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.

Leadership Development Uncategorized

Make sure you know what you’re asking for with Leadership Development programs

iphone-download-030314-146I must confess I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with leadership development. I was trained right out of the chute (the university chute that is) in Organizational Behavior Management by a pioneer in applied behavioral science. We would teach companies from every industry under the sun how to increase employee productivity, engagement, morale, safety – you name it, using very specific techniques. One thing my mentor would not do, however, was talk about leadership. It was too hard to define, he’d explain, and nobody could really agree on what a leader was. Was it a set of traits? Behaviors? Can it be learned or is it innate? He basically elected to just not go there. And it didn’t really matter, to be honest, because we were able to produce the results people were trying to get through ‘leadership’ and ‘motivation’ without going there.

Not going there is not really an option in today’s climate, however. Most companies aren’t comfortable relying exclusively on the principles of behavioral psychology for their leadership philosophies, nor should they be, in my opinion. Having been on the receiving end of the transformational power of servant leadership done right, I’d be remiss in not emphasizing leadership development as a critical component in building a truly great company. Besides that, most of my clients acknowledge a need for ‘leadership training’.

And here’s where I would caution you. Leadership training is kind of like communication and accountability. A lot of people prescribe it as a solution to a felt problem but it may not solve what you hope it will. Typically, when people want leadership training it’s because of a few different symptoms:

  • Turnover is higher than acceptable, and problems with management is cited as a reason people are leaving.
  • High growth is anticipated, and there are not enough people experienced to take on new leadership roles.
  • Production and profitability are slipping, and management is not able to articulate why.
  • Managers themselves have expressed a need or desire for more training.
  • Owners are just not comfortable that leaders are where they should be in terms of inspiring, casting a vision and impacting the culture of the company.

All of these are legitimate issues that should be solved, but before investing in leadership development, make sure you’re very clear on your needs and what you’d like to see changed as a result of the leadership development you’re seeking. For example, many of the pain points that result in asking for leadership training are actually issues that can be more effectively resolved through the implementation of solid management systems and processes. If that’s what you really need help with, it’s important to state it.

When I’m asked to conduct leadership training, I look at it as two different mini-projects . First is setting up the leadership program. This includes identifying the leadership behaviors and expectations, determining the promotional process, identifying training and assessment goals and timelines and other program parameters.

Developing the content of the leadership program is a much more customized process, simply because there are so many models to choose from. The qualities and behaviors of the leaders in your company directly impact and are impacted by your vision. If your company DNA is to put the customer first at any cost, your leadership values are going to be slightly different (or maybe dramatically different) than a company who puts employees first. I know that while I try to flex with my clients’ preferences, personal experience as well as research leads me to be heavily biased to a servant leadership approach with most of the content built around the 12 areas of emotional intelligence that Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis define.

Just wanting your managers to ‘be better leaders’ will not be helpful in defining your leadership brand and culture. Some people know what they want based on the best leader they’ve ever had, and some based on the worst. Of course, the developmental stage of the employees is a factor as well.

The point is that as you grow, a more formalized process for hiring, identifying, promoting and training leaders is going to put you at a competitive advantage based on improved retention, higher productivity, and the ability to grow more quickly. However, you need to do some prep work to make sure you are clear about what you really expect from your leaders. It’s also important to invest some necessary time and money in making sure you are solid on managing the behaviors and processes required for success as well.lavoro di squadra

As always, there’s no magic bullet – unless you count the magic that follows preparation, hard work and follow through!

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