or unwillingness to communicate what, why, how, when, who and what success will look like or how success is going to be measured you can expect resistance!  Staffers that do not understand the need for change will have their back up. Especially those staff who strongly believe the current way of doing things works well and has done so over many years.

  1. Shock and Fear of the Unknown

A typical break down of staff reaction to change is 20% being highly supportive, 20% aggressively, and 60% being ambivalent about it. During periods of change some s may feel the need to cling to the past because it was a more secure, predictable time. If what they did in the past worked well for them, they may resist changing their behaviour out of fear that they will not achieve as much in the future.

  1. Loss of Control

Routines provide staff with a sense of control over their environments. Being asked to change the way they operate may add to feelings of powerless and confusion. People are more likely to understand and implement changes when they feel they have some form of control.

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Business Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at

Volatility is the New Normal

Many business leaders are grappling with the volatility that suggests a new normal in terms of conditions for the foreseeable future.  It seems that we are all of us are dealing with some form of change and for many extreme changes in the business world and in our personal lives.  Disruption is being heralded as the new way forward.  With disruption comes the unknown and an uncertainty of what is to come.

  1. Economic Volatility

The first reason for stating that volatility is the new norm is the unprecedented lack of predictability in terms of the economic times we live in.  It appears we are in a cycle of change and upheaval in terms of jobs, technology, and business operations.  The old rules no longer apply and the new rules if any are not clear.

  1. Expectations for Stellar Performance From Employees

Employees and managers alike are expected to be plugged in and tuned into work for far longer than the standard work day.  The expectation that texts, emails, and posts will be read and responded to after hours, during days off, and during vacation periods is considered by many to be normal.  In the midst of reading, viewing, and responding to the deluge of information employees and managers alike are required to keep up with their day-to-day accountabilities.   Many businesses are noting an increase in the use of employee assistance programs as the stresses of keeping up accountabilities mount.  Concern over what work will look like in the short term while managing constant change are common.

  1. Conflict between Work and Personal Time

The boundary between work and personal time is blurry at best.  The push to achieve and in some cases do more with less has people working later and starting earlier.  Smart phones and tablets are readily given out with the anticipation that availability is ensured on a 24/7 basis.  Commitments to families and partners may be placed behind the demands of the job.

Finding ways to address the new normal is required.  We are in a paradigm shift and it is imperative that as individuals we find ways to unplug and stay focused in what is for the most part largely uncharted territory.

Need greater clarity – contact me to discuss.

Business Change Agent, Marie-Helene Sakowski at

Body Language Impacts Listening Skills

Attending a meeting yesterday I was 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


Soft Skills Are Necessary for Work

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

Working Less to Increase Productivity

More hours does not equal productivity.  A study done at Stanford found that productivity tanks after 50 hours.  That manager or those co-workers who maintain that they are productive after 50 hours are simply not.

The self-proclaimed badge of honour of having worked 70 plus hours a week and stayed productive is a myth.   Research suggests that those working 55 hours a week average about 30 hours of productivity.  That is an eye opener and something to pay attention to.

Save yourself and your brain power by working less and increase your productivity.  Certainly you will avoid having a maxed out brain and fuzzy thinking.  You may even avoid burnout and making costly errors.

Try working less and track your productivity.  It may increase despite your commitment to the working of long hour’s way of doing business.

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 formal 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