Manager's Tips and Tools

by Manager Development Services

66) Floating Balloons

Floating balloons is an effective tool when “reading the pulse” of either an individual or my department.  Floating balloons is a technique used to produce an emotional response in an individual or group of individuals. This technique is simple.

First I make an unexpected, out-of-the-ordinary statement, catching people off guard, and then I simply wait for a response. By observing the body language of my employee(s) when floating a particular balloon, I get an idea of how certain ideas, concepts, attitudes, behaviors, or issues will be received or should be addressed.  Since body language is a natural, unconscious physical response to an emotion, it is often a more reliable indicator of people’s true feelings than their words.

Floating balloons is effective when:

  • I want feedback to a new idea or concept,
  • I need to “test the atmosphere” of the department,
  • I believe an individual is not being honest with me, or
  • an individual has a flat affect (see Body Language).

Basically, there are three types of balloons:

  • Weather Balloons,
  • Carrot Balloons, and
  • Doom Balloons

Weather Balloons: A weather balloon tells me which way the wind is blowing concerning a certain subject.  This is when I announce a new concept or process, let an individual or individuals think about it, and then wait for feedback.  In other words, this balloon allows me to test the atmosphere of an individual or my department.

Carrot Balloons: A carrot balloon is an incentive balloon.  This is when I validate the work an individual or group of individuals are doing and then offer an incentive (dangle a carrot) for continued performance.  A carrot balloon tells me who’s “on board” with a particular idea or process and alerts me to problems and potential problems in culture and individuals.

Doom Balloons: A doom balloon is where I drop a bomb, letting an individual, or group of individuals, know that standards or performance is not on track with goals and redirection of process needs to take place.

I do not expect to resolve an issue when I drop a bomb.  I want them to feel the fallout and reflect on their behavior.


#1. Sales are up.  Billing is behind.  You assess the “primary problem” to be your sales reps are not completing their required paperwork in a timely manner.  Give an example of a balloon you would float.  What will you look for when floating this balloon?

#2. The manager of another department is advocating some of his staff’s duties be reassigned to your department. Give an example of balloon you would float.  What will you look for when floating this balloon?

#3. You hear a member of your staff is disgruntled over the promotion of a peer. Give an example of balloon you would float.  What will you look for when floating this balloon?

#4. Support staff are dragging their feet in servicing the sales reps.  Your sales reps are resentful and complaining.  Your support staff complains the sales reps are demanding and unappreciative. Give an example of a balloon you would float.  What will you look for when floating this balloon?

excerpt from “The Manager’s Toolbox”


September 8, 2011 - Posted by | Counseling Techniques, Employee Coaching, Leadership Skills, Manager Development Tools, Mentoring, Personal Development, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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