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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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career coaching Leadership Development New Managers

Lead Right for Your Type (personality type, that is)

In 2008, Peter D’Adamo published a book called Eat Right for Your Type. The premise was that people with different blood types metabolize food differently. In addition to learning that bleached carbohydrates are not my friend (geesh, who knew?), a major takeaway/reminder for me was that we humans just don’t fit into a one size fits all. This is as true for leadership as it is for anything else. Forcing an introvert to act like Mel Gibson in Braveheart makes about as much sense as asking me to tell a story in three sentences or less, in a calm tone of voice. We might do it, but we’ll be miserable, with less than stellar results.

A major misconception about leadership is that one has to be an extroverted, powerhouse, Type A achiever to be a good leader. This often has the effect of deterring folks who don’t fit into that mold from pursuing leadership roles. The truth is that there are immense strengths that all personality types can draw on to be effective leaders.

For simplicity, I’ll use the DiSC personality to illustrate the point, although other useful personality indexes include the Enneagram or the MMPI. I like DiSC, because there are only four main categories, and I am an impatient, HIGH D, but you’ll get the idea whichever evaluation you use.

Speaking of D, the first type on the DiSC inventory is D, which stands for Dominance, and is characterized by being direct, strong-willed, and forceful. D’s are achievement-oriented and fast paced. The I (Influencer) type is much more sociable and talkative. They also enjoy fast paced but are warmer and more accepting than the questioning D types. The C (Conscientious) type is extremely detail-oriented and meticulous. They are cautious and reflective by nature as well as analytical and logical. The S (Steadiness) type is also cautious, but warmer and more receptive than the C. Nobody is just one type, of course, there are variations and combinations, and most people are a little dash of this and a dab of that. However most of us do gravitate more to one overarching style in our professional life.

Those of us who are D’s usually feel the leadership call loud and clear. Mostly because we don’t like anyone else telling us what to do, and we think we can do it better ourselves anyway. The biggest challenge for D leaders to overcome in their growth is to develop empathy and adjust our communication style to be better received by pretty much everyone else in the world. If you know that you are a D, you probably also know that those around you appreciate it when you talk a little less, a little more quietly, and listen a bit more.

But what about the other types? Is there room at the leadership table for an I, an S, or even a C? I say absolutely! Every personality style has unique gifts and strengths that make them highly effective as leaders. For example:

If you are a high I, you already know that you connect easily with people and love learning their stories. That likeability factor lends itself very well to leadership, as you are able to form meaningful relationships that can be transformational. You possibly are challenged with the detail side of things (much like your D counterpart), but if you’re aware of this, you can make allowances and be highly successful.

The C and S types are the ones who usually don’t see themselves as leaders, and can be particularly challenging for high D leaders and also some of the most valued team members. When you see C and D, think cats and dogs, and that pretty much sums up the relationship. While D casts a vision, C wants to work out all the details of exactly how the plan will work. C’s are very prone to paralysis by analysis and this can be an obstacle in their leadership. However, if you are a C, do not count yourself out. You bring a wealth of strength to your role and are able to provide true support to your team, because you will make sure you understand their jobs as well as they do. If C’s can remember to explain the Why before the How, and to do their best to stay out of the weeds, they can be excellent leaders who do very well on the back end of change management and implementations. If you are leading a C, especially if you are a D, try to take advantage of their ability to dive deep into the minutiae and their passion for excellence (even if it does feel like they are dream killers).

And finally the S. S’s are definitely not your typical CEO. They do not seek out change, and you will not find them on a soap box leading a charge. But their calm composure, and warm demeanor can be very reassuring in a storm. S’s are great leaders and second to none at gelling a team.

So, as you see, if you have a passion for serving others in a leadership role, you should never count yourself out just because you don’t fit the ‘typical’ profile of a leader. Similarly, if it’s your job to coach or groom up and coming leaders, be aware of your own type, and our propensity as humans to gravitate towards like individuals. If there’s any lesson to be learned, it’s that every type has something to offer.

Ask us about our premier management development programs – all you need when you promote from within, and if you want to learn more about how to optimize your personality style when it comes to leadership, click here for info on our upcoming workshop on this topic. 

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

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Business Management coaching New Managers

Save your day from the Gottaminutes without being a jerk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Business Management Leadership Development New Managers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Business Management Leadership Development life lessons management systems New Managers Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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Business Management coaching Leadership Development New Managers organizational development Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a more in depth discussion about how these all work together, click here.
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Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, 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 coaching Leadership Development management systems New Managers organizational development Recruiting Training

Why growing businesses NEED a management selection and training process

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

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

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

So you hire or promote managers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you enjoyed this, please share the love…and sign up for a freebie…Quick tips for legal and effective interviewing…right here! Come hang out with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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Business Management Leadership Development management systems New Managers organizational development

Why great employees quit and what you can do about it

After being in the Human Resources arena for more than twenty years (does that mean I’m officially old? Eeek!) I have seen employees quit for a variety of reasons. When the employee is a high potential, high contributing one, or a well-loved manager, it can be a devastating blow to the company. If the employee is non-performing or toxic to the culture, it’s not but shame on you for not addressing it before they resign. Here are the reasons I’ve been given for why great employees quit:

  • I didn’t see any opportunity for growth here
  • My manager doesn’t care about me
  • My manager doesn’t know what they’re doing (I’m not saying this is true, I’m saying this is what I’ve been told)
  • The company doesn’t care about me (or the company owner doesn’t care about me)
  • I haven’t received the training I was promised
  • The job isn’t what I was told it would be
  • I am not being compensated what I’m worth
  • I’ve been here X years, and have never even gotten a review
  • This is a really negative environment
  • I’m expected to work so much that I never see my family anymore. I need balance
  • We’re having/have had a baby/small children, and want to make a change so we can be home with them
  • I thought I could stand the commute but I can’t
  • My spouse accepted a transfer, so we’re moving

All of these reasons, with the exception of the last two (possibly three but I think there are some improvements to make here), are completely avoidable. The problem is, by the time someone is ready to quit over these things, there’s really nothing you can do to keep them except to desperately offer them more money, which I’ve never seen work long-term.

Retaining an engaged workforce of high-performing employees does not happen by accident.  In my experience, this only occurs when you have a comprehensive performance management system in place. Some employers try to circumvent this by implementing perks without getting to the core issue. I liken this to putting beautiful buttercream frosting on a liver pate cake (or a custom paint job to a car without an engine if baking analogies don’t work for you). It looks nice and might fool people for a minute, but won’t stand the taste/drive test. Additionally, these interventions cost money without adding to the bottom line. Some examples I’ve seen are:

  • Foosball or pool table in the break room
  • Free food
  • Unlimited PTO (that hardly anyone takes because they think it’s a trap)
  • Awesome employee benefits
  • High-above-market pay
  • Employee BBQs (Potlucks if times are tough)
  • Monthly birthday cake for employees (or cards signed by everyone in the office)
  • Bring your pet to work (if you do this, please have a plan for poo patrol)

I’m not saying any of these are bad. I think they’re great. I’m just saying they don’t do anything to retain great employees if you don’t have a robust performance management system in place.  So what does that look like?

  • Accurate documentation of the job details as well as the knowledge, skills, and ability needed to perform the job
  • Clear and accurate understanding of what behaviors lead to team and department accomplishments that lead into desired revenue and profitability goals
  • Behavior-based training for employee and managers detailing HOW to perform the job and not just what is expected
  • Correctly functioning equipment as appropriate to perform tasks
  • Clear, articulated explanation of the company goal, mission, and how each job support that
  • Accurate individual performance metrics provided weekly to employees to give them feedback on how they’re doing
  • Contingent positive reinforcement for performing tasks at or above expectations
  • Regular goals to promote job achievement, and growth
  • Personal development plan to support employee’s and organization’s growth plan
  • Ensuring struggling employees are coached and supported, and ultimately removed from jobs in which they can’t or won’t be successful

This is relatively simple, but not easy, and it’s a lot to navigate with all the other pressing business items to manage. If you’re interested in learning more about setting up a performance management system, click here to set up some time to walk through a complimentary overview of a proven performance management protocol. Or just reach out directly to 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. 

If you enjoyed this post, please share the love, and come hang out with me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.