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Volkmar Völzke's BLOG


🎧 Stop Listening To Yourself!

leadership mindset Feb 21, 2022

I don’t know about you, but most people are good at talking to others and not good at listening. There is an old, yet true leadership advice: to become more influential (hence a better leader, a better parent, a better sales person), start talking less and listening more. 

I want to take this a step further: Most people listen too much to themselves and talk too much to others. What do I mean by this? Well, we all listen constantly to our own stories and beliefs that are rooted in our past. This hardwiring in our brain is a survival mechanism, but here comes the twist: It prevents us from growing, and if we talk too much to others instead of listening, it makes it even worse. 

Here’s my suggestion: listen less to yourself and more to others. And: talk less to others and more to yourself.

“Talking to yourself” means that you consciously choose the thoughts that you want to guide your decisions and actions. As this sounds a bit theoretical, here are...

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🆙 How To Create A Winning Team

The best teams in the world - whether in business, sports or elsewhere - don't just happen, they are made.

That's a simple and important insight. Because all too often I speak with leaders who see their team's performance as a given fact rather than an opportunity to shape it.

My thesis, which proves true again and again, is that if the leader really wants it, it is possible to form a top team from any group of people ("fellow workers") in a fairly short time, a team that reliably and joyfully produces top results. I call this a "winning team."

Productivity can be a multiple of the original as an effect, fun is significantly greater, attraction to talent increases, and so on. There are many positive effects that make the journey worthwhile for everyone.

Is that easy? No, of course not! Is it doable? Absolutely.

As with any major transformation in life as in business, there are a number of steps to take to make it happen. 

Here are three of those steps that are a good starting...

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🟢 It’s All About Priorities

leadership productivity Feb 14, 2022

One of the most accomplished management gurus of recent times, Peter Drucker, used to say “First things first. Last things never.” This brings us to the point: don’t prioritize. Instead, simply decide what’s most important and then do it. If you constantly apply this principle in your life, you’ll never have time to do anything of low priority anyway. 

The amazing truth is that you always can spot, with any person or business (or even country), what’s their top priority and what is not.

I like this observation in any kind of corporate or country culture. I’m writing this memo while on the train from Switzerland to Venice, and for sure, it is clear that many things in Italy are not as clean and well maintained as they are in Switzerland. Instead, people take, on average, more time for personal conversations and other things. This is not about stereotypes, but about different priorities – without forcing any judgment. 


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🏆 Do You Already Have A Winning Team?

I'm always asked how people can tell that they have a "winning team." And related to that, what is the most important difference to a "normal" team.

Well, I define a "winning team" as a team that reliably achieves top results sustainably over a longer period of time while having fun.

Thus, outstanding results are certainly one criterion. But almost more important are characteristics that you sense in your team already on the way to becoming a winning team. Because these often come before the actual results - and also go beyond them.

Here are 3 characteristics by which you can well sense whether you are on the way to becoming a winning team with your people:
  1. You sense a high energy. Do people tend to wait or do they move forward? Do you feel like you have to "pull everything out of your people's throats" or does everyone make suggestions on their own? Is there laughter where you work or is everyone dead serious? Even though the energy of a team is only a qualitative criterion, you...
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😖 How To Frustrate Others Less

leadership Feb 03, 2022

That could well be a resolution for this year: frustrate other people less. 

It may seem a bit negative, but it is positive nonetheless. Because we all frustrate others - and often without realizing it.

This manifests itself in the fact that others avoid us, do not listen to us properly, do things differently than we imagine, and so on. 

This issue is as relevant in your family (or have you never frustrated your teenagers, if you have any?) as it is, of course, to your leadership in the professional environment. 

For the purists of psychology, here's a clarification: you can't frustrate others directly, but you can certainly influence them so that they become frustrated.

Either way, the crucial question remains:  

How can you frustrate others less and thereby increase your positive influence? Here are three often overlooked levers:
  1. Always knowing something better. Do you actually know how frustrating it is for others when you constantly add something to...
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❓ 3 New Questions For This Year

leadership Jan 27, 2022

I always emphasize that the questions we ask are more crucial to our success than the answers.

This is all the more true in leadership. Because by asking questions, you direct thoughts, both in yourself and in others.

There are empowering and disempowering questions. The former make you think about meaningful answers that take us forward. The latter lead to a dead end, because they hardly allow an answer that brings us ahead. 

( If you want to practice the technique of asking the right questions, the best way is to come to my coaching. You can find suitable programs here). 

Because of the high importance of questions to your own success and the success of your entire team, I recommend that you create a set of empowering questions.

Here are three ideas for empowering questions that I especially recommend using repeatedly this year:
  1. "How can we benefit from adversity?"
    You can ask this question whenever you face setbacks. Instead of "What can we do now?" ask the...
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🚀 What will become more important this year

leadership Jan 19, 2022

We live in interesting times, I think. The speed of change is increasing and the uncertainties are growing. And that is likely to intensify.

So far, so familiar. As in any time - whether stable or rather not - there are winners and losers. There are people and companies that tend to benefit from the uncertainties, and those that tend to suffer.

The good news is that which group you belong to is largely a choice. Those who are better than the average consciously or unconsciously choose to see things differently and focus on the opportunity that promises the greatest chance of winning.

To do that, it's good to know (or assume) which success factors are becoming more important than others in each case. 

Here are three topics that, in my view, will become much more important this year - and for which I therefore recommend that you consider how you can become better at them with your team:

  1. Attractiveness on the labor market. For the challenges that will increase in the future, you...
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✏️ What we learned last year

The past year has had its share of peculiarities, from the uncertainty caused by the pandemic to the disrupted supply chains.

Many business leaders are reporting new challenges that didn't exist before or were less prevalent.

From my own experience and my numerous conversations with leaders from all kinds of industries, I have distilled some key "learning points."

Here are the 3 most important learning points from the past year, from my observation, that we should capitalize on in the new year:
  1. Things can always turn out differently. If the year 2021 has taught us one thing, it is that everything can always turn out differently. The future has always been uncertain, of course, but in my view the speed of changes in direction has increased. As a result, those who are good at taking advantage of new situations instead of sticking to their original plans and strategies have understood the lesson and can create new successes.
  2. Focus on what is feasible. It is increasingly important to...
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What will you get better at this year?

Welcome to the new year! I hope you had a pleasant start and begin the new year full of motivation and confidence. 

My first question for this year as food for thought may seem a bit unusual: "What will you become better at this year?" Or, "What will you be significantly better at in 12 months than you are today?"

After all, most people tend to talk about goals and resolutions now. While this has its merits (I'm a big proponent of the importance of grand objectives), it often neglects a crucial aspect:

The biggest lever for your results and success is your own level in your thinking, behavior and skills.

That's why I suggest that right from the start you make sure that you get better in one important aspect every week. This requires systematic work on it.

You can, of course, choose from a variety of topics for personal growth. From my experience working with top leaders and society development, I particularly encourage the following three topics:
  1. Rational thinking. It may be...
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😃 How happy are you as a leader?

Admittedly, the question in the headline may seem strange to you. Very few people associate "happiness" with leadership.

And wrongly so. After all, if you're going to put in all the hard work and overtime that usually comes with leadership positions, you don't want to be unhappy in the process, do you?

Quite a few don't let this consideration get to them. I love to ask my clients at the outset of our work relationship, "Are you happy doing what you do?"

Here's another hint: If you ask parents what they want most for their children, the number one answer you'll hear is, "That they're happy!"

So if it's most important to us for our loved ones to be happy, why not in leadership? And especially at this time of year, I think it's an obvious thought.

So, are you happy in what you do at work? And are the people on your team?

Because if you and your people are, everyone will enjoy performing at a higher level and have more fun doing it.

So, how do you manage to increase happiness for...
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