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Business Management Leadership Development Mentoring New Managers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Business Management career coaching Leadership Development Mentoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Business Management Leadership Development management systems Mentoring

4 tips on energizing your workforce post-holiday

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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Business Management Leadership Development Mentoring New Managers 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.

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Business Management Leadership Development Mentoring New Managers Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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