Volkmar Völzke's BLOG


How to boost your people's appetite for change

culture leadership Feb 25, 2021

I recently conducted a survey on leadership and was surprised by the number and quality of responses. Many thanks to all who participated!

Next week, I will present the exciting results in more detail (so that everyone can benefit from them). Today, I'll pick out one point that ran through many of the answers: people's lack of willingness to change.

This topic is as old as mankind: Those who want to change something struggle against the persistence of many.

Except: That's exactly why we need leaders! And here comes the unpleasant truth: Whoever complains as a leader about the lack of willingness to change on the part of others has not done his or her homework.

The good news is that this is something that can be changed. In fact, there are mechanisms to systematically increase the willingness to change in a team and company.

Here are three fundamental steps for doing so (that most never think of):

  1. Foundations. Many leaders lack a comprehensive understanding of why people change and...
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Who are you?

culture leadership Nov 05, 2020

Let me ask you a profound question, the answer of which might shape your future:

Who are you? And: who is your business or your team? 

What do I mean by this? Well, from psychology comes the insight that our success in life is mostly defined by the self-image we have. For example, if you deeply believe you are a person who is on the planet to do good for people, you will build your life around this identity. If you believe you are a victim of outside circumstances, you also will create a life of reaction and victimhood. 

The key is that most are never truly aware of their identity.

Instead, they just wonder why their life ends up in a certain way. How powerful is it then if you become fully aware of your self-image and become able to change it consciously? It is not always an easy process (and most often requires a coach), but it is possible – and extremely powerful. 

Now let’s transfer this insight to the business world. Specifically, organizations also...

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The difference between existing, playing, and winning

culture leadership Oct 06, 2020

A while ago, I attended the Swiss Innovation Forum in Basel. That year the motto was “Play”. The guiding thought is that we could all be more innovative if we played more and allowed for more playfulness. 

Too many teams and entire organisations are simply existing than playing.

What do I mean by this? Well, if the guiding idea of any member in an organisation is to get through the workday and the workweek, then we are merely existing. This is about surviving the workday in order to thrive in private life (if at all). 

Too many organisations are on this “existence level”: as a leader, just do enough so that people stay and do their work.

The “play” state is already significant progress: people like what they do and they like to see it as a “game”, in the most positive sense. People are cheerful and truly support each other. These organisations are not only more productive than the “existing” ones, but also...

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A tale of two companies

culture leadership Oct 02, 2020

Here is a short business story with an important moral: two companies are successfully positioned in the market, operate in a similar segment and have moderately growing sales. Everything else is also very similar.

In good times, business runs very smoothly. But now, the environment is more difficult (maybe due to a pandemic, maybe due to a downturn, maybe due to changing customer demands). And here comes the difference…

In leadership meetings in company A,  it is always stressed that the company is very well positioned and that it has enough experience to cope with the whole situation. In Company B, on the other hand, more people who have learned to think differently have their say: they develop the firm conviction that this is the opportunity to learn massively, to take on full responsibility and to use the difficult time to their advantage. 

So, they study books and other material that will help each individual to progress. They devour biographies of successful...

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What people really want

culture leadership Oct 01, 2020

Remarkably, whenever and wherever I make the workshop exercise to let people describe the ideal future of the company they are working for, I get statements such as innovative, dynamic, cool, leading, etc. When I ask how they would describe the current state of their organization, phrases come up such as reliable, high quality, secure, and predictable. 

Again, these results are more or less consistent over all businesses I assess:

Many people say they work in a safe, yet “boring” environment. What they dream of instead looks different: dynamic, fresh, and cool. 

And now comes the bummer: even if the leadership team sees this articulated desire of their people, there is hardly any action after these workshops (unless I stay as a business coach and help drive the change). 

Why is this? Why do so many smart leaders not create an organization in which people would engage at their full potential?

The key reason is uncertainty about the “how”. How to...

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How courageous are you?

culture leadership Sep 24, 2020

Winston Churchill once said, "Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities...because it is the quality which guarantees all others."

But the fact is, the most important qualities – and certainly not courage - are not necessarily the most widespread. 

Do you know what I miss most in the leadership teams of many companies? The courage to think big, to tackle the most ambitious goals, to push through important decisions and to set an example of courageous leadership.

There is a huge difference between people who stay in their comfort zone and those who think and act on a much larger scale. Truly great things only ever come about when the distance between a vision and the current state of affairs is as great as possible.

This requires courage. After all, a growth of 3% per year feels more secure than if we wanted to double our business in 3 years. The latter will cause resistance, fears, complaints, but also the chance for real change - for something truly...

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The big mass in the middle

culture leadership May 31, 2020

To which group do you belong: 20, 60, or 20? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Ok, here is the resolution: the longer I support business leaders in achieving substantial success growth, the more it solidifies my 20-60-20 rule. It simply states the following: 

  • 20% of the people of any group are keen to implement the new, to apply the learned, to try the ideas.
  • 60% are waiting for something. They are rather skeptical, but not unwilling to move. They listen, but hesitate with execution.
  • 20% are resistant. They will ignore good ideas and sometimes actively fight them.

This distribution is almost always true, no matter what you want to achieve. How does this knowledge help you, as a manager and someone who wants to implement something new? Here is my tip: 

  1. Ignite the fire in the group of the top 20%. Feed their hunger, so they cannot hold back to start the changes you want them to execute.
  2. Provide the middle 60% with certainty and address the typical...
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The amazing differences

culture leadership Jan 30, 2020

One of the wonderful things for me as a sparring partner, consultant and executive coach is that in recent years, I have had the opportunity to look into well over a hundred companies in all kinds of industries. Many of them became clients.

One thing I always find fascinating: the different ways of thinking, behaving and working that the people in the companies - and above all the managers - use to achieve their successes (and failures).

What is an absolute must for some people may have never been thought of by others. For some, weekly briefings are routine; others even have trouble arranging such an appointment once a year.

Some show fun and humour; others make you feel like you have to go to the cellar to laugh. Some constantly encourage and challenge themselves with coaching and training, while others almost never do anything of the kind.

Here is my point: There is a clear connection between how a team thinks and acts and its ongoing successes.

The problem: Most people never look...

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No fantasy!

culture leadership Nov 21, 2019

When I interview a client's executives at the beginning of a collaboration, I almost always ask an intriguing question: "If you had a magic wand and could immediately change something here, what would it be?"

The interesting thing is that almost everyone finds it extremely difficult to answer this question. Not because they don't have enough things to complain about. I've always heard enough of that before.

The problem is different - and that can be very relevant for you and your team: Most of us have forgotten how to think in limitless possibilities. Instead, we are constantly focused on solving problems - also in leadership.

The result: lack of imagination in the design of a strong vision, in the development of strategic possibilities, in positioning in the market and so on.

The imagination of your people (and your own) means an enormous competitive advantage.

What does it take to awaken this imagination? Three things above all:

  1. Decision. You must consciously decide to change the...
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A winning team culture in 3 stages

culture leadership Jul 25, 2019

It is difficult to turn an average company (or business area) into a sustainably outstanding one. 

That's exactly why the best coaches are called upon in sport when it comes to advancing to the next league (or to the Champions League finals). Also, leadership is extremely important in business for the same reason.

What does a top coach (or even what I do with my clients regarding the above question) actually do?

If you study the topic (and especially the successes), it's always these three steps with which you can turn an average team into an outstanding winning team:

  1. Basics. The reasons for more or less success can be found in very simple traits with each individual, which were often only completely forgotten: Full responsibility, ambition, perseverance, and some other things are very simple principles of every winning team, which most people violate daily. That's why we first have to work systematically on these principles.
  2. Clarity. For each significant change, it needs...
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