Categories
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.

Advertisements
Categories
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.
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, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

Categories
Business Management coaching 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

Categories
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.

Categories
Business Management Leadership Development management systems Organizational Behavior Management organizational development Uncategorized

How performance management will improve your revenue, profitability, and give you your life back

I started my career with a degree in psychology and a professional goal of becoming a) a best-selling author or b) something that helps people somehow. By luck, fate, or something else, I ended up mentoring under a pioneer of applied behavioral science, and learned some of the most powerful performance management practices I’ve encountered to date. I thought I was diverting from my chosen path into the business world for a ‘little while’. What I ended up discovering was that understanding how to improve individual performance in a business absolutely helps people, improves lives, builds companies, and makes a difference.

There are many ways to look at performance management. I recommend a twofold approach. First, I like to train new (and even seasoned) managers on the basics of your profit and loss statement. I’ve found through the years that this is worth reviewing even with long-time managers, because sometimes there is not the clarity you think and it’s often the case that your managers won’t tell you if they don’t understand something. Make sure everyone understands your revenue lines, your costs of goods sold, and particularly the labor line items. They should also be educated on gross profit, operating expenses, net income, and EBITDA. Some company owners are uncomfortable sharing all the financial information, and some prefer open book management. Regardless of your preference, sharing the how’s of a P&L will enable your managers to make better decisions, and to start looking at the business as a business, and not a bottomless well.

Once managers have a strong business understanding, you can introduce a more robust performance management system. This intervention is where my team and I get the most excited, because this is where you get to make more money, keep more money, experience less stress, invest more in your people, and start loving your business again. In other words, this is where the fun is!

Performance management (as we teach it) is based on the understanding that a business – any business – is comprised of the activities performed by the employees. The goal of performance management is to clarify your business outcomes, identify the milestones, and map out the steps needed to hit the milestones. Once that’s done, we look for the ‘tracks’ that proper task achievements leave, figure out the most effective way to measure them, and provide feedback on those measurements to each individual employee.

If it sounds like work-process mapping, it is. If it sounds like behavior-based training, it is. If it sounds like individual performance metrics, it is. If it sounds like individual, team, and departmental key performance indicators, it is. If it sounds like the only proven way I’ve ever seen to drive double digit improvements in top and bottom line performance, it’s that too. But it’s more than that.

What I love (love, love) most about performance management is that at the end of the day it’s connecting employees to the big picture of the company, and about connecting managers with their employees. It means making sure important conversations are happening. It means that great performance gets recognized, not taken for granted. It also means that people who need help, receive it. It’s also exciting, because while there are certain predictabilities (like, you as the owner will be super frustrated at the first set of metrics because of how hard they were to get, and how much less is happening than you assumed) there are also always exciting gains, and huge increases in morale as employees come together to solve problems, figure out the best ways to do something, and feel heard.

So, while the best-selling author thing is still a work in progress, doing something that helps people has become a reality, and it’s even better than I thought it would be!

If you found this article helpful, you may also be interested in the three things you should train all your new managers (one of which is performance management, of course). If you believe your small or growing business could benefit from performance management, or other management training, please feel free to email me and we can chat.

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

Categories
Business Management Leadership Development New Managers organizational development Uncategorized

What every manager ought to know about holding effective meetings

Ah, meetings. It’s not common to hear people raving about them, wistfully wondering why there can’t be just one more meeting this week. Although many companies have made significant progress into streamlining their meetings and eliminating the unnecessary ones, some companies are still decades behind the curve when it comes to meetings. There can be reluctance to change under the assumption that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, or a fear of under-informing employees.

Unfortunately, more meetings does not mean more effective communication, and what usually happens instead are some institutionalized weekly boredom sessions. Here are some signs that your meetings have become stagnant.

  • The agenda never changes
  • The majority of the time in the meeting is spent reviewing information
  • People don’t show up on time, or at all, and if they do they spend the time ‘multi-tasking’ (i.e. checked out)
  • No one can articulate the purpose of the meeting
  • Nothing changes as a result of the meeting occurring

There are some great resources out there to holding more effective meetings. I strongly recommend Patrick Lencioni’s Death by Meeting for some innovative methods to completely revamp your approach. Organizational tolerance to some of Lencioni’s suggestions may vary but his underlying premise can be applied in any setting, and that is that the basis of any good meeting is constructive conflict. In other words, meetings should drive change and improvement, and this can only be done by challenging the status quo, speaking truth, being respectful, and examining other points of view.

I completely agree with this, and would hold that in addition to change and constructive conflict, another purpose for meetings is to foster team unity. Many people insist that this can only be done in person, but I’ve experienced excellent team building through virtual meetings. The fact remains that a properly facilitated meeting can bring people closer together, create shared experiences, and increase morale and unity.

Here are some things that I’ve found effective in accomplishing the objectives of creating change, achieving teamwork, and avoiding stagnation.

  • When building your agenda, consider what will be the most productive use of time. Reviewing numbers (after the team understands a P&L statement, of course) is something that can be done before the meeting. Discussing variances and best practices is a much better use of time. If you can’t trust your participants to review the material before the meeting, you have other work to do.
  • Another agenda item to include in big, bold letters is the intended outcome of the meeting. Put it right there on top: What do you hope to accomplish in this meeting? If you don’t have an intended outcome, other than ‘review x,y,z’ do you really need to have the meeting?
  • Set the expectations of your meeting clearly, and review as needed. Some of the expectations I like to set in a meeting are that people don’t look at their devices (and I include breaks to alleviate withdrawal symptoms), no sidebars, and minimal ‘piggybacking’ (restating someone else’s point).
  • Create an agenda where all the participants are talking equally. If you’re the manager and the one doing all the talking, you will probably be the only one who enjoyed the meeting.
  • If it’s a recurring meeting, change up the meeting every six months or so. Your cue to change the meetings up will be the level of energy and participation.
  • Get comfortable with silence, and force yourself not to answer it.
  • Team building and trust are critical if you hope to generate innovation in your meetings. It’s risky to volunteer a new idea, and people won’t do it in an environment where they don’t feel safe. You can’t force the trust, but you can increase the likelihood of it occurring by introducing exercises where the team gets to know one another more deeply. This should be an ongoing exercise. It’ s almost impossible to hate someone when you know their story, so as much as you can encourage this to happen, the more close knit your team will be.
  • Unique exercises. Some meeting outcomes that have always been important to me are brainstorming new ideas, and looking for positive occurrences in others. Because of this, I usually end up having two recurring agenda items in my meetings. One I call ‘Stupid Ideas that Just Might Work’, where people are encouraged to bring forth the most creative ideas possible. I called it that after noticing the tendency of people to say ‘this idea might be stupid, but’…the name of the exercise was ironic, and meant to drive home that all ideas are worth discussing and no one will die if the bring up an unfeasible one. Because we all know that all ideas are NOT good ideas. But that’s okay. Another is ‘Lines that Should be Mine’, where basically participants report on something a colleague said or did that they admired.

These are just some ideas, and there are countless more. The biggest piece of advice I can offer managers who are responsible for planning and executing meetings is to always keep it front and center that your role is to best serve your employees. Keep asking yourself what your employees need, and how do they need to hear it, and you won’t go wrong!

If you’re a leader who wants to learn more about how to create memorable meetings, click here to go deeper.

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

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

Categories
Business Management Organizational Behavior Management organizational development Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Business Management Organizational Behavior Management organizational development Recruiting Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, that was life, but not anymore.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Categories
Organizational Behavior Management organizational development Training

The number one reason executives feel frustrated with training and development programs

If you’re a senior leader or company owner I can lay good money on a few facts about you. First is that you believe your employees are the most important aspect of your company, along with your customers. Second, is that you believe in order for your company to grow and remain competitive, you need to invest in the training and development of your employees. Third is that it is surprisingly (or maybe not) difficult to free up the time and resources for this task that everyone acknowledges is critical. Fourth, and this is that part that might be hard to admit, is that significant investment into in-house or outsourced training has not produced the results you want.

If this is you, you’re not alone! The training industry, in the US alone was $161 billion (yes, with a ‘B’) in 2016 with worldwide training estimated at $359 billion, and these figures do not include additional expenses such as paying for workers’ time while they are at training, or the cost of their replacements while they are out of work. Of course some training is essential. If employees don’t know how to do something, you’d be mad not to train them. There are some highly specialized fields in which safety and proper execution absolutely depends on acquiring knowledge, and there are also governing bodies that require you to perform X hours of training in order to remain compliant with their regulations.

And there are also millions if not billions of dollars invested annually in training geared towards making your employees function more as a team, or your managers more effective, or your communication more meaningful, or your conflicts more resolvable. You get the idea. And let me state very clearly that I’m not saying this training is unnecessary. However, I am stating, categorically, that it is not sufficient to attain the objectives you want. I’ll lay out the evidence proving my point.

Let’s look at the science behind it, first. Applied behavioral psychology puts it like this: At the center is a behavior that you would like someone to perform.  Because the behavior is a discrete event in time, things can occur before the behavior and things can occur after the behavior. As it happens, things that occur directly before the behavior (antecedents) do have an impact. A short term, quickly extinguishing impact, but an impact. Things that occur directly after the behavior (consequences) have a much greater impact on that behavior, and if those things occur consistently, and contingently upon the behavior, you can ensure the continuance or extinction of the behavior. There’s a significant body of work dedicated to the types of reinforcers (consequences) that work best to strengthen various behaviors but the law of behavior remains in place. Training is an antecedent, in that it always occurs before the behavior you are hoping to elicit (as are motivational talks, by the way).

The anecdotal evidence certainly backs this up. I wonder how many of us have ever found that simply telling someone what you’d like them to do results in them doing it? Certainly telling them how in addition to what (a condition surprisingly missing in a lot of corporate training) helps, but just walk into the lunchroom of any office anywhere in this country and I guaran-darn-tee you that you will find AT LEAST one sign taped up somewhere ‘reminding’ people to not steal each other’s lunch, to flush the toilet, or to clean up after themselves.

Clearly, telling people what you’d like them to do doesn’t even work for something s basic as lunchroom etiquette and yet we expect that training, even when accompanied by pastries, is going to mobilize a company of individuals to go against self interest (in many cases) in favor of the company? And those of us who are parents can relate doubly to this. I highly doubt the plethora of kid-junk on my living room floor right now is due to the fact that I have neglected to ‘train’ them in the fact that they are supposed to PUT AWAY THE STINKING LEGOS!

Last is just something I’ll pose to you. If training is so effective, why is it no training ever comes with a guarantee of better performance? No one is willing to put their money down saying that training WILL improve performance because it almost never does, on it’s own. Furthermore, not to sound completely cynical (maybe just 99% cynical), is it possible there’s more money to be made treating the symptoms than in treating the disease? Just saying. I know many professional trainers and all the ones I know are amazing people with a heart for helping. That doesn’t mean that training will get you the results you need. I know I said it before, but after this paragraph it probably bears repeating. I am not saying training isn’t necessary, only that it is not sufficient in most cases to get you improvements in performance and goal achievement.

So what does? If you go back to the science of it, the only way to really get the behaviors you want is coupling training in what and how with a schedule of consistent reinforcers contingent upon the behaviors occurring. In other words, you need to define what you’re looking for, explain it to your employees, and then be diligent in catching them doing something right and rewarding that, and that only. Now you can do this the effective way or the ineffective way (and guess which one is the easy way?).

Ineffective is what most people do first after they see the logic spelled out for them, Which is of COURSE to identify the productive behaviors, explain to their staff that these are the keys to success, and make an effort to reward those behaviors. And then life kicks in and guess what? This amazing endeavor goes the way of the team-building obstacle course and the employee of the month initiative. Don’t beat yourself up about this though. Your exposure to these concepts is, also, an antecedent. Presumably you are human and so therefore not immune to the laws of human behavior, even if you are the boss. So the impact of knowing this only has a short-lived affect on the behavior of you and your managers executing it.

So is all hope lost?

Yep. Sorry.

Actually, far from it. A solution is in not only the understanding, but also the systematic execution of the interventions proven to cause lasting behavioral change, including interventions that set up rewarding consequences to you and your managers for completing your part (and that’s in addition to the increased revenue and profitability you’ll see from doing this, of course). And yes, I am talking about OBM (Organizational Behavior Management). Again. There’s much more to this than I’ve spelled out as briefly as I could here, so if you’re interested in hearing in more detail about each of the interventions, please give me a call or an email and I can walk you through it in about 30 minutes and gift you with the overview and slides for you to share with your teams.

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

Categories
Business Management organizational development

Entrepreneurs – Keep your eyes on the goal!

I’ve got a passion for small businesses and always have. When I look back over my life it’s obvious now that I was always meant to have my own business, and to help other like-minded people be successful. I come by it honestly, too. When I was eight years old, my parents (both pharmacists) took a huge risk and left their safe and secure jobs with big chain pharmacies to open a mom and pop (literally) store. My first job was dusting and facing shelves, and learning that you always put down whatever you’re doing to make sure the customer is treated like an honored guest. I didn’t know it then, but my parents went through the expected lean and scary years only to build a thriving business catering some unique niches, enabling them to sell and enjoy their retirement years exactly as they wanted to. Growing up, our livelihood was continuously being threatened by the ‘big guys’ – those large grocery store chains that tucked pharmacies inside as a loss leader, and we prevailed by offering something they didn’t – professional excellence, caring, and an unparalleled passion for service.

And on the other hand was my grandfather. He came to Canada from Russia as a young boy, and his farmer-parents contributed all their resources to send him to school to become an engineer. He spent his life working for a large company, and retired at age 60 with a full pension. Grandpa always wanted to start his own business, but as sole provider of a family of five, never felt confident enough to make the transition. He spent the last ten years at his job bored, unchallenged, and increasingly miserable. When he did retire, he sank into a depression that never lifted. One of his biggest regrets was settling for the sure thing instead of taking a chance on his dream.

So the entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in me, as does the fear of wasting my potential.

I personally never thought I’d end up in business. I was planning on being a writer – or maybe a psychologist or teacher. I wanted to write and I wanted to help people and I did NOT want to work a 9-5, with a boss, and somewhere someone said I had to be every day. Which naturally led me to managing HR (just kidding…there was nothing natural about it). But those desires did lend themselves very well to coaching, organizational behavior management, and eventually organizational development consulting. Throughout the course of a meandering, 20-year journey, I learned from experts in their field some tools, systems, and practices that help companies become as profitable as possible.

One thing I learned is that although there’s a lot of things large companies do that don’t apply to smaller businesses (nor would they probably want them to, to be honest), there are also things that can transform these smaller businesses in all the right ways! Streamlined hiring processes, managers who are able to bring out the best in people, the sky-high morale that comes from shared purpose, an understanding of metrics and how to use them to increase top and bottom line, HR best practices, and on and on. All these are incredible tools, that when placed in the hands of willing business owners change their business from a source of stress and burden to an exciting, profitable, thriving endeavor.

Of course, the problem is that even though the tools work just as well  (if not better) for smaller and medium sized businesses, they’re not as accessible. Full-scale, turnkey consulting implementations can be prohibitively expensive, and off the shelf solutions are often one-size-fits-all bandaids. Even if they do help, they’re a lot like a diet: Fast results that are never maintained. Because of my background, this has bugged me. Part of my DNA is championing the underdog and it just never seemed fair that the people who would most benefit from these solutions don’t have the access to them that their large competitors do.

Like any entrepreneur, I struggled for a while to figure out how to provide the solutions I wanted to, to the people I wanted to serve, and how to package them so that it was accessible and easy to implement. One thing life has taught me personally is how to get back up again after a right cross to the chin, so I was prepared to tough this one out. I kept looking at it from different angles, trying to figure out how to provide the best value to my clients without selling solutions they didn’t need, or adding in so many layers that either they couldn’t afford it, or I couldn’t afford to provide the service!

One phrase kept asserting itself into my mind, that I couldn’t shake. Some of you may recognize this, but it’s ‘and they shall know the truth and the truth shall set them free’. Another way you might have heard this concept presented is that ‘admitting there’s a problem is the first step’. Finally, it all crystallized for me, and it was so obvious, I couldn’t believe it.

You see, my smaller clients have always approached me asking for help solving the problems they know about! Usually it’s to help recruit for a tough to fill position, or audit their HR practices, or train their managers. Because of my customer service mentality, my response has been of course to solve the problem that my clients are asking me to solve. But what I learned in my epiphany is that what my clients REALLY need is to know how they’re REALLY doing. This is the information that they’re never going to get by diagnosing and treating their own problems!

This opened my eyes to a whole new way that I needed to be offering and delivering my service. As a highly educated and trained Business Coach, Organizational Development Consultant, and HR Practitioner, I am uniquely positioned to provide my clients with an overview of their organizational landscape, strengths, and vulnerabilities. This information is hardly ever made available to organizations of this size, and the benefit is that it puts the business owner in the driver’s seat. By seeing the whole picture, and understanding the steps required to align correctly, the business owner can then choose whether/how to address the issues. This has allowed me to develop solutions, and partnerships to provide solutions, on various levels to ensure they are flexible, scale-able and cost effective. If you want to learn more about how this works, check out my site www.todaysleadershipsolutions.com or email me at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com n

One thing my journey as an entrepreneur has taught me is that it’s not easy, and you rarely end up exactly where you thought you’d be, in the time frame you thought it would take. The ability to keep trying in the face of failure, think of different solutions to recurring problems, and a desire to provide value to a client base who you deeply respect and care about are critical if you want to keep at it and enjoy what you’re doing. Most important for me is to listen to my gut and focus on what I love AND am good at, not just what I’m good at. This can be an act of faith, as a lot of people will tell you that it’s not possible, but I think if you stay true to yourself and your dream, you’ll eventually see the results you want to see!

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