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

Business Management organizational development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Management coaching New Managers Training

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.

How to ensure your first-time supervisors are bullet-proof without compromising profitability and productivity

If you’ve ever managed people before, then there was a time when you were a first-time manager. We all arrived at that spot by different paths. Some people via the educational route, earning degrees or advanced degrees in the discipline before taking on the role, while others established themselves as uniquely high performers in their field, and were promoted to a supervisory role on merit. Some companies have robust in-house training programs, others outsource their leadership development and still others (perhaps the majority) rely on ‘on-the-job training’, which often translates to sink or swim!

Suffice it to say, it can be a nerve-wracking experience being ‘crowned’ supervisor – especially if it means supervising former co-workers. Most organizations don’t do as well as they’d like preparing new supervisors for their challenges. I’m reasonably confident it’s not out of malice, or some perverse desire to make the new supervisor suffer as we once did (although I’m not saying it’s not…kidding) but I do think as difficult as it is to be a first-time supervisor, it’s equally difficult to manage first time supervisors. Although there’s a plentiful supply of leadership resources to help senior leaders on a strategic level, I haven’t encountered as much from a tactical side for second-tier managers.

One of the biggest challenges first-time managers face when assuming their role is their relative lack of experience dealing with performance problems. The reason is simple – they’ve likely always been high performers, so they’ve never been on the receiving end of the conversation, and there’s likely been very little opportunity for them to deliver coaching for performance. And anecdotally, given the predilection for so many people to avoid these conversations anyway, it’s a safe assumption that this is not an area a new supervisor will come to the table proficient in.

To compound the problem is an inherent insecurity most of them have (I say ‘them’ but let’s be honest and say us because it’s not limited to first-time managers) about not being quite qualified for the role. That ‘if only they knew how little I know, they’d demote me’ fear keeps these supervisors from asking what they think you think they already know. And, if they like you (and hopefully they do) they’re also going to want to maintain your good opinion of them.

That’s why I strongly recommend orienting them to their role with a very clear set of expectations about the types of things they’ll be doing as supervisors that they weren’t doing as individual contributors. In many cases, it’s not just a matter of training them so that they’ll be more comfortable, it’s also a matter of liability. Your supervisors can get themselves and the company in a lot of trouble if they say or do something illegal! Some areas where you’ll likely need to work with them are:

  • Performance management
    • Goal Setting / Organizational and Individual Metrics / Coaching / Reinforcement / Training
  • Understanding and correctly functioning within established company processes
  • Recruiting and hiring best practices
  • HR policies and employment law
  • Communicating appropriately and effectively
  • Championing the company culture
  • Other Management Skills
    • Delegation / Effective Meetings / Vocation to Leadership

Now fear not! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your new supervisor isn’t going to break your company if she/he doesn’t have this all mastered by day one (probably). You’re not going to teach your first-time supervisors everything they need to know on their first day in their new role, and you certainly don’t want to overwhelm them or destroy their confidence. If your company has defined processes and training in place already, this is much easier. Assuming they don’t, it’s often helpful to start with a simple checklist. List out the items of import and have the new supervisor fill out a checklist indicating for each whether they are: Completely comfortable, desiring refresher training, or in need of complete training. In addition, have them rate the urgency of the training need on a scale of 1-5.

Armed with this information, you can decide first whether or not their self-assessment and judgement is accurate, but also where this particular supervisor needs immediate support. In addition, if adopted by other managers, this will illuminate significant areas of training opportunity within your company.

As with most skills, stating expectations is only the first step to mastery. New supervisors must also be taught HOW to perform the tasks, and how to determine if they are doing them correctly. As their manager, you must be prepared to coach and provide feedback every step of the way as they grow into their role. Encourage your new supervisors that a mis-step does not mean the end of the career or that they just weren’t cut out for management – far from it! Instead, support them in taking the risk of stepping out of their comfort zone! It’s a huge mental shift to learn the delayed gratification of accomplishing tasks through the efforts of others after being a high-performing individual contributor.

I hope you found this article useful. If you are interested in learning more about training first-time managers, please visit us at for more information.

For a free 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


Your 2016 Leadership Inventory – the foundation for future success!

As 2016 (the year that shall live in infamy) draws to a close, most people will spend some time reflecting and planning for the year to come. As much as resolutions are out of vogue, I am a passionate advocate for goal-setting, and think the start of a new year is a great time to set goals to achieve your dreams. There are two necessary components to any journey. One is knowing where you need to go (your goal) but an equally critical component is knowing exactly where you are. Suppose you’re going to New York and this year you really intended on reaching Hawaii and planned on jetting to New York from Hawaii. If in actual fact you are in Iceland  but you base your plans assuming you are Hawaii, guess what? You are NOT getting to New York and probably not anywhere else, either.

And so it is with your leadership journey. We say two things about the truth (or at least I do). One is that it hurts and the other is that it sets you free and what I’ve found over the years is the more you believe in the latter, the less it actually does hurt.  So how can you assess how you did as a leader in 2016 in preparation for making 2017 your best year ever?

I suggest a Leader Inventory. Like any good inventory, this will have credits and debits. Here is a format I find illuminating.

1)     Review any goals you made in the previous year related to your leadership. How did you do? The point is not to beat yourself up, but to assess how you performed to goals, and maybe how good your goals were. If you didn’t have any specific goals, skip this step (but don’t let it happen again!).

2)    Credits: Start with the positives, because it’s all too easy to beat ourselves up. Answer the following questions in your Credit column:

a.     Who did you invest in this year?

b.     Who did you positively impact?

c.      What initiatives did you lead or participate in that had a positive impact?

d.     What 1-3 things are you MOST proud of this year?

3)    Debits: Likely these are already keeping you up at night, but including them in your inventory takes the power out of them and helps you move forward:

a.     Were there any times you acted in self-interest over the interest of your people?

b.     Were there any times you were dishonest?

c.      Were there any times where you withheld praise or recognition inappropriately?

d.     Is there anyone in the past year towards whom you hold a particular resentment?


After documenting these answers, do some reflection into the circumstances surrounding your missteps to detect a pattern. Likely, you will see some default coping mechanisms in response to stress, fear, or exhaustion. After completing your inventory, the next steps will have you well-positioned for the year to come!


1)     Restitution: If there are any situations where you owe an apology to someone, don’t delay. The obvious exception is if by doing so you will hurt them even further.

2)    Forgiveness: The fastest way to recover from a bad case of resentment is forgiveness. This is not always to facilitate reconciliation. There are some people who don’t need to be in your life, but forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, to protect against the toxic effects of stress and anger.

3)    Gratitude: As always, gratitude is your surefire way to walk in peace. Be grateful for the lessons you’ve learned about yourself, and about leading and be grateful for the opportunity and ability to continue to improve.

As the year draws to a close, be patient with yourself and gentle in your corrections. It’s been a rough year for everyone, but 2017 can be the year your leadership shines at a whole new level!

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm focused on helping organizations, leaders and job seekers to identify workplace solutions that work.  As a certified executive coach, organizational development expert and resume writer, Carrie consults with small to medium sized businesses on OD, human resources and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. Carrie can be reached for consultation at


Can small businesses afford to outsource? Can they afford NOT to?

Whether you are just starting your business, or you are working on growing it, for every function that needs to be accomplished you have a choice of hiring someone as an employee to perform it, or to outsource it. There are advantages and drawbacks to every solution, but for entrepreneurs and small business owners, you don’t often have the luxury to engage in too much trial and error at this level. Having worked with many business owners as well as launching several start-ups, I know this can be a confusing and intimidating area. Here are some things to consider when deciding to hire, contract or outsource a role for your company.

What is your core function?

There are many things that have to happen to create a successful business. Most of the time, business owners have a service or product that they are passionate about providing to their target customer. It may be an innovative way of doing something, or it may just be something you’re really good at and enjoy doing, but whatever it is, this is your core function. In most cases, you want control over your core, so usually when you can’t do the work yourself, you will hire employees to do the core work. There are times when you will use independent contractors (1099 workers) to perform core functions. This is a bit risky and many times businesses incorrectly classify employees as contractors (usually to save payroll taxes or other employee-associated costs).  If you are using independent contractors it’s a good idea to verify with a CPA or Attorney that you have correctly classified these folks.

Besides your core functions, there are a myriad of support and associated functions that are required for operating a successful business. Every business at one point or another has legal issues, needs to declare a business structure and pay taxes and for quite some time business owners have become accustomed to outsourcing bookkeeping, CPA work and attorney. As Affordable Health Care storms through the land, most business owners have also started working with brokers and third party administrators on benefits and ERISA compliance. There are some excellent brokers and compliance administrators that are so good, and so affordable, that it’s almost impossible not to make the decision to use them rather than attempt to navigate the storms of COBRA and ACA alone.

But we are also seeing an upsurge in business process outsourcing, and leveraging outsourced providers for functions that businesses have traditionally either done in-house, paid big bucks to large consulting firms for or just not done. Some of these functions are social media marketing, human resources, purchasing and even accounts payable or receivable. This is really exciting news! For smaller businesses, it offers flexible access to high quality talent and assistance without inflated labor costs and more importantly, allows businesses to focus on their core competency and not attempt to become masters of all trades. It also offers consultants a way to leverage their expertise across a broad client base, ensuring revenue stability as well as variety.

As a Human Resource and Recruiting process outsourcer, I can offer my smaller clients some benefits that they just won’t see from other options. My business model is based on the fact that small businesses really don’t need a high powered HR Executive working for them full time – but they do need access to one. They need help setting up their HR policies, processes and general workflows. Sometimes there are scary harassment allegations or restructuring issues to navigate, and sometimes they need help hiring an HR Generalist or Administrator onto their team, including training or even managing that person. Having someone like me (or my associates) to assist with that on an on-needed basis is invaluable.

Sometimes company owners need someone to coach or train their managers and they don’t want to send them to a cookie-cutter seminar and they also can’t justify a big name consulting firm to come in. That’s where we can provide immense value. With multi-industry experience, we can ensure managers receive relevant training AND direction in applying the training that translates directly to the bottom line. It’s also a great resource when embarking on a management retreat, strategic planning session, compensation overhaul or succession planning. Having a talented strategic advisor when you need it is like having a secret weapon at your disposal.

For larger clients who have high volume recruiting or strategic sourcing needs, Source2 is one of the best Recruiting Process Outsourcing providers I know of. Their customer service and operational excellence is second to none and they do on a large scale what Limitless HR does on a smaller one for clients-including individualized reporting, analytics and support.

There are other business process outsourcers who focus on purchasing, AP, or IT that provide similar value.  I work with several of these providers and am amazed at the range of options that are available. Whether it’s the “Buyer for Hire” program that Innovative Advancement uses, or implementing cloud-based solutions to provide IT services for any business size and need, as Tanet does, or helping design and execute your social media marketing with Stay Visible Marketing, there are options and solutions for every need. As a business grows, it may make sense at some point to transition from outsourced to in-house employees. Your provider will likely be able to assist you with this transition and even hire and train your team.

The whole idea behind outsourcing is to keep you and your team focused on your core functions, while maintaining peace of mind that the other functions are being managed effectively. If you would like to explore this solution in a complimentary, no pressure, discussion, please reach out at


Current areas supported by Limitless HR Solutions:

·      Human Resources Compliance

·      Recruiting

·      High volume recruiting, direct sourcing and staffing and search solutions (Source2)

·      Management Training

·      Leadership Development

·      Compensation/Wage Banding/Job Descriptions

·      Coaching


Referrals for the following providers also available:

·      Background Checking

·      Purchasing

·      IT

·      Social Media Management

·      CPA/Accounting

·      Benefits Broker

·      Benefits / ERISA Compliance


What your managers need the most to make your business successful

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘our employees are our most important resource’ or some version of this. Most companies are in agreement with this (sometimes customers are stated as most important but employees are usually a very close second). It’s true that without employees, you can’t get critical functions accomplished and you wouldn’t have a business, but I think that managers are a very overlooked critical resource within an organization. In larger organizations, there is often a budget set aside for management development but the vast majority of growing companies don’t have this luxury. Often, managers are promoted for technical prowess, or hired from the outside, and organizations don’t devote time or money to growing these people. Failing to grow your managers always results in your leaving money on the table and not just any money, either, but pure profit.

There are several areas where it’s important to work with managers but financial/business training, interviewing and hiring, performance management and succession planning are the areas where failure to invest in your management team WILL result in problems for you.  It’s also important for managers to have a basic understanding of labor law compliance; at least in terms of knowing what problem areas are and when to ask for help. If your managers had a better understanding of each of these areas, your business would be virtually guaranteed to be more successful.

I’ve only met a handful of business owners who didn’t agree that their managers would benefit from being developed in these areas. The ones that don’t typically are the types of people who want to control everything and don’t truly want managers to ‘manage’ anything. Everyone else almost always agrees it’s necessary, but they don’t perceive that they have the time or resources to invest in their team. And they’re not wrong to be cautious. Cookie cutter ‘management training’ is not the solution for many smaller and medium sized businesses. In fact, many managers HAVE read the management books, attending the seminars and/or even gotten the degree. But that’s not what will transform your business.

For your managers to be truly effective, they have to get the relevant information AND learn how to apply it to their employees and business segments. Not many first time managers can read “Good to Great” and turn that into an actionable plan. No, most of these folks are struggling with much more tactical challenges. How do they make sure they don’t hire another deadweight employee? How can they address the fact that their star performer is not playing well with others? What should they communicate to the team about the pending slow down? How can they cut over time but still maintain output?  THESE are the problems real life managers struggle with every day and there’s a very slim chance they will ever feel comfortable telling their boss that they don’t know the answer to these questions.

Targeted training and coaching can provide the competitive advantage needed to overcome these obstacles and many more. This intervention deals with your managers in your environment with your specific problems and teaches managers how to find and apply solutions. The result is more effective, confident managers which will always be felt by the employees. So before you spend another dime on management training make sure this will really help your managers deal with the real problems they’re facing and not just textbook examples.

 So if you are a growing business, first of all, congratulations! Second, don’t beat yourself up for what you might not be giving your managers, but think about outsourcing this very critical business function. Your managers, employees, customers will thank you…not to mention your peace of mind, and bottom line.

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Limitless HR Solutions, a Seattle-based management consulting firm devoted to helping business owners fall back in love with their businesses. A certified executive coach, seasoned Organizational Behavior Management Practitioner and Senior HR professional, Carrie can be reached for consultation at


Why we get stuck and what to do about it

One of the reasons I became a coach is because I just love helping people break through imaginary limits they’ve placed on themselves. And yes, when I earned my coaching certification it was very much a case of ‘physician, heal thyself’. See, my whole life I knew I was supposed to be in a ‘helping’ profession that did not include a traditional 9-5 corporate office job. I imagined a life of coaching, writing, and the flexibility to accommodate my obsessive-compulsive approach to work and play as well as my desire to have kids some day and be present in their lives.

So of course, I became an HR Director (huh?). Now, to some, this is a wonderful career option and fortunately for me I served at an amazing company that actually did allow me a lot of flexibility and opportunity to help people in non-traditional ways. But for me, this was not what I was being called to do. I knew I was supposed to broaden my sphere of influence and use my gift of ‘being a catalyst’ as a coach/consultant. And yet I stayed in the corporate world for nine more years after becoming a certified coach. Why?

It’s simple, and most stuck people I encounter are stuck for the same reasons.

1)     Fear of the unknown

This is definitely the biggest obstacle for most of us. It’s so easy to convince ourselves that we are ‘safe’ in our current gig and that if we go ‘out there’ it will be less money, less flexible, less secure, less….you name it. I know for me, being a single person at the time with no one to help me with my bills, the thought of diving into a new career was terrifying. But you know what’s more terrifying? Not following your dream. I was lucky because at least as a coach I had learned to look more deeply into things and was aware of what I was doing. And I knew that every time I encouraged someone to follow their dream that that pang of regret about my own choices to play it ‘safe’ was telling me something. And, not to burst your bubble, but your corporate gig is NOT safe. A company can tell you seven ways from Sunday about how much they value their employees but chances are you are just a line item in the budget that they will cross off if your salary threatens the year-end profitability/C-level bonus.

2)    Lack of confidence

I’ve lost track of the number of people I’ve met who have a dream that is unrelated to their current profession. A lot of people tell me they want to be a writer or an entrepreneur and you know what? Most of these people have the skill and/or knowledge to do it. The ones that aren’t held back by fear are hampered by this sense of disqualification. They feel like they’re not ‘real’ writers, (or business owners, or you name it). I went through this when I was becoming a coach and with my writing. I remember my coach at the time telling me “You already ARE a coach”, or my writing group telling me ‘writers write’. So many times we are waiting for the world to give us permission to grab that gold ring, but the world is most definitely not going to do that. The difference between success and status quo is the willingness to just start.

3)    Lack of knowledge

Becoming educated on what it takes to achieve your dream is what will take you from hobbyist to success story. Michael Hyatt explains it best when he talks about the 3 P’s of Proficiency, Passion and Profitability. It’s not enough to just have a dream and a passion. There is a lot of legwork involved in building a successful business. You need to have a plan and you need to have realistic expectations about the financial requirements of your plan. When we launched our gym, it was after a full year of researching locations, building a realistic financial plan and ensuring we had the savings to bridge from point A to point B, and securing trusted advisers in areas outside our core strengths. We also had to learn how to use social media, what marketing strategies were effective in our geographic location and a myriad of other things. Without the willingness to be teachable, and the understanding of the time frame that was required, we would probably have quit or failed within a year. Instead, we hung in there and stuck to the plan and are now seeing the rewards of that.

So if you have a dream and are not actively pursuing that dream, ask yourself if fear, lack of confidence or lack of knowledge is holding you back. If they are, the good news is you can overcome all of those and start the road to living your best life today!

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Limitless HR Solutions, a Seattle-based management consulting firm devoted to helping business owners fall back in love with their businesses. A certified executive coach, seasoned Organizational Behavior Management Practitioner and Senior HR professional, Carrie can be reached for consultation at


Why you should coach your managers (and how)

If you’re like me, you’ve heard the term ‘coaching’ in reference to something we’re supposed to do with our employees so often that you’ve become somewhat immune to it. In my roles as HR Director, Consultant and, yes, Management Coach, I have found that the term means vastly different things to different people and as a certified professional coach I can’t help but cringe a little at some of the ‘misuses’ of the word. Previous experience tells me there is a sizeable population who will disagree (violently) on the terminology but in the spirit of peace, unity and brotherly love I invite you to look past the labels to the essence before you call me mean names.

People often use the term coaching to mean telling people how they can perform better, or providing specific performance related feedback, or even corrective action. I will be the first to admit that all these conversations need to take place in the workplace from time to time, but the purist in me can’t help but point out that this is NOT coaching! Yes, I know that sports coaches give specific, pointed feedback and proscribe corrective action and that we as a culture are addicted to sports (and war) analogies in business but sports coaching is not identical to professional business coaching.

Coaching, as a discipline, refers to guiding people through a series of thoughtful questions to assist them in discovering their own solution. It usually involves helping people reframe their perspective and uncovering their own limiting beliefs to allow them to reach new potentials. There is also usually an element of accountability in coaching. I don’t let my clients think I am holding them accountable, as that’s not empowering, but I will agree that I help them hold themselves accountable.

So when should you coach, versus use another tool in your toolbox? This is not set in stone but I think coaching is a great tool to help people with conflict resolution skills, career aspirations, handling interpersonal problems, and developing strategic plans. An easy rule of thumb for me is that Coaching helps good people get better, when there are no obvious problems to address.

Non-coaching situations are ones where there are tactical issues to address, knowledge to be transferred, or problems to be overcome. In these cases, then training, feedback or goal-setting is a more appropriate tool. If you have a performance problem such as neglecting to perform a required function or failing to meet minimum expectations, then a more formal performance discussion and possible exit plan are more appropriate.

Hands down, the hardest part about coaching another person is NOT giving them the answers – especially if they are struggling with a situation you are well-versed in solving. Part of becoming an excellent coach is the process of letting go of the need to be seen as an expert, accepting that each person has their own learning journey and that you might not have all the answers (I hate that!). Coaching requires immense patience and faith that the discovery process bears more fruit than just being dictated a solution.

In my experience, it is really (REALLY) hard to coach people who work for you in subjects in which you are an expert; not impossible but it taps into a completely different skillset than training. When you are training someone, you are telling them what to do and how to do it, but in coaching you are helping them explore alternatives and come up with a solution. Sometimes we can fall into the trap of ‘pseudo-coaching’ where we ‘KNOW’ the right answer and ask a series of questions that we believe will get someone to the place where we think they should get. This is NOT coaching and unless you are extremely skilled in this technique it’s also usually glaringly obvious what you are doing and not a little patronizing.

If you have identified a coaching need and have the time and skill to engage in coaching, it can be one of the highest and best uses of your time and very rewarding as well.  Watching the light in someone’s eyes as they get it, and seeing their careers blossom and their confidence grow is amazing, and why I decided to pursue coaching as a major segment of my professional life. It’s also great to receive. As a coach, one of the ways I stay sharp is to work with a coach myself.

If you are interested in learning how to better coach your employees, or have some success stories to share, I’d love to hear it! If you are mad at me for saying coaching is different from performance management, I hope we can stay friends and agree to disagree!

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Limitless HR Solutions, a Seattle-based management consulting firm devoted to helping business owners fall back in love with their businesses. A certified executive coach, seasoned Organizational Behavior Management Practitioner and Senior HR professional, Carrie can be reached for consultation at


People-Pleasing – The icky underbelly of “Just Being Nice”

Last week I wrote an article about the advantages of just being nice in the workplace, especially for business owners and senior leaders.  Treating people well, being courteous and generally believing that doing the right thing is its own reward (and usually ends up being rewarded in the long run as well) all lead to peace of mind and better relationships – at least in my experience.   Unfortunately, all good things taken to an extreme, misused or twisted for personal gain have a shadow side.  I see ‘people-pleasing’ as one particularly pernicious shadow side of ‘just being nice’.

When I say people pleasing, I don’t mean people who are being deliberately manipulative or phony, that’s a whole different kettle of nasty.  People-pleasers, in this context, are people who are usually highly intelligent, caring people who are chronically afraid of hurting other people’s feelings and – especially – of not being liked.  Usually the ones most hurt by the people pleasing behaviors are the pleasers themselves but believe me, there is other fallout.  
Now, wanting to be liked and not wanting to hurt people’s feelings are NOT bad things at all, don’t get me wrong.  Where it can become destructive is the point where you do not tell the truth, share useful information, make a meaningful contribution or preserve an important boundary because of fear of not being liked.

I have seen this in the workplace from an HR perspective countless times.  It takes various forms.  Sometimes it’s the extremely bright employee with great ideas who doesn’t share them for fear of being wrong.  Sometimes it’s the person in my office who just wants to ‘vent’ that her boss has been saying sexually inappropriate things for six months but she doesn’t want to offend him by telling him to stop.  One time it was the Project Manager who knew the project was going down the tubes and what it would take to fix it, but was afraid to tell his Director (who was part of the problem)

Sometimes there is good reason to fear the wrath of one’s boss, but sometimes, a desire to be liked become pathological.  The downside to pleasing is not only a continual erosion of self-confidence and identity, it can also lead to exactly the outcome the pleaser is trying to avoid!  By never saying ‘no’ to colleagues, the pleaser inevitably overcommits him or herself and does indeed let people down.  After continually going above and beyond for friends and family, many pleasers develop expectations of reciprocation that, when not forthcoming, gives birth to serious and long-lasting resentments.

When I have coached chronic people pleasers it can sometimes be so bad that the pleasers don’t even know their own opinions or boundaries, so there needs to be some exploration.  There can be so much guilt and fear associated with being true to oneself that it can take a very long time.   I have not yet encountered a reformed pleaser who went so far the other way as to become a jerk, although I am sure it happens.  Usually, learning to be authentic and speak one’s truth adds depth and character to genuinely nice people and makes them even more lovable.