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Business Management Leadership Development

You can’t coast uphill

A few weeks ago I was back in Canada for a few days and had quite a bit of rare free time early in the morning to listen to a workshop I’ve been enjoying. The topic on this episode was about maintaining one’s spiritual condition, and they said something I just loved, which is that you can’t coast uphill, only downhill. The point was that often in life we work really hard in pursuit of a particular goal, and then when we achieve it, there’s a tendency to think we can just rest there, stop all the effort, and continue to enjoy the fruits of all that labor. We call that coasting, but as the speakers remind us, you can only coast downhill. In other words, once you stop working, you stop growing, and once you stop growing, you start dying.

You know sometimes you hear something and it’s like it was made just for you in just your situation? This was one of those times. And I especially love it because it works for me in so many areas of life.

Obviously in terms of spiritual growth, all the benefits I receive from the praying, meditating, and rigorous honesty will slowly (or quickly) disappear if I don’t keep doing the work. I can’t stay serene on yesterday’s actions, only today’s.

I also see a tendency in myself to coast when it comes to my health and fitness. I can adhere to a clean and healthy diet with some excellent workouts and then once I start seeing results, I feel like I can stop and keep the results. I’m not sure why I have to keep repeating this experiment – maybe writing about it will cement it into my head…you only coast downhill – back to where you started.

This is also true for us as leaders. We laugh about the Peter Principle (at least, my age peers do), which is the concept that people rise to the level of their incompetence. I don’t know about that, but I have seen time and time again leaders who assume they’ve arrived and so stop doing the things that made them awesome and promote-able in the first place. Things like self-development activities, learning, asking their team what they need. And once those behaviors stop, there’s definitely some coasting…downhill. That’s when people report feeling burned out, and when their bosses or subordinates notice that they’ve changed, somehow.

I know our brains are wired to conserve energy, so maybe that’s why we’re intrinsically predisposed to coast, but today I’m challenging myself to dig in and keep getting better. Not because I want to be perfect, but because I don’t want to end up where I started.

Who’s with me?

And for all you all or nothing thinkers out there (guilty), this doesn’t mean you have to sign up for another degree or take on something huge. Small steps are still progress; still movement; still keeping you from coasting. So read a book that gets you thinking, maybe listen to a podcast, watch a TED Talk. There are a lot of small things you can do to keep yourself fresh. I, for example, have just started reading Fierce Leadership, by Susan Scott (She wrote Fierce Conversations, which I loved). If you have more capacity or want faster growth, there’s coaching, peer groups, classes…the list has as many possibilities as you do!

I’d love to hear what you’re doing right now to keep growing. Or what you’re committing to do. And as always, if you liked this article, please share the love, and join my newsletter for additional tips and special access to some of the leadership and management tools I’ve developed.

Carrie Maldonado, is an organizational development consultant, author, and speaker. Today’s Leadership Solutions is a Seattle-based consulting firm dedicated to providing business owners peace of mind and job fulfillment by ensuring their management teams are equipped to run their businesses successfully. With certified executive coaches, organizational development experts and HR Professionals, we consult with small to medium sized businesses on management, leadership, and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. We can be reached for consultation at info@todaysleadershipsolutions.com.

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Business Management career coaching Leadership Development Uncategorized

You lead like a girl! Do this today to instantly improve your professional credibility

As many of my readers know, I started my leadership journey more than 20 years ago, as the only female manager in a booming blue-collar, male-dominated company. Although I had more management training than many of my peers, I struggled with being taken seriously. Often my ideas were overlooked, or sometimes ‘borrowed’ (with no credit given to me), and it was difficult for me to engage in even constructive conflict without being patronized. At one point, I despaired that I’d ever really enjoy leadership, and only persevered because I knew I had something to offer, and I also knew if I wanted to maximize my earning potential, I had to crack the leadership code. How could I get my bosses, peers, and subordinates to take me seriously?

Does this sound familiar? If so, I have great news! I figured out what I had to do to give my professional credibility a facelift, and I’ve never looked back. From those fumbling, awkward beginnings, I’ve led teams, departments, and company initiatives, and eventually started my own consulting business.

I figured out what it takes to establish and maintain professional credibility, and I’m going to share it with you.

If you struggle with wondering if you’ve got what it takes to be a true leader, or worry that having a personal life rules you out of management, or even feel that you’ve made some mistakes that you can’t recover from, then you’ll be relieved to learn that NONE OF THIS disqualifies you from being a powerful, inspiring, and effective leader!

Today, I speak confidently, knowing I bring value to the table. I ask for what I need in a reasonable way, and don’t apologize for being human. I give constructive feedback without feeling guilty. I admit when I’m wrong without cringing. I champion ideas and lead powerful initiatives without worrying about failing. In short, I’m a leader who loves her job, and you can be too!

If you’re like many women leaders, you fought hard to get to where you are today…and yet…

Besides being a leader professionally, there may be several other, often contradictory roles you play in your life, which means that there are countless different things requiring your time, attention, and energy, and at times it feels like you’re not quite giving anything ‘your all’.

In addition, you may have been taught from a young age that making mistakes was a sign of failure. You also might have received conflicting instruction about being assertive, being polite, and how to accomplish things effectively through others (i.e. management)

As a result, you may have some built in ‘credibility blockers’ that are keeping you from feeling successful and fulfilled in your role as a leader. These include:

  • A Fixed Mindset
  • Limiting beliefs
  • Lack of quality training and mentors

Any one of these (let alone all three) can make your leadership journey feel exhausting and frustrating, and you may unconsciously be sabotaging yourself without even being aware of it. You can take this quick quiz to determine if any of these are impacting your credibility:

  • Do you feel like you are a leadership ‘imposter’ and if people ‘really knew’ you they’d know you weren’t a great leader?
  • Do you become anxious and fearful about your career prospects?
  • Do you imagine negative outcomes associated with asking for help?
  • Do you become impatient with yourself when change doesn’t occur quickly enough?
  • Does the thought of management or leadership training leave you feeling overwhelmed and skeptical?
  • Do you find it hard to trust others to provide honest feedback and training?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you need the following information so that you can learn how to overcome these obstacles and boost your professional credibility!

What I learned is that the biggest blocker to anyone’s professional credibility is their beliefs about themselves, and the most important factor of success in any area of life, but particularly in one’s leadership journey – is how to reprogram your mind and beliefs to create lasting change in your life.

This is the key to transformation, and failing to implement these secrets will keep you feeling stuck. Once you reprogram your mind to believe and embrace your identity as leader, you will see opportunities everywhere to develop and improve your skills. You will notice new mentoring opportunities, and you will be excited about the future.

I promise!

I’ve developed a transformational program to provide the tactical, strategic, mental, and emotional guidance you need to conquer challenges in your professional and personal life. Here is a free download containing a portion of the program from the module ‘Redefine your leadership image’, containing practical information you need to learn how to reprogram your mind and thrive in your professional role.

Today’s Leadership Solutions is a Seattle-based consulting firm dedicated to providing business owners peace of mind and job fulfillment by ensuring their management teams are equipped to run their businesses successfully. With certified executive coaches, organizational development experts and HR Professionals, we consult with small to medium sized businesses on management, leadership, and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. We can be reached for consultation at info@todaysleadershipsolutions.com.

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Business Management Leadership Development Mentoring New Managers

You lead like a girl! My formula for hosting engaging and productive meetings that employees actually want to attend

Last week I wrote about my leadership journey, and some of the challenges I’ve faced as a professional business leader and woman. One of the greatest challenges was (and is) the lack of female mentors at the executive level to help navigate specific issues.  Because of this, I had to learn many things the hard way; through embarrassing missteps, trial and error, observation, and piecing together things through research. In my experience, the greatest challenges were in the areas of communication and boundaries, and nowhere is this more true than in the business meeting.

Holding effective meetings is a challenge for professionals of every type, male and female, but as a woman in several virtually all-male companies I felt even more pressure as the spotlight seemed that much brighter. Today I’m going to share some of the things I learned to do that changed my meetings from a dreaded, boring ritual to something my team genuinely looked forward to, and that made a difference in not only my team’s but also my company’s performance. This not only improved morale, but also helped keep employees in different locations engaged. I’m sure you’ll find this valuable, so don’t forget to download the free meeting resource at the end to help you plan and execute killer meetings.

So…meetings. I have to confess that I’ve never liked them. Most of the meetings I attend consist of people giving me handouts, and then reading the information from the handouts aloud. Sometimes there’s a slideshow and someone will read the information on the slides to me. Best case scenario is maybe a couple senior managers will get into a really awkward disagreement, to the delight of the other participants (oh, is that just me?) The advent of conference calls and web calls made this better only in the sense that it was slightly easier to multi-task without getting caught, but the value was just not there that I ever saw.

If I’m honest, my initial attempts at staff meetings weren’t much better. I conducted the meetings because I was supposed to, but I didn’t really understand the point. Then some things happened that changed everything for me, and ever since then my meetings have actually been the high points of the week for me and my teams. So what happened?

My need to figure out how to conduct effective meetings was the result of my team tripling, being given an immense, enterprise-spanning initiative, and being told that my department turnover was the highest in the company, and was I sure I wasn’t being too hard on people? So right off the bat, my goals were to train, to inspire, and to retain employees as we worked on some pretty high stress, but at times monotonous, projects. Fortunately, I was mentored by a pioneer in behavioral psychology and well-versed in the principles of positive reinforcement, so I had an inkling about how to create conditions conducive to high performance. The final piece in the puzzle was watching one of my other mentors in action. He had the gift of inspiring people and helping them see the bigger picture that I really appreciated, and worked on developing in myself.

A resource I highly recommend if you want to have more effective meetings is Patrick Lencioni’s “Death By Meeting”. This book helped me view meetings in a whole different way. Lencioni deconstructs the traditional view of meetings to make them more interesting and meaningful. It is helpful to understand the types of meetings Lencioni refers to. In this model, meetings are not conducted for meetings sake, and principles of conflict are surfaced as conflict is seen as the most important aspect of meetings. The idea is that conflict equals change and if the meeting is not surfacing or managing change, then it is probably not needed.  Click here to view Lencioni’s meeting model.

Developing my meeting formula was years in the making, but here’s the summary of what I do to create highly engaging and effective meetings that people actually wanted to attend. This is just the summary, all the details are included in this free download containing my meeting formula and checklists for planning agendas and for conducting effective conference calls.

  • Set and communicate the intention of every meeting
  • Be strategic when creating your agenda
  • Set and communicate meeting Ground Rules
  • Use a Parking Lot
  • Create a team purpose and code of operating
  • Turn meetings into leadership training classes
  • Don’t read information to people
  • Don’t wait for tardy people or catch them up
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously, but do take your team seriously
  • Change up recurring meetings

If you put as many of these practices into place as possible, with as many meetings as you can, I think you’ll be very pleased with how much more engaging your meetings are, and how much more smoothly they run. If you want to learn more, please click here for the full description of my meeting success formula, as well as some helpful tips for planning agendas, and for conducting conference calls. Based on my own experience, mastering this will do wonders for your leadership profile. Next…my number one secret for creating teams that will happily go to battle with you. 

Today’s Leadership Solutions is a Seattle-based consulting firm dedicated to providing business owners peace of mind and job fulfillment by ensuring their management teams are equipped to run their businesses successfully. With certified executive coaches, organizational development experts and HR Professionals, we consult with small to medium sized businesses on management, leadership, and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. We can be reached for consultation at info@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

Categories
Business Management career coaching Leadership Development Mentoring

You lead like a girl! The truth about women leaders that no one wants to tell you

As a woman of a  ‘certain age’ (okay, 45) I grew up being told that I could (and should) do it all. I could have a lucrative, fulfilling career, marriage, and kids. I think everyone was just so happy that women COULD work outside the home if they wanted that we instantly transitioned into SHOULD. I’m not complaining because otherwise I wouldn’t have discovered that I have a gift for leadership and coaching. Being a working woman, business leader, and Mommy (in that order, actually), provided me a lot of insight into what I’m great at, what I love, and what stresses me out.

For quite a while, I bought into the fact that in order to be successful in business, a woman simply had to do the job as well, or better, than a man the same way a man does. I didn’t know any different because there were no female role models for me. The only working women I knew were either administrative assistants, or in a completely different profession (doctor, pharmacist, teacher, nurse). The only woman boss I’d ever had was a highly emotional, frazzled woman who insisted we all keep track of her menstrual cycle so we’d know if she was approachable or not. Needless to say, she was not an inspiring leader, and she wasn’t particularly interested in mentoring any other women, either. Rumor was she saw other women as a threat but I don’t know if that’s true.

My leadership journey began within a Christian company, before I was a Christian. I had a pretty dim view of believers at that point and was so convinced they’d relegate me to coffee and note-taking that for five years I insisted I didn’t know how to operate the coffee machine. The one time I was asked to take notes, I refused and asked if they were asking me that because I was a girl. Despite my initial prejudices, my experience at this company was transformational. I’ve written about it elsewhere. In addition, I was provided management opportunity and mentored, giving me a solid foundation for servant leadership. From a male’s perspective.

For the most part, it’s served me well, but there were things I wasn’t taught because it would never be on a male mentor’s radar. Most of the difficult situations center around boundaries, assumptions, and expectations. For example:

  • Having performance improvement conversations with men without apologizing OR getting overly dramatic to get my point across.
  • Being around a man who is crying without wanting to evaporate off the face of the earth.
  • Telling a woman that her performance needed improving even though it would mean that she’d hate me or talk crap about me with everyone else
  • Having to talk about a woman about her office attire, and hearing later that she told everyone it was because I was just jealous of her.
  • Having employees assume my standards were lower, or that I welcomed interruptions just to chat for hours at a time.
  • Forcing myself to stuff down all my feelings because if I got frustrated enough to cry everyone thought I was weak and either patronized me or discredited me.
  • Being told I was intimidating, and having no idea if I really was, or if I just wasn’t conforming to their expectations of a ‘girl boss’.
  • The fact that no matter how much responsibility and status I shouldered at work, and no matter how much my husband helped at home, I’m still ‘the brain’ who needs to keep track of school stuff, and schedules, and likely gets thrown up on when the kids are sick and who needs to figure it ALL out.

Do my male counterparts face some of these challenges? Some yes, others no. And I know full well that they have challenges that I don’t have. And that brings us to the positives. After I stopped trying to act like the (male) leaders around me acted, or process things the way I thought they were processing, or feel the way I thought they felt, amazing things started to happen, and I felt free to:

  • Use my desire to connect with others and to connect others to form incredibly strong teams.
  • Acknowledge my and others’ emotions and using that to overcome problems and defuse situations.
  • Use the way I process information to come up with unique and innovative solutions
  • Encourage others to take risks

Once I embraced my gifts and accepted myself the way I was, my leadership was exponentially better and the people who reported to me would tell you the same thing, but it was a long and painful road. The only thing I would change if I could would be having more female mentors or colleagues to bounce ideas off of.

I’m writing about this today because more women than ever have been reaching out to me and sharing their stories, and it’s made me realize that this continues to be an area where women can support each other. I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunities I’ve had, but one thing life has taught me is that you can’t keep what you don’t give away.

How can you get involved? I was hoping you’d ask! I’m partnering with some powerful thought leaders, executives, and coaches to design some elite caliber leadership content to support this mission of women helping women. If you’re interested in the subject of women mentoring women for professional growth and development, please sign up here for our Women Business Leaders Newsletter so you can be on the front lines as this develops. As a thank you, I’ll send you my free e-guide 10 tips for managing multiple priorities.  Thanks, and as always  – if you enjoyed this article, please share the love!

Today’s Leadership Solutions is a Seattle-based consulting firm dedicated to providing business owners peace of mind and job fulfillment by ensuring their management teams are equipped to run their businesses successfully. With certified executive coaches, organizational development experts and HR Professionals, we consult with small to medium sized businesses on management, leadership, and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. We can be reached for consultation at info@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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Business Management coaching New Managers

Save your day from the Gottaminutes without being a jerk

If you’re a manager, leader, or otherwise work in some way with people, then chances are you’ve had at least part of your day derailed by a ‘gottaminute’. It all starts innocently enough; you’re sitting at your desk when you hear that curtesy ‘tap tap’ at your open door and someone pops their head in asking if you can spare them ‘a quick sec’.  After you say ‘of course, come on in’, the asker will usually enter your office, sit downand engage in conversation that is ALWAYS more than ‘just a sec’.  I’ve never met a manager who didn’t acknowledge that the gottaminutes were huge time sucks. These unscheduled, sometimes lengthy meetings, can derail you, and by extension your team. So why don’t we just say no?

Rest assured, managers aren’t merely saying ‘yes’ to the gottaminutes because they’re insecure people pleasers who don’t know how to say no (well, some are, but that’s not who this is directed to). We say yes because:

  • We appreciate our people and want them to know we’re available to them
  • We know that our people are often privy to valuable information that we’re not, and that it would be foolish to plug our ears when someone wants to talk
  • We enjoy interacting with our team
  • There is an issue that needs our input in order to be resolved
  • We are the only ones who can make certain decisions, and so need to find out if this is one of those
  • We’d prefer to be in the loop on any actions that need to be taken
  • We have carefully cultivated a culture encouraging open communication

So for all these reason, we tend to say ‘yes’ when there’s a gottaminute, and wonder if there’s a better way.

The trick is mining the gold from the gottaminutes and doing away with dross. To do that, we have to look at the four categories of gottaminutes. These are a) exchanges of non-urgent information b) coachable moments c) urgent issues and d) a side effect from micro-managing (you control freak, you).

Realistically, you’re never going to eliminate all the gottaminutes, and I’m not sure anyone would want to. But what we do want to do is give you, the manager, control back over your time while still maintaining a positive relationship with your team and a finger on the pulse of your operations.

The solution lies in setting up structures for your communication with your team. I recommend the weekly spot check, monthly one on one, the scheduled gottaminute, and the urgent gottaminute. It looks like this:

  1. Once a month you have a 30 minute one-on-one with your employee about their job, their goals, any projects, training needs, and general well-being. This is the time to talk about anything you’ve noticed in terms of performance trends, and to let them in on any company info they should know.
  2. Weekly spot checks are prescheduled times where they employee knows they’ll have your undivided attention to talk about anything. I recommend covering a few key points such as wins, obstacles, needs.
  3. Scheduled gottaminutes: Sounds counterintuitive, but the idea here is when someone needs your opinion or advice on a non-urgent gottaminute that you agree to meet later in the day at a time that works for you both. So if you’re in the middle of a report, or you have a meeting starting, you let the employee know that you want to be able to give them your full attention, and ask them to come back later.
  4. This leaves only the urgent gottaminutes, which you should legitimately make room for.

As you go through this process, there will be a period of retraining for your team and yourself, as you learn together what urgent and non-urgent really mean. A natural (and wonderful) by-product is that everyone will become weaned off the need for you to make every decision for everyone, and you’ll become more and more comfortable in the judgment of your team, and their ability to make decisions. They will also appreciate your efforts to give them your undivided attention, rather than a grudging, watch-checking (maybe even sighing) half-hearted gottaminute session.

Want to know more? Contact us today for more real-life support for managers.

Today’s Leadership Solutions is a Seattle-based consulting firm dedicated to providing business owners peace of mind and job fulfillment by ensuring their management teams are equipped to run their businesses successfully. With certified executive coaches, organizational development experts and HR Professionals, we consult with small to medium sized businesses on management, leadership, and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. We can be reached for consultation at info@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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Business Management Leadership Development Uncategorized

Do you know what your REAL company culture is? Here’s how to find out.

When you are building your own business, or experiencing rapid growth, just getting through the day can be a challenge. You are putting out fires, sometimes setting them, and of course responding to a thousand ‘gottaminutes’ throughout the day. In the midst of solving customer crises, ensuring the cash is flowing in the right direction and just getting staff hired, something like culture, while not unimportant to you, can get relegated to something you’ll get to at just about the same time you actually take that week off you’ve been promising yourself.

Unfortunately, failing to be intentional about your culture is as damaging as failing to take your vacation. The results of personal burnout include fatigue, irritation, and lack of productivity…much the same as an unproductive culture. A lot of times, leaders don’t address this not because they don’t want to, but because it seems too vague to wrap their minds around.

In dealing with my clients, I have found it useful to look at culture as the set of behaviors, besides the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform the tasks that need to be performed, that are required to successfully represent the company to a) other employees and b) the customers.

Usually leaders are primarily focused on the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform whatever tasks need to be performed. Don’t get me wrong, technical competence is necessary – so necessary that I spend a large portion of my time with my clients defining duties, building training programs and figuring out the best way to measure performance. However, it is far from sufficient.  A while ago, Inc.com published an article about media giant Netflix, and their policy not to tolerate ‘cultural terrorists’    based on the extensive damage caused by an improper cultural fit.

So what is a good cultural fit? For that matter, what is your culture? I think the easiest way to answer this is to answer succinctly and clearly: What’s it like to work at your company? And what’s it like to work with your company?

The heart of your culture reveals your values. What are the true values? Profit at any cost? Integrity at any cost? Honesty? Winning?  Every person, and every organization, has stated and actual values and the best way to truly know the actual values is to look at the decisions that are made in tough times, and the behavior that is tolerated.

If a company has gone so far as to publish mission, vision, and values statements, that’s a great start. I like to follow up and see how close to the mark they’re hitting. Clues to your actual (versus stated) culture can be seen in:

  • How do people talk to each other?
  • How easy is it to tell each other bad news?
  • How many meetings do you have?
  • Do people do what they say they’re going to?
  • Do people show up on time?
  • What happens when people make mistakes?

These and further questions identify your culture.  Your mission, vision, and values statements are what you want…but your culture is your down and dirty, gritty reality. Your culture tells you what your true values are. Is cutting corners okay when the stakes are great? Is abusive or bullying behavior admissible when the perpetrator has a unique skill set or the ability to garner high revenue?

If you have started a company, or lead one, chances are high that you had a strong set of values and a vision for your organization well before you hired your first employee. In the midst of the battle that is running a successful organization, it can be easy to lose sight of this. Unfortunately, one or two oversights or compromises can have an avalanche effect, and you may find yourself staring at a mass exodus or even a lawsuit if bad behavior becomes tolerated or even rewarded in your company. Ask yourself today: Are my employees representing my values to each other and to my customers? If yes, good job! If no, you now have awareness, and the truth can set you free!

Your managers are the guardians of your culture. Have you equipped them for success? Ask us about our premier management development programs – all you need when you promote from within!

Today’s Leadership Solutions is a Seattle-based consulting firm dedicated to providing business owners peace of mind and job fulfillment by ensuring their management teams are equipped to run their businesses successfully. With certified executive coaches, organizational development experts and HR Professionals, we consult with small to medium sized businesses on management, leadership, and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. We can be reached for consultation at info@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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Business Management coaching Leadership Development Recruiting

Update your recruiting practices to attract the talent you need for your business

As someone who works extensively with small, medium-sized, and growing businesses, I can assure you that the difficulty you may be experiencing hiring great people for your business is real! There continues to be what feels like a huge disconnect between companies who want to hire, and people who want to work. Everyone is frustrated! Today, I’m speaking to the hire-ers (although job searches will do well to pay attention!).

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you probably have some assumptions about the hiring process, based on what has always worked. It goes something like, create a job description, assign a pay range, create a job post based on the job description, post it on the job board most appropriate to the level of job, sift through a bunch of resumes, interview the most likely of candidates, hire someone. You’re probably used to this taking anywhere from three to twelve weeks, and it probably ranks on the bottom ten things you like to do, including firing people.

If you’re like many business owners, you probably ALSO have noticed that the above system is not working as well lately. Maybe you’re getting a lot more unqualified people than you used to, or maybe you’re not getting anyone at all responding. Maybe you counter this with sponsoring jobs, paying more money for candidates, or reaching out to professional recruiting firms, which are expensive but hopefully THEY will have more luck than you.

Any of this sounding familiar?

Sanity check: If you’re experiencing any of the above…it’s not just you! This is what the majority of businesses I’m working with report, and it’s tough. I’ve noticed that most of the older way of doing things just aren’t reaping the results we’re used to, and I’ve seen some success with just a few changes. I’d like to share some of the things that have increased the effectiveness of the companies I work with.

Figure out who you are

Why would someone want to come work for you? Usually when companies are recruiting, they want to start with the candidate, but recruiting is marketing, and so it’s crucial to start with the features, advantages, and benefits of YOU. Every company I’ve ever worked with has said about itself that they value their employees, their customers, that they’re honest, and that they have fun, so let’s go beyond that. What’s it really like to work for you? What is quirky, special, or different about you? Do you hire people without much experience and give them sought-after training? Do you pay above market range? Do you have a fun or interesting product? Do you make a unique impact on your community? Spending time fleshing out the ‘why’ someone would want to work for you is the most important thing you can do in your recruiting.

Figure out who your ideal employee is

I’m NOT talking about demographics. In fact, the more diverse you can be in hiring your employees, the better you’ll be for it (assuming you have team-building skills and can cast a vision well enough to unite people from disparate backgrounds). Does your ideal employee love a challenge? Think outside the box? Excel in structure or regulated environments? Love communicating freely throughout the day? Prefer to accomplish work in relative solitude? Do NOT develop your ideal employee profile based on what others think it should be. You and your business are unique, so just because Big Company A has free food and a games room does not mean this would work for you or appeal to your ideal employees.

Be exclusive (sniper vs net-casting)

I’ve written about this before, but the recruiting game has changed, and I don’t think it serves you well to ‘cast a net’ to gather in a large number of applicants to sift through. Instead, spend some time figuring out the profile of the best possible candidate for your business and market directly to that person. To attract your ideal candidate, you should write a marketing piece that clearly defines the benefits of working for you, and clearly establishes the ideal profile.

Market accordingly

There is still something to be said for job boards. I’ve hired from them, as have many of the companies I work with. If you do market your position on a job board, make sure you’ve done the work above. I also think it’s worthwhile to ask your employees for referrals. It’s also a good barometer for you…if no one wants to refer their friends to work for you, maybe ask why. I hope it goes without saying, but don’t hire the friends of the bad employees. On that note, why do you have bad employees, anyway? Depending on your company, network events, social media, and schools may be excellent hunting grounds.

I’m not here today to make a case for or against recruiting agencies. If they’re a tool in your toolbox, I trust you know how to use them effectively. There are some amazing recruiters out there, and some horrible ones. If you’re going this route, talk to your recruiter to get a sense of whether you will work well with them and whether they ‘get’ you.

Hopefully this helps you think about hiring a bit differently, and points you in the right direction to building your dream team for growth and profitability. If you have any questions, or are interested in a pdf outlining recruiting best practices for small businesses, please feel free to email me at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com. You can also visit us on Twitter and Facebook.

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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Business Management Leadership Development New Managers

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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Business Management Leadership Development management systems Mentoring

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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Business Management Leadership Development life lessons management systems New Managers Uncategorized

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).

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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.