Volkmar Völzke's BLOG


Do You Have A Front Row Culture?

If your team or your staff went into a theatre, how would they fill the seats?

Would they walk in slowly, hesitating to take the seats, preferring the seats at the aisles to easily escape when it becomes unpleasant? Would they leave the front rows empty and stay at the back? Would they stay silent when the show begins and only provide moderate applause at the end? 

Or would your people rush into the room, trying to grab the seats in the front rows, chatting with each other, making jokes, impatiently waiting for the show to begin, releasing their excitement with a roaring applause? 

You guessed it. This scenario is a metaphor for two extremes of your team or corporate culture. And it really works if you imagine your team being in the described situation in the theatre.

Are you a front row or a back row team?

Honestly! Which one is more fun to work with? Which one would more easily take on new challenges? 

Most teams I see are back row teams.

Here is what you can do to...

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‼️ Be Careful What You Say!

Our language is an interesting tool: we use it to influence not only others, but also ourselves.

"How am I supposed to know what I think before I hear what I say?" is a well-known and true saying.

If you keep saying the same thing about yourself, whether positive or negative, you will end up believing it. You can't help it. Therefore, be careful how you talk about yourself.

But another aspect of language is just as important: others connect us to what we say, not just the content, but the way we say something and how often we say it.

This becomes especially clear in presentations and video recordings (which I regularly recommend to all leaders): your messages consist of much more than your content.

You could even say that your content conveys the least amount of influencing energy.

So how can you improve your language to become more persuasive and influential?

Here are three concrete tips with immediate effect from the multitude of possibilities:

  1. Delete words of doubt.
    Words like...
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How Good Are Your Manners?

I find that a high number of managers and even top leaders have surprisingly questionable manners for personal interaction. 

Examples: No answers to value-generating personal communication, even if they know the other person. Not showing up on time to confirmed meetings. Ignoring work performed by their team. Not executing the agreed tasks. And so on. 

Showing good manners is an attitude.

This becomes in particular obvious when I interact with somebody who demonstrates superior manners: they answer to valid requests (no matter if the answer is negative), they show up on time and are prepared, they do what they say they will do, they are present in personal interactions, and so on. 

And by the way, good manners have nothing – yes, nothing! – to do with available time or position. Often, even the busiest and most “important” people are the ones with the best manners. However, it has everything to do with the respect for others, prioritisation,...

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😠 The Everyday Frustration As A Leader

Life as a leader is not always easy. There are not only times when you celebrate great successes with your team, but also frustration and difficulties.

The higher your own expectations, the more likely you are to experience frustration - if you don't install certain routines.

What I encounter as difficulties when coaching with my clients are various typical issues:

People not keeping their promises and timelines, coming to meetings unprepared, and so on. You just can't fully rely on others.

Another typical frustration generator is drama between people and departments, sometimes like in kindergarten (which is why parenting and leadership have a lot in common).

Many leaders also complain about "getting nowhere." The days go by with all sorts of things, but not the really important ones. Then in the evening you ask yourself, "What did I even get done today?"

So how can you minimize this difficulty and frustration? Here are three ideas:

  1. Clarity about goals.
    The most important point is...
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What is success anyway?

I’m writing a lot about success. Hence the question is important: what is success anyway? The answer to this question has a significant implication on the future of your life and your business. 

As for all other building blocks that shape our future, the perception of success is also a question of our mindset and our beliefs.

In other words, what I believe about success will determine how successful I become. 

In most of my workshops, some attendees will connect to success in negative, rather than positive, stories. For them, success is associated with stress, obligations, “blood, sweat, and tears”, failure, envy, and much more. The consequences are clear:

People with negative beliefs about success will do everything to subconsciously sabotage their success. 

This effect of the mindset of team members on the success of the entire team and their leader is largely ignored. Even if addressing these challenges is most effective in coaching or workshop...

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Engineering and psychology - how do they go together?

You may know that I have a Masters degree in engineering.

And perhaps you also know that today I essentially help my clients to climb new performance levels - be it as a leader or as a team as a whole.

Of course, this involves a great deal of psychology - which is not exactly a focus of engineering studies.

So how can this be done? Well, quite simply: through a burning interest in psychological relationships (which I already developed as a teenager) and therefore ongoing intensive study of the most important topics.

And here comes the best: Due to my technical background I can pick up rather technically thinking people all the better and accompany them on their way.

I'm not telling this to impress, but to show that often seemingly contradictory topics have the greatest potential for success.

And I also find it exciting how our passions guide us in life.

My question to you: what completely different themes can you bring together so that you can benefit yourself and others? Feel free...

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🎧 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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