influence

Life is like the Weather –It Changes

Laura Novakowski  -  Mar 14, 2017  -  , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

weather3_14-2017Just when I thought that I had everything planned perfectly, the day changed.  The weather forecast was for snow. Well, I traveled from the North (NEPA) to DC thinking that I was leaving the weather behind me.  Surprise – surprise, it followed me here. 

The old me would have wanted to have everyone soldier through – to suck it up –to keep going no matter what. The new me says, “Yeah. Let’s take advantage of the day, the time, the location and the people.”  And so that’s what I am doing.

As an early riser, I woke well before the alarm – a little after 5AM (which is in my mind 4AM, time just changed on the East coast in the US).  In downtown DC, I normally hear trains and trucks, all the usual early morning wake up traffic. Instead, I woke to the sound of a winter mix of sleet, rain and snow.  Really a refreshing sound – the sound of nature giving people the day off. 

A call roused me from my enjoyment of nature to tell me the day was postponed and we would need to reschedule.  “What a pleasant surprise,” I thought. “Now what?”  Normally, I like to follow my plans, it makes life so much easier, so much safer. Then I realized that I could make this a special day to really visit DC.  (Fortunately, I had planned for the weather (boots, scarf, gloves, coat- not my typical style). After a hotel breakfast, I venture out on foot.

There is slush, ice, and water everywhere.  Almost no cars on the road.  In spite of wet feet (okay, not totally prepared – my boots look great, just not very water proof), I trudge a few city blocks to the Metro. The people that I passed were wonderful.  Dressed for the weather- they shoveled, swept and tossed salt on the sidewalks. Stopping respectfully for me to pass.  Everyone has a wonderful smile and kind greeting. – Whomever says, “DC is not a friendly city,” might want to reconsider and visit in the midst of a storm. 

Coffee shops were open and the welcoming attitudes continued to envelop me.  In the lobby of the Constitution Building, an employee whom had been there since the previous evening welcomed me with a smile and showed me a warm and welcoming place to sit. 

Moving on to the Metro, again I encountered warm, welcoming people. Despite delays, people were gracious and respectful with phones, seats and juggling bags – people would stop to allow someone enter the car ahead of them.

Quite a refreshing way to spend a morning in DC.  Today, I am allowing my life to enhance my work, rather than allowing my work to control my life.  Thank you Mother Nature for helping me to see the value of weather to help me improve my life and my work.

How about you? Are you willing to take the “weather” as it comes and allow yourself to go with the flow when you encounter the storms and delays?  I’d love to hear from you. 

Have an amazing day and enjoy the” weather.”

What is Leadership?

Laura Novakowski  -  Aug 25, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

Peter Drucker ‘s definition of leadership:

“Leadership is not magnetic personality– that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not “making friends and influencing people”–that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s  vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”

 

It’s one thing to manage, to control, to dictate. It is quite another thing to demonstrate
extraordinary leadership. Leaders serve as catalysts, conductors, facilitators, mentors and coaches. They impact directly on the organization or the individual’s ability to compete and grow.

Leadership is:
Attitude  –   creating a positive, success-oriented, vision & purpose-centered environment.

Interpersonal Skills –  learning, teaching  and understanding of the dynamics of teams effectively.

Assessing  – quickly and clearly identifying  factors critical to the success and sustainability of the organization.

Goal Setting – leaders provide organizational direction and facilitate accomplishing
necessary objectives.

Results Oriented – monitoring and measuring results, following through,  following up, and ultimately making  changes and adjustments as needed.

As you can see, there is very little time for a “glib tongue” and “flattery”. Leaders invest their time  creating and maintaining cultures that effectively develop and support human while expanding business potential and growth.  Lifting people higher while maintaining focus on the vision and the results needed to make an extraordinary organization.

That’s leadership!

I Don’ Know is Not an Excuse

Laura Novakowski  -  Aug 20, 2012  -  , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

Businesses, communities, marriages, careers, lives are suffering, deteriorating or being destroyed everyday in so many ways. And, although there are numerous causes of this suffering, deterioration and destruction, I am consistently receiving this response as one major contributors – “I don’t know.”

We define ourselves by our thoughts, words and actions. What are we conveying to others when we say we don’t know?

We need to question and ask why we are saying “I don’t know my responsibilities in my career, my community or family.” If we agree to a role or a job, we need to be crystal clear about what we have agreed to or signed up for. If we are the CEO, president, owner, employee, spouse, parent or volunteer, it is imperative for us to have the expectations clearly laid out before we agree to the position.

I caught a segment of a reality television show – I honestly can’t tell you the name – but the show was about an expectant mother who was seeking help from an expert about becoming a new parent. The good news was she was asking for help in advance – She was scheduled to deliver the following Monday and her meeting with this expert was taking place on the preceding Friday, not quite 3 full days before she would bring into the world a brand new baby. To follow is the bad news…

The expert started with a basic intake assessment to determine how much help and information this new mother-to-be needed. The nine month pregnant woman was not able to answer one question correctly, nor could she demonstrate on a doll how she could care for a totally dependent infant. When the expert asked her to show changing a baby’s diaper, she asked, “I have to do THAT?”

The expert decided to take a different approach and here is how the interview continued.

Expert, “Will you have help?”

Mother-to-be response, “Oh, yes we have hired a nanny.”

Expert, “Is she going to live in?

Mother-to-be response, “On, no, she’s only here during the day or when we are away.”

The expert turned to the audience and mouthed, “She doesn’t have a clue.” To the expectant mother, “So, how do you plan to care for the baby when the Nanny is not there?”

The mother-to-be just stared back looking puzzled.

The sad part of this entire scenario for me is that this response is so, so typical.  Caring for a company is like caring for a child is a massive responsibility,and yet, everyday people jump in without a thought for  their responsibilities and  roles. That  is just a disaster waiting to happen.

We have to stop using “I don’t know” as an answer. Start coming in prepared with research, education, questions and an interest to be accountable to and for our responsibilities.

Let’s start taking ownership instead of looking for the easy way out or believe me, we will be learning some really hard lessons.

The Power of Pain

Laura Novakowski  -  Jul 26, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

Pain is symptom and effect, it is not a cause.  It shows up in a multitude of forms.  Pain slows, staggers and often stops us from functioning.  Understanding that pain presents itself helps to get to the source of deeper issues and problems; this is important for growth and change.

The most obvious pain is physical pain. Early manifestations may show up as mild aches and pains.  If the source of the problem is not identified, the symptoms become more acute and debilitating.

Symptoms such as backaches and headaches can range from slightly annoying  to severely debilitating.  The causes are too numerous to list, but if prolonged in duration it becomes important to medical advice.  Other more subtle symptoms may be overlooked and if not investigated can result in devastating physical problems.

Granted a lot more time could be given to pain in the physical realm, but what I believe is just as important to identify the pain shows up in our offices or workspace as well.   I often say to my clients, we can have this conversation in a hospital room or in a boardroom.  Allowed to go unchecked, undiagnosed and untreated, the power of pain can be catastrophic and cancerous to an organization.

Consider the pain that shows up in the office or workplace.  If left undetected, can fester to the point of irreversible damage.

Examples:

  • Employees come to meeting late, unprepared and non participative and leadership allows it.
  • Employers ridicule and reprimand in public and employees accept and scurry away to try to do better or staying below the radar.
  • Communication is unclear, no one questions or challenges.
  • Departments compete and derail and management lives lost sales and customers.

Obviously, this is a very, very short list. When the source of the pain is not assessed, the affects are lethal.  Turnover increases, firings are rampant and arbitrary. The toxins become like nails in a coffin. Reputations are destroyed. Resources are compromised.

Just as, in my opinion, no physical disease is hopeless, neither is cultural disease.  Using a simple model can ultimately heal the organization.  I’d like to reinforce the power of ACTS  to alleviate pain.

  • Leadership needs to assess the results and identify the gaps.
  • The entire organization needs to create a clear vision and values that people can align their goals and performance.
  • Plans and strategies need to support motivation and innovation to transform problems and obstacles into opportunities.
  • Teams  need to be held accountable through best performance practices and standards to overcome challenges in order to sustain and support success and growth.

Yes, it is uncomfortable when pain shows up. That being said, there is power in pain, if one is just willing to investigate and diagnose the true causes of cultural disease.

Make This a Refresh Your Business Day

Laura Novakowski  -  Jul 18, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

Business is organic and dynamic. Always changing, shifting and moving. Two quarters have past and half  of 2012 is gone and no matter how spectacular or dismal the year has been now is the time to rejuvenate.  Why bother you ask? Well, take it from a reformed workaholic, I am more effective, productive and valuable when I take a day to refresh instead of staying buried under piles of work. Believe me, the work will still be there tomorrow.

I’d like to make 7 suggestions to refresh, renew and revitalize your business. To let go of the weightiness of what is sometimes overwhelming work and that feeling of always pushing up hill.

  1. Clear your calendar.  The competition will keep nipping at our heels. The economy will continue to fluctuate. Clients will lose interest. Partners will depart. Time continues and flies by.  The fact is, we cannot control our competitors, the economy, partners, or clients. Nor can we control time – the clock will continue to tick, the sun will rise and set. Work and life goes on and we have totally missed the joy of it all.  Treat yourself to whatever gives you new energy and new ideas just for one day.
  2. Go on an adventure.All to often, we slog through work just to get it done.  Slogging doesn’t really generate quality work. It’s rote and dull, leaving us and everyone around us less than inspired too.   You don’t have to leave town.  It’s amazing how much there is to discover in your  community if you just decide to explore.  Markets, art galleries, corner pubs, parks abound. It’s amazing to Learn the local culture,  art and resources right in your own back yard.
  3. Visit a play ground. Kids are wonderful to watch. Find a bench and enjoy the laughter and screams of joy.    Children are so limitless and courageous.  Just watching them communicate, interact, compete and share is so much fun.  They don’t worry about dirt,  heat,  or even time. They are so in the moment.  They don’t concern themselves with the next deal,  the next crisis, the next challenge. They are just in the moment. Better yet, join in if you can.
  4. Take a walk in nature.  Trees and flowers abound this time of year.  Notice the vibrant colors.  Appreciate how plants and scrubs reside in close proximity. If you can find a stream, lake or the beach that’s terrific too. All the tides of the ocean to put you back into the rhythm of life.  There is no competition or fighting and  beauty abounds.
  5. Play music.  Rock and roll. opera, rap, country, jazz. Play it loud or soft. Allow the music to wash over you. Turn off phones and move away from computers, unless they are your source of music.  I find that music works great to help me refocus and recharge. Keeping ipods and cd’s handy are great energizers even for short breaks and car trips.
  6. Listen to audio books.If you normally listen to audio books for work or self improvement. Put them away.  Pick up a mystery, murder, sci fi, romance, comedy, historical fiction. Books are wonderful detractors,  taking you places that you might have only dreamed about.  I always travel with audio books, the trip is amazing and provides a brief respite from business conversations.  Safer too.
  7. Plant a garden. At the very least visit a nursery, green house or market and pick out one plant.  Notice their leaves, flowers, scents and textures.  Plants are so great and once you carry one back to your office or company, they will become a friend for life. They filter our air, love us unconditionally and only ask for water and gentle handling. And, they serve as a great reminder for the time you took for yourself – that break so needed – that one cannot help but smile.

Seven suggestions, low cost, huge value. You are so worth the time you invest in a refreshing your business day. For those who might struggle with full days, consider starting with an hour, that’s what I do and it makes all the difference in the value that I can add to my work and my life. Enjoy and be refreshed!

 

 

The Five S’s of Sports Training Apply to Leadership

Laura Novakowski  -  Jul 13, 2012  -  , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

Why not adapt this for leadership!

“The five S’s of sports training are:  stamina, speed, strength, skill, and spirit; but the greatest of these is spirit.”
– Ken Doherty

12 Rules for Self Leadership

Laura Novakowski  -  Jul 04, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

Source: Unknown

1. Set goals for your life; not just for your job. What you think of as “meaning of life” goals affect your lifestyle outside of work too, and you get whole-life context, not just work-life, each feeding off the other.
2. Practice discretion constantly, and lead with the example of how your own good behavior does get great results. Otherwise, why should anyone follow you when you lead?
3. Take initiative. Volunteer to be first. Be daring, bold, brave and fearless, willing to fall down, fail, and get up again for another round. Starting with vulnerability has this amazing way of making us stronger when all is done.
4. Be humble and give away the credit. Going before others is only part of leading; you have to go with them too. Therefore, they’ve got to want you around!
5. Learn to love ideas and experiments. Turn them into pilot programs that preface impulsive decisions. Everything was impossible until the first person did it.
6. Live in wonder. Wonder why, and prize “Why not?” as your favorite question. Be insatiably curious, and question everything.
7. There are some things you don’t take liberty with no matter how innovative you are when you lead. For instance, to have integrity means to tell the truth. To be ethical is to do the right thing. These are not fuzzy concepts.
8. Believe that beauty exists in everything and in everyone, and then go about finding it. You’ll be amazed how little you have to invent and much is waiting to be displayed.
9. Actively reject pessimism and be an optimist. Say you have zero tolerance for negativity and self-fulfilling prophecies of doubt, and mean it.
10. Champion change. As the saying goes, those who do what they’ve always done, will get what they’ve always gotten. The only things they do get more of are apathy, complacency, and boredom.
11. Be a lifelong learner, and be a fanatic about it. Surround yourself with mentors and people smarter than you. Seek to be continually inspired by something, learning what your triggers are.
12. Care for and about people. Compassion and empathy become you, and keep you ever-connected to your humanity. People will choose you to lead them.

 

Networking

Laura Novakowski  -  Jun 21, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

In an ever changing world, time, money, resources to knowledge are at a premium.  Learning how to build a powerful network is essential to overcome challenges and obstacles or capitalize on opportunities for you to succeed.

Networking is first and foremost about building relationships. Whether we are in a nine-to-five job, an entrepreneur or student – healthy, strong relationships become essential to achieve our dreams and accomplish our goals.

In the book Leadership and Self Deception published by the Arbinger Institute, there was a story about a new lawyer who was assigned to a huge project with a large team.  Life events caused him to him to disrupt his life and move.  When he arrived to work with the new project, most of the team was located on the 25th floor. He, however arriving later, was located on the 21st floor.  Feeling a little put out, he moved into his office and decided to dig in.  If he worked really hard someone was sure to notice. The project moved along. He missed lunches with the team because he didn’t travel to the 25th floor (free lunches were provided for the team daily and there was a team understanding that everyone was invited). Changes were made in the project, but because this young lawyer was isolated (mostly self imposed),  he didn’t incorporate changes, causing him to look ill prepared and his reports to be substandard. Another time, he was “chewed out” for being hard to find, although he was in his office working.   If he would have taken the time network internally, he would have avoided a lot of grief and anguish.

A young woman moved far from home. She wanted to learn a new industry and put her talents to good use. She had identified where she wanted to live and she moved. Jobs were limited. Her temporary job was over, but she decided to stay rather than move back home.  She worked six part time jobs, one of them in a restaurant.  One evening she was talking to one of the customers who shared with her that his company was looking to fill a new position. The more he talked, the more he described a person with her exact qualifications. When he asked, “Do you know anyone?”  Her response, “That sounds like me.” Within weeks she was interviewed at the corporate office and was hired for the job.  She “networked” her way into her “dream job.”

Relationships are imperative to our success. Limiting our contacts and our experiences greatly hampers our growth. Conversely, putting ourselves out there greatly influences our ability to capitalize on our talents and potential and get what we really, really want out of life. Networking is one key to opening many doors.  Network!

The Power of Strategy – Design a Masterpiece

Laura Novakowski  -  May 30, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

“What do you want to achieve or avoid?  The answers to this question are objectives. How will you go about achieving your desired results? The answer to this you can call strategy.”

William E. Rothschild

William E. Rothschild is a former executive from General Electric. In his role as Corporate Strategist, he created the first “market driven Corporate Strategy.”  Using this approach, according to Rothschild, GE for the last two decades has consistently had been described as having “the best inventors, the best strategic planners, and the best results.”

Whether we are planning a trip to the market, a vacation, a day at work…, we are always has to quote Stephen Covey “an end in mind.”  Now that “end” may be to fill the refrigerator, plan for vacation, deliver the product or service. While that certainly gives us some kind of results, are they the best results? Are you exhilarated with the results you’re getting? Can you see the value of identifying the results you want and then filling in the picture, rather than the other way around?

One of the greatest strategists of all times was Michelangelo. He depicts a highly focused professional who valued quality and achieved amazing results. When Michelangelo worked, he clearly used strategic thinking and planning.  When asked how he could carve such beautiful statues, his reply was, “it’s already in there.” He saw the results prior to even lifting his tools to work.   He wasn’t just banging away at some granite to up with such great masterpieces as Moses, David or the Pieta, he used purpose, thought and planning.

Let’s imagine this great artist’s process. First, he saw the granite.  He considered form, structure, faults and strengths. Slowly a vision and mission came to mind and Michelangelo could start planning his approach to achieve his results.   Next, he determined what was critical to creating his product.  What tools did he required? Where would he do the work? Who might assist him (moving granite might take some help)? What would it cost in time, money and energy? Yet, he still had not raised a chisel, for if he did, I’m sure that would have altered his results.

After he thought about his overall strategy, vision, mission and critical results, he next set goals.  Goals that were results focused,  motivating and achievable. He knew exactly what he wanted and then he started his action plan – the hair, the eyes, the nose, the beard…  All predetermined actions which embraced his values of beauty and perfection. Michelangelo envisioned beauty, integrity, passion, courage, commitment to high standards with incredible details. The results – a masterpiece!

The people, in my experience that are the most successful, the most energized, the most fulfilled, are the people who know their personal and professional vision. Why not strive for a masterpiece in your life? At the end of everyday, how powerful it can be see everyone generate a wonderful piece of art, a rewarding service or an outstanding, quality product. Engage a strategy that will help you to see and then design your masterpieces too!

Focus on Your Strengths

Laura Novakowski  -  May 22, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

Dr. Donald O. Clifton, a graduate student in the mid 1950’s, started to look at the “hyper focus on deficits and disease” and wondered “What would happen if we actually studied what is right with people?” This question stimulated some profound research with Gallup that resulted in the late 1990’s created an assessment called Clifton’s Strengths Finder. This instrument has been used by millions of people to discover and develop their talents.

Clifton’s studies showed that “people who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are SIX times more likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than THREE times as likely to report having and excellent quality of life in general.” (Source: StrengthsFinder 2.0) This research is profoundly impacting levels of engagement personally and professionally around the globe.

Consider this Strength Finders formula for success:

 

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