A New Season – Lessons Learned by Jim Johnson

At the beginning of this month, one of my managers resigned. She worked for our company for 12 years. She was my direct report for the past 10 years. The transition has been better than expected. For me, it’s been a lot of hard work (which I don’t mind at all) and even more communication. I’ve learned some things as my team is moving to a new season.


I quickly learned what this former manager’s passions were. She was responsible for far too many aspects of our business (that’s another blog post). So, she ended up working as most people do – she focused on her passions and strengths. In part, I don’t fault her for that. I understand that over time, I had allowed her to take on more and more. I failed to be a road block when the company dumped new responsibilities on her and her team. She even joked that her department was the “junk drawer” of the company.

But even in the midst of the “junk”, critical responsibilities were passed over. Decisions were made as to what to focus on and what to ignore.

Things like staff development. I have been spending a lot of time coaching this month. This team is a great team of individuals who desire to perform better. But they didn’t fully understand how they impacted the company’s bottom line, brand image, and monthly metrics. I was told this was being done. I assumed it was. I found out differently this month.

Leadership is hard. Leadership takes a lot of time – corporate and personal. Leadership requires more from the leader than it does from the followers. Leadership pays off when the team makes progress based upon clear, outlined, focused direction.


I have learned that a leader cannot really over communicate. Team communication (when ignored) can morph in the the children’s game “telephone” – one person hears something and then translates that information to someone else who processes it and then tells the next person what they thought they heard and so on…

I talked with a staff member yesterday who was convinced of a process that I knew was not correct. She emphatically told “it’s this way, Jim!” I looked into it (even though I knew I was right), followed up with this employee, and set the record straight. “Oh,” she said, “that’s not what I was told…”

I communicate my schedule, company news, fraud reports, team metrics, kudos, focus statements, etc. I do this via emails, instant messaging, over the phone, via text, and in person.

If my team has gaps in its understanding of an issue/process/procedure, they will fill those gaps themselves – and the “filling” may not be correct.

Change Management

I’m in the process of finding a new manager for this area. The staff is nervous. Will the new boss come with a whipping stick? Will they be flexible? Will they be nice? I’ve heard these thoughts echoed as I have sat down with the staff in one-on-ones to discover what they’re thinking and feeling about this transition.

Change is never easy for people. I’ve seen tears. A staff member had some physical ailment arise from the stress of change. Others are drumming up drama. Others still are positioning to be a next-in-line leader.

My job is to guide them through this change through openness, honesty, communication, and vision.

Yes, I’m working to cast of vision in the midst of change. Why?

1. Vision sheds a spotlight on the path to change. People want to know where they are going. My job is to show them the way.

2. Vision paves a common path. I don’t want my team to choose different paths to a destination they think they are supposed to reach. I want us all on the same path focused on the same target. I want the power of connectedness.

3. Vision creates security. None of us know the future, but vision from a leader to the team can communicate that where they are going is going to be a very good thing. Change brews uncertainty. Vision can, in part, clear the fog of uncertainty.

I’m still learning. I have 4 other departments that I’m responsible during this transition. Yes, I go home tired. Yes, my kids notice. Yes, I’ve sometimes told my daughter, “daddy’s run out of words to say” at the end of the day.

While I didn’t like seeing a seasoned manager leave, I’ve decided to take this opportunity to learn, grow, and stretch as a leader. It’s helped me lead my other leaders. I have the chance to identify my weaknesses and turn them into strengths.

I’ve been leading people for over 30 years. It’s a new season for me and my team. I’m not too old to keep learning.


Become a Better Public Speaker  by Ceren Cubukcu


Many people freak out when they need to deliver a speech in front of a crowd. However, if you want to move ahead in your career and become a leader, you need to learn how to be an effective public speaker. Fortunately, public speaking is something that you can learn and with training along with enough practice, everybody can be a better public speaker.

Below you can find tips for becoming a better public speaker:

1. Practice Beforehand: Know your material very well and if possible, be an expert about it. Make an outline or if it is a power point presentation, prepare your slides in advance. Rehearse your speech a few times. It is better to practice it in front of a mirror first so that you can evaluate yourself. Then, for the final practices, you should rehearse it in the actual room that you will deliver the speech. If this is not possible, at least try to learn the technical details in the room such as whether there is a computer, a projector or a mike. This will help you be more prepared for the speech.

2. Know Your Audience: Try to learn as much about the audience as you can. For example, the number of people attending your speech, their age and their knowledge about the topic are important factors that will help you determine the tone and content of the speech that you will deliver. Make sure to have an opening line that will catch the attention of your audience.

3. Keep it Simple: 

Read the rest here:  http://www.personalbrandingblog.com/become-a-better-public-speaker/

Looking for Leaders by Jim Johnson


There comes a time in every organization where a leadership position opens up. Think about the last time this happened at your company. What typically takes place?

* Positioning – folks start (figuratively) body-checking others to get in front of the “look-at-me” line.
* Prospecting – the hiring manager begins to get emails, phone calls, or sudden visits from those posting for the open position. Their conversation usually begins with, “so what do you think…?”
* Postulating – other leaders bring you “the ideal candidate” that you, the hiring manager, should hire. “They are the perfect fit”.

So how do you, the person responsible for hiring the next leader in your area, navigate through these precarious waters?

1. Prepare. What are the needed characteristics of this leader? What was lacking in the last leader? What does the team really need? How will this leader “fit” with the other leaders on your team? Am I comfortable hiring someone who has strengths where I don’t (I hope so!)?Write it out.

2. Observe. If you’re hiring from within, discover who is already leading? I’ve seen many organizations force a leadership position on a person who was not ready or who did not have the necessary skills or reputation as a leader.

Years ago, I was attending a large church where they were looking for new elders (church board). The pastor was focused on filling the open positions with doctors, lawyers, or other “respectable” professionals. I asked why these positions were important? The response pointed to the positive appearance this would bring to the church.

I asked this question to the pastor, “who – right now – is ‘eldering’ (I know that’s not a word)? Who is seen as a leader? Who is doing the job of an elder just because it’s in their nature – it’s what they are gifted to do?” I was ignored. I then suggested a man I had observed. “What about Rick? He leads a small group. He’s active in the community. He has a real heart for the people of this church. Others go to him for counsel and respect his opinion. He is a staunch promoter of our church.”

“No, not him. He works at the GM plant.” And with that, the die was cast. An attorney, a CEO, or some other corporate “eye-candy” was selected (not a bad man, please understand) for the open positions.

If you’re looking for leaders – and I repeat – who is already leading? Who does the staff seek out for guidance? Who builds up the team? Who is getting results and is sharing with their team mates how they can do the same? Who is volunteering time to do the extra things? Who is respected outside of your department? Take time to truly observe your team.

3. Interview. Write out your questions in advance based upon the needs of this position. Always, always, always ask open-ended questions. “Tell me about a time when you…” vs. “Can you do this job?”

Read the application/resume. Question items listed there. Ask for details, examples, stories. If they embellished on their resume, will you be able to trust them to lead others? Don’t overlook this.

Take notes during the interview. You will not remember everything said. Your notes will come in handy if you are blessed with the tough decision between 2 or more great candidates.

4. Selection. Once you’ve made your decision, take the time – if allowed – to follow up on those you said “no” to. This can be a great learning experience for them. Be honest why you selected someone else. Share with them their positive traits and then what they can work on. Bring value to them by helping them in their next career step.

Finding your next leader can be a great experience. You’ll learn a lot about yourself. You’ll learn a lot about people.

Refocusing the Unfocused by Jim Johnson

I’m sure you’ve experienced this. You have an employee who thinks they are the next leader in line. They tell others this. They even go as far as stating that they’ve been promised some new position. Or they walk around pouting because they don’t have what they were “promised”.

How do these employees get into this kind of thinking? I have some thoughts:

1. They need some courageous and honest conversations.

Coaching sessions can be great if the coaching is direct and honest. Employees who are under-performing should not be walking out of a meeting feeling they are on track for a promotion. They should understand the necessary action plan to get them on the road to improvement.

2. They don’t see themselves as their peers see them.

Employees who want to be leaders often see themselves in leadership roles in what they are currently doing. But no one else does. Others are not seeking them out for assistance or advice. If you were to ask the peer group who the leaders are, this person’s name would not make the top 3 list.

3. They equate work on small projects – and the “busy-ness” that goes with that – as results.

Projects need to happen. There is a lot of extra work required. But folks who expect to be the next in line leader often think that this work automatically propels them to the leadership ranks. In fact, they might point to this work to prove their “rights” to leadership. Results are results. I’ve seen employees who lean on project work vs. actual performance results to demonstrate they are deserving of a promotion. Again, go back to #1 and have an honest and direct coaching session.

4. They equate knowledge as the sole rite of passage to leadership.

I love employees who know their job. But knowledge alone does not qualify someone for leadership. I’m not suggesting, though, that leaders don’t need to know their area of expertise. They do! And we all know leaders who are in the dark – it’s painful to work with or under them.

5. They love drama.

I hate drama at work. Nothing sucks the life out of productivity, collaboration, and cooperation than drama. I’ve seen many want-to-be leaders drum up drama in an attempt to get people on their side and to create a “them” – which they can then blame for their own shortcomings . When you see drama starting up, work to eliminate it before Act 1 is over. Few win in drama at work.

A tactic I use to help refocus the unfocused is this: I work to help them understand that if they want to move up in a company, they have much (if not most) to do with the process. I tell them that in order for them to advance they must become…

the right person doing the right thing at the right time…

The right person speaks of character – being the kind of person that others want to be around. The kind of person that represents the company well in and out of the office.

The right thing is defined by the company. It’s the goals/objectives that will bring success to the company. It’s the personal performance metrics each employee is responsible for.

The right time is out of the control of the employee. We never know when opportunity will come our way. We are responsible for being ready for it. In a company, in my opinion, you must focus on being the right person doing the right things…and then when the time is right, you are in the best possible position to set up and cause others to take notice of you.

If this employee has character issues that cause others to not trust them…if they are not meeting expectations in their role…then the time should never be right for them.


So, today, who do you need to help refocus?


Footnote: I’ve written a short workbook entitled “Right On” that expands on the above thoughts.  You can find it here:  http://www.amazon.com/Right-On-Jim-Johnson-ebook/dp/B006VEMDT0


5 Tips for New Team Leaders by JEANNE DEWITT


I’ve been a new manager five times in my career: once as a first-time manager at Google going from being a teammate to leading peers, three times as I was promoted within Google, and most recently as the new Chief Revenue Officer for UberConference, a teleconferencing startup in San Francisco. What I’ve found is that success out of the gate is normally tied to being truly open to learning, communicating openly and honestly, and ultimately being prepared to take action when you know where the team needs to head.

To that end, here are the key things I’ve learned along the way:


When someone new joins a team, it generally creates some nervousness. Everyone wants to know what you’re going to change and where you’re going to take the direction of the team. Be as open and transparent about what you’re thinking as quickly as possible. You can start by outlining your 30-day plan. While you may not have any opinions specific to the business yet, you can tell people what you want to learn about and evaluate. Additionally, the more transparent you can be, the more comfortable people will feel being similarly candid with you. You may not know your strategy, but you can certainly talk about your values, priorities, and observations.

Ask questions. 

I make a rule that about 50 percent of the words coming out of my mouth should end with a question mark in the first 30 days. I’m also explicit with people that all I plan to do is ask questions in the first month (which helps me hold myself accountable to that!). When I first became a manager, I was introduced to the concept of being a “knower” versus a “learner.” A knower assumes she has the answers, whereas a learner will admit that she doesn’t — even if she has significant experience. Being genuinely excited about the opportunity to learn and understand what’s going on within the company builds credibility, and generally makes you more approachable.

Figure out what people really want to do

Read the rest here: http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/09/5-tips-for-new-team-leaders/

Stress Management

“Without stress management, all too often your body is always on high alert. Over time, high levels of stress lead to serious health problems. Don’t wait until stress has a negative impact on your health, relationships or quality of life. Start practicing a range of stress management techniques today.”

Read the rest here:  http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/basics/stress-basics/hlv-20049495