Fresh Perspective on Familiar Work

Perhaps you’ve been the manager in your department/store/division for years.  You know your business (so you think) inside and out.  You are very familiar with the internal processes you need to complete.  You’ve trained staff and perhaps now you have mentors training other staff members.  You’re comfortable.

But you still need to grow your part of the business.  There is a lot to be said for this type of legacy and experience.  A lot of obstacles are clearly seen and avoided or addressed and by-passed.  But is there something you might be missing that would help you grow your piece of your company’s pie?

Start looking at your team’s work as if you were brand new to the department.  If this were the case, what could you do to “get up to speed”?


  • Spend time with each team member and observe them doing their jobs.
  • Ask them the purpose behind their work.
  • How does it fit in with the other team members?
  • How does it grow revenue or reduce waste?
  • Do they know?  Ask them!
  • How does your team view the company and its mission and goals?

Get the Perspective:

  • View all processes that your team is responsible for from the customer’s perspective – both external and internal customers.
  • Maybe your team has “always done it that way”, but “that way” was no longer relevant.
  • How are daily tasks and processes making it easier for your customers to do business with your team?
  • Is your team making it easy for other departments to do business with them?  Becoming a value resource both inside and outside of your organization is critical to your personal success as well as the success of your team and company.

Review Procedures:

  • If a procedure no longer makes sense, change it.
  • If it is no longer compliant, you have to change it.

A fresh perspective cannot be gained without stepping out of your routine and viewing your work through a different lens.  By changing your perspective, you just might change your results…all for the better!

No Management Mystique – Part 2 by Jim Johnson

Observation Coaching

You know the yearly routine. Performance evaluations are due. You sit down to write out your thoughts about a particular staff member. You make your comments. You then present your evaluation to the employee. They quietly sit there, sign the form, and then go back to their work with no motivation to make any sort of change at all. Is this management? No. It’s a yearly report that holds little or no meaning – unless the evaluation causes no merit increase for the employee.

Your job is not merely to run reports, read those reports, produce and read emails – in other words, don’t hide behind your computer. “There are managers so preoccupied with their e-mail messages that they never look up from their screens to see what’s happening in the non-digital world” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Good Business: Flow, Leadership and the Making of Meaning).

To put punch into performance, you MUST get out of your office and get on the floor with your team. You MUST observe what they are doing. You MUST hear what they are saying to your members. You MUST!

Right now, think about one of your employees. How do they generally interact with your customers? Are they pleasant and professional? Are they rude and caustic? Are they building relationships or are they burning bridges? Are they apathetic and lifeless? Do you know? Or do you rely on what others tell you about them?

The only effective way to know how your staff performs is to spend time observing them do the work. Get out and get involved in listening to customer interactions and phone calls. Is the employee following your service standards at every encounter? Are they following up with phone calls as they promised a customer with a question? Are they cooperating with their team mates or others in different departments? If they are not, what do you do about it? Should you wait until next week’s “coaching session”?

Observation coaching involves something called “power follow ups”. If you see or hear something that is not the standard you set for your staff member, try the following:

  • You observe an employee, Joe, waiting on a member. During the interaction, the employee rarely made eye contact and he did not use the customer’s name (both standards for your company).
  • As soon as the customer walks away from the transaction, turn to Joe and say (quietly to them directly), “Joe, I noticed that while that customer was here, you hardly made eye contact with them. You also did not use their name. We’ve been trained that those 2 simple interaction skills make a big difference in how we build important relationships with our customers. I’ll be here observing the next several transactions. I need you to work on those 2 skills. In a while, I’ll give you my feedback on how you did. I know you can do this.”

Do you think Joe will make the changes? You bet! He knows that you know how he is interacting. You just witnessed it. He also knows that you are intentionally watching him and that he now has his marching orders. After several more interactions with customers, watch what happens in the following interactions:

  • Joe begins to make eye contact, intentionally uses the customer’s name and even smiles.
  • Here’s your power follow-up, “I knew you could do it, Joe! That was great. Did you see how Mrs. Jones responded to you? She even asked you some additional questions that allowed you to talk about that new product. You’ve proven you can do this. Remember, our commitment is to do this at every encounter every day. It will become habit. Super job, Joe. I appreciate your concentration on this.”

You have just provided immediate, specific feedback on your employee’s performance.

He performed + you observed + you praised = a power follow-up

Chances are he will become more consistent with his customer interactions. By the way, don’t make this the last time you ever observe this employee on this issue.

Observing coupled with a power follow-up also works with negative behavior. The secret here is to give your power follow-up in a more private environment such as your office or a side room away from other employees. You never want to embarrass a team member in front of others on the team. It will only demotivate or anger that person.

As someone once said, “you have to inspect what you expect” and that means getting out and observing.

Coming next: Be Positive

No Management Mystique – Part 1

Malcolm S. Forbes once said, “Presence is more than just being there.” Yet, how many managers walk into their offices everyday, sit behind their desks and name plates, and get to work believing that they are managing? They might be producing some impressive numbers from time to time. On their office wall might be awards for reducing waste or for charting some regional winning sales figures. This position might have been a decade long goal that was achieved. And now they have arrived. They are in “the” office and they are a manager. But “presence is more than just being there.”

Scores of books and articles all tout the attributes of effective management. The newly promoted are sent to seminars, are asked to view webinars, and are tasked to read the latest “last word” on management. There is, however, no mystique in becoming not only a good manager, but an effective manager that produces tangible results for their credit union. Let’s look at four actions that can ramp up your effectiveness as a manager. If you commit yourself to making these things a habit, you will accomplish what a manager is called to do – produce results through the efforts of their team.

Be Engaged

Managers produce results through the people they oversee. Would it not make sense, then, to really know these people? What makes your people get up in the morning and come to work? A pay check? The drive to get promoted? A sense that they have the opportunity to make a difference? As a manager, you have the responsibility to help them set the tone for their day. To do this, you need to get to know your team.

In getting to know your staff, the goal is not become their buddy or best friend. The goal is discovering what motivates them, what drives them, what charges their battery. Doing this requires that you talk and listen to them during down times as well as making intentional time to learn more about them. Try these ideas that can help you get to know your team better:

  • Take them to lunch once a quarter. No work agenda. Just take the time to get to know them. Ask them what their hobbies are, what their kids are doing, where they like to vacation, sports, music, etc. At a later time, engage in a brief conversation about their interests to prove that you listened and that you care about their world
  • Don’t forget birthdays. Give them a card with a hand written note from you. Chances are they’ll save those cards.
  • Be tuned into their emotional energy. If they appear down, ask if something is wrong. If the conversation turns very personal, listen. Do not become a counselor. If the employee needs help, point them to your credit union’s employee assistance program. If they have personal time to take, encourage them to use it appropriately.
  • If your employee ends up in the hospital (or someone in their family is there), go visit them. You do not have to have the right words to say. Showing up shows you care.
  • Let your staff have fun in professional ways. Have a sense of humor and let your staff see it. Communicate to your staff that everyone’s goal is to make your workplace a great place to be.
  • Show them how their work can make a difference – for the customer, for the company, for themselves (pride).

“Many companies have long contended that stress in the home causes productivity loss in the market place…and it does. But research now reveals that stress on the job causes stress at home. In other words, they feed off each other.” (Zig Ziglar)

Being engaged means to care for your staff as individuals. Being engaged means that you care enough to get to know them and communicate to them in ways they understand.

Coming next…”Observation Coaching”

Coaching for Mastery

I do – You observe

We do

You do – I observe

You do

Scenario: One of your team members attends a training class at corporate. They return to your office and you put them to work hoping that what they just learned will turn into effective results. Are you seeing these results? No? Is training to blame? Do you want to blame your team member for not applying what they learned? What’s wrong if after training your team member does not produce the results you expected?

Go look into the mirror. I’m not suggesting you, the manager, are to blame. But I am suggesting that you play a critical role in the development of your staff – perhaps more than you know. But this is not about blaming you or anyone. Regardless whether you’ve had good role models in your past, you can begin today to effectively and specifically develop your staff.

Pick a skill/process/technology that you wish a particular staff member knew more about and could truly use it to achieve more and improve results. Got one in mind? Ok, walk with me through the following simple steps for coaching mastery. It will be important that you tell your staff member what process you are going to walk through with them. Give them the direction you are heading so they understand what you are doing and what you expect out of them.


Even if your team member just finished a corporate training session, they need context to put what they just learned into practice. YOU can provide this context every day.

Let’s say your team member, John (we’ll call him), just returned from an intro to lending class. Rather than put him behind a desk and say, “now get busy and do loans”, try this instead. When you have a customer in your office to do a loan, go get John and have him observe you in action. Make sure John is taking notes while he is observing you. Introduce him to the customer and inform them that John is there to observe the process. The member will be ok with this.

Now just do your thing. John will hear your interactive questions. He will see how you handle objections and potential obstacles. He will see how you structure a loan to maximize the benefit for the member to meet and exceed their needs. He will hear common questions that a customer might ask. Observing you in action will put context to John’s recent training. This is incredibly valuable! Your experience, your skill, your competence added to his training will boost John’s future effectiveness.

Don’t just do this once. Do it as often as you can. Have John observe other loan reps. Make sure you communicate to the rest of your staff that what John is doing is work and very important. John just isn’t killing time. He is extending his learning.

Make sure you debrief after each observation. Ask John what questions he has and answer them. Ask John questions about the process to make sure he understands what to do. Ask John if he would do anything differently than what you did. Engage John in a good conversation so you begin to understand what he is retaining and understanding. Make sure you are documenting these debriefing sessions. Don’t rely on your memory. This is about John’s development and your failed memory won’t help him.

How long should this first step towards mastery take? I don’t know. You’ll know as you debrief John after each observation. You’ll get the sense on how he is understanding the process/skill/technology you are focusing on.


There will come a time when you and John will together do the skill/process. Going back to the lending example, when a customer is in to do a loan, bring John along with you in the office with the member. Explain to the customer that both of you will be working with them today. It’s ok to say that John is in training and this experience will be a big help. Thank the member for helping with this.

Have John kick off the lending conversation with the customer. Have John ask those all important probing questions to get to the core issue and loan need. Have John put the application on the system. As this process moves along, find an appropriate time for you to take over. Maybe it’s after the initial conversation about discovering the loan need. Maybe it’s after the conversation about structuring the right loan. Just make sure that John has a chance to get experience with you observing him.

If John stumbles on something, don’t get dramatic. If needed, you can interject something like “what John meant to say” if he said something that was incorrect. Just smile and let John know you’ll go over that point later.

Again, debriefing after each observation is critical . Ask the same questions as you did in step 1.

How long should this step last? You’ll know when John is ready for step 3. Again, document these debriefing sessions.


Now John is ready to do the whole process – with you observing the entire thing. A customer comes in to do a loan. They may approach you directly. After you greet them and seat them in your office, inform them that John will be helping them today but that you will be present as well. Then go get John.

John comes in and introduces himself to the customer and the loan process begins. John is in the driver’s seat. You are sitting to the side – listening, taking notes, observing, giving encouraging looks if necessary. John should be pretty confident by now. You most likely will not have to “correct” anything.

Again, there will be a debriefing session after each of these observations. Encourage John’s progress. You are the coach. Make sure that he has all the right “moves” in place. You are building his confidence and skills. Take the time to do this. Do not skip this critical step.


It’s solo time for John! Even if a customer comes in and wants to talk with you about a loan, inform them that you will be having them meet with John. If all other platform desks are busy, let John use your office. Get them situated then leave. Go out and spend time with your other staff. Observe them doing their jobs. Interact with the customers. Make the most of this time. John is in the process of growing and developing. You are playing an important role in what you are doing by this step.

Once again, debrief after John’s first solo loan appointment. Encourage him. Answer questions. Clarify what needs clarification. Review his loan documents. Be there for him.

Leadership is Multiplying

One of the great joys of leading others is helping them grow and develop and then turning them loose to become effective and productive members of your team. You are multiplying who you are in others.

Some managers like to be the star and try to do it all and get all the glory. Other managers recognize that their true role is to build an effective team who can meet the needs of the membership no matter what comes up. The individuals succeed. The team succeeds. The company succeeds. The customers succeeds. We all win.