management systems Uncategorized

Do you still love the business you started?

If you’re like many business owners I’ve encountered, you started your company because you are passionate about the service or product you provide and confident that you can do it better than anyone. It may be true for you that you know that your employees have a choice when it comes to where they work, and you appreciate that they’ve chosen you. You’ve most likely always succeeded as a result of your hard work and perseverance, and therefore you enjoy having employees and managers who have the same qualities. If you promote from within, it may be because of this, and you likely feel a lot of loyalty to the people who are passionate about your business. Many business owner start their company to give people a great place to work that will support them and their families, and they want to provide an above average lifestyle for themselves and their families as well.

As you’ve started to grow, if you’re like most business owners, you’ve noticed that things are falling through the cracks that never used to. Even though your managers were superstar employees, they might not always be able to get the performance out of their employees that you could in their role. Although you probably don’t feel like you’re asking for too much, maybe it seems like a struggle to get performance evaluations, productivity updates or labor hours managed to expectation.

Most business owners hate feeling like they’re coming down on people all the time, but they also hate never quite knowing how the company’s performing and if they’re going to meet budget. There’s usually so much more they want to do, but don’t feel like the team’s ready. You may have noticed an increase in turnover, with employees starting to complain that they’re not getting treated fairly, or trained enough. It costs far too much to replace employees to keep losing good people and you almost certainly didn’t get into business to train the competition. Sometimes you even ask yourself if it’s worth it. Any of this sound familiar?

Now imagine a different scene:

Your managers treat your company like it was their own, and are diligent about managing your resources so that waste is minimized and you are highly profitable and able to re-invest into your employees. You have systems that identify and reward the hardest working employees, who as a result love working at your company, and recommend it to others. You’re able to give back in multiple ways because there’s so little waste and dead weight. Everyone’s on the same page about the company goals and how to get there, and employees and managers love finding creative ways to make the company better. You truly feel like you’re a team, and the people in your company are all working together to succeed. You actually love coming to work and so do all your employees and managers.

This isn’t a dream. This is the company you deserve, and we can help you get there. Let’s talk.


How can coaching help me perform better?

It was almost ten years ago now that I embarked on the journey to become a coach. I’ve always known my calling had to do with helping people enjoy their lives more fully. This calling has led me to obtain my degree in psychology, and to be attracted to roles such training, teaching, consulting, and coaching. What has always appealed to me about coaching is the premise that you are not making a dysfunctional person functional, but rather helping an already functioning person reach the next level in their growth and development. During my certification process, I took courses in things like powerful questioning, reframing perspectives, and I learned specifically how to work with professionals in transition – either to a new career or to the next step in their existing career. A large part of the certification process was not only coaching others, but being coached, and this was one of the most challenging – and transforming –  parts of the process.

In the ten years that have followed I have received good coaching as well as abysmally bad coaching and my appreciation for the discipline only continues to grow. At the same time, I’ve worked with many fine organizations that are in the process of growing and have seen firsthand how well coaching can augment corporate growth and reap benefits that include more effective managers, more productive employees, reduced turnover, and the ability to attract top talent based on growth and development opportunities.

In my opinion coaching for management and high potential people is highly valuable in companies with a formal training and leadership development program and indispensable in organizations without one. The reason boils down to human nature and the simple fact that most people on some level feel somewhat unqualified for their roles, and live in a state of low level to high level anxiety that their next mistake will reveal this and their livelihoods will be at risk. For this reason alone, it is very difficult to coach or train one’s direct reports because it is too difficult to have the raw honesty and transparency needed for true growth. Not to mention the supervisors are often in the same boat and don’t always have the clarity of perspective an outside third party has. In addition, in most growing organizations there is very little bandwidth for supervisors to invest in up and coming managers to the extent that is needed.

Formal leadership training is important, and group training is very effective when introducing concepts such as goal-setting, delegation, and performance management, but when it comes to individual development, nothing can replace coaching. Of course, I say this with a caveat, because not all coaches are created equal.

The essence of great management/executive coaching is the ability to hear what a client is saying, and also possess the business acumen, leadership skills and intuition to hear what is not being said and to ask powerful questions to help the client discover their own answer. What makes it so difficult is that it also requires the coach to lay their ego aside and NOT assume they simply know the answer and ‘walk the client down a path’ to the ‘correct’ solution. A coach assumes that it is the client who has the answer, but the coach’s personal experience and training allows them to answer productive questions. Coaching can and should challenge the client to think about different perspectives and consider innovative, untried solutions.

On the other hand, there is bad coaching. Bad coaching can take different forms. From a purist perspective, bad coaching consists of leading the client to the coach’s own solution, or directing a client to what action to take. It’s a fine line that most coach/consultants have to navigate. Sometimes a client genuinely doesn’t know an answer and is looking for the coach to wear a consultant hat for a moment. When this happens, both parties should be aware of what is transpiring. Other bad coaching occurs when the coach tries to make the client uncomfortable for the sake of discomfort. This is an ego/power move on the coach’s part and can lead to significant distraction pursuing unproductive questions. If your coaching always leaves you feeling frustrated and like you’re pursuing the wrong line of inquiry, you may not be in the right match for you.

The benefits to managers and leaders of having a coach can’t be understated. A coach allows a manager to work through issues, personnel problems and areas of conflict in a safe place, gaining valuable insight into their productive and unproductive responses. It also can allow the manager to work on areas that are affecting work performance, such as work life balance, career goals and identifying one’s calling. A manager who is working in alignment with his or her values, in pursuit of clear goals, with the emotional intelligence to lead subordinates to do the same will not only be a more satisfied employees, they will be a force to be reckoned with in terms of productivity.

For that reason, investing in a management coach for your team can be one of the best investments a senior leader can make.

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



People-Pleasing – The icky underbelly of “Just Being Nice”

Last week I wrote an article about the advantages of just being nice in the workplace, especially for business owners and senior leaders.  Treating people well, being courteous and generally believing that doing the right thing is its own reward (and usually ends up being rewarded in the long run as well) all lead to peace of mind and better relationships – at least in my experience.   Unfortunately, all good things taken to an extreme, misused or twisted for personal gain have a shadow side.  I see ‘people-pleasing’ as one particularly pernicious shadow side of ‘just being nice’.

When I say people pleasing, I don’t mean people who are being deliberately manipulative or phony, that’s a whole different kettle of nasty.  People-pleasers, in this context, are people who are usually highly intelligent, caring people who are chronically afraid of hurting other people’s feelings and – especially – of not being liked.  Usually the ones most hurt by the people pleasing behaviors are the pleasers themselves but believe me, there is other fallout.  
Now, wanting to be liked and not wanting to hurt people’s feelings are NOT bad things at all, don’t get me wrong.  Where it can become destructive is the point where you do not tell the truth, share useful information, make a meaningful contribution or preserve an important boundary because of fear of not being liked.

I have seen this in the workplace from an HR perspective countless times.  It takes various forms.  Sometimes it’s the extremely bright employee with great ideas who doesn’t share them for fear of being wrong.  Sometimes it’s the person in my office who just wants to ‘vent’ that her boss has been saying sexually inappropriate things for six months but she doesn’t want to offend him by telling him to stop.  One time it was the Project Manager who knew the project was going down the tubes and what it would take to fix it, but was afraid to tell his Director (who was part of the problem)

Sometimes there is good reason to fear the wrath of one’s boss, but sometimes, a desire to be liked become pathological.  The downside to pleasing is not only a continual erosion of self-confidence and identity, it can also lead to exactly the outcome the pleaser is trying to avoid!  By never saying ‘no’ to colleagues, the pleaser inevitably overcommits him or herself and does indeed let people down.  After continually going above and beyond for friends and family, many pleasers develop expectations of reciprocation that, when not forthcoming, gives birth to serious and long-lasting resentments.

When I have coached chronic people pleasers it can sometimes be so bad that the pleasers don’t even know their own opinions or boundaries, so there needs to be some exploration.  There can be so much guilt and fear associated with being true to oneself that it can take a very long time.   I have not yet encountered a reformed pleaser who went so far the other way as to become a jerk, although I am sure it happens.  Usually, learning to be authentic and speak one’s truth adds depth and character to genuinely nice people and makes them even more lovable.   



“Please stop ruining your company” – HR’s role in dealing with difficult bosses

I have been fortunate enough to have been asked to speak at my SHRM chapter in May and the topic will be HR’s role in dealing with difficult people.  Human Resources professionals have consistently been growing into a strategic presence in organizations and we are often relied upon at the senior planning table to help articulate, conceptualize and implement plans to achieve organizational goals.  This is an absolute win and I have seen how organizations benefit from having us be part of the process.  As most people have experienced at one point or another in their lives, however, even the best laid strategic plan will fail in the hands of toxic people.  This is truly where a skilled HR professional can bring maximum value to their role.  

But it’s not easy.

Anyone who has been in a senior HR role for any amount of time will have experienced the ‘bad boss’ phenomenon.  It starts with rumblings or maybe an employee or two in your office talking about what a ‘jerk’ such-and-such manager is.  Further investigation reveals that yes, the manager in question is not upholding corporate values and is inconsistent, disrespectful or even downright mean.  Although this is not pleasant, it is somewhat routine for a seasoned HR professional (or great consultant/coach) to address first or second level managers on their conduct.  

But what do you do when the toxic person is the most senior executive, owner and/or your boss?  I have spoken to countless HR professionals and this is probably the number one reason why great HR people leave organizations.  For that matter, it’s the number one reason why any great people leave an organization.  From an HR perspective, this can be one of the most challenging and stressful experiences to deal with.  There are many different ‘difficult people’ profiles an owner can fall into but as a very general rule these people are: Highly driven, perfectionist, high need for control, intelligent, somewhat blind to their weaknesses, capable, achievement oriented and tending to take things very seriously.  Frankly, these skills are necessary for entrepreneurs and almost any owner or CEO will have these traits to an extent.  The ‘difficult’ part comes in when one or more of these attributes outweighs others or eclipses their social/emotional intelligence.  That is the recipe for toxicity.

When the owner of the company is creating a culture that is drastically undermining the mission of the organization there are only three outcomes: 
1)    They will realize what they are doing, become willing to change their approach and do so
2)    They will realize what they are doing, become willing to change their approach but be unable to do so
3)    They will refuse to acknowledge the destructiveness of their behavior and refuse to change.  

Usually the ‘realization’ comes from a series of very predictable pain points such as employee turnover, customer loss or other negative feedback.  This is a critical point of impact for the HR profiessional.  Often, we will be the ones requested to present this information to the owner.  This is a very vulnerable position and needs to be handled carefully.  It is my experience that until this pain point is reached, change is unlikely.  More often than not, the HR professional, as messenger will be the focus of the owner’s discontent with the feedback.  Just because this is uncomfortable, does not mean it should be avoided.  There comes a time in everyone’s professional career where we must weigh out what’s right and wrong as well as whether we are willing to continue in a situation if it doesn’t change.  In other words, working with the toxic owner also will produce a pain point spurring action.

Once the owner realizes their problem and becomes willing to change the HR professional is again a valuable asset.  We can either provide access to coaching or sometimes we are the coaches and this will be both challenging and rewarding.  

There are also the situations where the owner does not acknowledge a problem with their behavior and to the HR professional and much of the organization the behavior is intolerable.  When this happens, unfortunately there are not many alternatives.  IF the behavior is truly egregious the company’s future success is in jeopardy.  It is sometimes worthwhile to stage an intervention with other key executives in the company to try to force a realization on the part of the owner but if that does not produce a desire to change, it may be time to select a new opportunity.  

In the end, becoming adept at helping bad bosses become great leaders is one of the most important contributions of a talented HR Professional.