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What I learned from managing the worst case of personality conflicts I’ve ever seen

I’ve written previously about my early career, and how I started off as an Organizational Behavior Management program manager and ended up a very reluctant manager in charge of building and running an HR department in a rapidly growing construction company. Most of the things I learned were either from my mentor (so had a decidedly behavioral slant in the approach) or trial by fire. This is a pretty good way to learn, if a bit stressful. There’s no way you can prepare someone for everything they’ll encounter in their management journey, which is why I love being a ‘mentor on call’ for folks starting out, or entering a new industry. One of my more memorable early experiences involved a gigantic mess of interwoven personality conflicts.

The scene was thus: I got a call from the area manager one day, who was completely frustrated that the upstairs admin team and the downstairs admin team were engaging in petty bickering to the extent that the majority of his time was being spent figuring out ‘she said/she said’ scenarios, hurt feelings, and accusations. He was ready to fire everyone except his lead Billing Manager.  Not because she wasn’t involved, but because he felt she was integral to his operation.

This was my first experience with a conflict of this magnitude, but I grabbed my trusty notebook and started talking to people one by one. Here are some of the things I heard:

  • It’s not that I don’t like her, but she makes mistakes all the time that make my job harder.
  • I don’t have a problem with anyone here.
  • She’s my co-worker not my friend – I’m getting paid to do my work, not socialize with everyone.
  • The manager has no idea what a slacker she is.
  • The manager has no idea what she’s saying behind his back.
  • She doesn’t take her job seriously.
  • I might have said that, but she said this.
  • There’s a LOT going on around here – you have NO IDEA.
  • I’m not being paid to be her friend.
  • I’m not rude. Maybe I don’t say good morning, but I don’t say anything rude.

A lot of this was accompanied by tears. At the end of the interviews I was no clearer about what was going on than I was at the beginning. If some of the employees were to be believed, things were dire indeed. I was inclined to agree with the manager that everyone needed to go, but we were in boom times, and qualified employees were not growing on trees. Fortunately, my behavioral training provided me with the skills to separate emotions and interpretations from behaviors, and this turned out to be one of the most important skills I had as a manager and HR leader.

The truth is, that an action can and will be interpreted in vastly different ways depending on the person doing the interpreting. Something like not saying good morning can be interpreted as somebody is busy, somebody doesn’t like you, someone is purposely disrespecting you, or the company is going out of business, depending on who is doing the action and who is doing the interpreting. The first job of a mediator in personality conflicts is to define behaviors and come to collective agreement on interpretation.

For example, in the situation I’ve been describing, I had to explain to all parties that saying good morning was expected professional conduct, that refraining to say good morning was impolite and discourteous, and that a basic expectation of our employees was to say good morning to one another. You may think this is an exaggeration, but this not by any means the only example of this situation that I’ve encountered.

Another comment I routinely hear is that the employee is not being paid to be friends with the co-workers. This can sometimes flummox managers, but it needn’t. The response is simply that they are being paid to ACT like friends, in that friends are courteous, help one another, exchange pleasantries, and keep commitments. No, I’m not paying you to hang out after work, but you certainly are being paid for professional conduct during work hours.

The other thing I learned that served me well for the next twenty years is not to be baited by ‘I know a lot of terrible things but I’m not going to tell you’ nonsense. There are different ways to deal with this but my preferred response is to let the person know that if they’re aware of illegal or unethical things happening and they don’t tell me, they’re accomplices and will be fired and that if something’s important enough to hint at, it’s important enough to be forthright about and if it’s not, keep quiet or I will suspect you of purposely sowing seeds of distrust. After that, just use common sense and your own emotional intelligence to determine whether someone has a legitimate problem or is making trouble.

Believe it or not, the case of the personality conflicts ended well. We were able to listen to everyone’s concerns, establish boundaries and expectations, and overcome some past grievances to achieve an astonishing about face. We didn’t end up letting anyone go, and I think the area manager and I were equally surprised and delighted by the result. Of course it’s not always that easy, but it taught me that it’s worth taking the time to go through these things and explain behavior that you think should be obvious. At least once.

What was the worst personality conflict you ever dealt with and how did it turn out?

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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4 tips on energizing your workforce post-holiday

Are you ready for the first week of January? For many businesses, the last two weeks of December are slow to say the least. With customers, vendors, and employees taking time off for the holidays, some companies shut down completely between Christmas and New Year’s, or operate on a skeleton crew. When people arrive back at work after the 1st, there’s usually a bit of a lull as people transition back to ‘work mode’. This can be a golden opportunity for you to set the stage for a productive and profitable New Year. Below are some tips for business owners to re-engage your workforce following the holidays to increase productivity, morale, and profitability.

  • Have an official Welcome Back ‘event’. I put event in quotes because I don’t mean a big expensive THING. It can be as simple as a morning meeting with doughnuts (or kale chips if you’d prefer) a bbq lunch, or something similar. The idea is a gesture from management to let employees know the holiday chapter has closed and the New Year chapter has begun. It goes a long way to tell employees you appreciate them and let them know some of the things you’re excited about for 2018. Because of the way our minds are wired, clear lines of transition like this help people get out of ‘holiday-mode’ and into productivity.

 

  • Share Vision – Many of the smaller businesses I work with don’t always have formal mission/vision/values built out, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a clear and compelling vision for your company. To reference Simon Sinek, your vision is your ‘Why’. It’s why you’re in business and ultimately how your business will change some small (or large) piece of the world by being there. Your vision is what will unite the different departments, get you through hard times, and help people ‘care’ about their jobs beyond their piece. It’s worth the time to think about this Why, and definitely to share it with your people, and get their input.

 

  • Goals – Every business has goals, whether they’re written out or not, but structured goal-setting is a powerful way of making sure you achieve those goals. If you haven’t got your goals spelled out yet, it’s probably unrealistic to try to have something done by the time work starts up on Tuesday, but that’s okay. Participative goal-setting with your managers can be very effective as well. Whether you announce it during your Welcome Back meeting, or some other time, make sure to let your teams know that they will be involved in setting the road map for the company over the following weeks. This is exciting, so make sure you communicate that!

 

  • Training – One of the nice things about January for many businesses is that everyone’s back at work but it’s not too busy yet. This can be an excellent opportunity to provide some training. Many of the businesses I work with see a need for their managers to brush up on skills like interviewing, dealing with performance problems, holding more effective meetings, or delegation. Having the time to pull everyone together for training is often a challenge for businesses, so it’s nice to take advantage of some downtime this time of year. An added bonus to company-provided training is that it shows employees that you value them enough to invest in them.

 

These are just a few ways you can rally the troops after a holiday slow down and prepare for a busy and exciting year ahead. I’d love to hear from you. What are some of the things you’ve done to set the stage for the New Year for your employees?

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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From the case files of the reluctant manager: My first employee

My first management position wasn’t one I asked for, or even wanted. In fact, to say I was a reluctant manager is a HUGE understatement. I was happy and busy implementing a performance management system in a company that had retained me for a year for this purpose. I’d relocated from Canada to Southern California and was dealing with the culture shock of decorated palm trees for Christmas, people asking if it ever got warm in Canada, and Thanksgiving being in November. The project was successful, and the company owner and COO were happy with how things were going. So happy, in fact, that they wanted me to do MORE…FASTER. Now for me, this was a good news/bad news scenario. The good news was that everything was going so well, and I wouldn’t be sent packing back to Calgary early. The bad news was I wasn’t sure how I’d add on more projects. That was simple, they told me. They’d give me an assistant. In fact, they already had someone picked out. We can call her Alice.

The first time I ever spoke to Alice was when I was told she was my new employee. She hadn’t asked to be my employee, and knew nothing about what I was doing. She was a musician in a band and that was her career goal. Her mom worked for the company and got her the job.

I had no idea how to be a boss. The performance management program I implemented is pretty technical and rooted in behavioral psychology. It seemed like overkill to train her in that. My thought process was that Alice could manage the data and I’d initiate the new projects. She assured me she knew Word and Excel, so I put her in charge of the data.

So about the data. My performance management programs are VERY data centric. We collect a lot of baseline performance metrics, and then daily information for every employee in the program. It’s a lot of work, but it’s based on PhD work into applied science. There’s a lot to it, but suffice it to say, the data was a big deal. My mentor was a professor from Notre Dame, and he was only doing this project so he could publish it.

So to recap: I had an assistant I didn’t think I wanted or needed, and Alice had a new boss and new job she’d never applied for. I had no idea what she was supposed to do and a ton of data I was managing on a spreadsheet that was mundane but critical to the program, and Alice said she knew excel.

What do you think the right thing to do would have been:

  1. Start training Alice in the performance management program and have her take on a project from the ground up?
  2. Have Alice keep performing her previous duties while I drafted out a job description of what I needed her to be doing, along with the training?
  3. Tell my bosses I had no work for Alice and I’d let them know when that changed?
  4. Put Alice in charge of the data management because that was the item that needed the least specialized training, and could free me up to start new projects?

Comment with your answers, and I’ll let you know what I really did (it wasn’t good).

Come hang out with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based mentoring and training company committed to equipping managers to overcome the typical tactical, strategic, and personal development challenges facing managers in growing companies. Will a full suite of mentoring, coaching, training, and on-call support available for managers and leaders, we’ve got you covered! For more information, visit our site or contact us for more information about how we help leaders and managers grow.

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From the case files of the Reluctant Manager: Investigating ‘Handsy’ (my first assignment)

As I’ve shared previously, my rising through the ranks of management happened quickly, abruptly, and, for me, surprisingly. As a creative, introverted psychology major, my life plan included either helping people in a clinical fashion (as in, have a seat on this couch and tell me about your mother) or living in a cabin on a mountaintop writing bestselling novels. So naturally, I ended up in charge of an HR department in a busy, rapidly growing company in a different country from my birthplace. But I digress.

I think most of us expect life to progress along a pre-planned track: Graduate, go to college, graduate college, get a starter job, get promoted, personal stuff, get promoted some more, etc. At least that was what I expected. Of course, we all eventually realize that it’s NEVER like that but not without spending a few years (or decades) wondering if we were doing something horribly wrong because our experience was so different from the plan.

Such were my thoughts when I was thrust somewhat reluctantly into the role of manager for the first time. Because I’m highly competitive and achievement-oriented, I rarely say no to a challenge or advancement opportunity so initially I was quite excited about being asked. But then it sunk in that I had accepted a job I really didn’t know how to do and had never done before. Not only that, it was in a field in which I had zero expertise – Human Resources.

At the time, I was an organizational behavior management consultant – working for a professor emeritus from Notre Dame running projects for him all over North America. HR had never been on my radar, not even a little, but because OBM involves training, development, and performance it sort of made sense that it fell under HR – I guess. I’m not sure why it made sense for ANYONE that that meant I should be in charge of HR (least of all me) but that was the plan.

No sooner did I agree to the promotion when I was informed I needed to perform an investigation of a manager who had been accused of…things…that a manager shouldn’t be doing. Things that involved his administrative assistant. Given the cultural context in which I’m writing this, all I can say is that that allegations were mild compared to what we’re seeing and hearing these days, but at the time it was a big deal. The complainant was upset and the manager much more so, and furthermore he adamantly denied everything.

What I remember most about the incident was frantically Googling how to conduct an investigation. There was no senior leader who had done my role before, and even though I KNEW my boss KNEW that I knew NOTHING about HR, I still thought he’d figure he’d made a mistake if I told him I didn’t know how to handle my first assignment. I went out and bought a mini-cassette recorder to record the interviews and did the best I could. The investigation was a disaster (in my opinion) because everyone had a different story, nothing lined up, and there was no clear evidence one way or the other. It was very unsatisfying to me, who had been expecting an Agatha Christie-like closure to the case. Of course, I was later to learn they’re all like that, but that’s another story.

What most sticks with me after all these years is how scared I was, and how confusing it was to try to find answers to the questions. The fact that everyone believed in me really didn’t help. It was nice and all, but I knew that I didn’t know what I was doing, so their utter confidence in me was a little disappointing. What I would have appreciated more than anything was someone to guide me a little. Not to tell me exactly what to do (because I hate that), but to at least point me in the right direction.

Luckily, I was a quick study, and I’m proud to say we never got into legal trouble on my watch. But that experience started a fire in me to make sure to provide context and structure for people walking after me. That’s why I love mentoring so much, and why I am so passionate about helping first time leaders. I don’t think the employment landscape has changed much since when I first started managing. There’s still not a lot of practical help for newer managers, and a lot more to be done than time to do it in. But it feels good to know I can be helpful.  If you’re interested in hearing more about how I mentor first time managers, you can click here.

And because I just love giving out bonuses, click here for a free link for a basic employee investigation process (just in case you have a ‘handsy’ of your own)

Do you have any horror stories from your first time managing? Do share!

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based mentoring and training company committed to equipping managers to overcome the typical tactical, strategic, and personal development challenges facing managers in growing companies. Will a full suite of mentoring, coaching, training, and on-call support available for managers and leaders, we’ve got you covered! For more information, visit our site or contact us for more information about how we help leaders and managers grow.

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Do you have what it takes to be a great manager? How do you know?

When I first started managing people I was terrified! I had never had people report to me before, I was a woman in a male dominated industry (construction) and to top it all off, I was (and am) a confirmed introvert!  Every day going to work there was a war waging inside of me. On one hand, I was sure I was going to crash and burn, but on the other hand, I knew that if I let my fears get the best of me, I’d never get to where I wanted to be in my career.  I think it was my pride, ego, and perfectionism that kept me in the race more than anything else at that time.

I learned a lot of what I needed to know on a trial-by-fire basis, and I was fortunate that I had some very patient leaders who believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Even so, as I learned how to manage, and then how to be an inspirational leader, I left a lot of wreckage in my wake. I was so sensitive about being considered ‘soft’, ‘weak’, and ‘emotional’, that I overcompensated and came across as critical, demanding, inflexible, and intimidating. The first time someone gave me that feedback, I didn’t believe it. I knew how nervous I was inside about doing my job properly, so how could I possibly be intimidating? I was crushed!

For me, realizing I needed help was NOT a freeing experience, because there was not help readily available!  Far from energizing me to take action, becoming aware of my shortcomings only added to my feelings of being under qualified, and a fear that if my bosses ever figured out how very far from ‘management material’ I really was, that I’d be demoted immediately. Because of that, for quite some time, my management journey consisted of a ruthless drive for excellence, lack of compassion, zero tolerance for mistakes (mine or others), and a near-constant anxiety, feeling like it was all just one wrong move away from crashing down.

That’s no way to live, and there’s no salary big enough to make it worth it.

I looked into training, but the problem was that the off-the-shelf training courses were so generic and vague that they weren’t worth the cost.  There are a lot of dynamics at play in smaller, growing businesses, and in blue-collar industries, that just aren’t addressed in most training courses and seminars.  I needed highly tactical, relevant information, delivered in an accessible, non-patronizing manner. Things I wanted training on included:

  • Legal AND effective recruiting, interviewing and hiring
  • One-on-ones, performance reviews, dealing with performance issues, and terminating employees (This was actually an area I was comfortable with based on my background, but there was no good training available for my peers, so I had to develop it from scratch for them, and in every company I’ve ever worked in since then)
  • Resources for accessing information on employment law such as protected classes, employee classifications, wage and hour issues, and creating job descriptions
  • Delegating, goal setting, holding effective meetings…OH MY!

I didn’t just want to know what these things were, I wanted to know HOW to do them, in MY company, with MY employees.  I mean, we’re talking about accessing some very specific, practical management tips (like, how do I make a job description for a cashier or a construction worker, or, are there any performance review formats out there that DON’T just suck? Yes, I said it, and you know it’s true!)

I thought if I could only get a handle on those things, my management fears would be over, but I was wrong.

I mean, I was right that I absolutely DID need to acquire those skills (and a lot more) But there was more that had to happen inside me before I would get to a place where I loved my leadership experience, and that was figuring out how NOT to feel like a fish out of water. In my case, it was the fact that I was an introvert, and the lone woman manager and one of the few female employees. Other people have different challenges, but they all add up to the same thing – feeling underqualified. I wasn’t able to articulate it then, but I needed to figure out how to:

  • Love leading, and feel excited about how I could better the lives of the people I was leading, and my company, even though I didn’t feel like a ‘people person’
  • Get my team excited about being on my team, and how to drive performance while still enjoying my job, and liking myself
  • Deal with conflict (with my peers, subordinates, and bosses) proactively – without being overly aggressive or too passive and people please-y

For me, this came through YEARS of work, experience, and trial and error. The honest truth is that nothing boosts self-esteem as much as genuine success, and quickly coming up to speed on the basics can jump start that process. But if you bring some limiting beliefs about yourself to your management position, it can be harder than it needs to be. And don’t take this wrong, because you’re probably a really bright person, but you’re probably NOT the best person to identify limiting beliefs in yourself. If you’re fortunate enough to have an awesome boss or mentor working with you, they can help you through the self-doubt that most of us experience when we’re new to the role. If you don’t have access to that, don’t worry…there are tools and exercises that can help you escalate your growth here too.

At the end of the day, if you’re in a leadership or management role you owe it to yourself and to those you lead to be the best leader you can be! And there’s no better time to start than today!

As part of my management & leadership training, and personal development programs, I’ve created a lot of tools, tips, and checklists that I want to share with you to help you on your journey. Why am I giving this stuff away for free? I really do want to help, and wish this would have been available to me early on in my journey. I’m also confident that you’ll get great value out of this, and when you are ready for more formalized mentoring and/or training, you’ll already know that I know my stuff!

So if you’re ready to start seriously brushing up on your skills, let’s start with an overall assessment. This is a tool you can use on yourself, or if you manage new managers you can use this with them. It’s a supervisor assessment to give you a big picture idea of where you’re strong and where you need extra training. Click here to download, and let me know your thoughts!

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based mentoring and training company committed to equipping managers to overcome the typical tactical, strategic, and personal development challenges facing managers in growing companies. Will a full suite of mentoring, coaching, training, and on-call support available for managers and leaders, we’ve got you covered! For more information, visit our site or contact us for more information about how we help leaders and managers grow.

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Three “AHA”s needed for your managers to be truly teachable

If you are a business owner you know that once your company grows to a certain size, your success depends on the success of your managers. I recommend basic training for all new managers, whether they’re new to management in general, or new to managing in your company. Before you invest one cent or minute in training, though, you should be sure that the ground is fertile. In other words, is your company cultivating a culture that supports a heart of teachability in your managers?

At the heart of successful training is successful learning, and the heart of successful learning is being teachable, and the heart of being teachable is being vulnerable. Ugh. Being vulnerable enough to be teachable is one of the most difficult challenges anyone can master in life, and failing to grasp it will (not might, will) limit your growth in every circumstance. There are significant barriers to experiencing this vulnerability, both internal and external, and my experience is that how we deal with the discomfort of vulnerability varies depending on gender, age, and culturally.

In order to be teachable, the first ‘aha’ needs to be an awareness that there’s a gap between where you are and where you want to be. Sometimes the gap is obvious and doesn’t really need to be pointed out. For example, if you haven’t been given a promotion to management that you aspire to, you are all too aware of this. Other times it’s not so obvious. This is that area of unconscious incompetence that was developed at Gordon Training International, and basically means that you have to know you don’t know something before you can learn it (simple, right?).

Once someone becomes aware of a need for training, the next step is to access that training. If you have a healthy, intact ego and a healthy, non-toxic culture, it’s a relatively painless process to explain the need to training and education to your boss. Here is unfortunately where so many people get blocked. Here are some of the thoughts that block new managers from seeking help:

  • I should already know this
  • My boss thinks I should already know this
  • If they find out I don’t already know this, they’ll demote/fire me

In an unhealthy and toxic culture, this fear is actually perpetrated by senior management. I’ve known business owners and senior leaders who want their managers to remain in a state of insecurity because it keeps them from asking for more money (really, this happens), and/or are otherwise vested in keeping the people who work for them feeling slightly unsafe. They will usually say it’s to keep people ‘hungry’ or ‘competitive’ but it’s pretty much nothing more than a raging case of narcissism or deep insecurity.

The second ‘aha’ needs to be a realization that you can acquire the skills necessary to thrive in your role. Your level of self-efficacy, or belief in your ability to learn, is directly correlated to your success. Dr. Carol Dweck has proven that our mindset determines our teachability. The more we believe certain things are innate, as in we have them or we don’t, the less likely we are to seek out or embrace training and coaching. When we talk about ‘born leaders’, we’re actually discouraging people from asking for help, because the assumption is that if you need help, you’re not cut out for your role. A growth mindset, on the other hand, values progress over perfection and is perfectly suited for training and coaching. If you as a senior leader don’t intentionally create a growth mindset in your culture and with your managers, you will find yourself with a singularly unteachable team.

The third ‘aha’ is a belief that this training will actually improve your performance. The problem with a lot of management training is that your managers can become jaded if it is too general to be useful, or if there’s a new ‘most important thing’ every month. Before investing in training, make sure you understand what is going to be taught, how it will be taught, and how relevant it is for your managers. If you do your homework, you’ll have a stronger belief in the outcome, and your confidence will be contagious. Once your managers are confident the training will help, they’ll be more receptive (teachable) and more likely to implement what they’ve learned. The success they experience will reinforce them to keep going. On the other hand, if you say something along the lines of “I’m going to send you to a seminar today. I have no idea if it’s any good, but we got a discount from our vendor, so you might as well check it out”, do you want to guess how likely it is that whomever you’re sending will be very teachable?

So vulnerability, mindset, and belief in the value of the training are all critical components of teachability, without which you really should reconsider investing in training at all. Although you obviously aren’t in control of your managers’ teachability, you can definitely set the stage for a culture of successful learning and development, which creats a high-performance, high-impact culture!

For a more in depth discussion about how these all work together, click here.
Come hang out with us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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Why growing businesses NEED a management selection and training process

When you’re the owner or senior leader of a growing business, one of the hallmarks of growth is the need to elevate managers to help oversee your operations. I think we tend to underestimate the difficulty of this step. Managers change the blueprint of your company instantly and irrevocably, and yet so often a selection and training process is overlooked. What should  leadership development program look like and how can you implement this amidst the chaos of rapid growth?

In a perfect world, you will have anticipated your growth and will have these plans in place well before you need them. But we all know that things rarely go according to plan. All too often, it looks more like this: You experience a dramatic increase in business and revenue. At first it’s fantastic, and you’re excited (and relieved) that all your hard work looks like it’s paying off. All the fear and anxiety you’ve had about whether this business is really viable, and/or if you’ve got what it takes, is alleviated and it’s a wonderful feeling.

Before long, though, you start understanding the term ‘growing pains’ in a whole new way. You just aren’t able to keep track of things by yourself. There have always been facets of your job that you know aren’t your strengths (maybe it’s administrative, maybe it’s managing day-to-day tasks, maybe it’s dealing with angry customers) but before you were able to stay on top of things. Now, the sheer volume of things to do means you’re spending a much greater amount of time doing things you don’t like, and aren’t that good at. You start dropping balls, and realize that you can’t keep going this way and maintain the service and quality that led to your growth in the first place.

So you hire or promote managers.

If you’re like most owners, you may assume that your managers are on the same page as you regarding their role, and how to perform it, and what’s really important in your company. This is your first mistake. The second most common mistake is to underestimate the importance of a strong proficiency in management and business basics. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this can make or break your culture and ultimately your business. As a management and leadership consultant, I am frequently called in after the problems have started, and each and every time prevention would have been much easier and more cost effective than problem-solving. This is accomplished by a leadership development program that allows you to select and train your managers to ensure you are putting the best people in the roles, and providing them the support necessary to gain proficiency in the foundational skills.

The foundational areas are: Basic legal compliance, employee relations (leadership), and performance management. Before you can begin training your managers in these areas, you first have to determine who should be in these roles. Some foundational skills are rather easily trained, and some take longer and are more challenging. Here are the skills to look for and/or train in order of difficulty, from MOST to LEAST difficult (approximately).

  • Ability to inspire and lead others by casting a vision of the bigger picture and articulating each person’s contribution to the whole.
  • High emotional intelligence, with the ability to manage perceptions, exhibit self-control, and communicate consistently, respectfully, and optimistically in times of intense pressure. Must be able to represent your company professionally and courteously to employees, stakeholders, and vendors, regardless of the circumstances.
  • Strong communication skills, with the ability to convey complex and abstract ideas clearly and concisely in a written and verbal format, to a variety of audiences.
  • Thorough understanding of your product and service, with the ability to train and coach every aspect of the operational role.
  • Proven ability to identify and utilize performance metrics to help individuals perform to their highest and best level.
  • Ability to address and resolve performance issues while reinforcing each employee’s intrinsic value and value to the team.
  • Understanding of business basics, such as profit and loss statements, revenue drivers, and profitability drivers.
  • An understanding of protected classes, basic employment law (FLSA status, wage and hour laws, ADA, and HIPAA protections).
  • Legal and effective coaching skills and the ability to dress behavioral problems in the workplace.
  • Legal and effective interviewing skills.

A good leadership selection protocol will identify these areas behaviorally and allow you to score applicants as objectively as possible to ensure you are being fair and consistent in selecting your future leaders. You need to take into account the urgent needs of your business while considering the long-term implications of selecting a candidate lacking an important, hard-to-train skill. Regardless of the experience and skillset of your manager-to-be, it’s important to train them in the basics before fully endorsing them as managers. There’s a legal benefit to conducting and documenting training. Not only that, a basic tenant of management is to treat each employee the same. Bypassing training on a ‘highly qualified’ candidate sets the tone right out of the gate that they’re above common protocol.

When conducting your leadership training, I think the best approach is a combination of low-hanging fruit, and impact to operations. Therefore, I recommend a quick and thorough review of legal compliance. First, because it’s easy to create standardized training – whether it’s an orientation webinar, or pre-recorded training of some sort. This is a great preventative measure right out the gate.

The business and performance management piece also lends itself well to group or virtual training. The specifics of your business are unique, but profit and loss concepts are universal, as are the fundamentals of performance management. You can often standardize quite a bit of this training, and have individualized training as a second or third step.

Last is the vision, communication, and emotional intelligence quotient of the job. Hopefully you haven’t hired anyone for a significant leadership position who is lacking emotional intelligence or communication skills, but it’s not uncommon to need to work on these skills when promoting from within. If you’re promoting your top performing individual contributors, there may be a great deal of leadership training and coaching you need to invest in. Ideally, this will be done as part of a succession plan, and not on-the-job. Similarly, the tribal and product knowledge specific to your company will not be present in candidates from outside your company. You’ll need to decide how important this is. It can be a deal-breaker for some companies, and simple enough to overcome in others.

To wrap it up, you’re doing yourself, your managers, your employees, and your company a huge disservice if you neglect to create a management selection and training process. True, you can hire and promote managers without it, but dollars to doughnuts you’ll spend a lot more time putting out fires if you go that route.

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Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Performance Management experts, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com