Power Follow-Ups for Leaders & Their Teams by Jim Johnson

From an earlier post…


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.

The Power of Praise by Jim Johnson

In my experience as a manager/leader of people for the past 30 years and in observing leaders I’ve led, a key behavior is too often missed.  Sure, we’re all good at pointing out areas of improvement.  We follow-up on the progress of a project.  We question our team member on an expenditure.

But we miss something.  Something that is powerful.  Something that is impactful.  Something that can help turn an indifferent team member into a passionate player.


Why is it we overlook this crucial part of leadership?  When a team member has done something great, overcome a hurdle, landed a significant sale, helped move the company forward, or shown initiative beyond their position, we might give a nod.  But so often we skirt by that and move on to “our” agenda.

The Results of Not Praising

What happens when we don’t verbally (or even in writing) praise a team member?

* We show our ignorance.  That’s right.  If our team member has done something significant and we don’t acknowledge it, they most likely will think “he/she has no clue what I do or how hard I work to make an impact here.”  And that is true.

* We exchange price tags.  What we focus on demonstrates what we value.  If we continually focus on what has gone wrong (according to our perspective), we show our team members what we value.  When they have really hit a significant goal or company metric and we basically ignore it, we have taken the “price tag” off that achievement and placed it on “well, we need to talk about how you…”  Where does that leave the team member?  Frustrated.  They just accomplished something that they are required to do – and exceeded expectations.  And what do we as leaders do?  Place value on something else with barely a recognition of their work.  Don’t ever let a team member feel “well, I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t”.

How to Praise

*Be specific.  It may seem like this is out of the “Mr. Obvious” playbook, but praise them specifically for what they have done.  Document this achievement and put it in their quarterly/annual reviews.  I’ve never had a team member be unhappy to review once again a major accomplishment.  They loved seeing it again.

* Make eye contact.  Look them in the eye when you are praise them specifically.  I’m bad at this.  But when I do it, it positively impacts me AND the team member.  It gets all of the focus on what you’re saying.

* Smile.  Again, I’ve got work to do here.  But if you are saying something positive, look positive.

* Remind them of their accomplishment.  Weeks or months down the road, you may be in a coaching session with this team member and they are not having a good stretch.  Remind them of what they can accomplish.  Remind them of what they did “back then”.  They can do it again.  Encourage them.

I just had a coaching session with one of my leaders yesterday.  I was so encouraged to hear how an online class had gone for her.  She took the lead in the class and was recognized for it by her professor.  I was able to put into my own words why this experience is true at her work, too.  She is very passionate about her job, her team, and her impact.  I was able to speak encouragement to her.

A few weeks ago, I sat in on an interview with the leader of my call center.  We were meeting a young lady who was hoping to get our part-time position.  She said at the beginning on the interview that she was nervous and not very experienced in interviewing.

But as my team leader worked her way through the conversation, this young lady spoke clearly, specifically, and confidently of her experiences and what she would bring to the table.  At the end, I said I had something to say.  I asked the young lady to look at me and I said, “you did an excellent job in this interview.  You did not come across nervous.  You gave specific examples of how you handled various work scenarios.  You demonstrated confidence in you as a person and your abilities.  You interviewed very well.”

The young lady almost cried.  She then said that she so needed to hear that.  She told me how much that meant to her.

Oh, yes, we hired her and she started this past Monday in training.

Don’t underestimate praise.  Don’t forget it.  As a leader, you probably don’t know how much your words of praise means to a team member.  The benefits for them, for your team, and for your company are endless.


Six Signs You Might be a Micro-Manager


by Jane Flaherty | February 4th, 2013

Despite evidence to the contrary, no leader that Peter or I have ever coached has admitted to being a micromanager. Often, when we’re analyzing their 360 degree feedback, both the quantifiable data and open-ended comments written by employees and peers indicate that this particular leader–for whatever the reason–exhibits an excessive need to be in control, requiring their employees to give them timely updates on all aspects of their job. Recently, one employee described her boss as a reportomaniac. Not only did her boss have a strong need for all the details, this boss required employees to write multiple reports, detailing what they were doing on a daily basis.

Micromanaging has various definitions, but most agree that micromanagement is a management style whereby a manager has a strong need to observe and control the work of subordinates or employees. Although some leaders try to defend their micromanagement style, micromanagement generally has negative connotations. Since no one ever admits to being a micromanager, here are a few hints that you might be one:

  1. You rationalize your close working relationship with your team because they keep messing up and need your help. It’s not that you’re micromanaging, just supervising closely to ensure your employees’ success
  2. No one works as hard as you do. Some of the people on your team just don’t get it, nor do they take things as seriously as you do
  3. You justify your strong need for knowing all the details about your employees’ work as needing to be fully informed at all times
  4. You’re only asking employees to do their work the right way, as your way is proven . . . after all, doing the work your way earned you your current position
  5. You don’t delegate, knowing that you can do everything your employees do better and faster
  6. When you take a vacation, you check in with your team several times a day, just to ensure that they are on the right track and offer your support

If you thought, “I do that, but only sometimes . . .” don’t despair. Most of us cross the line and get too involved in our employees’ work from time to time. It’s only those leaders who consistently cross the line that earn the title micromanager. Read on for some tips on how to recover if you find yourself occasionally slipping and getting way too involved in the doing part of your employees’ jobs.

Clarify Your Expectations In order for you to have the confidence that your employees can consistently be successful in their various roles, they first have to be crystal clear about your expectations. Make time to thoroughly explain your goals and objectives for each job, allowing time for questions, and frequently re-articulate your expectations to ensure clarity. In all of your interactions with employees, your words and actions must convey your belief that your team members have what it takes to consistently meet or exceed your expectations.

Hold People Accountable Once people are clear on your expectations, hold them accountable. Typically, once you have clarified your performance expectations, you should not take on an employee’s responsibility as your own when performance does not meet expectations. Instead, reiterate you expectations. Provide training, if needed. If re-clarifying your expectations and providing training does not work, it may be time to begin the process of cutting your losses and sharing this employee with a competitor.

Be a Coach and Mentor One of the characteristics of great leaders is a strong belief in their employees’ abilities to be successful in their various roles. They trust their team members and invest in helping them continue to grow and learn. They care about their employees, both professionally and personally. To further build levels of trust with your employees, take time to meet with them, one-on-one. Ask them what is going well for them, and how you can support them in achieving their goals. Commit to providing them with the coaching and resources they need to achieve their career goals.

Hire Wisely We once heard an employment attorney say, “There are very few wrongful terminations, but a huge number of wrongful hires”. Invest time up front to make sure you are hiring a competent, well-qualified employee that will be a great addition to the team. If you do (as most of us have done at least once in the past) make a bad decision and hire someone who, for whatever the reason, won’t or can’t carry their load, cut your losses quickly.

Stop Solving Employees’ Problems Give employees decision making power to resolve their own problems. Employees are much more likely to be accountable and “own” their work when they have a say in how it will be accomplished. Give away power. Your role is to give your team members the resources and tools they need to make good decisions on their own. Over time, those leaders that routinely give away power actually end up with more, not less power. Because they have trusted employees to make good decisions, they not only grow a highly successful team, but, in addition, are well-liked and have followers throughout the organization, which is powerful.

Accept Mistakes If people on your team are not occasionally making mistakes, there’s a good chance that they’re not working to their full potential. Despite best efforts, mistakes will happen. When mistakes happen, routinely respond with, “What do we need to do to fix this?” When the problem is resolved, ask, “What did we learn from this?” End the conversation by saying, “What do we need to do differently so this doesn’t happen again in the future?”

Delegate As you rise in your organization, your responsibilities should shift from less responsibility for “doing” tasks, to much more emphasis on the leadership aspects of your job . . . managing people, planning and leading. Getting bogged down in the doing aspects of the job is a major pitfall for leaders who are described as micromanagers. Have the confidence to part with some of the routine, day-to-day aspects of your job. Look for someone you can mentor, then do a great job in describing your expectations for the task. Once you’ve made the delegation, confidently display trust in your employee’s ability to successfully assume responsibility for the task.

Recognize Success On a daily basis, look for opportunities to genuinely recognize employees who are taking the initiative to solve problems on their own, ensuring your success and happy customers.


Peter Barron Stark Companies is a nationally recognized management consulting company that specializes in employee engagement surveys, executive coaching, and leadership and employee training. For more information, please visit www.peterstark.com.

Question for Managers (Feb. 4, 2013)

Here’s your question of the day:

You have an employee who is not a problem.  Their results are barely meeting expectations.  They are pleasant to be around.  Others like them.  But they seem to be “coasting” when it comes to productivity. 

What could/should the manager do in this situation?


Please make a comment.  I’ll be sure to share the conversations.  Thanks for participating!

Do You Need to Kiss Up to Your Boss?


By Peter Barron Stark | December 10th, 2012 | Leadership

The other day I was asked a question that stopped me in my tracks.

At a seminar, an employee asked me, “Do I need to kiss my boss’ butt? What if I have to choose between kissing up and doing what’s right for the organization?”

This question the employee asked is like an octopus with many tentacles because rather than answering her question with a simple answer, the question prompts more questions.

Before I walk you through the conversation I had with the employee, there’s something you must realize. Employees may not need to kiss their boss’ butt but most employees do find that, to accomplish departmental or organizational goals, it’s important to have a mutually supportive relationship with their boss. Now, this next part is critical for everyone to understand: Statistically, employees who do not have a positive or strong relationship with their boss have less job security than employees who do.

I responded to her question with a question: “What’s your boss asking of you?”

This answer could change everything. If your boss is asking for your support of a change you disagree with such as implementing new technology, then my advice would be to quit complaining and take the lead in helping your boss quickly and successfully implement the change. On the other hand, if your boss is asking you to do something immoral such as collect a bribe from vendors, lie, or treat your employees poorly, then my answer changes. I would never encourage anyone to do something that is morally wrong.

If your boss asks you do something that’s illegal or immoral, you have a few options. You could make the choice to quit your job. It’s certainly a better choice than spending each day complaining and actively undermining your boss. Second, you could involve someone who can get the immoral or illegal directives changed, such as your boss’ boss or the Human Resources Department. Keep in mind that going above your boss is a high wire maneuver. You can guarantee that your boss will not be excited when you go to others with your concerns. If you do go above your boss and your concern is not perceived to be either immoral, illegal, or out of alignment with the company’s values, then your relationship with your boss will only get worse.

The employee said her issue was not one of morality or legality. I then asked her, “Do you need this job?” If you don’t need the job and can quickly find a job somewhere else, then you can take pride in not kissing your boss’ butt and not break a sweat over losing your job. However, in this case, the employee stated that she did need the job, enjoyed working for the organization, and would be devastated if she lost her job. With the goal clearer, my advice was that she go out of her way to ensure that her boss feels supported by significantly contributing to both her boss’ goals and the department’s goals. These behaviors will most likely help her to achieve her personal goal of keeping her job.

Luckily, very few managers ask employees to do something illegal or immoral. However, there are a lot of managers who do things that are not in alignment with their company’s values. Your big challenge before you go to your boss’ boss or Human Resources is to accurately determine what the real issue is that you’re dealing with. An illegal issue? An immoral issue? An issue that is not in alignment with the company’s values? Your correct determination will most likely determine your future with the organization. In the case of the employee I spoke with, it was a software change issue that needed to be completed by the end of the year.

My advice to this particular participant? Quit complaining and make the change happen. If you can’t make that work, quit and find another job where you don’t have to make this software change.

Peter Barron Stark Companies is a nationally recognized management consulting company that specializes in employee engagement surveys, executive coaching, and leadership and employee training. For more information, please visit http://www.peterstark.com.

Looking for the Gold

In Dr. Lee J. Colan’s book, Leadership Matters, he shares the following under the chapter titled “Coaching”.

“At one time, Andrew Carnegie was the wealthiest man in America….At one time, he had 43 millionaires working for him.  In those days, a millionaire was a rare person.

A reporter asked Carnegie how he had hired 43 millionaires.  Carnegie responded that those men had not been millionaires when they started working for him but had become millionaires as a result.

The reporter’s next question was, “How did you develop these men to become so valuable to you that you have paid them this much money?”  Carnegie replied that men are developed the same way gold is mined.  When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold, but one doesn’t go into the mine looking for dirt – one goes in looking for gold!

Some leaders find themselves sitting on a mountain of gold, and yet they feel poor because they don’t know how to mine the gold from their teams.  Coaching is how we mine our team’s gold.

Inspiring leaders coach good team members to become better people.  They help them build better lives for themselves and others.  They build their team from the inside out…inspiring excellence at work and in life.”

Dr. Colan goes on to talk about coaching is more than merely talking at an employee.  Talking alone won’t result in retention of information/training/skill building.  Dr. Colan states that “we generally remember:

  • 10% of what we read (memos, books)
  • 20% of what we hear (instructions)
  • 30% of what we see (looking at pictures)
  • 50% of what we hear and see (watching a movie, looking at an exhibit, watching a demonstration)
  • 70% of what we say (participating in a discussion, giving a talk)
  • 90% of what we both say and do (simulating the real thing, doing the real thing)

Coaching is a pay-me-now or pay-me-later leadership proposition.  Take a shortcut and you will be saying the same thing to the same team member next week – no fun for either of you….Inspiring leaders prevent re-coaching by investing the time to coach right the first time.”

8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses by Geoffrey James

Apr 23, 2012

The best managers have a fundamentally different understanding of workplace, company, and team dynamics. See what they get right.

A few years back, I interviewed some of the most successful CEOs in the world in order to discover their management secrets. I learned that the “best of the best” tend to share the following eight core beliefs.

1. Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield.

Average bosses see business as a conflict between companies, departments and groups. They build huge armies of “troops” to order about, demonize competitors as “enemies,” and treat customers as “territory” to be conquered.

Extraordinary bosses see business as a symbiosis where the most diverse firm is most likely to survive and thrive. They naturally create teams that adapt easily to new markets and can quickly form partnerships with other companies, customers … and even competitors.

2. A company is a community, not a machine.

Average bosses consider their company to be a machine with employees as cogs. They create rigid structures with rigid rules and then try to maintain control by “pulling levers” and “steering the ship.”

Extraordinary bosses see their company as a collection of individual hopes and dreams, all connected to a higher purpose. They inspire employees to dedicate themselves to the success of their peers and therefore to the community–and company–at large.

3. Management is service, not control.

Average bosses want employees to do exactly what they’re told. They’re hyper-aware of anything that smacks of insubordination and create environments where individual initiative is squelched by the “wait and see what the boss says” mentality.

Extraordinary bosses set a general direction and then commit themselves to obtaining the resources that their employees need to get the job done. They push decision making downward, allowing teams form their own rules and intervening only in emergencies.

4. My employees are my peers, not my children.

Average bosses see employees as inferior, immature beings who simply can’t be trusted if not overseen by a patriarchal management. Employees take their cues from this attitude, expend energy on looking busy and covering their behinds.

Extraordinary bosses treat every employee as if he or she were the most important person in the firm. Excellence is expected everywhere, from the loading dock to the boardroom. As a result, employees at all levels take charge of their own destinies.

5. Motivation comes from vision, not from fear.

Average bosses see fear–of getting fired, of ridicule, of loss of privilege–as a crucial way to motivate people.  As a result, employees and managers alike become paralyzed and unable to make risky decisions.

Extraordinary bosses inspire people to see a better future and how they’ll be a part of it.  As a result, employees work harder because they believe in the organization’s goals, truly enjoy what they’re doing and (of course) know they’ll share in the rewards.

6. Change equals growth, not pain.

Average bosses see change as both complicated and threatening, something to be endured only when a firm is in desperate shape. They subconsciously torpedo change … until it’s too late.

Extraordinary bosses see change as an inevitable part of life. While they don’t value change for its own sake, they know that success is only possible if employees and organization embrace new ideas and new ways of doing business.

7. Technology offers empowerment, not automation.

Average bosses adhere to the old IT-centric view that technology is primarily a way to strengthen management control and increase predictability. They install centralized computer systems that dehumanize and antagonize employees.

Extraordinary bosses see technology as a way to free human beings to be creative and to build better relationships. They adapt their back-office systems to the tools, like smartphones and tablets, that people actually want to use.

8. Work should be fun, not mere toil.

Average bosses buy into the notion that work is, at best, a necessary evil. They fully expect employees to resent having to work, and therefore tend to subconsciously define themselves as oppressors and their employees as victims. Everyone then behaves accordingly.

Extraordinary bosses see work as something that should be inherently enjoyable–and believe therefore that the most important job of manager is, as far as possible, to put people in jobs that can and will make them truly happy.

Delegate with Meaning

You’ve got this team member who you believe can become more than they are today.  They are productive.  They are positive.  Others like to work with them.  They “get it”.

Take a look at your own work load.  Are there things you habitually do that someone else could be doing?  Things that would free you up to do the real work of a leader – develop the next leader.  How do you delegate work and develop new leaders at the same time?

It’s not a garbage dump.  If you plan to assign someone a new task, a new report, etc., just don’t dump it on their desk, give them minimal instructions and then walk away.  That person will feel…well…like they’ve been dumped on…

Delegate with meaning.  If you plan to assign someone something new, tell them why.  Explain that this new task will help them learn a new part of the business.  Maybe it will give them the story behind the numbers.  Inform them that by taking on this new task, it frees you up to be more available for leadership development for them and others on the team.  You may need to take a task away from them to free them up for this new activity.  Make the delegation effective, realistic, and purposeful.

One of the obstacles to delegating this way may be YOU.  We all tend to hold tightly to those things we like to do and are comfortable doing. Perhaps you will need to let go a bit for the good of the team and personnel development.  It’s not a bad thing!

Don’t forget to follow-up regularly with this upcoming leader.  Ensure they can be successful at the new task.  They will be learning much and you will get a fresh set of eyes on a routine task that you may have become blinded to over the years.

Retention and the Conductor

Why is retaining a good staff important?  Here are some answers to that:
  • Any changes that occur in the company can be made more nimbly with an experienced staff
  • Customer satisfaction can be higher
  • Results are achieved
  • Stress can be reduced
  • Cross-training occurs
Simply put, if you are fully staffed, you can more easily focus on the things that will move your department/company forward vs living in moments of crisis when someone calls in sick or during vacations, etc.  What environment do you want to live in?
You probably are a qualified, talented performer on your own.  That’s how you got to be where you are today.  You love to excel.  What if you could multiply who you are?  You can!
Think about an orchestra conductor.  This person loves music and is a musician in their own right.  They love to make music.  But put that conductor on the pedestal, give them a baton, and presto!  They work with violinists, cellists, trumpeters, drummers, oboists, etc.  All of these instruments have a critical role in making a piece of music come to life – something that audiences (customers) want to listen to.  An effective conductor cannot afford to have the French horn section missing. The performance would be lacking.
But when the full orchestra strikes that first note, something beautiful and moving happens.  One conductor creates wonderful music with the force of many.  The conductor on his/her own can’t play all of the instruments, but each musician plays their part at the right time to make the magic happen.
What kind of tune are you producing in your “orchestra”?
Strive to keep your “band” together.  Enjoy the experience of conducting your team to excellence.  Let them know that their part in the music is critical for the overall success of your department and company.  Encourage them to develop in their role.  Do your part to make them better.  Praise them for their great performance.
Retention can be a beautiful thing!

4 Ways Supervisors Frustrate Their Employees by Michael Hyatt

I enjoy Michael Hyatt’s insight.  This blog article is a good one.


“When I first became President of Thomas Nelson, I began hosting an event called “Pizza with the Prez.” Once a month I invited a different workgroup to have lunch with me—without their supervisor being present.

A Frustrated Employee - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/J-Elgaard, Image #16731921

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/J-Elgaard

This event provided an opportunity for me to get unfiltered feedback. It was one of my favorite activities. It also proved to be one of the most productive.

It confirmed what I thought was true: The further you move up the chain-of-command, the less likely it is you will get the truth. Information is often filtered, spun, and managed. People either tell you what they want you to know—or think you want to hear.

Some time ago, I read The Last Czar, a biography about the life of Czar Nicholas II, the last emperor of Russia. While his generals were brutally suppressing dissent, they told him civil unrest was the result of foreign influence and assured him his own people loved him.

The Czar didn’t have any other source of information. When the Communists took over, he was caught by surprise and forced to abdicate. Sadly, the Bolsheviks eventually executed him and his entire family. It is one of the saddest stories I have ever read.

Though extreme, his story demonstrates the difficulty of getting good information at the top. If you are a leader in any capacity, you must develop a pipeline for unfiltered feedback. “Pizza with the Prez” was one of the ways I did this.

Typically, I had ten to twelve people join me for lunch in the boardroom. After a few “icebreaker questions,” I always asked them:

  • What do you like about Thomas Nelson and want to see us continue?
  • What do you not like about Thomas Nelson and want to see us stop doing?

Although I only scheduled an hour of time together, it was always a challenge to finish on schedule. I was always amazed at how open people were and how many good ideas they had.

I have also noticed a recurring theme: most people’s frustration at work is inflicted by their supervisors.

Don’t misunderstand me. These workers loved their colleagues. They loved the company. But they continued to be frustrated by leaders who unwittingly hindered their productivity.

Here are the four most common complaints I heard. See if they ring true in your experience.

  1. Supervisors call too many meetings. Many of them are a waste of time. The issues could easily be handled by e-mail. Even those that should be called last twice as long as is necessary. This is because they don’t have a clear idea of what they want to accomplish or a specific agenda to get them there.
  2. Supervisors are often late to their own meetings. Since they called the meeting, the other attendees can’t start without them. As a result, they waste a lot of time waiting for the leader to show up. This makes them feel disrespected.
  3. Supervisors don’t really understand the work process. They don’t appreciate the amount of time it takes to complete certain tasks. Consequently, they sit on—or slow-walk—approvals and bog down the whole process. By the time the worker gets a response, they are in crisis mode. If a deadline is missed, they get blamed. This creates a lot of unnecessary stress on everyone.
  4. Supervisors are not responsive. They don’t answer their e-mails. They don’t return their voice mail messages. Workers often feel like they are sending e-mails into a black hole. By the time the manager does respond, the issue is resolved or it has escalated to a new level of urgency. Why can’t they just respond more quickly?

More than likely, you are not guilty of these behaviors. But, if you are, I hope you’ll take a moment and try to see how frustrating this can be to your teammates. You may not be able to change your boss, but you can change yourself and provide a better environment for the people you are leading.”


Read more of Michael’s writing on  “Intentional Leadership” at:  http://michaelhyatt.com/