Industry Trends

Random Thoughts: Creating Followership


When you think of legendary coaches … who comes to mind? For me, it’s Bill Walsh, the three-time Super Bowl winning coach of the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s. His on-field success earned him a Hall of Fame induction in 1993, but to me, he is most synonymous with creating followership. 

By way of supporting evidence, I give you Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott and Steve Young. Coach Walsh drafted all four soon-to-be HOF players, three of which are arguably the greatest ever at their positions. Then comes Bill’s mind-blowing coaching tree (see picture). Of the 32 NFL teams, there was a point a few years back where 20 of the head coaches had ties back to Bill. Overall, he has begat 42 NFL head coaches who have collectively won 12 Super Bowl titles! Coach Walsh died in 2007 at the age of 76. Can you imagine what the receiving line must have looked like at his funeral? What an amazing legacy.

So how does this concept of creating followership relate to you on a daily basis? Since this has been a core part of my leadership philosophy for a number of years, let me give you an easy way to think about it. If you picked up the phone, called one of your colleagues and said, “I’ve got an opportunity I’d like to talk to you about,” how many would a) take your call, b) give it real consideration, or c) jump at the chance to work with (not for) you? 

As a leader, it’s critical that you have this level of relationship with the folks on your team. I hope you can see that it’s different than friendship. Sometimes a friendship may evolve, but this is different – there’s more of an economic and trust element involved. While there is no real formula for creating followership (some can do it just by the force of their personality), my approach (while I have a great personality) is more actions based.  

It starts with…

  • Understanding the person
  • Building a shared vision of the future (both personally and professionally)
  • Being genuine with him or her in all interactions
  • Providing frequent and specific feedback
  • Rewarding performance

I believe this approach will help the individuals on your team perform at their very best and allow you to create relationships that will endure.  

If you’re not a manager, you’re likely wondering how this discussion pertains to you. I believe we all have a skill, talent, thought or idea we can pass on and have an impact on one or more other people. Maybe it’s a favorite holiday tradition, a family recipe, a lesson from a favorite teacher or a skill you learned from a mentor. Whatever it may be, think of the impact this transferred knowledge could have on a loved one, a friend, a colleague, or even a total stranger.

One Christmas break, my daughter Danielle and I got out for a long walk around the lake, where we had the chance for a deep conversation or two about things happening in her life. One of those discussions was about an upcoming interview for a summer internship. Dani was nervous about presenting her best face to the company. In the course of the 90-minute walk, I was able to share interview tips and techniques collected from more 25 years “on the job.” We spent a lot of time on the power of “storytelling” as a means of being memorable. She was able to apply some of the techniques during her interview that following week and was very happy with how she came across. That’s one small example of how passing on some hard-earned wisdom can really help someone else. What do you have to share?

I hope you see the opportunity to impact others in your own life. Whether you work to create followership as a manager or in your personal life – or you pass on some wisdom to another – strive to be memorable! A lyric from one of my favorite musicals (“Wicked”) kinda sums it up for me: “I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn. We are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them and we help them in return. Well I don’t know if I believe that’s true, but I know I’m who I am today because I knew you.”



If at first you don’t succeed….


You know how the saying goes, right? Someone … a teacher, parent, mentor of some type pressed on you to try, try again. Perseverance: It’s a forgotten skillset. Why do so many people give up so easily these days?

LinkedIn is terrific for meeting people, but I often time will hear members say, “I sent them a connection request, but they didn’t accept.”  I wait for an awkward moment and think, “… And you gave up that easily? Why?” If this is someone you want to connect with and you feel you can offer real value to their lives, then don’t give up!

The Harvard Business Review recently sent out their daily stat with the following:

If you assume that someone who has turned you down once is unlikely to grant a subsequent request, your assumption may be incorrect. Research by Daniel A. Newark, Francis J. Flynn and Vanessa K. Bohns shows that saying “no” makes people feel guilty and therefore raises their likelihood of saying “yes” to an asker’s next request. For example, in an experiment, people on a university campus who refused to do a stranger a favor by filling out a questionnaire were subsequently 30 percent more likely to agree to the stranger’s second request, which was to mail a letter. SOURCE: You’re Already More Persuasive Than You Think

That’s pretty impressive when you think 30 percent of those who refuse the first time are more than likely to agree a second time around. So for example, if you reach out to connect and the person doesn’t accept, don’t assume they don’t want to connect. Instead think, “Maybe they didn’t receive my request because …”

  1. .… they have notifications turned off
  2. .… they rarely check LinkedIn
  3. .… they forgot how you are both connected

Be resourceful!  There are ways to find email addresses, and you can send them a second note to connect and tell them you’re trying to reach them on LinkedIn. Keep trying and ask me if you need new ideas!

The point is not to give up. There are lots of reasons why someone may not be connecting, the least of which is to not accept. Shucks, they may not even know how to do that!


Sheryl Brown is passionate about social media use among advisors in the financial services industry. As manager of Advisor Engagement Services at Ash Brokerage, she assists advisors and employees with their own social media strategies, and she has been influential in developing a strategic online presence for Ash Brokerage — one that connects to both clients and advisors, positively impacts practices and creates communities aimed at improving the industry.

Social Media Networking LinkedIn

Punctuation: It Doesn’t Need to be a Frustration!


In case you’re wondering, proper punctuation isn’t optional. Those little symbols in the English language are JUST as important to your audience as the words you choose. They tell us when to pause (comma), stop (period), get really excited (exclamation point) and more. 

Below are the most common pieces of punctuation that seem to trip people up:  


The Oxford Comma

I follow AP Style in my office, which means we DON’T use the Oxford comma – in general. That’s right, Oxford comma lovers, we still use it from time to time for clarity! Don’t believe me? This is straight from the AP Stylebook: 

“IN A SERIES: Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series: The flag is red, white and blue. He would nominate Tom, Dick or Harry.

Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series, however, if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction: I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.

Use a comma also before the concluding conjunction in a complex series of phrases: The main points to consider are whether the athletes are skillful enough to compete, whether they have the stamina to endure the training, and whether they have the proper mental attitude.


So memes like the one below? They just make me mad. No one is going to seriously assume you bought a Reese’s cup instead of peanut butter and chocolate. There’s no need to clarify with the comma! Even if you did buy a Reese’s cup, then why wouldn’t you just say Reese’s cup? There’s some clarity for ya! 




Photo source: Endless Simmer 

To me, the Oxford comma isn’t a matter of right or wrong – it’s a matter of CONSISTENCY. So pick a side and go with it. 


The Infamous Semicolon 

Do not – I repeat do NOT – be intimidated by this piece of punctuation! Personally, I prefer to save it for winky faces … ;) But in general, there are two circumstances when you should use a semicolon: 

  1. To clarify items in a series

    EXAMPLE: The menu offered three appetizers, buffalo wings, nachos or pretzels; four entrees, steak, pork chop, burger or chicken breast; and two desserts, ice cream or cheesecake. 

  2. To separate two independent clauses – this means the parts before AND after the semicolon could stand alone as a sentence

    EXAMPLE: The buffalo wings were extra spicy; he had to ask for an extra glass of water. 

See? You could separate that into two sentences: The buffalo wings were extra spicy. He had to ask for an extra glass of water. 


Quotation Marks – Don’t Overthink Them

Let’s make this simple: 99.9 percent of the time, you should put punctuation INSIDE your closing quotation marks. For example: He told her, “I’ll have the cheesecake, please.” OR “Would you like cherry or chocolate?” she asked. See how the period and question mark are inside the quote? Good.  

Very, very, very rarely will you make an exception to that rule. Here’s the explanation from the AP Stylebook:

The dash, the semicolon, the question mark and the exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence.”


Here’s an example: Will he ever tell me, “I love you”? The question mark doesn’t apply to the “I love you,” so you leave it outside the quotes. This doesn’t happen often, so be sure to think twice (maybe three times!) about the meaning of the sentence before you move the punctuation outside of the quotation marks. 


Bottom Line:

Punctuation doesn’t have to be complicated. Stick to the basics and be consistent, and your words will have more power. 



Random Thoughts – Make Every Day a Vacation


The last week of the summer usually comes with mixed emotions. Many folks use it to soak up a few more days at the beach, some have already sent the kids back to school and started the routine again, while others are figuring out a plan to sneak away in the fall when the crowds are at a minimum. 

This was a very non-traditional summer for Suzanne and me, so we are in the group looking for a fall getaway. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great summer, just not one that lent itself to significant down time. I started my new job in April, my son Bobby and his wife Jessica got married, and my daughter Danielle relocated to Hartford after graduation to start her first job. To top it off, we adopted two puppies that have kept us busy and required most of our attention over the weekends.

While most people really enjoy what they do for a living, it’s hard not to spend at least a few moments on vacation day-dreaming about what life would be like if we could be on vacation all the time. My non-traditional summer got me thinking about ways I could make each day feel a bit more like vacation. Here’s what I came up with …

  • Anticipation – A lot of the excitement around a vacation is the lead up to the actual event. The planning. The choice of location and activities. Each steps builds a level of anticipation. What if a few times a week we added an event –  a date night, a visit with friends, a movie – to recreate that anticipation on a smaller level?

  • Breaking Routine – Having a solid routine often supports success, but one of the joys of vacation is deviating from our routine and experiencing life from another vantage point. So how about working out at lunch so you can sleep in an extra hour once or twice a week? Maybe drive home a different way or carpool with a friend? If your role allows, how about working from home mid-week?  

  • Relaxing – How many naps do you take on vacation? I probably average one a day. But, in my regular routine, it’s probably one a month (at best). Since most of us don’t work at Google, daytime naps aren’t commonplace. As an alternative, consider closing your eyes for five minutes, doing some deep breathing exercises or just getting up from your desk and walking a lap around the building. Anything that will let you mind relax can have a positive impact.

  • Experiencing New Things – Scuba diving, horse back riding, zip lining, yoga – have you tried new things on vacation? I have. This week, what if you tried one or two new things for the first time? Take a spinning class. Go to a new restaurant. Read a good book. Look up an old friend. Pick something and give it a try.

  • Happy Place – Is there a place – in your home or nearby – where you just feel at peace? For me it’s Wolf Run Shoals Park. Suzanne and I, at least once a week, get the hiking boots on, put the dogs in the car and hit the trail. There’s just something about the woods and the trail along the rambling creek that just lets us relax. Some folks might have a pool, a favorite reading chair, a man cave or just a warm bath. Make use of that happy place to get in a positive mindset.

For most of us, work is a financial necessity and, hopefully, something we enjoy. Vacations rejuvenate us and allow us to reconnect with our loved ones. Hopefully, a few of these ideas will allow you to experience that great vacation feeling each and every day. 


As executive vice president of life sales distribution, Bob Klein is responsible for all of Ash Brokerage’s life, long-term care and disability income insurance sales. He is driven by his desire to help others get the most out of their natural gifts, and he gets the most satisfaction from seeing others grow and succeed.

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