Business Management

The skinny on executive coaching – is this really helpful for smaller businesses?

The discipline of coaching has been around for a while, but there are still some misconceptions. Many people think of therapy sessions, complete with couch, bespectacled observer, and a notepad. Others may imagine a hyper-positive cheerleader, chanting that you’re good enough and people like you. Either way, with all the daily fires that are part of owning and managing a growing enterprise, many business owners view coaching as overly indulgent at best, and a waste of money at worst.  On the contrary, coaching is a very powerful tool in developing managers that larger companies have been utilizing for quite some time. Is coaching valuable enough to invest in when you’re in those lean, chaotic growing years?

To answer that, it’s helpful to understand the purpose and process of coaching. Coaching can be done individually or in a group, with most executive coaching being individual. Unlike therapy, where there is an assumption that some sort of dysfunction exists that needs to be resolved, in coaching the assumption is that the client is already functioning well and is using coaching to get to another level. Coaching is also unlike training or consulting, where the consultant is retained as an expert in a particular field, providing answers that the client does not have.

Coaching is unique from all other disciplines in that while the coach may, and usually does, possess expertise in certain areas, their role is not usually to provide these answers to the client, but rather to help the client arrive at their own answers. In a typical coaching session, a coach will hear the client’s issue and ask questions designed to help the client reframe their perspective, or understand the issue in a different way. There is almost always an ‘Aha moment’, when a client is able to view the situation differently and reach a solution they hadn’t considered before, which is very empowering.

The value of coaching is in how extremely powerful it is in helping clients get to a place of strength and confidence in dealing with various aspects of their lives. Oftentimes new and even seasoned leaders feel stuck; whether it’s because they are struggling giving or receiving feedback, unfulfilled in their role, or unsure of how to handle a particular challenge. Senior leaders, in contrast, can be uncomfortable sharing their uncertainties, sometimes rightfully so, because of the unsettling effect it might have on their employees.

Practically speaking, a leader or business owner benefits from coaching in these ways: They receive a sounding board to discuss issues, problems, or new ideas. They work through frustrations or conflicts they are experiencing in their roles. They learn to identify their areas of strength and weakness, and explore ways to capitalize on those strengths for maximum effectiveness. In addition, business and leadership coaching can often be combined in some form with training or consulting in order to provide more guided development.  The one-on-one interactional format ensures rapid advancement, far greater than classroom or virtual learning.

To wrap it all up, the impact coaching can have on one’s effectiveness in the areas of leadership, communication, problem-solving, strategic planning, conflict resolution and other areas is so great compared to the cost of the investment that it’s one of those things to put at the top of the list when budgeting for training and development.

If you’re interested in coaching and want to learn more, or take advantage of a complimentary coaching session, click here.

Business Management Organizational Behavior Management 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


How a triangle (and a square) can lead you to peace of mind, financial well-being and the business you always dreamed of owning!

I’ve been involved in a lot of organizational ‘clean-ups’ over the years. Unlike coaching, where the premise is that you are making a good thing better, Organizational Behavior Management is usually called in to solve a specific problem. Sometimes the problem is that a sales team is not able to achieve the top line revenue goal, other times the sales are there but there are efficiency or waste issues in the fulfillment side, affecting profit. Alternatively, there are times when the impetus behind the call isn’t either of those things, but an increase in good people quitting, or a general sense that employees are not doing their best and it’s beginning to affect business. The reason I (or any consultant) is called is because the business owner has tried everything they know how to do, the problem is still there, and they are convinced they don’t have the answer.

A major reason I started my business was that I realized that business owners DO have the answer but they don’t know that they do, and they don’t necessarily know what to do with that information! If this is you, don’t worry, by the time you finish reading this article you will begin to understand the process for identifying what needs to happen in your organization and where things are getting derailed. This first step is the key to opening a door leading to peace of mind, financial well-being and the business you always dreamed of owning.

The process is very simple and you will need two tools – a triangle and a square. The first tool is the Behavior Management Triangle and it is…a triangle. The beauty of the Behavior Management Triangle is it can often clarify your most important processes and what is actually required to get to your goal. In OBM we call this ‘Targeting’ and it can take up to a day with key decision makers to really go through all the processes and work flow but at the end of it all you will have absolute clarity on your revenue and profitability goals, what key accomplishments and metrics are involved in getting there and, most importantly, what behaviors each person in your company needs to be doing, in what order, and at what frequency, to get there. I’ve never worked with an executive who hasn’t found this incredibly valuable. Often, this exercise alone leads to huge innovations in how companies accomplish things, because it can challenge the ‘that’s just the way we do it’ mindset.

But as anyone who’s ever paid $10,000 for a training intervention, or any parent who has demonstrated how to make a bed, can tell you, just knowing what to do does NOT ensure the actual doing! This is where your square come in. Draw a square on a piece of paper and then divide it into 4 equal quadrants. Over the top left quadrant, write ‘Desirable Consequences” and over the top right write ‘Undesirable Consequences. Beside the top left write ‘Desirable Behaviors’ and beside the bottom left write ‘Undesirable Behaviors’. We will be using this to determine whether your company is set up currently to reinforce the right things happening or not.

Now, I’ll let you in on a secret; the fact that you’re talking to me usually means your balance of consequences is out of whack (a highly scientific term meaning, ‘not supporting your desired objectives’). I can walk through any organization (and so can you, for that matter) and tell you exactly which behaviors are being reinforced the most…it’s the ones that are occurring!!

Now, you may say to yourself, ‘This is dumb. If my employee is doing a good thing, I reward her. I would never punish someone for doing the right thing.’ I will argue back that companies do it all the time and I’ve never encountered one that didn’t. Every time you give more work to the employee you know can handle it without any positive associated (and this doesn’t always mean a tangible) you are in effect setting up a balance of consequence to eliminate that good behavior.

I invite you to take one of the key behaviors you have identified as leading to organizational success – whether it’s cold calling, or building widgets, or what have you, and take a thorough and honest inventory of the good and the bad consequences for both performing that behavior and NOT performing that behavior. I’ll give you a couple ideas; some very common positive consequences for NOT performing are, less work, less stress, low likelihood of discovery, and some common negative consequences FOR performing are more work without more pay, more stress, chance of criticism if not done correctly, and so on. Think about what is in place in your company as well as any positive consequences for doing the right things and any negative consequences for doing the wrong thing. Think money, bonuses, positive recognition, preferred tasks, autonomy, social interaction…any and everything that can be a ‘motivator’ should go on the balance of consequences. When you’ve finished, you should be easily able to see whether the balance of consequences supports performing the desired behavior or suppresses it and now you’re off to the races!

So to summarize; first we identify the required behaviors using the triangle, and then we use the square to determine if the work environment is rewarding or actually punishing the desired behaviors. You now have laid the groundwork to begin changing your company’s trajectory, rewarding the employees who are doing the best work and achieving your goals!

Yes, there’s a little more involved, but if your company is not where you’d like it to be, I invite you to try these two exercises. Please reach out if you have any questions and I’ll be happy to walk you through this!

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



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

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

What is your core function?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Current areas supported by Limitless HR Solutions:

·      Human Resources Compliance

·      Recruiting

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

·      Management Training

·      Leadership Development

·      Compensation/Wage Banding/Job Descriptions

·      Coaching


Referrals for the following providers also available:

·      Background Checking

·      Purchasing

·      IT

·      Social Media Management

·      CPA/Accounting

·      Benefits Broker

·      Benefits / ERISA Compliance