Volkmar Völzke's BLOG


Are you boring or polarizing?

leadership strategy May 01, 2019

Marketing experts know that it can be quite a good strategy to deliberately build a brand that a certain number of people would rather hate than like. The rationale behind this counterintuitive idea: it is better to be known for SOMETHING—even if this is controversial —than for NOTHING.

The more emotional this “something” is, the better. Logic (boring for most people) makes people think, but only emotions make people act.

The point is that if you play this game carefully, there will be more people who love your brand for exactly the same traits that other people hate it.

Basically, this is the same logic that applies to the Blue Ocean Strategy: find benefits, features, or values that make you stand out from the crowd. If you stay the same as many others, then—no matter how good you are—you will have a difficult business life, troubled with price war and/or the need to deliver ever-more features for less costs.

Here comes the twist: the same...

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How many rear-view mirrors do you need?

culture leadership Apr 25, 2019

How much do you look ahead and how much do you look into the rear mirror?

How much time do you spend on creating your future and how much time explaining to others (and yourself) why you do what you do?

These are crucial questions not only for your own life, but even more so for any professional organization.

Too many companies become paralyzed by looking into the rear-view mirror.

They squander precious hours on project reviews, steering committee meetings, deep-dives, audits, and reports, forgetting that such time is much better spent moving forward than looking over their shoulders.

Looking backwards is caused by a culture of fear, mistrust, and control. People look into the rear-view mirror to check who is behind them, and organizations and their leaders do the same.

Here are some indications that your organization spends too much time looking backwards:
  • Preparation and execution of project reviews takes more than ten percent of the project leader’s time.
  • The...
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How to eat an elephant


Maybe you know the comical question, "How do you eat an elephant?" The answer: "Bite by bite!"

The background is a very relevant one for changing behaviors and corporate cultures: Most changes never happen - even if you consider them important - because people never really start.

And by "start" I don't mean that you're attending a workshop or reading a book on the subject (although these can be important preparations), but that you're really changing something about yourself.

The order is always: awareness intent to change information execution perseverance.

Steps 1-3 can be seen quite often among individuals and in companies. Even step 4 sometimes still occurs. At step 5 we lost most of the people, despite our best intentions. The elephant mentioned at the beginning still stands tall.

So how can you overcome this obstacle? Here are three steps:
  1. Simple process. Simply define the steps you want to take on yourself. Then implement them, every day. Example: If you want to be more...
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Downturn? Upswing? Full Swing!

culture leadership Apr 12, 2019

I don't know about you, but I can't hear all the fuss anymore about the coming economic downturn in Europe. Well, I do not presume to predict if and when there will be anyone in the near future or not.

My point is different: the fitter you and your team and your company are, the less any external influences can affect you. On the contrary: the best-trained teams can even benefit from a deterioration of the situation.

I like to talk about going through any crisis in “full swing”. Three examples:

  1. Full swing in sales. Bring your sales strategies, sales methods and above all the mindset of your teams up to speed at all times. Continuously increase your sales productivity. Most companies do far too little for this and then wonder when nothing more is sold as soon as the situation becomes difficult.
  2. Full swing in leadership. Work continuously to increase the quality of leadership in your company or team. Here, too, I can see that most companies have a lot of catching up to...
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Do you lean forward? Or are you losing control?

leadership mindset Apr 04, 2019

Today, I send you a video impulse, directly from the ski slopes of Tignes in the French Alps at an altitude of over 3000m.

Of course, I also included a message for leadership, which I had already shared a few years ago - with some resonance.

What is it about?

Every good skier knows that you have to do something counterintuitive to get down the slopes safely: You have to lean forward – the steeper and more difficult the slope the more.

Beginners, on the other hand, tend to lean backwards and wonder why they lose control.

And here's the question: How much do you lean forward in business? To make the analogy more concrete, here are three examples:

  1. Ambition. Do you set ambitious goals or are you satisfied with the situation as it is? Many of the leaders I see "lean back quite a bit" when it comes to ambition.
  2. Sales. Do you represent your products and services passionately and persuasively? Or do you tell yourself that the customer will come when he wants something? Only a few...
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Are you standing in the rain?

leadership mindset Mar 29, 2019

The other day I published a video on LinkedIn that attracted some attention and sympathy (watch it here).

The title is "Do you ever feel like standing in the rain?" It's about a myth I keep encountering, namely that success means a better and easier life.

Is that really the case? The answer: Yes, partly.

After all, success comes at a price (which everyone who wants to be successful in an unfamiliar field knows): The price is that you have to do profane and often hard work which has nothing to do with success directly.


  • As a top tennis player, you have to train serving again and again, even if it's not fun (and it almost never is).
  • As a top seller, you have to generate new leads again and again, even if it's hard and ungrateful. And you rarely feel successful.
  • As a top leader, you always have to deal with the profane worries of the team members and other unpleasant topics, even if you would rather do completely different things.

There are countless examples of these. The...

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Are you snapping back?

culture leadership Mar 21, 2019

In my leadership development workshops, there is always a miraculous phenomenon: the workgroups develop innovative ideas - often outside the comfort zone - on how to lead people's ways of thinking and behaving towards more success.

This success takes place in "risk-free" exercises, where nothing direct happens to the ideas and results.

Almost everyone agrees that the ideas and measures presented make sense and have desirable positive effects, such as greater enthusiasm, increasing productivity, growing innovative power and so on.

But then something strange often happens: As soon as you give the same workgroups the task of creating concrete action packages for their divisions or departments from these ideas and measures, with milestones and success measures, they snap back into the old, conservative way of thinking. Examples:

  • Instead of strong leadership with clear objectives, they prefer to discuss measures to change the structure.
  • Instead of agreeing on a really strong vision with...
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Create more problems!

leadership mindset Mar 14, 2019

If you don't have enough success, maybe you are not creating enough problems! You might find yourself rubbing your eyes in amazement: "Create more problems? We already have enough of them!” 

Or: "Don't the problems prevent us from focusing on the essentials?

This is all correct, however: Too often people do not strive for the next level of success because they fear they will get even more problems as a result.

And that is exactly the point: You will always generate problems if you substantially change something. So you better have the mindset that creating problems is something positive.

In other words, the more problems you create, the more it becomes a sign you, your team or company are developing substantially.

Or do you think that Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela and many others have pursued the path to success without experiencing problems? It will more than likely be the opposite!

So, the next time you are looking for the easiest way with the...
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Who wants to win anyway?

leadership mindset Mar 08, 2019

I have just come back from a global leadership workshop for a medium-sized company in Vienna. Almost 40 leaders who participated went through one and a half days of intensive and successful training. The goal was: to create the basis for winning team leadership.

In these types of workshops, the question inevitably arises as to why and whether we want to win. Is winning good at all? And, will others not lose if we win too much?

The answer to these questions is simple: once you have put the participants in a playful competitive situation, everyone will absolutely want to win - virtually without exception.

What really makes us have doubts about winning is the fear of too much success, because success obliges. Success means responsibility. Success raises the bar.

If you want a team or company that will continue to operate successfully in the future (instead of drowning), there is no alternative to winning. Here are the three most important levers you need to use:
  1. More ambition. Most...
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How many chances are you missing?

marketing & sales Feb 28, 2019

"We finally have to improve the customer experience," rumbles the head of sales at the management meeting. "We simply can't do everything we can to sell our products at high prices and then have such shortcomings on delivery!" There was an embarrassed silence.

Only after some hesitation does the head of logistics notice timidly: "After all, we were able to reduce the delivery time by 10 percent last quarter".

Perhaps you are familiar with such discussions. The problem is that they miss the actual crucial point.

Change of scene: When I unpacked my new Apple Watch the other day, I once again noticed how much importance this company continues to place on customer experience, not abstractly, but quite specifically.

This means that a total of 20 steps may be necessary to unpack and start up the device (if you count everything). Each of these steps works right away, is emotionally charged and seamlessly moves on to the next step. After about 10 minutes, the Smartwatch is completely ready...

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