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Business Management coaching Leadership Development

How to build a team that will happily move mountains

I posted on LinkedIn this week that I’m going back to California for the release of my novel Grace Group. I say ‘back’ because I now live in the Greater Seattle area, and have for over four years, and yet when I want to be surrounded by people who truly care for me and have played a significant role in my life, I go to Southern California. Many of these people will be former colleagues, which got me thinking about the role of work and the impact it can have on your life.

Some of the best and worst experiences of my life have been on the job. It’s difficult in our culture to keep a job in its proper perspective. Often, we elevate it to a pedestal it was never met to occupy, as it begins to represent, safety, security, and provision, and all the things we crave on the bottom of our hierarchy of needs, rather than being one means to those ends. Sometimes, we believe this to the extent that we compromise our values, or sacrifice other areas of our lives to keep this god pleased with us. Many of my worst work experiences have boiled down to expecting a job to provide things that it didn’t or couldn’t.

On the other hand are the great experiences. The ubiquitous ‘they’ always claim that at the end of your life you won’t look back and wish you’d worked more. I understand the concept, but those times where I was contributing my highest and best with a dedicated group of people doing the same, in pursuit of a goal that would not just make the company more money, but would positively impact people’s lives? Those I will look back on and be happy that I was right where I was supposed to be and I won’t regret a minute.

So how do you foster that? How can you develop a team that can and will move mountains, and will look back on it as a defining life moment? As I review the times it’s happened, there are some common characteristics. As with any leadership advice, though, this comes with a caution. Any of these things must be done authentically and with sincerity. Exploiting these to get higher productivity is not only highly unethical, it also won’t get you the results you seek. It can’t. So here are the things that build a forever-team:

Mine for gold

All too often when I help companies interview, it seems like they are using a ‘weed-out’ approach, where they use the interview time to try to find out the candidate’s flaws, so that they can avoid a bad hire. This seems to continue after the hiring process. Reviews are less a celebration of accomplishments than diligently recording all the ‘misses’ in an effort to overcome challenges. Positive coaching has indicated that ‘rounding’ is ineffective, and there is a strong and growing argument for playing to people’s strengths. Using this information, a leader is better served looking for all the unique gifts each team member has and finding out how they fit together, than in making sure everyone has an acceptable level of every skill.

Practice grace

The reality of working with people is that they will let you down from time to time. We all screw up, hurt each others’ feelings, and occasionally worse. Working with, and being, imperfect people requires the regular application of grace and forgiveness. It’s all too easy to judge others on their actions, and ourselves by our intentions. The most meaningful, life-changing team I was on saw me at my worst, with all my imperfections, and told me I was still welcome on the team and had something of value to contribute.

Practice gratitude

It’s impossible to feel entitled and grateful at the same time. One way to make sure team members are on the same page is to model intentional gratitude. This means resist the urge to ‘vent’, or even to encourage venting from your team. Rather, point out the things to be thankful for. If you’re not used to this, you may annoy yourself initially, but it will grow on you. It’s usually contagious, but the bright side is that the unrepentant complainers will become frustrated with you and stop complaining.

Welcome positive ‘conflict’

Shutting down venting and welcoming positive conflict are entirely different things. One of the very few risks in a strong, united team, is the tendency to lapse into group think. This weakens your team, so it’s good to work through a problem from all angles. If you don’t have a natural devil’s advocate on your team, (which would be surprising), appoint a revolving one. You can set norms on your team about how to bring up concerns and problems in a way that strengthens the team, and encourages healthy dialogue.

Take the hill

All great teams have had a major obstacle to overcome. This is what you tell stories about for years to come. If you want to unite a team, you need to find a common enemy. Finding the right enemy/challenge is what separates the great leaders from the destructive ones. I’ve heard all too many supervisors rally their teams very effectively against ‘corporate’ – a short-sighted, disempowering move to say the least! Instead, form reasonable and audacious goals, making the problem you are overcoming your common enemy. If your company has an unexpected setback, use that to mobilize your team into action.

Overall, the experience of being on a strong team is transformational. If you’re a leader who wants to learn more about how to create a team that will move mountains, click here to go deeper.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, come hang out with me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, and please share the love.

 

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

Categories
Business Management coaching

The skinny on executive coaching – is this really helpful for smaller businesses?

The discipline of coaching has been around for a while, but there are still some misconceptions. Many people think of therapy sessions, complete with couch, bespectacled observer, and a notepad. Others may imagine a hyper-positive cheerleader, chanting that you’re good enough and people like you. Either way, with all the daily fires that are part of owning and managing a growing enterprise, many business owners view coaching as overly indulgent at best, and a waste of money at worst.  On the contrary, coaching is a very powerful tool in developing managers that larger companies have been utilizing for quite some time. Is coaching valuable enough to invest in when you’re in those lean, chaotic growing years?

To answer that, it’s helpful to understand the purpose and process of coaching. Coaching can be done individually or in a group, with most executive coaching being individual. Unlike therapy, where there is an assumption that some sort of dysfunction exists that needs to be resolved, in coaching the assumption is that the client is already functioning well and is using coaching to get to another level. Coaching is also unlike training or consulting, where the consultant is retained as an expert in a particular field, providing answers that the client does not have.

Coaching is unique from all other disciplines in that while the coach may, and usually does, possess expertise in certain areas, their role is not usually to provide these answers to the client, but rather to help the client arrive at their own answers. In a typical coaching session, a coach will hear the client’s issue and ask questions designed to help the client reframe their perspective, or understand the issue in a different way. There is almost always an ‘Aha moment’, when a client is able to view the situation differently and reach a solution they hadn’t considered before, which is very empowering.

The value of coaching is in how extremely powerful it is in helping clients get to a place of strength and confidence in dealing with various aspects of their lives. Oftentimes new and even seasoned leaders feel stuck; whether it’s because they are struggling giving or receiving feedback, unfulfilled in their role, or unsure of how to handle a particular challenge. Senior leaders, in contrast, can be uncomfortable sharing their uncertainties, sometimes rightfully so, because of the unsettling effect it might have on their employees.

Practically speaking, a leader or business owner benefits from coaching in these ways: They receive a sounding board to discuss issues, problems, or new ideas. They work through frustrations or conflicts they are experiencing in their roles. They learn to identify their areas of strength and weakness, and explore ways to capitalize on those strengths for maximum effectiveness. In addition, business and leadership coaching can often be combined in some form with training or consulting in order to provide more guided development.  The one-on-one interactional format ensures rapid advancement, far greater than classroom or virtual learning.

To wrap it all up, the impact coaching can have on one’s effectiveness in the areas of leadership, communication, problem-solving, strategic planning, conflict resolution and other areas is so great compared to the cost of the investment that it’s one of those things to put at the top of the list when budgeting for training and development.

If you’re interested in coaching and want to learn more, or take advantage of a complimentary coaching session, click here.

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Business Management Leadership Development Uncategorized

What kind of leadership training does a small or growing business really need?

If you’re a small or mid-sized growing business, what do you think of when you hear the term leadership training? If you’re like many people, it’s akin to getting your car serviced. You don’t want the problems that not having it will cause, but you don’t have any symptoms now and you really don’t have the time, resources, or patience to deal with it right now. There’s time later for all that, right? To add to the confusion is the fact that so many leadership programs that are offered are frankly overkill for smaller business, and can be very expensive and/or offering large company, cookie-cutter solutions that are awkward or less than relevant to smaller players. The temptation can be to put this aside until you’re bigger.

Resist! The fact is that there is no better time than now to start working on your leadership program. It may seem hard to believe, but as you grow it’s only going to get more difficult to be proactive than it is now. Time and again I’ve seen business make less than productive hiring and promotion decision out of necessity, not planning, and quickly regret it. The trick to being strategic about your leadership training is NOT to start with the training.

What? Yes, you heard me right. Before you begin training your leaders or managers, you need to decide what your end goal is. This is where your vision of the kind of company you want to be is so important. This will be foundational to the kind of training you provide, the types of people you select to be leaders, and the expectations you have of them. The truth is that no matter what the brochures tell you, there is no one size fits all. For you to truly get your money’s worth out of your leadership training you need to be very clear on the environment you’re cultivating.

Think culture’s not important? Think again! The leader who excels at Amazon is going to be very different from the one at Google. They’ll espouse different values, use different tools, and have vastly different management strategies. Selection strategy is very different, as is training. Your company is no different. It’s so easy to buy an off the shelf communication, conflict resolution or management skills training program, but is that really what you need?

If you’re like most growing companies who have not formalized your management or leadership structure yet, your needs are a mix of tactical and strategic. It’s likely that many of your managers need help with things on a range of topics that include interviewing, performance coaching, understanding P&Ls, communication, casting a vision, and creating employee development plans. It’s usually difficult to find an inclusive program that has all of these, and the off the shelf are typically a little too generic to really work for smaller businesses.

Fortunately, this is one of those areas I’ve written about previously, where an outsourced solution might be a perfect fit. In addition to my own business, I’ve networked with some exceptional leadership experts, executive coaches, cultural alignment specialists and others who offer customizable, flexible, and best of all cost effective programs for smaller businesses. It can be confusing or overwhelming but it definitely doesn’t have to be! With so many options, it’s simply a matter of finding someone with whom you resonate, and feel you can trust. After that, the magic happens!

If you’re interested in diving deeper into where your business might most benefit from some consultative strategic and tactical solutions, take our free business success factors assessment.

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

Categories
Business Management Organizational Behavior Management

Getting down and dirty with Performance Management

Fellow writers may appreciate the incredible amount of angst involved in trying to write about this highly technical subject in a way that conveys how exciting and powerful it really is without boring the stuffing out of all the non-geeks. Performance management, simply put, is the single greatest tool I can think of to drive tangible, measurable performance improvement in your company that results in more revenue and more profit. All the time. Every time. The problem is that it’s not particularly sexy, or magical. It’s just the thorough application of six behavioral science-based interventions. I write about it because it’s my passion to share this with small and medium sized businesses, to give them a strategic advantage in the marketplace. But it’s a constant internal geek/entertainer struggle, and the struggle is real!

In my last article we talked about targeting and about purpose. The geek in me loves targeting, because that’s where we get to dissect your company down to the gnat’s behind and figure out exactly which behaviors will drive your success. The coach in me sees the value, but would much rather talk about purpose. The purpose of your company is your ‘why’, and will keep you excited about it even after that strange letdown that occurs when goals are achieved. And they will be achieved.

The great thing about this performance management system is that it always works. The bad thing is that it works even if you’re ‘managing’ the wrong thing. The very first step, identifying your critical behaviors, is done by working through, together, the processes and workflow of your company until we’re all confident we’ve hit on the critical behaviors.

One of my business mentors always said that if 51% percent of your decisions are good ones, then you’re doing well. So there is at least the possibility that the behaviors or accomplishments in the targeting phase are not the ones that actually drive your success. Hold on to this scary thought, because it’s coming up later (and don’t worry, it’s not as bad as you think, just something to be aware of).

The next steps are task clarification and tracking. In laymen’s terms, that means explaining to your employees what, why and how to do the tasks you’ve targeted, and then figuring out a way to measure those tasks to make sure they’re occurring.

So to recap the process; you figure out what the most important behaviors are, you explain all this to your employees, and then you start measuring these behaviors. In a perfect world, we’d collect baseline data and do a whole ABA thing (which I’ll explain if you’re interested…just email me). I’ve rarely seen this happen in organizations for two reasons. First, once companies see improvements, they’re reluctant to do something out of scientific interest to see if the improvements go away! Second, some of the interventions just can’t be taken away. You can’t take away the information employees receive in the task clarification.

Task clarification and tracking WILL increase the behaviors you’ve targeted. But what if we picked the wrong behaviors to measure? For example, perhaps we want to even out a revenue stream that is too unpredictable. Maybe during targeting we identify that they problem is the customers we’re going after, and decide we need to pursue clients in Industry X to avoid the fluctuations. We go through the sales process and decide to track initial meetings with clients in the new demographic.

After explaining this, and tracking the meetings (and conducting random, unpredictable cross checks to ensure the meetings are actually taking place), after about six weeks we see a definite increase in these initial meetings. It’s working! Depending on the length of the sales cycle, we find out that we’re proposing and closing more of these clients. Great! But is the revenue really evening out? That’s why you’re doing this, after all. If you are seeing results, fantastic! Mission accomplished and now let’s make sure your operations team is doing all the right things to keep up with your sales demands.

On the other hand, if you’re getting significant improvement across the board in calls, closed sales and revenue in industry X but it’s just as cyclical as before, we might need to dive back in and see if we can even out the revenue, or if it would take you too far away from your core competence and you are better served figuring out how to manage to the fluctuations. In any event, measure the calls, measure the closed sales, AND measure the outcomes. That will allow you to course correct as necessary.

The benefits of embarking on this far outweigh any costs, even including the risk of targeting the wrong thing. A properly executed performance management project has far reaching benefits to your company and more than pays for itself with the financial improvements you’ll reap. Are you interested in trying out this powerful technology in your own department? I’d love to chat with you. We have a variety of options for small and medium organizations to take advantage of this powerful tool.

If you’re eager to get started, click here to get a free targeting tool so you can begin to identify the mission-critical behaviors in your company.

Did you like this article? Please share the love, or come hang out with me on Twitter or Today’s Leadership Solutions FB page. If you want to try 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 Organizational Behavior Management Uncategorized

Getting started: Performance management, purpose, and targeting for success

If you’re like most business owners, you desperately want your company to be an efficient, high performing operation, and most businesses also want to cultivate a fun and friendly culture. A lot of companies miss the mark by focusing so much on the performance that people feel like commodities, or else by bypassing performance and focusing solely on the perks, hoping to attract the best and brightest with the misguided expectation that this will alleviate the need to manage performance. Like most things in business and life, the reality is much less like a magic bullet, but great results are achieved through planning, perseverance and consistency.

I am a raving fan about utilizing applied behavioral science (OBM, or organizational behavior management) in organizations to identify and achieve your goals, but I’ve also become an ardent advocate for pairing it with Purpose. This was never a part of any OBM projects I facilitated before, but as I grew in my coaching and leadership expertise, I realized that it needed to be added to truly build a world-class culture and organization.

I was inspired in this by thinkers such as Michael Hyatt and Simon Sinek. The gist of it is organizations, and people, do better and last longer when they have a compelling purpose driving their actions. Sure, you might have an organizational outcome of hitting $250 million in the next five years, but if there’s not a compelling reason why, you and your team will experience burnout and disillusionment along the way.

So how do you identify your purpose? As I mentioned to a group I was speaking to last month, you’re probably getting warm if you feel a little embarrassed at first talking about it. Not because there’s anything wrong with it, but a great purpose should be WAY bigger than you feel like you’re capable of. As I told my group, when you have hit on your purpose, there will always be that little voice inside (or even outside, if you’re hanging out with scared people) that say ‘who are YOU to think you can do this?’ If that’s the case, you’re probably onto something.

Having a huge, audacious purpose does (at least) three things for you: It creates a rallying point for your team, it creates context for your financial goals, and it mitigates that letdown that can happen when a goal is reached. Essentially, the purpose breathes life into your goals. And goals, and achieving them, are what performance management is all about!

OBM is an application that can unequivocally launch your organization into a high performing one, where workers are crystal clear on what the goals are and how to achieve them, and are contributing directly to the success of your company. Because of this, they are getting recognized and appreciated for their efforts and managers are spending far less time writing people up or replacing them, so efforts are spent on more positive endeavors. The result is a successful company, populated by successful people who feel supported and encouraged by their managers.

Sound good? It is. The principles of performance management are very simple, but launching it isn’t easy. There are some things you must be careful to do in the beginning, or you can waste a lot of time and energy pursuing the wrong things. The most important step is the first, targeting. This step takes the most time, but arguably brings the most value to your organization regardless of what you do next.

The purpose of the targeting intervention is to clarify the organizational outcome, the accomplishments that support it, and the team, then the individual accomplishments feeding those. At the bottom lie the individual behaviors that produce the accomplishments. During a targeting intervention, we see that any organization is ultimately a collection of behaviors. Often when going through this process, one realizes some dysfunctional processes that are impeding efficiency. The end result is that a clear pathway is lined out leading to the outcomes.

The danger is that if this is not done thoroughly, or if the right people are not included, or if incorrect assumptions are made, you can be pursuing (and achieving) milestones that aren’t the key drivers of your success. That’s the main reason why I always recommend guided targeting sessions even when launching a ‘virtual’ performance management intervention. An outsider’s perspective on your processes is critical, because we don’t assume anything ‘has’ to be a certain way. Not knowing your history, we can ask the questions that haven’t been asked in a long time.

So yes, get incredibly clinical about your targeting and your performance management, but infuse it with the passion of purpose, and you’ll be unstoppable!

Next time, I’ll expand on the subsequent interventions of performance management. If you want a sneak peak, just email me at carrie@todaysleaderhshipsolutions.com

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

Categories
Business Management Organizational Behavior Management Uncategorized

Diving deeper into how outsourcing strategic functions can seriously help your business

I’ve been writing a lot lately about business process outsourcing and how it can support smaller businesses and even give them an advantage over their large competitors. I want to dive deeper and give some concrete examples about exactly how some outsourcing solutions can be so beneficial. The landscape has changed so much and has really opened up some exciting tactical and strategic opportunities once you understand how to use them for your financial and competitive advantage.

The great thing about outsourcing now is that the options have increased so dramatically in the last few years. In the past, if you wanted to outsource, it felt like the only options were to contract with a big consulting company who would expect you to fall in line with their processes. This might work in some cases, but a lot of times some unintended consequences have been an erosion of your company culture, and a mismatch due to the cookie cutter nature of the solutions being offered. There are far more vendors out there  now besides the big consulting companies who have some creative solutions from full service outsourcing to pieces, which provide greater customization and flexibility.

If you’ve been considering outsourcing, you may be under the impression that the only thing that makes sense is to outsource the tactical and keep the strategic in house. The argument is that only people inside your organization have the knowledge and capacity to undertake strategic endeavors, that the tactical is easy to hand off and that there is little impact to the organization regarding who undertakes it. This may or may not have been true in the past but it is definitely not true today!

Outsourcing only tactical  is a strategy that mostly benefits the large consulting companies that have tactical processing ‘machines’ already built and are ready to fold you into their processes. This may very well make sense for some of your processes, but probably not as many as you think. To take the tactical out of your organization completely removes a key component of engagement and morale, which is in the daily touch points. Simply outsourcing “HR” sends a message to employees that you are okay with them calling a third party who doesn’t know them to answer personal questions and job concerns. Granted, some companies do a better job than others at handling this, but you are deluding yourself if you think that the employee experience is not affected by the transition of tactical HR to a third party vendor.

Contrary to popular opinion, strategic roles are often the ones best suited to outsourcing for several reasons. First, it’s almost always the case in small and growing businesses that key leaders are wearing too many hats and putting out too many fires to be as strategic as they’d like. A savvy consultant can work with key leaders enough to ‘pick their brains’ and then do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of developing plans and road maps. It’s also often true that leaders and managers in small businesses just haven’t had the experience at the strategic level. To think that they’ll magically develop the ability just because they own or are brought into a growing company is unfair. It’s similarly difficult for them to select, hire, and manage a person at this level. The balance of power makes it difficult for the strategic person to be as direct as to issues or roadblocks as they often need to be, and the reality is that the simply overwhelming amount of tactical work that always need to be done will eventually take over the strategist’s daily tasks. Finally, fair or not, high level strategic leaders almost always command a higher wage than their tactical counterparts, making a full time strategic role something out of reach for smaller businesses.

The solution is outsource consultants who don’t simply approach your businesses needs as something they press into their machine and spit out a stock answer to. Canned training and off the shelf ‘solutions’ are not the answer for small businesses either. One of the best features about being a small business is the flexibility, personal feel, and ability to be unique. These features will get lost when you try to force ‘corporate’ solutions on them. The great news is there is a huge cadre of equally flexible, personal, and unique outsource providers willing and able to fill needed roles at highly strategic levels on an ‘as-needed’ basis.

There are some aspects that naturally lend themselves to this solution: Marketing, Finance, Recruiting, and Organizational Development come immediately to mind, although these are by no means the only ones. Having partnered with several consultants who specialize in providing these services to small and growing businesses, I can’t speak highly enough about the quality and customization. Not only that, these consultants genuinely care about their customers and their businesses. It truly becomes a trusted partnership that, because of the scaleability and flexibility, is highly accessible to most businesses.

Just to give you some examples of how this might look:

  • A CFO consultant may work with you on-call or monthly to provide support in obtaining financing, in creating budgets and forecasts, or in determining how to responsibly grow your businesses.
  • A recruiting process outsource company will recruit as you and for you, sourcing and qualifying candidates for you on an as-needed basis. Some will even take it further, and completely manage your recruiting and onboarding processes, and even your other recruiting vendors, allowing you and your managers to focus on operational issues.
  • An Organizational Development consultant can work with you to provide leadership or management training to shore up vulnerable areas, and help you prepare for growth with succession and employee development plans and can create performance management programs that improve profitability and efficiency.

The benefits are almost infinite. And the best part is that using these consultants often allows you the luxury of growing your existing staff into the demands of their new role. I’ve seen time and again organizations feeling like they had no choice but to let go of loyal employees just because the role grew beyond their current competence. This is a horrible situation for everyone and it doesn’t always have to be the case. By bringing in the right consultant, the pressure can be relieved, the work can still be done, and the staff member can often learn what they need to know from the consultant. That’s a much better outcome for everyone than the alternative.

So if you’re finding yourself overwhelmed with growing pains, don’t worry! Those are good problems to have, and help is closer than you know!

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

Categories
Business Management Organizational Behavior Management Recruiting Uncategorized

How smaller companies can gain a true advantage over their larger competitors

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that there has never been a better time to be a smaller and growing business. There have been numerous shifts in the marketplace, culture, and worker mindset in the last decade that combined make it possible now more than ever from business owners to achieve their vision and grow profitable, prosperous companies that serve a greater purpose. In the past, only large companies with staggering overheads had access to the professional caliber programs that gave them such an advantage in the competition for customers and employees. That’s not the case anymore.

Outsourcing part or all of different business functions has evolved to the point where in many cases it is not just a financial necessity, but a true strategic advantage to do so. And the best part is that because so many professionals are opting out of their corporate day jobs into a gig economy, companies no longer need to feel burdened with guilt about reducing their reliance on traditional employees. This allows small companies to retain their nimbleness, family feel, and flexibility without sacrificing strategic muscle.

Take Human Resources (please, ba dum dum). When I started my career a hundred years ago, an HR Department was like a right of passage for growing organizations. First you had an ‘admin’ do it, and then maybe an Office Manager, but when you grew up you got your very own HR Person. That’s when you’d learn all the things you were doing wrong hopefully in time to stop doing them and avoid fines and penalties. No longer would anyone scramble to complete 5500 audits (what?) or freak out when the DOL audit came (actually, you still need to freak out about that), or wonder if it was okay for an employee to see her file, and what should be in it anyway.

At some point, a company might even grow to the point where even the HR Person is hard-pressed to meet all the personnel needs. Once the growth engine is in high gear you suddenly have a whole new set of issues that you never had before. You’re bringing on more people than you can train the way you’re used to training. You have different compliance requirements. You are losing touch with your employees. You need more managers, and you need to make sure your managers are doing things legally and representing you the way you need to be represented. You might have a lot more revenue, but far less visibility into where it’s coming from or where it’s going and if all that revenue is getting billed for and collected in a timely manner.

At this point, in the past, the logical next step was to keep investing internally. You’d add to the HR team. Hopefully the HR Person was as good a leader as an administrator, and able to think strategically as well as tactically because now you’d like them to manage a team of people. Maybe you add a recruiter, maybe additional administrative support, possibly a trainer and if you were really progressive there would be some sort of performance management component in there. If you had an HR person who was not capable of transitioning from tactical to strategic it was probably a very painful transition. If you got a strategic HR person capable of overseeing that, you then had the issue of ensuring that the rest of your team had the capacity and bandwidth to support the strategic endeavors.

A lot of the times, the best case scenario was some stellar corporate goals and strategic plans that if you were lucky got mostly implemented before the next wave of growth or change happened and it was all hands on deck (or in the weeds, as the metaphor may be). And then when tides and revenue turned or the dust cleared, and you realized that the shrinking margins were not a blip but a trend and you had to start cutting overhead, the first to go was the ‘cost-centers’ of training and employee development.

Anyway, that was life, but not anymore.

Business process outsourcing just may be the not-so-secret weapon that allows smaller companies to take advantage of all the benefits of full scale support functions without the overhead, while allowing the service provider the benefit of working exclusively in their greatest talent while enjoying flexibility and variety. For quite some time now, businesses have had the option to outsource functions like payroll or HR paperwork administration. The playing field has expanded dramatically and is now exploding with opportunity!

I am fortunate enough to be networked with some amazing CFOs who offer their services to businesses who could never afford a six-figure Finance specialist, nor do they have a need of one full time, but who definitely need expert advice and counsel on a regular basis. I uncovered a similar need from an HR perspective in that businesses under 100 people don’t really need a high powered strategic HR leader on staff full time. But you better believe they need access to one. And they can also keep costs way down if they hire someone like me to set up their HR processes and then train someone on their staff to run things, knowing I’m available for tough questions.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! With an ever-growing demand to not only get more efficient and profitable but also to be a destination employer in a tough marketplace, companies need to have strategic workforce management plans in place to survive, let alone thrive. There are too many choices for both employees and for customers to not hit on all cylinders here. There’s a couple schools of thought on how best to accomplish this. Most commonly, I hear advice to outsource all the tactical and keep the strategic in house. I think that makes perfect sense in some cases, but probably not for smaller businesses.

What I’ve observed is that if you have less than 75 employees, hiring someone to do the strategic work is not as viable as it sounds. First, these people tend to be a lot more expensive. Second, and I speak from experience, is that if you bring in a strategic person when there is a lot of tactical work to be done, it’s going to be really hard to get people on board with why they’re there.

So how does outsourcing help? Again, I speak from experience. I have run OBM projects AND leadership training as both a consultant and as an employee and I can say hands down commitment to and compliance with the programs run much higher when they’re done from outside. Where this model as fallen short in the past (in my opinion) is the lack of customization and follow through that really drives success. I got more traction from my leadership training as an employee because I could talk to people more regularly and reinforce it, and also because I could tailor the training to the company and their issues specifically. When I work with companies on training, sometimes they’ll just ask for a canned “time management’ course and I’ll usually decline because I don’t think that brings the best value. Far more effective is something tailored to this group’s problems, even if takes a bit more time to prepare it

And don’t even get me started on recruiting! That is one of the best opportunities to outsource. I know of several companies that will outsource some or all of your hiring, allowing recruiting to be completely scaleable and flexible. And not only that, there are providers who will actually manage all your vendors, or even work internally to oversee interviewing and onboarding. This can make all the difference in providing a professional brand when recruiting to attract the best candidates.

There are so many options available now that it’s no so much a matter of if you should outsource, it’s where first. And no, it doesn’t mean you don’t need employees by any means, but it probably does mean your employees will be freed up to do the things they’re best at, and your outsource providers will similarly be doing the same. Like I said, win-win.

P.S. I’ve got a great list of providers for HR, Finance, Training, Purchasing, OD…the list goes on. Please reach out at any time for more information carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

 

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

Categories
Business Management New Managers Uncategorized

New Managers: 6 things you can do to be more effective

If you’re new to management in your company, or new to management in general, it can feel stressful and overwhelming. Whether you’ve been promoted to manage former peers, or are hired from outside the company, you’ve got the challenge of establishing relationships with people who may or may not welcome you in your new role. You most likely also have goals and targets you need to hit on your own as well as team targets, and on top of that, there is so much conflicting advice on what it means to be a leader! Where should you even start? Fortunately, there are some tangible and practical starting points for those new to the management role. These won’t solve every problem, but if you take steps to accomplish these things, you will find yourself rising instead of sinking, and you may even enjoy the ride!

1) Find out the company goals, and how your department supports them.

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, your company exists to provide a product or service to its customer, and to do so profitably. In addition, there is also a bigger vision for your company about where it will be in the future and the impact it will have on the  marketplace and/or community. One of the most important first steps you can take as a new manager is to become intimately familiar with the goals and vision of your organization, and with the role your department plays in achieving the goal or vision.

Now, don’t expect your boss to just have this information readily available; you may have to do some digging. If no one has sat down to map it all out for you, a good place to start is the Accounting or Finance department. From there you can have a conversation with your boss about how your team supports that goal, and hopefully even about future plans. Don’t approach this like an assignment you need answers to immediately, more like a series of conversations to better help you understand your mission.

2) Figure out how to measure productivity within your department

It’s been established over and over that to get good results, you need to measure performance. That doesn’t make it easy though – if it were easy, everyone would already be doing it. After you are comfortable knowing what your company goals are, and how your department supports those goals, you should spend some time brainstorming on the best ways to measure how you’re doing as a team and as individuals at supporting the goals. Sometimes it’s a matter of measuring work done per unit of time, other times it’s reducing downtime or waste…rest assured, if you’re paying people to do something, there is some way of measuring what they’re doing. This doesn’t need to be harsh, demeaning, or dehumanizing – quite the opposite. Assuming you want the people working for you to be as successful as possible, you will need to know when they need help, and when they need their praises sung to your boss, and your gut is just not a reliable indicator (no matter how good it is).

3) Make sure you know how internal processes work

Many new managers are surprised to find out just how difficult it can be to do seemingly simple functions. Whatever it is you want to do, there is probably a form, process, or person who needs to be involved. Frustrating? Yes. Avoidable? Probably not. Your time and energy would be well spent acclimating yourself to what’s expected of you. Chances are, your HR person will love you forever if you make an appointment (versus walking in unexpected and asking if he/she has ‘gotta minute’) to review the processes for hiring, terminating, purchasing, raises, and anything else you might need to know. Besides HR, you should make appointments with the heads of Accounting/Finance, Purchasing, and any other relevant support structures.

4) Talk to your people and get to know them

You don’t need to be creepy or weird about it, but everyone’s life will be more enjoyable if you make the effort to get to know your people and find out their goals, aspirations, and preferences. This will make it easier to determine training needs, task allocation, and best ways to deliver feedback. As with the other steps, you don’t need to accomplish this in a day with a list of personal questions you barrage your staff with. At the same time, you don’t need to try to be everyone’s best friend because you shouldn’t be and you won’t be.

5) Use everything you know from the above to make your people as successful as possible

As a manager, there are two groups of people you should always be trying to make look good: Your boss and your staff. If both those groups look like rock stars, you will inevitably be seen a rock star by association. Failing to elevate both groups will result in your seeming ineffectual, overly political, or both. You will enjoy management exponentially more when you make the shift from it being about you (how do the higher ups think I’m doing) to your employees (how can I make my employees more successful / eligible for promotion). Get it into your head that there’s more than enough success and accolades to go around and you’ll get much farther.

6) Talk to your supervisor

Your boss is busy, and if they’re like most bosses, they’ll initially be a little wary of your requests to talk. They’ll figure you want more money for yourself or your team, or are bringing problems to their already full plate of problems. And the reality is that you will be having these conversations with your boss, but you don’t need every conversation to be about what you want them to do for you. Try to make a habit of checking in weekly or every other week (as before, make an appointment, and don’t let it be more than fifteen minutes) just to let your boss know what your team is working on. This way, they’ll be informed without having to chase you down. You will be making their lives easier, and they’ll love that, and you by association.

So there you have it! Six tips that will greatly increase not only your success as a new manager, but also the chance that you will enjoy your job, and that your job will enjoy you. So again, congratulations, and good luck!

Categories
Business Management Uncategorized

Avoid these surefire ways to ensure your managers fail miserable and ruin your business (and do this instead)

We’ve all got our war stories about the boss from hell, the narcissist who made our job torturous or even that one supervisor who could probably be legitimately classified as a sociopath. This article is not about them, it’s about YOU – a manager or business owner who is neither evil, stupid, or sociopathic. To the contrary, you’re probably above average in intelligence (actually, you don’t necessarily agree, but a lot of people describe you as ‘brilliant’) and yes, you might be a little intense, but you care deeply about your business and the people who work for you. You know there are some people who are threatened by talented subordinates but you’re not one of them. You want your people to be successful, and you definitely want to grow your company, earn more money, and be able to provide some unique perks for your employees.

And now, your business is at the point where all these great ideas can’t come to fruition until you can get some of the responsibility off your shoulders and distributed to those chosen few…your management team! This is an exciting place for you to be so let’s look at the 6 ways to GUARANTEE your managers will fail miserably…so you can be your brilliant self and avoid these things like the plague. Ready?

  • Avoid ‘insulting’ them by explaining what you expect leaders to do in your company
  • Never explain the P&L basics and how it applies to their business segments – they’re managers, not accountants!
  • Don’t waste their time with touchy feely stuff like missions, visions, and teambuilding nonsense that won’t help them do their job better.
  • Always assume they know how to have difficult conversations and just trust that they are taking care of performance problems
  • Assume that because they’re decent human beings they are fully capable of understanding and adhering to state and federal HR laws
  • Expect that they are smart enough to know when they need help, and that they’ll ask you if they’re unsure of anything. The last thing you want to do is micro-manage a new manager and make them think you don’t trust them.

Some of these points might seem a little contradictory. After all, isn’t the current wisdom du jour that we should just hire smart people and let them do what they do best? All I can say to that is that an unmet expectation always leads to frustration, and an unstated expectation almost always becomes an unmet one. Of course, you didn’t start a manager training company so you don’t necessarily want to spend all your time on this, but rest assured the investment you do put into setting expectations, training, and providing feedback to your managers, will pay exponential dividends in productivity, employee engagement, retention, and morale. So, here’s how to avoid setting your managers up for failure and fast-tracking this next stage of growth and success for your business.

1) Provide clear written and verbal descriptions about what you expect leaders to do in your company.

Not everyone gets to be a leader, so take some time and effort to make the designation special! After all, if these folks are doing it right, they’re going to be giving of themselves constantly for the betterment of the employees and the company. This is not a job for the faint-hearted, so it’s a good idea to not only celebrate the position, but really go the extra mile in describing why and how leaders are chosen and what you expect.

I recommend leading with a brief explanation of what leadership means to you (and it will be different for everyone), why it’s important, and what you want leaders to be known for. If you have a code of conduct that’s important, you need to specify that as well (for example, when I ran HR departments, I made sure people understood that they were held to a higher level of accountability in their position).   This sets the tone and the pace for the role, and also will allow people to opt out if this isn’t what they had in mind. PS…if they do opt out, don’t hold it against them.  A lot of people say they want to be managers because that’s the only path they see to earning more money. It’s important to explain what it’s really like, and often you can use creative compensation to reward individual contributors who will not thrive in a leadership role.

2) Explain the P&L basics and how it applies to their business segments. This will help them make better choices, empower them, and increase their value.

Your managers are in charge of your largest most controllable expense…labor. It only makes sense to educate them as to what this means. If you want your managers to treat your money as if it were their own you have to educate them. I’ve seen very well-meaning managers put $30/hour people in charge of sweeping to get the sweeping done, while $12/hour people were sent home early. Your labor and overtime will be managed much more intelligently and effectively if you explain why and what it all means.

3) If you don’t have a documented company mission and vision, it’s time to get one!

No, I’m not talking about the corporate buzz-wordy mission statements of the nineties that everyone made fun of (for good reason), but the best teams are ones where the people feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Everyone needs a ‘why’, and ‘earning a paycheck’ or ‘meeting revenue goals’ doesn’t really cut it. What is your dream for you company? Where do you want to go? Don’t be afraid of being unrealistic – be afraid of not dreaming big enough.

4) Always assume they DON’T know how to have difficult conversations and are NOT addressing performance problems.

As I’ve stated before, your new managers were probably once your highest performing individual contributors. They probably haven’t ever had to be coached or disciplined for poor performance. Not only that, I’ve found that even seasoned managers often would prefer to just terminate someone rather than have uncomfortable performance talks. You’re better off assuming your managers have no idea how to have these conversations, and then make role playing them a fact of everyone’s life from here on out. The ones who need help will appreciate it, and the ones who are great at it can give everyone some ideas.

5) Assume that common sense and fairness means nothing when it comes to employment law

Even if your managers all operate on the right side of grey and have the best of intentions, this does NOT mean they are ‘safe’ to represent your business. One of the most intelligent, and well-meaning young managers I’ve worked with earnestly informed me that he always asked people how old they were and if they had kids, because that affected how well they could do the job. AAHHHHH!!  The point is, we can have biases and not even know it. Not only that, HR law does often not correlate with common sense of even fairness. Everyone needs to be updated and refreshed on what the courts are telling us these days.

6) Set up regular one-on-ones to talk about expectations and questions, because they won’t ‘just ask’.

It’s not fair to expect something of someone and not tell them what it is. Neither is it fair to assume that someone has the wherewithal to determine when they need help. Most of us are very leery to ask our boss for help because we assume she thinks we already know it – that’s why we were hired. Not only that, none of us know what we don’t know. So don’t throw someone into the snake pit and tell them to let you know if they have questions. They won’t. And I’m not saying your company is a snake pit, but you get the idea, right? State expectations, check in, YOU ask Them questions, and follow up. Repeatedly.

It’s a wonderful thing to have grown to the point where you need managers, so pat yourself on the back…but don’t think that withholding expectations, support, and communication will be doing them any favors!

I hope you found this article useful. If you are interested in learning more about training first managers, please visit us at www.todaysleadershipsolutions.com for more information or click here for a free ‘new supervisor’ assessment.

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

Categories
Business Management Leadership Development Uncategorized

Management is dead! Long live leadership! Really?

Not so long ago, I nearly became embroiled in a bitter controversy on social media, and it was all about leadership. The gist of the conversation I joined was typical of what one sees currently, which was that we ought to ‘just say no’ to management, and YES to leadership, because you shouldn’t manage people, only lead them.

Now trust me…I get the sentiment. The main reason why I became a certified coach and leadership consultant is because I am convinced that strong servant leadership transforms lives and organizations. AND I know that there’s ONE thing I can say about leadership that is completely, 100% true and that’s that it means something different to everyone!

Just Google ‘leadership’ if you don’t believe me and you’ll see that although most of us think it’s very good and we want it, we don’t know how to define it, get it, build it, and keep it. We know it when we don’t have it, that’s for sure! But ask any set of ‘experts’ whether leadership is set of behaviors, qualities, or traits; you’ll get quite a range of responses. In other words, is being a leader something you are, or something you do? (Depends). Then ask if they are innate or learned, and the extent to which you can increase one’s quotient of leadership? (Depends).  Finally, ask if there are different types of leadership and when you should use each one. (Totally depends). See? It’s not exactly cut and dried.

Management, on the other hand, is getting a proverbial punch in the nose right about now. Everyone hates it! Well, that’s not quite fair. We think that ‘processes’ should be managed, and ‘work’ should be managed, but the word straight from the mouth of some of the greatest thought leaders of today is that people should NOT be managed…only led.

Hire smart people and they will manage themselves, we’re told. Policies and rules are demeaning and kill culture. Don’t get me wrong; I started my own business in part because I don’t like being ‘managed’, and I focused on organizational development rather than HR because I completely agree that some rules and policies are created to police the few percent who need policing and are a slap in the face to honest workers of integrity. I’ve had my life changed by a leader who looked past ALL my dysfunction and found the gold beneath a very rocky exterior and it changed the trajectory of my life. I’ve worked for a manager who cared for nothing more than the bottom line, and who treated me like a ‘resource’ – sometimes valued, sometimes not, but certainly not cared for in the sense that you’d care for an actual human being – and I didn’t enjoy that experience much.

But what I find curious is that as much as we denigrate management, or treat it as a second-class citizen to leadership, we still have organizational structures with supervisors and managers. We still appoint key points of contact to hire, train, schedule work, and to ensure people are paid, and presumably to ensure the work is being completed for less cost that the product is being sold for. At least, we should be doing that if we hope to stay in business.

Some of the ire directed towards management seem to indicate that people see management as a fear-based ‘stick-using’ discipline, while leadership is the carrot – where people are ‘motivated’ and ‘inspired’ into action. In my opinion, statements like this are not only needlessly divisive and confusing, they also imply laziness on both sides of the coin

If you are a leader, and you don’t understand the systems and processes of your business, even at the highest levels, you will eventually frustrate and stress out your highest performers. Why? Because it’s their job to get results, and if you don’t share that mission with them and provide tangible assistance to them in getting there, all your inspiring and motivating will eventually feel empty. If you are a manager who does understand the systems and processes and knows how to conduct your business as profitably as possible but don’t care about the people who work for and with you, even you will eventually realize that the hostility, lack of innovation, and turnover of your best and brightest is directly attributable to, guess who – YOU.

The people who are suffering the most in all this are the new and emerging managers, of course. These poor souls are terrified of alienating the people whose work they’re responsible for by ‘managing them’ and are usually completely unclear on what it even means to be a manager and how to do it.  I’ve seen first time managers fail miserably because they took the concept of ‘not doing people’s thinking for them’ to the extent of completely disengaging from the actual work produced and focusing only on their subordinates’ emotions and personal well-being. And even though their followers thought these managers were very nice people, they quickly categorized them as irrelevant to actually helping them doing their jobs better. And they were.

I know I’m somewhat of a lone voice in the wilderness on this issue, but I’ve been around long enough to see time and time again that the leaders who change companies, change lives, and even change the world, do NOT think management is beneath them. They know that words without positive actions are just words at the end of the day, and that once you have the hearts and the minds of the people if you don’t help them do what it is they should be doing, to the best of their ability, you will be of no use to them in hard times. And isn’t that when we really need a leader?

I hope you found this article useful and are interested in learning more about training first managers, please visit us at www.todaysleadershipsolutions.com and for a free new-supervisor assessment, please click here!

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