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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 coaching Leadership Development New Managers organizational development Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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Uncategorized

5 managerial shortcuts guaranteed to make your life miserable

If you’re like most managers, you’ve probably at one point in your career thought “I’d love my job if it weren’t for the people messing everything up”.  I’ve never met a manager who didn’t at one time or another wish that s/he didn’t have to deal with people any more.  All managers get anxiety when their people are not performing, but the great leaders are the ones who channel that anxiety into helping people improve rather than make themselves feel better by unloading on their subordinates.   There are countless books about how to be a better manager and implementing the ideas in them will help. Regardless, there are still some common pitfalls managers engage in that may seem like shortcuts at the time, but end up causing unnecessary time and energy dealing with ‘people problems’.  So here are some common offenders

 

1)      Not taking the time to understand your own strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies

I’ve spoken previously about common traits of entrepreneurs.  Chances are if you are a manager or leader then you were a great individual contributor with high capacity and are achievement oriented.  You also are comfortable with if not desirous of holding positions of authority.  But what’s it really like to work for you?  Do you like to micro-manage every little detail, or are you more comfortable with a 30,000 level update?  Please take the time to know your own strengths and weaknesses and hire people who complement you.  It is rarely necessary to hire your clone, so please avoid the temptation to fill your office with people just like you.  It rarely works well.

2)      Not developing good behavioral interview questions to use on each potential new employee

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.  I have not been exposed to an argument to the contrary (and there are many, to be fair) that has swayed me from this tactic.  While I understand the theory behind situational questions (What would you do if…) I remain unconvinced of their predictive validity.  If I need someone who can manage difficult clients, I would much rather hear about the most difficult client relationship they managed and how it was resolved than their thoughts on an imaginary situation.  Yes, a terrible answer to a situational question can weed out the horrible applicants, but I prefer to think of interviewing as ‘mining for greatness’ rather than ‘weeding out bad eggs’.

3)      Not having an ‘expectation’ discussion with new team members

This is the ‘culture talk’ and ideally happens before someone joins your team.  It goes along with point one and requires you understand how things really need to work in your department or company.  For example, if you want to create a culture of accountability, don’t ever assume this goes without saying.  In fact NOTHING should go without saying.  Spell out what this is and how it looks.  For example:  ‘Ours is a culture of accountability.  We reward people for owing up to their mistakes and taking action to resolve them.  We encourage risk taking and understand that we all learn from mistakes.  Finger pointing and blame laying are not compatible with this goal and are not tolerated.’  Believe it or not, this can be communicated in a way that is motivating and exciting and not negative.  It just takes passion and sincerity.

4)      Not having regular one-on-ones with subordinates

No managers have time for one-on-ones.  They are all too busy.  You are too busy too.  You are also too busy for ‘gotta minutes’, replacing staff who leave because their career paths aren’t clear and who don’t feel you care about them.  Like it or not, the newest generation of workers wants and needs this and won’t stay around long if they don’t get it.  Even the GenXers and Babyboomers do better with one-on-one time so make sure it happens with all your staff.

5)      Coaching in public and praising in private

Surprisingly, there are still leaders who don’t get this.  Never, ever, ever, criticize, denigrate, humiliate, correct, constructively criticize or any other euphemism for calling out your subordinate in front of his/her peers, subordinates, customers or anyone else.  This is never a good idea, is never called for and will lose you loyalty faster than anything else.  You should, on the other hand praise lavishly in public. 

Of course it is possible to do the above five things well and still experience performance problems but I would wager heavily that you will have much fewer performance problems and by being disciplined at executing the above five you will be much more equipped to deal with any issues that do arise.   At the end of the day, a good manager is well served to remember to be clear and concise about expectations, respectful of others’ time and to be practice the golden rule.