potential

Focus – Faith – Fervor

Laura Novakowski  -  Oct 08, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

When embarking on a new endeavor or relationship, we often fail to appreciate what it will take to ensure success. In fact, quite honestly, I had not nearly often enough considered the long term effects of those quick, easy and sometimes even thoughtless decisions I have made in jobs, relationships, and life in general. Then it struck me that there are three essentials that can and will ensure the degree of our success. Focus – Faith – Fervor

Focus is the starting point

“What you choose to focus your mind on is critical because you will become what you think about most of the time…”

Noel Peebles

Finding the focus, that central theme or purpose for our actions and existence, sets the stage for a healthier, more productive and definitely more satisfied existence.

Some Focus Finding Questions:

What motivates me?

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What interests me?

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What inspires me?

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Faith is the second point.

“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Finding our faith, that unshakable belief that we have the strength, resourcefulness and talent to live and work in a manner that always, always contributes. This is the midpoint for fulfillment and satisfaction.

Some Faith Finding Questions:

How do I totally support myself in my focus?

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How do I tap into that universal source of strength that holds me unshakable to my focus?

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Who can help to restore my faith in my focus?

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Fervor is the is the third essential component.

Even the knowledge of my own fallibility cannot keep me from making mistakes. Only when I fall do I get up again.

Vincent van Gogh

Some Fervor Finding Questions:

How do I get motivated?

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How do I get back on track once derailed from my focus?

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What would ignite that candle of passion when there is no fuel left?

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It’s within our power to change lives, companies, communities and the world with focus, faith and fervor.

 

Leadership is About Responding with Ability

Laura Novakowski  -  Sep 24, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

In a recent interview, an executive was discussing, although it sounded suspiciously like complaining to me, how disastrous the business had become.

The interviewer questioned if he had read a significant reform document that would have massive impacts on his business and the industry at large.

The exec’s responded, “I didn’t have time to read the document.”

He, the interviewee, then asked the interviewer what were the three or four major issues that reform was addressing. Fortunately, she knew the answers.  (She had read the reform in preparation for the meeting.) It was clearly apparent that she was much more prepared as an outsider to deal with his industry change than he was as the so-called expert.

The interview continue along the same vein, for each question, he didn’t know and then he would asked her a question. Great technique if you hold to the philosophy that you only asked questions if you already know the answer. Clearly, he didn’t have a clue regarding what his responsibilities were as the leader.

Close to the end of the interview, you could actually see the light bulb come on in this guy’s brain. “I know. I’ll tell the board that I am forming a committee to address these issues and that the committee will be meeting weekly to discuss. What do you think?” he asked of the interviewer.

She looked totally astonished and quickly ended the interview.

Great lesson from this interview, be aware of owning the role, being able to respond with ability and come across as the leader who is truly in command.

Bearings, Key and Alternator

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

Paying attention to the signs and messages that show up in life and business can save tons of time, money, and energy. To follow is a story of a team of four that each experienced car issues. Upon reviewing, the team could each see the corollaries to the challenges that they were facing in life and work.

It started with the newest and youngest member of the team having a “bearings” problem. Now, the definition of bearings is “the direction or path along which something moves or along which it lies .” Guess what? The bearings had to be changed. This young team member was unclear as to the  people choose a path that best path to choose.  In fact, had recently been on a path that was draining and destructive.  Feelings of frustration, lack of motivation, being overwhelmed and certainly tremendous dissatisfaction with self and others was ever present. When reviewing their current situation, this newest member spent time evaluating their current direction and eliminated one time consuming job that was taking them completely off course. This change affected their thoughts and actions immediately enhancing the quality of their work and life.

The most senior member of the team had a key problem. It just would turn in the ignition. Now, the definition of key is “something crucial or central to the issue or problem.” The key had to be repaired. This person at the same time started to experience some heart problems. The key, like the heart, is core to our performance and success. This team player had lost some of their purpose due to a major personal life change and was starting to act as if they were no longer needed. This couldn’t have been further than the truth. Fortunately, the team pulled together to help this senior member see that they were absolutely essential to their success. As a team, they focused on validating purpose and contributions of each team player. Immediately, the sage of the group started to make some respectful health changes in diet and exercise that actually helped them to be relieved of some very distressing symptoms.

The last two team members experienced an alternator problem. Now, one definition of the alternator is to “charge the battery and to power an electric system when its engine is running. …” A battery is a source of power for any engine and needs constant charging. How interesting that their alternators needed to be replaced. With the charge there was no power. The charger and the source, also two critical team players had been trying to pick up and take over rather than serve as support. They too had to pull back and go on a retreat, a vacation, so that they could recharge and re-gain power.

Fortunately, the team paid attention to the “car problems” before their life problems became too serious. They regained their bearings, found the key to their purpose and recharged their power in work and life.

 

The Power of Tools

Laura Novakowski  -  Aug 29, 2012  -  , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

James Allen once wrote

“…He also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace.” 

There is power in finding tools that can advance your career, simplify your life, enhance your health and improve your financial outlook.  Tools will make you life easier. They help you leverage time, talent and resources.

Three easily accessible tools:

A goal, for example can be viewed as a tool to help us achieve our vision.  Writing a goal that meets the “WHYSMART” standard initiates steps towards accomplishment.  YSMART—Written, Habit-forming, Yours, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timed Follow-up—     allows you to see short term results, especially if you look at the results consistently to determine if you are achieving desired results.  As with any tool, it is better to create frequently review of the progress you are making to determine its effectiveness.  Rather than making a long range goal and falling short or worse continuing to do something that really wastes your time.  It’s like trying to use a steak knife rather than a chainsaw to cut down a tree—you might get the tree down, but in whose lifetime.

Another tool is planning, is the ever popular  “to-do list.”  This plan for the day can lead to the plan for the week, the month, the year and then a lifetime.   Starting out simple and appreciating that each action on your to-do list is a short term goals helps you see how you already have a degree of mastery in the goal setting department.

Another tool is post-it notes.  Keeping a pack of post-it notes handy helps me to capture ides wherever I am.  Later, rather than recopy the idea, I pop it into my idea book (another too BTW) to reference. Saves me recopying time. I can’t tell you how much this saves me in trying to remember an idea that inspired me at the time but was lost because I failed to write it down.

This is only a short list of tools.  Whatever the tool you choose, give it the proper time and support before abandoning it.  Have fun explore and share your tools.

Start, Stop or Continue

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

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. ~Maria Robinson~

 

 “Stop the habit of wishful thinking and start the habit of thoughtful wishes.” ~ Mary Martin~

 

“Whatever the struggle, continue the climb. It may be only one step to the summit.” ~Diane Westlake~

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!

 

 

Want Customer Loyalty – Provide Extraordinary Customer Service

Laura Novakowski  -  Jul 11, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

Amazing how companies want,  even expect customer loyalty.  However, the problem is that business often becomes so wrapped up in making money, their idea of the ultimate, that providing extraordinary customer service as almost an after thought. The real reason customer loyal creeps, crawls or crashes away is because companies does treat customer service as a top priority.

What does customer loyalty look like any?  Loyal customers become a company’s best ad agency. They refer, they recommend, and they set up introductions.  They invite you to important networking functions, seek your advice and proactively share with you recommendations to help to improve your products and services.

Seth Godin makes a fabulous recommendation regarding how to build extraordinary customer service:

“Most of your competition spend their days looking forward to those rare moments when everything goes right. Imagine how much leverage you have if you spend your time maximizing those common moments when it doesn’t.

Tips for providing extraordinary customer service:

  1. Be sure that you are offering value.  After all you wouldn’t be in business if your customers weren’t helping you pay your bills. In today’s economic environment, everyone is scrutinizing every dollar.  The company that offers products or services that their customers believe that they cannot live without is the company that can and will weather any storm.  The value has to not be not just in the direct product or service but also in the ongoing support, interest and benefits received.
  2. Make it right. This should be a standing company policy. When a mistake, misstep, or misunderstanding occurs everyone, and that means everyone, responsible needs to on top of how a customer is treated. How amazing would it be to receive a call, note or email from an supervisor, manager or executive to follow up to ensure that the customer is satisfied with the outcome.  Making it right is more than apology, it could be additional service, reduction in a bill or eliminating the bill totally.  This always shows the customer that how much service is valued.
  3. Help employees to “fess up.”  The standing company policy needs to include that appreciating employees make a mistake, there will not be blame but action to support to correct the situation . Helping employees to use the problems as learning experiences goes a long way to  ensure customer as well as employee loyalty.  After all, aren’t employees our best internal customers?
  4. Meet customers needs. A great movie is Miracle on Thirty Fourth Street. Remember the story, the hero, Santa Clause, works in Coles, a department store.  He helps customers find the gifts they are seeking at Christmas by referring them to competitors if the item is not available.  At first, management is appalled and almost fire this Santa.  But, the customers are so impressed that they tell  the store manager that they now are loyal to Coles because Coles cared about them. Honest, creative, concerned service almost always leads to extraordinary loyalty.
  5. Display concern. The economy has affected everyone. Clients are no exception. Rather than browbeating and threatening for payment, consider working with your customers.  When you stay in touch with customers, they will let you know if they are struggling. Rather than lose the business, after all you can’t get blood from a stone, offer ways to help them, even if it means forgiving part of the bill. This has gone a long way for me. And, goes back to tip number one, I’m not saying to just give value, be value. Showing that you want their company to succeed is a valuable service and message to send.

Five simple strategies to provide extraordinary customer service that leads to customer service.

In closing, here are some wise words from Jeffrey Gitomer:

  Customer satisfaction is worthless.Customer loyalty is priceless.

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.

 

Attitude – Leads to a Field of Dreams

Laura Novakowski  -  Jun 27, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

In the movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Cosner heard a voice whisper – “If you build it, they will come.”

More than a decade ago I was sitting in one of our numerous corporate meetings rehashing cutbacks, shrinking reimbursement and quality challenges and my mind started to wander.  “Why does every meeting have to be this way?” heart and soul seem to be shouting.  Suddenly, I heard a voice  whisper – build CASTLES – “Create Attitudes and Strategies Tapping Limitless Energy for Success.” 

Grabbing a napkin on the table in front of me – I scribbled these words down and passed it over to a colleague and dear friend.  She smiled indulgently and asked “So?” I answered without hesitation, “This is the focus on my company.”

Leaving the meeting, I gathered up reports, notes and my napkin.  Back in the office, I filled and tossed papers, somehow the napkin made it into my top drawer.  Moving up in the organization, I now was much more focused on working with building attitudes for success.  Sometimes it happened, sometimes it didn’t.  A great organization just not the place for me.

Several years and countless meetings later, I left that organization and opened my own business.  My vision and  focus were on creating those attitudes and strategies tapping limitless energy for success.  I just wanted to build CASTLES.

Fortunately, I have been blessed with a family and friends that supported positive thinking.  The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale has been one of the mainstays of my library.  My company’s name – Positive Power Strategies, Inc. is a constant affirmation of using a positive mental attitude.

The secret for me is in the belief that every person, every business, every community is an opportunity to build CASTLES.  With each client and company that I am engaged, I have the opportunity to discover wonderful creativity and opportunities that can be tapped leading to limitless energy and success. Together we discover tools and techniques that translate into action and extraordinary results.  I have the honor and privilege to share obstacles and opportunities, dreams and goals with so many people.  People whom given the time, tools and assistance with clarifying their vision and discovering their talents have the capacity to build their own amazing CASTLES.

My secret is an attitude that I am  building it and they will come.

Where is your field of dreams?  What would you like to build so that they will come?

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