strategy

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.”

Are You Clear About What You Want?

Laura Novakowski  -  Oct 01, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

One would think that when a person is asked what they really, really want in work, in life, in a relationship, that the response would be immediate. Surprisingly, or perhaps, not so surprising, the responses are: silence… or “Let me think for a minute,” or more sadly, “I really don’t take time to think about what I really want, I’m too busy doing.”

Silence or “Let me think for a minute”

These two are interesting responses. to me, they indicate that the person is stopped short for several reasons.

  1. Genuinely,they need time to give a thoughtful response because it is important to them.
  2. Actually, they am afraid to express what they really want
  3. They need to think about a response that will sound interesting and important enough to share and impress others.
  4. They don’t trust me and so are not willing to share.

This third response, “I really don’t take time to think about what I really want, I’m too busy doing,” can mean many things, but my mind jumps to the following:

  1. They are not willing or able to invest thinking time in themselves to fully appreciate what they really want.
  2. They are not used to stopping all the crazy busyness to think
  3. They don’t fully understand how import knowing what they really want is to themselves and to others involved with them.

Whatever the reasons or stories we have for not clarifying what we really want, it has become profoundly clearly to me, that this is one of our greatest limiting factors in success in business and joy in life. The more we are clear about what we want, the more likely we  are to attract that which we want, whether it be positive or negative,  into our life and work.

Please consider finishing this sentence, it might just change your life.  What I want out of life is…

Or in the words of Henry David Thoreau….will you “live your life in quiet desperation?”

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.

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!

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.

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.

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?

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!

Rules of Engagement for a CULTURE of Success

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

A business of the future will not be successful because of a fat the bottom line,  behemoth size,  community or political power. Instead, the  business of the future will be successful because of the culture.   Culture is defined asthe attitudes and behavior that are characteristic of a particular social group or organization.” (Source: www.wordnetweb.princeton.edu)

Often, organizations espouse that they  deliver high quality products or services to  their clients, engage in superior relations with their stakeholders and  employees, and are always, always in touch with their environment and community needs. That being said, does every “attitude and behavior” support such an espousal?

Without a positive and powerful culture, even the best business strategy will certainly fail.  As with any plan, knowing and implementing the best rules of engagement can certainly set the stage for success.

Here are 7 rules of engagement for a CULTURE of success

1. Communication.  John Milton, author of the 17th century epic poem Paradise Lost, once wrote,  “Good, the more communicated, the more abundant grows.” Organizations, misguided as they sometimes can be, still have intention of doing some good, adding some value, making a contribution. The rule of communication is to convey the strategy, philosophy and principles of the organization thus affording each individual the opportunity to buy in and participate at a much more significant level.  Engaging communication includes at a minimum the following:

  • A clearly defined vision
  • Clearly defined values which are described in terms of attitudes and behaviors

When this information is shared, the culture can rally around a common cause.

2. Understanding – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” has been attributed to many sources from the Bible to Stephen Covey. This basic tenant is so obvious that it is often overlooked. From the boardroom to the basement, every level the team must fully understand two primary functions:

  • The expectations of the organization
  • Each individual’s  role

There is no way success can be achieved if expectations are not fully understood. All too often, unclear roles encroach and invade. Full understanding cuts down on confusion.

3. Leadership – Former president of ITT corporation once wrote,  “Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitudes and actions.” Leadership has tremendous power. It sets the tone and influences results.  It has been reported that the two primary functions of leadership are to:

  • Set the objectives
  • Set the policy

Without objectives and policies, organizations for employees, stakeholders and even clients it is like setting people adrift in a boat with no destination, supplies or tools and expecting them to be resourceful enough to get there.

4. Teach – “We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover within themselves.” was one of the greatest messages that Galileo Galilei left as a legacy to the world. A teaching culture:

  • conveys that the work environment is a reciprocal one of learning and teaching
  • supports growth and experimentation

Teaching people to treat their jobs as a opportunity for  discovery is a great motivator.

5. Unite – Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Uniting is all about team building. Ford certainly had his own methods for getting people to work together which quite honestly doesn’t work very well. Today’s team needs:

  • to be treated as an asset, not a liability
  • to be respected and appreciated for strengths and talents

Even the assembly line process becomes more effective when the person working on the line shares insights and ideas to enhance existing systems.  The more a culture respects the team, the more the team operates in a synergistic, powerful manner.

6. Responsibility – “Responsibility finds a way. Irresponsibility makes excuses!” provided by Gene Bedley, – National Educator Of The Year.  The surest way to success is to ensure a  culture of accountability. In this culture, the expectations have been defined and two things always happen:

  • positive attitudes, behaviors and goals are rewarded
  • consequences are consistently conveyed and acted upon when attitudes and behaviors are negative and goals are not met

In a professional organization, the responsible employees are valued and valuable. The irresponsible or less than productive employee is held accountable, given support and direction as needed, and when still not meeting the organizational objectives and strategy are given the opportunity to part ways from the organization. This is perhaps one of the hardest rules to follow, but is absolutely the most imperative.

7. Engagement – “Denied The Opportunity To Use Their Talent, Imagination And Creativity For The Benefit Of The System They Will Be Equally Ingenious Working Against It.” from the authors of  Growing Your Own Heroes; The Commonsense Way to Improve Business Performance, John J. Oliver and Clive Memmott.  Gallup published a study in 2005 that revealed astonishing results.  The cost of disengagement as you can see is staggering.

In conclusion, the rules for building a culture for success are simple, they are just not easy.

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!

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