Volkmar Völzke's BLOG


Is this normal now?

leadership Sep 10, 2020

Nowadays, you hear again and again about the "new normal;" i.e. the new state with COVID-19, which is now no longer unusual, but a simple reality.

Associated with it, then, are all kinds of consequences - in life and business.

However, a "new normal" does not make sense: we all live, at any time, in a "normal" that is now and here. How we live today was, in many respects, unimaginable only a few decades ago. The way we live now is not at all normal in other parts of the world.

Here is my point: the most successful people and companies see opportunities and risks in every "normal," which they utilize optimally. For the mediocre majority, however, there are good and bad times on which they depend.

As a result, while mediocre companies look for ways to overcome the crisis, the most successful ones see it as normal and use their opportunities as in any other time. 

The effects of this difference in mindset are enormous. Here are a few examples:
  1. Contraction. While mediocre...
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Why people love Donald Trump

Here is the secret why so many people (at least in America) love Donald Trump - and it's not because of his politics.

Instead, it has to do with how we feel better when someone with authority gives us permission to behave in a way that we know is wrong.

It's like science telling us that fatty food and lots of red meat are healthy; finally, with a good feeling, we can feast properly again.

That's exactly what Donald Trump does: he exemplifies behavior that most people cannot allow in their daily lives if they want to keep their family or their jobs.

It's the same as with action heroes - they are allowed to wreck whole streets and take others out if they get in the way. "Oh, if only I could do that, too," many viewers think unconsciously (and of course wouldn't admit).

To finally live a more carefree life with fewer constraints, people who are constantly wrangling with their "misbehaviours" (actually I want to, but I'm not allowed to) can buy themselves a mental free ticket by voting...

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Final sprint!

leadership productivity Sep 02, 2020

You and your team are probably back from summer vacation, and you are getting up to full speed again, right? Just to remind you: September has started, and you have less than 4 months until the end of the year. You want to reach your goals (or have exceeded your previous year results), right? 

The problem is that many people, teams, and whole companies need far too long to get back on track.

And before they notice it, September and the third quarter are almost over. The same applies to the reaction after setbacks: speed counts! 

This is not an exaggeration: the problem of many people and teams is that they have far too long “switching times” between different states. The most successful people and organizations are extremely fast when pursuing new goals and responding to changes. 

Here are three techniques of “over-achievers” that you can apply today: 
  1. Invite your team (or even the entire company, physically or via video streaming) and...
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The 3 most ignored causes of failure

leadership Aug 27, 2020
I think there are basically three kinds of leaders. Please check which category you feel you belong to: 
  1. Those who just “do what they do”, often with good results. They are successful leaders because they continue to do what has worked and stopped doing what didn’t.
  2. Those who excel at a few leadership skills, but mess up the rest. Don’t get me wrong: they can be successful leaders, too, just often at the cost of “collateral damages” such as low commitment of their teams.
  3. Those who constantly seek to proactively improve the leadership skills they are lacking the most. These leaders are constant learners, always looking for ways to become more effective.

As with all categories, there are overlaps; however, from my perspective, categories 1 and 2 are most common, whereas number 3 is the least present in companies of all sizes. The most stated reasons are complacency (“you see I am successful!”) and “lack of time” for...

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Which fields do you occupy?

There is one person who is in the driving seat for public perception and thus an entire industry: Elon Musk. His latest announcement is about revolutionizing the entire automotive production process by making the body only consist of four parts instead of 80. This will massively reduce costs.

Well, with Musk's announcements, the question is always which of these will be implemented at all and by when. But that's not what it's all about.

People like Elon Musk do not usually make concrete promises with their statements, but rather create and occupy domains of opinion in public perception - and the opinion of experts.

As a result, as soon as such ideas become reality, they are directly linked to the person who occupied the area. This usually results in a dramatic increase in reputation - with direct consequences for market leadership.

Another expert in this field was Steve Jobs: Whom do you associate with pioneering smartphones, mobile music enjoyment, emotionally loaded computers and...

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Report from the customer frontlines

Here are some thoughts that can help you improve your customer service - for internal and external customers.

In the morning, from time to time, I go to a café to work. I love to have a little life around me when I want to concentrate on my tasks. And something always happens there that inspires me, like this one:

I’m at a hotel with a small terrace in front of it. Since it is already warm in the morning, I take a seat at one of the tables and order a coffee with croissant (the usual "breakfast" in French-speaking Switzerland). So far so good.

What I notice: The hotel guests are obviously all sitting in the dark interior to have their breakfast. When one of the hotel guests takes a seat on the terrace, he is clearly instructed by the waitress that hotel guests must sit inside. The guest is visibly "not amused," but, in the end, he complies (after all, we are in Switzerland). I doubt whether he will stay again in this hotel.

What happened here will most likely happen to...

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What's at the front of the buffet?

The other day, I read about an exciting study that shows that 75% of the people at a breakfast buffet take the first item, regardless of what is there. Two thirds of all items chosen come from the first three items on the buffet, no matter how long the buffet is.

This confirms an old wisdom from sales: people often just buy what is in front of them.

That's why good marketers put in first place the products you want to sell the most (which is why it is still a mystery to me that in restaurants on wine lists the expensive wines almost always come at the end). 

Of course, this correlation applies not only to sales but also to any kind of influence, so it is essential for successful leadership. 

Here are three specific applications - outside of sales - where you should reverse the order if you want to achieve more with others: 
  1. Presentations. Most of the presentations I see in leadership are more like a sequence of facts. My recommendation: turn that around! Start with...
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Do you swim naked?

leadership Aug 06, 2020

"Only when the tide is out will you know who was swimming naked," Warren E. Buffett once said so aptly. 

We live in times that have not been seen in this form for at least the last 70 years. Who knows today where we will be in 3, 6 or 9 months… in every respect? And just like in earlier, even more uncertain times (just think of 1914 to 1948), it will show who the winner will be in the end.

Ultimately, every crisis shows who "swims naked" and who has the right prerequisites to achieve sustainable success. The good news is that you have this in your own hands, because there are always just a few typical factors that make people, teams and companies successful - almost regardless of the circumstances. And you can influence these factors.

The difficulty for every organization is that even in easy and "good" times, you must not unlearn these qualities and practice them continuously.

Here are three levers, which, from my experience with various companies, have the greatest...
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Nobody needs consulting or training!

leadership Jul 30, 2020

Today, I want to mention a topic that I have noticed time and again as a clear deficit in the thinking of leaders, but which is hardly ever mentioned: the confusion of results with measures. 

One example: Whenever someone says that he/she does not need training or consulting, he/she thinks in terms of measures. If someone wants to carry out a "strategy offsite," it is about measures. Budgeting new headcounts is also a measure.

Of course, measures have to be implemented to achieve results. But all too often the measures have a life of their own that is decoupled from the possible results: Training is carried out because it is budgeted, not because you want to achieve concrete results. The annual strategy meeting is a tradition, regardless of the need to create a new strategy. And so on. 

Top leaders think the other way around and are therefore much more successful. They first discuss the results and then the possible measures.

Here are three test questions that show whether...
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Why we systematically make wrong decisions

leadership Jul 23, 2020

In the last 10 weeks, I have had 3 potential customers who have put off their own investments to better serve the performance of their sales team. The most important reason: the current uncertainty due to the consequences of COVID-19. 

I find this fascinating. After all, we are not talking about amounts that hit the company's cash reserves: The monthly salaries far exceed the one-off investments. And especially in sales, the probable ROI is significant (usually a few additional sales or a higher price here and there is enough for a factor of 1:10).

My point is this: it has long been scientifically proven in various studies (Daniel Kahneman and others) that we make highly irrational decisions, even when we believe we are rational: we weigh direct losses significantly higher than probable gains, even if these losses are irrelevant to our well-being.

This is precisely why too many companies and teams are stagnating: they tend to value even manageable risks more heavily than the...

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