Business Management 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, 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

Business Management Recruiting

Update your recruiting practices to attract the talent you need for your business

As someone who works extensively with small, medium-sized, and growing businesses, I can assure you that the difficulty you may be experiencing hiring great people for your business is real! There continues to be what feels like a huge disconnect between companies who want to hire, and people who want to work. Everyone is frustrated! Today, I’m speaking to the hire-ers (although job searches will do well to pay attention!).

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you probably have some assumptions about the hiring process, based on what has always worked. It goes something like, create a job description, assign a pay range, create a job post based on the job description, post it on the job board most appropriate to the level of job, sift through a bunch of resumes, interview the most likely of candidates, hire someone. You’re probably used to this taking anywhere from three to twelve weeks, and it probably ranks on the bottom ten things you like to do, including firing people.

If you’re like many business owners, you probably ALSO have noticed that the above system is not working as well lately. Maybe you’re getting a lot more unqualified people than you used to, or maybe you’re not getting anyone at all responding. Maybe you counter this with sponsoring jobs, paying more money for candidates, or reaching out to professional recruiting firms, which are expensive but hopefully THEY will have more luck than you.

Any of this sounding familiar?

Sanity check: If you’re experiencing any of the above…it’s not just you! This is what the majority of businesses I’m working with report, and it’s tough. I’ve noticed that most of the older way of doing things just aren’t reaping the results we’re used to, and I’ve seen some success with just a few changes. I’d like to share some of the things that have increased the effectiveness of the companies I work with.

Figure out who you are

Why would someone want to come work for you? Usually when companies are recruiting, they want to start with the candidate, but recruiting is marketing, and so it’s crucial to start with the features, advantages, and benefits of YOU. Every company I’ve ever worked with has said about itself that they value their employees, their customers, that they’re honest, and that they have fun, so let’s go beyond that. What’s it really like to work for you? What is quirky, special, or different about you? Do you hire people without much experience and give them sought-after training? Do you pay above market range? Do you have a fun or interesting product? Do you make a unique impact on your community? Spending time fleshing out the ‘why’ someone would want to work for you is the most important thing you can do in your recruiting.

Figure out who your ideal employee is

I’m NOT talking about demographics. In fact, the more diverse you can be in hiring your employees, the better you’ll be for it (assuming you have team-building skills and can cast a vision well enough to unite people from disparate backgrounds). Does your ideal employee love a challenge? Think outside the box? Excel in structure or regulated environments? Love communicating freely throughout the day? Prefer to accomplish work in relative solitude? Do NOT develop your ideal employee profile based on what others think it should be. You and your business are unique, so just because Big Company A has free food and a games room does not mean this would work for you or appeal to your ideal employees.

Be exclusive (sniper vs net-casting)

I’ve written about this before, but the recruiting game has changed, and I don’t think it serves you well to ‘cast a net’ to gather in a large number of applicants to sift through. Instead, spend some time figuring out the profile of the best possible candidate for your business and market directly to that person. To attract your ideal candidate, you should write a marketing piece that clearly defines the benefits of working for you, and clearly establishes the ideal profile.

Market accordingly

There is still something to be said for job boards. I’ve hired from them, as have many of the companies I work with. If you do market your position on a job board, make sure you’ve done the work above. I also think it’s worthwhile to ask your employees for referrals. It’s also a good barometer for you…if no one wants to refer their friends to work for you, maybe ask why. I hope it goes without saying, but don’t hire the friends of the bad employees. On that note, why do you have bad employees, anyway? Depending on your company, network events, social media, and schools may be excellent hunting grounds.

I’m not here today to make a case for or against recruiting agencies. If they’re a tool in your toolbox, I trust you know how to use them effectively. There are some amazing recruiters out there, and some horrible ones. If you’re going this route, talk to your recruiter to get a sense of whether you will work well with them and whether they ‘get’ you.

Hopefully this helps you think about hiring a bit differently, and points you in the right direction to building your dream team for growth and profitability. If you have any questions, or are interested in a pdf outlining recruiting best practices for small businesses, please feel free to email me at You can also visit us on Twitter and Facebook.

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.

Recruiting Uncategorized

How to hate recruiting less

I’ve noticed a significant upswing of emotional posts (rants) on the part of recruiters, hiring managers, candidates, and CEOs all on the subject of recruiting. Having been in all of these roles at one point or another, I can easily understand why. There is a strong perception of a general lack of professional courtesy from all sides that stems from a system that was broken to begin with and only gets worse with a reliance on technology. I recently spoke on the subject of recruiting and hiring best practices to a group of small business owners and entrepreneurs, so I’ve been giving this quite some thought.

There are really two camps an employer can fall into. Those who see employees as valued partners in growing and running a business, and those who think people are expendable commodities not deserving of respect or timely communication. I’ve certainly run into my share of both but actually refuse to work with the latter anymore (and don’t suggest you do, either) so I’ll focus on the former.

Unfortunately, an employer can value employees very highly but come across as though they don’t due to broken or damaged processes. Here’s my experience of how the recruiting process tends to work in small to medium sized businesses. Either an employee leaves, or the volume of work becomes overwhelming and the hiring manager and his/her supervisor(s) agree that another employee or two is needed. A job description is unearthed (or created), which is then copied and pasted onto job boards, and HR (or the hiring manager) begins receiving resumes. These folks typically look mainly at previous titles and tenures, ‘weeding out’ folks based on lack of meeting the criteria.

Then either an HR person, or hiring manager conducts a phone screen or in person interview with a candidate. Not always, but usually this falls to either a hiring manager with no interviewing training, or an HR person with no technical understanding of the job (and sometimes no interviewing training either). This allows for the possibility (probability if we’re being realistic) of illegal questions and improper screening. Candidates who are not selected are rarely contacted again. Candidates who are selected are not always given the time and attention they need during the first month to effectively acclimate to their new environment in order to become as effective as possible.

Frustrating (to say the least), but for most companies, that’s the only way they know.

Often companies and candidates choose the recruiter route. Unfortunately, this often just creates another layer for potential miscommunication, and added expense. Before all the recruiters get mad at me (and I often do serve as recruiter for my clients, so I’m not taking shots at you) it’s very difficult for them to provide service when clients don’t communicate changes in their needs, feedback on candidates, or don’t make decisions.

In all cases, the problems are reduced significantly by instituting formalized hiring processes, holding all parties accountable for professional communication, and ensuring adequate interviewing training is provided.

But I think it goes deeper than that.

The problem with this whole system is that it often starts with when the hiring need is recognized. This means that right out of the gate, everybody’s acting more reactively than proactively. Not many people are able to make good decisions when they’re rushed, fearful, or otherwise under the gun, and hiring is a major decision. A perception of scarcity encourages companies to rush through creating the job description, posting, interviews, etc. Candidates who similarly feel desperate apply for jobs they don’t want or aren’t qualified for just to get ‘something’.

We all know that activity reduces anxiety, regardless of the value of the activity. With both parties in the process doing ‘something’ to alleviate their fear, good decisions don’t happen.

To get out of the rat trap, companies can take the first step by taking time when there aren’t urgent hiring needs to craft their hiring strategy (for more information on this, see Bonus 3 – Designing your Hiring Process, in the Leadership Toolbox on my site).

During this stage, companies should take a thorough look at the current structure with an eye for not only today, but also towards what will be needed in one and five years’ time if anticipated revenue goals are hit. If you’re company is in ‘the zone’ of transitioning from $5 million to $25 million, or from $55 million to $100 million over the next few years, you need to be especially vigilant about creating structures that allow for the communication and handoffs that will be required with the added volume, as well as the need to develop more formalized systems and processes. This likely means that the current positions need to be re-examined.

As a result, companies should emerge with an idea of the responsibilities and skillsets that will be required in the future. This will allow for a proactive building of a pipeline in anticipation of future needs.

At the end of the day, this isn’t ‘science’ or processes. It’s people talking to people. If your employees love working for you, they’ll tell other people. If you love your company, you’ll be excited about it. There’s no shame in meeting people now even if you don’t have a hiring need. If you know who you’re looking for, you can start meeting them. Build a network, make friends, and keep in touch. That way, when it is time to hire someone, you’ll know exactly what it will take to fill the position and hopefully you’ll already know someone. And, if you don’t have the perfect person already in your network, and need to search, at least you’ll be calm and prepared, as will your hiring managers and HR team to competently assess the perfect candidate.

And make sure to let everyone you interview know when you’ve made a choice. That’s just good manners.

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

Recruiting Uncategorized

Challenging the ‘net-casting’ theory of recruiting!

By this stage of my career, I have been on every side of the recruiting perspective (other than that of being a national head hunting firm, which I am not). I’ve been an HR Director in charge of recruiting, I’ve been a resume writer, I’ve been an actual recruiter, I’ve been a hiring manager and I’ve been a job searcher and I think I represent the majority of folks when I say that this process is NOT fun, enjoyable, cost effective or particularly efficient.  For the purposes of this article, I’ll be speaking primarily to hiring managers and I think most will agree that reviewing resumes and interviewing candidate after candidate rates right up there with budget cuts, inventory weekend or possibly documenting performance problems.

Usually, when company owners or managers need to hire someone, they pull out the job description and figure out if it’s reasonably accurate.  A good job description will contain the duties and responsibilities as well as the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to do the job. This is posted pretty much ‘as is’ on a job board, and then the hiring manager sits back and waits while sometimes HUNDREDS of people respond to the ad with equally bland resumes. They sift through who looks promising (and after about 20 resumes, it can be very difficult to stay focused and/or tell one from another), make some calls and begin the ‘weeding out’ process.

Now, my professional opinion is that going through this sucks. However, this does NOT mean that finding amazing people for your amazing business sucks. It’s just that it’s a sucky, broken system that we only keep using because we’ve always used it. We are ‘casting our nets’ wide. Now, I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t have time to weed through thousands of sardines looking for the perfect kipper.

Consider instead approaching this process with professional confidence and pride in your company. No, you may not be BIGNAME CORPORATE GIANT, but not everyone wants to work for them. As I mentioned in another article, maybe you’re not paying off the charts in compensation but the reality is you DON’T want to attract 100 candidates for your job. You want to attract one (maybe two if you’re booming). Maybe, just maybe, you should change your hunting analogy to more of a snare trap than a net (and maybe not use a hunting or otherwise violent analogy for bringing aboard new employees, now that I think about it).

With just a little bit of effort on the front end, you can drastically reduce your recruiting time and probably actually enjoy the process. Instead of a typical, bland, corporate-y job description, approach this as a marketing campaign, only it’s a two way marketing campaign. Most job descriptions focus on the features you are looking for from the candidates and the features you are offering. “You will process payroll, unemployment claims, benefits….blah, blah, yawn, yawn…” “We are a great company….our people are our greatest resource…we have snacks…blah, blah, yawn, yawn…”

Any great marketing coach will tell you it’s the benefits that sell, not the features. Every company (with one big fat glaring exception that I can think of) says their people are their greatest resource. Every. One. Every Payroll Processing job is more or less similar. So what is the unique contribution you really want from your next hire? Will they love creating order and structure where there is none and not go completely bonkers when you re-invent their world every six months? Then SAY THAT!!  There is someone out there who is awesome at that and knows it, and you kind of want to warn off the ones who will run screaming into the night the third time you do that to them!

There are benefits to EVERY feature – especially your company and your target employee. Even features that aren’t conventionally sought-after are benefits to someone. The old ‘lid for every pot’ phenomenon. Employment is much more like a marriage than like a fishing expedition in that we are seeking quality and a symbiotic blending of uniqueness rather than 100 cut cookies falling into 100 perfect cookie shapes.

So…if you’re feeling frustrated with your current process consider the following.

  • Write a compelling, refreshing description of the benefits of the role and of the perfect person.
  • Describe the role and person so specifically that 98% of the wrong people will realize it’s not them, and the right person will recognize themselves immediately.
  • Don’t be afraid to use humor if that reflects your culture.
  • Don’t ask for more than you need in terms of experience or education. Talk instead about where the role is now, and where you want the person to take it, if different.
  • Don’t play the pay guessing game. You have a budget for the role. Unless it puts you at competitive risk, just tell the candidates what your range is. People will assume it’s somewhat negotiable (and it probably is) but if you’re in two different stratospheres it’s probably good to know right off the bat.
  • Let the candidate know the 30, 60 and 90 day deliverables in the role. If you don’t know this, figure it out. How else were you going to know if they were doing a good job? I am recruiting for a very savvy CFO who did most of the above for his positions and the comments from virtually every (very well-suited) candidate was that it was rare and attractive knowing the expectations and working for a company that a) had the expectations and b) communicated them.
  • Ask the candidate for a cover letter addressing how they fit in to all of the above. I personally wouldn’t consider a candidate who ignored this request, but you may feel differently.

Some food for thought that will hopefully make finding your next employee of the year a little easier. Happy hunting…or prospecting, if you will!