Do you have a “Mother, may I?” Culture? by Jim Johnson

mother may I


I recently heard John Stossel make the following statement concerning government:  “when we have a “mother, may I” government, innovation and creativity dies.”  He went on to say that when people are over-burdened with regulations, fewer and fewer people will fight the current to find a better way to do business.  This got me thinking…

Do you have a “Mother, may I?” culture at your company?

  • The staff is petrified to act in the best interest of your customers because they may “get in trouble” for acting first instead of asking first.
  • Your team comes to you constantly throughout the day to get permission to act, get involved, decide on ____________.
  • You have employees who’ve been in their positions for years and they have not generated a new idea, initiative, suggestion, etc.
  • Your team waits for you – the manager, VP, CEO – to decide what to do next.  Until then, nobody moves.

In 2008, I spoke at a national credit union conference at Disney World.  One of the keynote speakers was the former CEO of Mountain America Credit Union (Utah).  In his early days, he once observed teller interactions with members in the lobby of the main branch.  He stated that at almost every interaction, the tellers excused themselves, walked over to their manager’s office and then returned and finished the transaction.  After several interactions, he walked over to one of the tellers and asked why they continued to seek out the manager.  He was told that the manager had to approve almost anything a teller did.  He soon found out that this was happening all over the credit union.

“We had created a sluggish, ineffective bureaucracy here. I set out to change it.”  He did.  The credit union’s assets more than doubled under this man’s leadership in about 12 years.  They acquired several smaller credit unions.  Their business now spans 4 states.

So here’s the question for you:  How do you change from a company of “Mother, may I?” to one that empowers its staff to think, innovate, create, and serve your customers?

I’d love to read your thoughts.  Please share them!



I was explaining how to do something when a close friend said, “Do it yourself.”

I have a love-hate relationship with my life-long friend Tim. (Mostly love.) But, he got me thinking about organizations and teams that are burdened with “geniuses” who talk too much and do too little.

Years ago, I taught computer classes. Students listened with confidence until I said, “OK, you do it.” When it comes time to take action, confidence wilts to confusion and doubt.

You-do-it moments, separate the talkers from the doers.

Talkers, who sit on the sidelines, are clouds without water and lights without heat.

Moving your mouth feels important, until it’s time to put feet to your words.

Empty talkers:

– Explain why things aren’t working.
– Tell how to do it, when they haven’t done it.
– Feel impatient slow progress, even though their hands are clean.
– Enjoy the safety of the sidelines.

There are those who talk. Then there are those who actually get things done.

Tell talkers to shut-up and do it themselves.

Talking makes sense when:

– You have experience. Eloquence isn’t experience.
– You’re getting your hands dirty in the process.
– It’s more useful for others to do it and you to explain it. They need experience.
– Your affirmations restore energy and confidence. “You’re doing great.”
– Correction prevents costly mistakes.
– Don’t allow talkers to talk too much and do too little.

Effective leaders talk to:

Read the rest here:

What’s Your Blindside? by Beth Armknecht Miller


We all have our blind spots, those things we either can’t see or choose not to see. These are behaviors that you mismanage and often become more intense and harder to manage during change and stressful situations. Let’s face it; blind spots can lead to shortfalls in our success as a leader or a team member.

Over the years coaching senior executives, I have found that there seems to be three themes around leadership blindside: Avoidance, Independence, and Acceptance.


Depending on your level of comfort the number one thing that leaders avoid are difficult conversations, which are generally related to an individual’s performance. And if you aren’t guilty of this, I know you know at least one person who is! And, when the conversation finally occurs the outcome is worse than if the conversation happened closer to the questionable performance.

Delivering bad news about company performance would be the second type of avoidance. Often the behavior displayed by a leader in these cases is a deafening silence and absence. Suddenly meetings start to become less frequent and reports are delivered late. Often a leader’s fear is driving this behavior. The leader has conversations in his mind of whom they might lose on their team and how it is going to impact them, or who will lose respect for him because of the bad results.

Another type of avoidance is change. The executive has identified a significant change that needs to be made, which will negatively impact employees. And instead of implementing the change, it is delayed and delayed again.


Independence can be displayed in a number of ways. This is the leader who has all the answers or believes that he should have all the answers. He thinks he is being paid to fix all the problems and has the right solution, so he doesn’t delegate properly. The result: team members aren’t growing to their full potential and often leave out of frustration.

Read the rest here:

Four Diseases That Weaken Leaders BY S. ANTHONY IANNARINO


Here are four diseases that weaken leaders and damage their ability to produce results through others.

1. Inability to Control Your Own State: If you want to prove that you have no real power, lose your temper and fly off the handle. An inability to control your own state is a sign of weakness, not power. The greater your ability to control your own state, especially when you are under pressure, the more powerful you are.

Controlling your own state makes you a more compelling, more powerful leader.

2. Inability to Exercise Patience and Tolerance: Losing your patience and demonstrating your intolerance over things that get under your skin is a sign of weakness. A leader holds people to a standard, but the real craft of leading is in how the leader upholds their standard.

Patience and tolerance when dealing with people challenges demonstrates a type of caring that makes you easy to follow.

Read the rest here:

How Will You Show Up Today? by Becky Robinson


What is your leadership signature? How would those you lead describe your unique way of being in the world?

1. Start with self reflection. How would you describe your leadership signature? What mark would you like to be making as a leader? How would others describe you? Would they describe you as positive or negative? Do you see possibilities or problems? Are you focused on challenges or solutions? The words you use and your actions create your memorable presence, your leadership signature.

2. Ask for feedback. Ask those you lead what they perceive as your leadership signature. Use focused but open-ended questions, and listen with an open mind.

3. Adjust as needed. In the event that the signature you’re making as a leader is not aligned with the signature you’d like to make, consider how you might adjust your approach to create a different signature.

Every day and every encounter is an opportunity to shape our leadership signature.

Read the rest here:

Find the book, Lead Positive, here:

How leaders create happy customers and great results by Michael Ray Hopkin

How do leaders create sustained growth and make an obvious improvement to the bottom line of their company? Is it really possible for one (or a few) people to make a major difference in the results of a big organization? The answer, of course, is ‘yes’—if they take the right approach.
When leaders engage with their employees and gain their trust, the employees in turn provide a positive experience for the customers.

Delighted by their experience, customers come back. They not only come back, they tell their friends who buy products and services. The bottom line grows and, if practiced consistently over time, the company has long-term, sustained growth.

Michael Hyatt describes how influential leaders improve customer focus and make a major difference:
Real leaders are contagious. People “catch” what they have. People are drawn to their vision and their values. They are able to gather a following and move people to act.

In a recent post The Secret to Sustained Business Growth, Bill Zipp sheds additional light on what can happen when leaders are not engaged in building a customer-focused team:

After an initial experience with the company, new customers never came back and didn’t recommend them to family and friends. The reason sales didn’t scale was simple: their encounter with his employees was so lackluster, they concluded, “Why bother?”

The employees at this company were good people, but the environment was toxic. Inexperienced leaders, under pressure to perform, managed their direct reports through manipulation and intimidation. Praise was as rare as a sunny day in Seattle. Distrust and disrespect was rampant.

He goes on to describe the solution—the Leadership-Profit Chain—a term coined by the Ken Blanchard Companies for the link their researchers found between leaders, employees, customers and profit.

Read the rest here:


An Abundance of Managers, But Too Few Leaders? BY JONATHAN FARRINGTON


One of the questions I am most frequently asked is what are the key differences between a leader and a manager, and this is the best quote I have ever read. It succinctly describes those differences.

There is a difference between leadership and management. Leadership is of the spirit management is of the mind. Managers are necessary, but leaders are essential. We must find managers who are not only skilled organizers, but inspired and inspiring leaders.” – Field Marshall Slim

I believe that you can buy someone’s physical presence, but you cannot buy loyalty, enthusiasm, or devotion – these you must earn.

Successful organizations have leaders who focus on the future rather than cling to the past. Leaders bring out the best in people. They spend time developing other people into leaders.

In my view, these are the qualities of a true leader:

Leaders have a clear vision of what they are working towards. They don’t keep their vision a secret – they communicate it to their people.

Leaders are consistent. They keep their principles and values at all times.

Leaders can and will do what they expect of others. They are prepared to walk the talk.

Leaders are not threatened by competence. They enjoy promoting people and are quick to give credit to those who have earned it.

Leaders enjoy developing their people into leaders, not followers. They train people to take on more challenging tasks and responsibilities – they develop people’s confidence.

Leaders don’t betray trust. They can treat confidential information professionally.

Read the rest here:

Why I Read by Jim Johnson


I have always loved to read. As a kid, I participated in my small town library’s summer reading programs. It seems I always had a book to read. Cable TV, iPads/iPods, iPhones, and the internet didn’t exist when I was a kid. I’m glad. I took to reading.

At work, I’m known for reading. Some of my colleagues are as well. I usually get the “oh, Jim’s the reader of the bunch.” I’m ok with that. There are plenty of reasons why I read:

1. Exposure to new ideas.

As a leader, a manager, a husband, a father, I want to learn new things that will make me better. For me, reading is my ticket to learning the most. With the internet, apps such as Zite, Amazon, etc., there is no shortage of great material either free or very inexpensive.

2. To have my beliefs challenged.

Notice I didn’t say to have my beliefs changed. Oh, that might happen. But when I read content, I want what I believe to be true to be stretched, challenged, run through the fire. Through reading, I can dialogue with the author as I agree or disagree with their ideas. My beliefs, personal philosophy, and foundation become stronger on the other side of a good book or article.

3. To teach others what I’m learning.

I lead leaders. I do not have all the answers and they know it. I read to make me a better leader and share what I’ve learned in order to model something very important to me – life-long learning and self-development. The “school of hard knocks” is not enough. Attending a vendor conference and bringing home free pens is not enough. Reading allows me to share great truths and practical ideas to my leaders as I help them on their own personal journey of excellence.

4. For enjoyment.

I love a good thriller. I love to get wrapped up in magnetic story line with intriguing characters. A great book beats a movie every time for me.

5. To stay on top of new trends.

Our world is changing at a rapid pace. There are countless resources available to help me stay abreast of what is happening within my industry as well as in areas I need to learn more about.

6. To model reading to my children.

I have smart kids. And they are kids who love to be on an iPad or video game or watch something on the Disney channel. I have to be obvious in my reading. They need to see me reading. I talk about my reading. We have them reading every night. Studies continue to show that children who read often succeed more.

What am I reading or have just finished?

* “The Happiest Life” by Hugh Hewitt
* “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg (I finished this a year ago, but I had to mention this powerful book – it has changed my thinking at work)
* “The Book of Manly Men” by Stephen Mansfield (helping me to become a better dad and husband)
* “Disappointment with God” by Philip Yancey (challenging my spiritual life)
* “Thinker Toys: A Handbook of Business Creativity” by Michael Michalko
* “Youtility” by Jay Baer (I just ordered this yesterday. Thank you, Nancy White from Fiserv for the recommendation!)
* Zite – smart phone/tablet app where I can read and be exposed to all kinds of great content. It’s free and searchable. I’m on Zite everyday.
* Blogs – find and follow great thinkers and writers.

Learn. Grow. Read.