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Business Management career coaching Leadership Development Uncategorized

You lead like a girl! Do this today to instantly improve your professional credibility

As many of my readers know, I started my leadership journey more than 20 years ago, as the only female manager in a booming blue-collar, male-dominated company. Although I had more management training than many of my peers, I struggled with being taken seriously. Often my ideas were overlooked, or sometimes ‘borrowed’ (with no credit given to me), and it was difficult for me to engage in even constructive conflict without being patronized. At one point, I despaired that I’d ever really enjoy leadership, and only persevered because I knew I had something to offer, and I also knew if I wanted to maximize my earning potential, I had to crack the leadership code. How could I get my bosses, peers, and subordinates to take me seriously?

Does this sound familiar? If so, I have great news! I figured out what I had to do to give my professional credibility a facelift, and I’ve never looked back. From those fumbling, awkward beginnings, I’ve led teams, departments, and company initiatives, and eventually started my own consulting business.

I figured out what it takes to establish and maintain professional credibility, and I’m going to share it with you.

If you struggle with wondering if you’ve got what it takes to be a true leader, or worry that having a personal life rules you out of management, or even feel that you’ve made some mistakes that you can’t recover from, then you’ll be relieved to learn that NONE OF THIS disqualifies you from being a powerful, inspiring, and effective leader!

Today, I speak confidently, knowing I bring value to the table. I ask for what I need in a reasonable way, and don’t apologize for being human. I give constructive feedback without feeling guilty. I admit when I’m wrong without cringing. I champion ideas and lead powerful initiatives without worrying about failing. In short, I’m a leader who loves her job, and you can be too!

If you’re like many women leaders, you fought hard to get to where you are today…and yet…

Besides being a leader professionally, there may be several other, often contradictory roles you play in your life, which means that there are countless different things requiring your time, attention, and energy, and at times it feels like you’re not quite giving anything ‘your all’.

In addition, you may have been taught from a young age that making mistakes was a sign of failure. You also might have received conflicting instruction about being assertive, being polite, and how to accomplish things effectively through others (i.e. management)

As a result, you may have some built in ‘credibility blockers’ that are keeping you from feeling successful and fulfilled in your role as a leader. These include:

  • A Fixed Mindset
  • Limiting beliefs
  • Lack of quality training and mentors

Any one of these (let alone all three) can make your leadership journey feel exhausting and frustrating, and you may unconsciously be sabotaging yourself without even being aware of it. You can take this quick quiz to determine if any of these are impacting your credibility:

  • Do you feel like you are a leadership ‘imposter’ and if people ‘really knew’ you they’d know you weren’t a great leader?
  • Do you become anxious and fearful about your career prospects?
  • Do you imagine negative outcomes associated with asking for help?
  • Do you become impatient with yourself when change doesn’t occur quickly enough?
  • Does the thought of management or leadership training leave you feeling overwhelmed and skeptical?
  • Do you find it hard to trust others to provide honest feedback and training?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you need the following information so that you can learn how to overcome these obstacles and boost your professional credibility!

What I learned is that the biggest blocker to anyone’s professional credibility is their beliefs about themselves, and the most important factor of success in any area of life, but particularly in one’s leadership journey – is how to reprogram your mind and beliefs to create lasting change in your life.

This is the key to transformation, and failing to implement these secrets will keep you feeling stuck. Once you reprogram your mind to believe and embrace your identity as leader, you will see opportunities everywhere to develop and improve your skills. You will notice new mentoring opportunities, and you will be excited about the future.

I promise!

I’ve developed a transformational program to provide the tactical, strategic, mental, and emotional guidance you need to conquer challenges in your professional and personal life. Here is a free download containing a portion of the program from the module ‘Redefine your leadership image’, containing practical information you need to learn how to reprogram your mind and thrive in your professional role.

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 Uncategorized

Do you know what your REAL company culture is? Here’s how to find out.

When you are building your own business, or experiencing rapid growth, just getting through the day can be a challenge. You are putting out fires, sometimes setting them, and of course responding to a thousand ‘gottaminutes’ throughout the day. In the midst of solving customer crises, ensuring the cash is flowing in the right direction and just getting staff hired, something like culture, while not unimportant to you, can get relegated to something you’ll get to at just about the same time you actually take that week off you’ve been promising yourself.

Unfortunately, failing to be intentional about your culture is as damaging as failing to take your vacation. The results of personal burnout include fatigue, irritation, and lack of productivity…much the same as an unproductive culture. A lot of times, leaders don’t address this not because they don’t want to, but because it seems too vague to wrap their minds around.

In dealing with my clients, I have found it useful to look at culture as the set of behaviors, besides the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform the tasks that need to be performed, that are required to successfully represent the company to a) other employees and b) the customers.

Usually leaders are primarily focused on the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform whatever tasks need to be performed. Don’t get me wrong, technical competence is necessary – so necessary that I spend a large portion of my time with my clients defining duties, building training programs and figuring out the best way to measure performance. However, it is far from sufficient.  A while ago, Inc.com published an article about media giant Netflix, and their policy not to tolerate ‘cultural terrorists’    based on the extensive damage caused by an improper cultural fit.

So what is a good cultural fit? For that matter, what is your culture? I think the easiest way to answer this is to answer succinctly and clearly: What’s it like to work at your company? And what’s it like to work with your company?

The heart of your culture reveals your values. What are the true values? Profit at any cost? Integrity at any cost? Honesty? Winning?  Every person, and every organization, has stated and actual values and the best way to truly know the actual values is to look at the decisions that are made in tough times, and the behavior that is tolerated.

If a company has gone so far as to publish mission, vision, and values statements, that’s a great start. I like to follow up and see how close to the mark they’re hitting. Clues to your actual (versus stated) culture can be seen in:

  • How do people talk to each other?
  • How easy is it to tell each other bad news?
  • How many meetings do you have?
  • Do people do what they say they’re going to?
  • Do people show up on time?
  • What happens when people make mistakes?

These and further questions identify your culture.  Your mission, vision, and values statements are what you want…but your culture is your down and dirty, gritty reality. Your culture tells you what your true values are. Is cutting corners okay when the stakes are great? Is abusive or bullying behavior admissible when the perpetrator has a unique skill set or the ability to garner high revenue?

If you have started a company, or lead one, chances are high that you had a strong set of values and a vision for your organization well before you hired your first employee. In the midst of the battle that is running a successful organization, it can be easy to lose sight of this. Unfortunately, one or two oversights or compromises can have an avalanche effect, and you may find yourself staring at a mass exodus or even a lawsuit if bad behavior becomes tolerated or even rewarded in your company. Ask yourself today: Are my employees representing my values to each other and to my customers? If yes, good job! If no, you now have awareness, and the truth can set you free!

Your managers are the guardians of your culture. Have you equipped them for success? Ask us about our premier management development programs – all you need when you promote from within!

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 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).

Come hang out with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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 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

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Business Management coaching Leadership Development New Managers Uncategorized

Three of the toughest challenges you’ll face as a leader that might surprise you

As William Shakespeare is famous for saying, ‘Some are born to greatness, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” If you are in a position of leadership in your organization, chances are it occurred due to a combination of the three. During my twenty years as HR Director, and subsequent years after that as a leadership and executive coach, I’ve had countless people tell me their goal was to advance to some kind of leadership or management position. When I hear this, my first question is always ‘why?’ People think it’s a trick question, but it’s really not. Answers typically range from wanting to make more of an impact, to wanting a greater scope of authority, to wanting more money, to wanting to make a difference in people’s lives. I’m not here to make a value judgment on anyone’s motives, but some of the challenges of management are hard enough that I like to let people know that if their motivation is solely money, there’s probably an easier way. Here are the three toughest situations you’ll face in your leadership journey. We all go through them, and it’s these experiences that grow you and also leave you changed forever in both positive and negative ways.

Letting good people go

It’s never easy to fire people, but at least when it’s because someone has committed some egregious act it’s a little easier to call it quits. One of the worst experiences a manager can face is letting people go who did nothing wrong. In financial downturns, it’s not uncommon to have to let go of highly valued, contributing employees; some whom have been with you for years. Anyone who tells you that you can compartmentalize this and leave the personal out of it is either lying, a sociopath, or delusional. Even worse is when you are forced by higher ups to let go of good people for workplace political reasons. If you are in management long enough, this will happen to you.

I’ve found the best way to get through this is not to try to leave feelings out of it, but to lean into your emotions. Whenever possible, leave the person with as much dignity as possible. Remind them (because it’s true), that this is not the only job out there, and that other doors will open. Your employee may not appreciate it, but it may make a difference for them. Sometimes the story ends terribly. There is one situation that I’ll never forget, where a termination was the precipitating point for the employee of a severe mental and emotional breakdown that ended in violence and incarceration. These things can leave scars on your soul.

Having great employees

Weren’t expecting that one, were you? Having bad employees is no walk in the park, but it’s the truly great ones that will ultimately put you through your paces as a leader. One of the ways these people will stretch you is because to develop them, you will at some point need to stop giving them answers and encourage them to do things their own way. This is incredibly tough if you think you already know the answer, and if they make a mistake, or fail it will be very painful for everyone. Another way these folks will challenge you is that if you have gotten into the least little bit of a comfort zone (and let’s be honest, comfortable is not SO bad, is it?) your super stars will always be there pushing at the boundaries.

They’ll want to know, why, how, and what else for just about everything. You’ll want to tell them to just back off a little, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and they don’t need to change the world by Wednesday, but you won’t. Or you shouldn’t. As much as we want people to slow down and earn their promotions, we’re not serving them well by squelching their enthusiasm or stifling innovative ideas. It’s much harder to channel all that energy. It takes a great deal of investment to mentor and grow your people and fulfil the other demands on you, which is why having great employees is one of the hardest things about management.

Failing

I know what you’re thinking…duh…but stick with me here. If I were to ask any one of you if it’s okay for someone on your team to try something and fail, all but the jerkiest of you would say of course. But I’ll bet far less of you believe this is true of yourself. It’s one thing for a calculated risk not to work out your way, or for something to happen that’s beyond your control, like a failed economy, but what about real failure? Not acting with integrity, blowing up at a subordinate, cutting corners or making a mistake that has serious financial repercussions are all the kinds of failure that can break your spirit and make you feel like your career is over. Some failures are harder to  recover from than others, and it might not be possible to recover at your current company, but its these very things that can be a jumping off point for you. These failed life tests can be what turn us around, sharpen us, and give us a degree of compassion for others that we might never have had (and yes, I speak from experience). Really failing can turn you into a great leader, but only if you let it.

Of course there are other tough things about being a leader. Budgets, meetings, angry customers, and unrealistic deadlines are all par for the course. But if you really want to leverage your impact, change people’s lives, and leave a legacy, this can be a great way to do so.

If you’re a leader who wants to learn more about developing other leaders, click here.

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

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Recruiting Uncategorized

How to have the worst phone interview in the history of phone interviews. A true story.

Wow! Just conducted the worst phone interview in my career…to date. So bad that I took a second and asked myself if it was better to just end it, or to give the candidate some free career searching advice. I hate giving unsolicited advice,  so I did ask him if he was interested in hearing some constructive criticism that may help him get further with future employers than he was getting with me. He somewhat reluctantly acquiesced.

Here’s what I told him:

  • When on a phone interview, try to sound friendly and enthusiastic. Avoid monotone voice and one word answers (it sounds surly to the interviewer). For example called me, without an appointment, didn’t tell me his full name, and mumbled so much I had to ask him to repeat himself four time.
  • When asked why you are interested in the job, avoid answers like “I’m unemployed now, so anything is better than nothing.”
  • Avoid whining (seriously, whining) about how hard it’s been on you being let go from your previous roles.
  • Do not say things like “I’m a XXX pro-advisor, so doing all that is no problem. It’s easy.
  • When I tell you that providing exceptional and professional customer service is a requirement, do not argue with me that it’s not, and that the requirement is being accurate and if I want good customer service, I need to provide you an allowance to take clients out to lunch, and that’s why the clients at your last job never liked you, because the last place wouldn’t do this for you.
  • Avoid assuming a job requirement that is not in the job description (professional designation for a role that doesn’t require one) and go on a long tangent about how hard the designation is to obtain, but that that is your sole focus in life and all you really want to accomplish so you will never, ever, have to look for work again.

What it boils down to, I told the candidate, is this:

  • Apply for roles and companies you’re interested in and convey that interest to the people you talk to.
  • Read the requirements, and if you possess them, have examples in mind of how you do. If you don’t think the requirements are important, this might not be the best role. They are important to the employer, and you are not likely to talk them out of it on your initial phone screen.
  • Focus on what you can do for them first, and don’t spend an inordinate amount of time talking about outside commitments…ON THE FIRST CALL.
  • Yes, employment is a two-way street, and yes, your needs as an employee are important. But first impressions count a lot and if you alienate your phone interviewer by being rude, uncommunicative, dismissive, and complain-y, you’ll never get the chance to showcase your skills.

You may be wondering what the client’s response was…guess! Leave a comment below and I’ll tell you if you’re right!

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

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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

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Business Management Leadership Development Training Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
career coaching life lessons Uncategorized

Freedom, individuality, and your career

Seeing as how it was just Canada Day, and tomorrow is Independence Day for the United States, freedom seems like a good topic. I’m thoroughly fed up with politics, though, so I’m staying away from political freedom, and am going to talk about it from another perspective; leadership and your career.

We live in a culture where freedom is sacrosanct, and we all pretty much believe we should have the freedom to make our own choices. This means that we have the ability to choose what we will do and what we want in our life. Of course, this in no way absolves us of the consequences of our choices, whether it be legally, career-wise, or emotionally (as much as that would be nice).

This is nowhere more true than when it comes to our career; one of the most significant areas in most people’s lives. Most of us, on some level, have desires, talents, and ambitions, and are free to pursue a career that is in alignment with those. What I’ve seen more often than not, as a coach, is a whole bunch of seriously unhappy people who feel stuck and like they have no choice. They are in jobs they hate, or working for people they hate (or at least seriously dislike), doing things that suck their soul and make them miserable. Until the pain of this becomes unbearable, these folks always say the same thing about why they’re there: they have no choice.

I remember telling this to a boss of mine one time. I’d just found out I was pregnant with my first child, and he was wondering if I’d come back to work after the baby. My response was that I had to, that there was no other choice, to which he replied “there’s always a choice”. At the time, this kind of annoyed me. Easy for him to say, I thought. Because my husband and I had agreed that he would launch a startup business, we completely depended on my job for our family income and medical benefits. How on earth did I have a choice?

When you’re in a leadership role, this feeling of being choice-less can be even more compounded. You feel the burden of other people’s livelihoods, as well as the responsibility for the outcomes of everyone’s efforts. Concern about the potential impact of any given action can be paralyzing.

I’ve come to see that being in fear and uncertainty about the future makes us feel like we have no choice. It’s very easy to make assumptions about the value we bring, the economic climate, and the marketplace, and come to the conclusion that we can’t do any better than we’re currently doing, only worse. We eventually embrace the idea (and bad bosses will reinforce this) that we’re actually lucky to have what we do, and we’d better not rock the boat.

As a coach, I am completely sold out to the idea that if we’re operating in our area of proficiency, passion, and purpose (to paraphrase Michael Hyatt) that we will be fulfilled and eventually successful once we find the correct platform or point of entry. The problem is that if you don’t believe this, you won’t try, and you’ll experience the crushing weight of being stuck.

Anyone can exercise their freedom to choose when it comes to their career at the end of the day, by simply choosing to not be there. Most of us would prefer to improve our circumstances rather than just escape them, so that takes a little more strategy. The first step is recognizing the assumptions and beliefs you’re currently harboring about your situation, and challenging their veracity. For example:

  • What are you truly passionate about?
  • What are you good at?
  • Is it possible to conduct research into opportunities to contribute your passion and proficiency?
  • Do you really have the ‘freedom’ you think you do in your current role?
  • Is it really true you’d never make this much money somewhere else? Does it matter?

Depending on the answer to these questions (and a few other ones), it may make sense to begin a career transition. On the other hand, sometimes you have a passion that doesn’t necessarily translate well into a career transition, and that’s okay. A lot of times that stuck feeling is not so much about your particular job, but the amount of mental and physical resources you’re devoting to it. Sometimes a recalibration of your investment can create the freedom you need to refresh and recharge.

And yes, I’m sensitive to the fact that there are some people with far less options, opportunities and advantages than others so I’m not cavalierly suggesting for anyone that the way out of a tough situation is simply to choose differently and things will magically get better. Change can require enormous sacrifice, perseverance, and effort, and sometimes other priorities or circumstance can make it unfeasible to accomplish what it could take.

Focus has always been a problem for me. I’ve often joked that it’s so unfair to only get one life, when there’s SO MUCH I want to do. Unfortunately, we do only get one shot. What a tragedy at the end of it to have spent the majority of your career feeling stuck. From my own experience I can tell you that taking even the most incremental steps to move towards your passion can breathe new life into your experience of your career.

I’d love to hear your stories about how you’ve moved from a place of stuck to a place of fulfillment!

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