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Business Management Leadership Development

You can’t coast uphill

A few weeks ago I was back in Canada for a few days and had quite a bit of rare free time early in the morning to listen to a workshop I’ve been enjoying. The topic on this episode was about maintaining one’s spiritual condition, and they said something I just loved, which is that you can’t coast uphill, only downhill. The point was that often in life we work really hard in pursuit of a particular goal, and then when we achieve it, there’s a tendency to think we can just rest there, stop all the effort, and continue to enjoy the fruits of all that labor. We call that coasting, but as the speakers remind us, you can only coast downhill. In other words, once you stop working, you stop growing, and once you stop growing, you start dying.

You know sometimes you hear something and it’s like it was made just for you in just your situation? This was one of those times. And I especially love it because it works for me in so many areas of life.

Obviously in terms of spiritual growth, all the benefits I receive from the praying, meditating, and rigorous honesty will slowly (or quickly) disappear if I don’t keep doing the work. I can’t stay serene on yesterday’s actions, only today’s.

I also see a tendency in myself to coast when it comes to my health and fitness. I can adhere to a clean and healthy diet with some excellent workouts and then once I start seeing results, I feel like I can stop and keep the results. I’m not sure why I have to keep repeating this experiment – maybe writing about it will cement it into my head…you only coast downhill – back to where you started.

This is also true for us as leaders. We laugh about the Peter Principle (at least, my age peers do), which is the concept that people rise to the level of their incompetence. I don’t know about that, but I have seen time and time again leaders who assume they’ve arrived and so stop doing the things that made them awesome and promote-able in the first place. Things like self-development activities, learning, asking their team what they need. And once those behaviors stop, there’s definitely some coasting…downhill. That’s when people report feeling burned out, and when their bosses or subordinates notice that they’ve changed, somehow.

I know our brains are wired to conserve energy, so maybe that’s why we’re intrinsically predisposed to coast, but today I’m challenging myself to dig in and keep getting better. Not because I want to be perfect, but because I don’t want to end up where I started.

Who’s with me?

And for all you all or nothing thinkers out there (guilty), this doesn’t mean you have to sign up for another degree or take on something huge. Small steps are still progress; still movement; still keeping you from coasting. So read a book that gets you thinking, maybe listen to a podcast, watch a TED Talk. There are a lot of small things you can do to keep yourself fresh. I, for example, have just started reading Fierce Leadership, by Susan Scott (She wrote Fierce Conversations, which I loved). If you have more capacity or want faster growth, there’s coaching, peer groups, classes…the list has as many possibilities as you do!

I’d love to hear what you’re doing right now to keep growing. Or what you’re committing to do. And as always, if you liked this article, please share the love, and join my newsletter for additional tips and special access to some of the leadership and management tools I’ve developed.

Carrie Maldonado, is an organizational development consultant, author, and speaker. 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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career coaching Leadership Development New Managers

Lead Right for Your Type (personality type, that is)

In 2008, Peter D’Adamo published a book called Eat Right for Your Type. The premise was that people with different blood types metabolize food differently. In addition to learning that bleached carbohydrates are not my friend (geesh, who knew?), a major takeaway/reminder for me was that we humans just don’t fit into a one size fits all. This is as true for leadership as it is for anything else. Forcing an introvert to act like Mel Gibson in Braveheart makes about as much sense as asking me to tell a story in three sentences or less, in a calm tone of voice. We might do it, but we’ll be miserable, with less than stellar results.

A major misconception about leadership is that one has to be an extroverted, powerhouse, Type A achiever to be a good leader. This often has the effect of deterring folks who don’t fit into that mold from pursuing leadership roles. The truth is that there are immense strengths that all personality types can draw on to be effective leaders.

For simplicity, I’ll use the DiSC personality to illustrate the point, although other useful personality indexes include the Enneagram or the MMPI. I like DiSC, because there are only four main categories, and I am an impatient, HIGH D, but you’ll get the idea whichever evaluation you use.

Speaking of D, the first type on the DiSC inventory is D, which stands for Dominance, and is characterized by being direct, strong-willed, and forceful. D’s are achievement-oriented and fast paced. The I (Influencer) type is much more sociable and talkative. They also enjoy fast paced but are warmer and more accepting than the questioning D types. The C (Conscientious) type is extremely detail-oriented and meticulous. They are cautious and reflective by nature as well as analytical and logical. The S (Steadiness) type is also cautious, but warmer and more receptive than the C. Nobody is just one type, of course, there are variations and combinations, and most people are a little dash of this and a dab of that. However most of us do gravitate more to one overarching style in our professional life.

Those of us who are D’s usually feel the leadership call loud and clear. Mostly because we don’t like anyone else telling us what to do, and we think we can do it better ourselves anyway. The biggest challenge for D leaders to overcome in their growth is to develop empathy and adjust our communication style to be better received by pretty much everyone else in the world. If you know that you are a D, you probably also know that those around you appreciate it when you talk a little less, a little more quietly, and listen a bit more.

But what about the other types? Is there room at the leadership table for an I, an S, or even a C? I say absolutely! Every personality style has unique gifts and strengths that make them highly effective as leaders. For example:

If you are a high I, you already know that you connect easily with people and love learning their stories. That likeability factor lends itself very well to leadership, as you are able to form meaningful relationships that can be transformational. You possibly are challenged with the detail side of things (much like your D counterpart), but if you’re aware of this, you can make allowances and be highly successful.

The C and S types are the ones who usually don’t see themselves as leaders, and can be particularly challenging for high D leaders and also some of the most valued team members. When you see C and D, think cats and dogs, and that pretty much sums up the relationship. While D casts a vision, C wants to work out all the details of exactly how the plan will work. C’s are very prone to paralysis by analysis and this can be an obstacle in their leadership. However, if you are a C, do not count yourself out. You bring a wealth of strength to your role and are able to provide true support to your team, because you will make sure you understand their jobs as well as they do. If C’s can remember to explain the Why before the How, and to do their best to stay out of the weeds, they can be excellent leaders who do very well on the back end of change management and implementations. If you are leading a C, especially if you are a D, try to take advantage of their ability to dive deep into the minutiae and their passion for excellence (even if it does feel like they are dream killers).

And finally the S. S’s are definitely not your typical CEO. They do not seek out change, and you will not find them on a soap box leading a charge. But their calm composure, and warm demeanor can be very reassuring in a storm. S’s are great leaders and second to none at gelling a team.

So, as you see, if you have a passion for serving others in a leadership role, you should never count yourself out just because you don’t fit the ‘typical’ profile of a leader. Similarly, if it’s your job to coach or groom up and coming leaders, be aware of your own type, and our propensity as humans to gravitate towards like individuals. If there’s any lesson to be learned, it’s that every type has something to offer.

Ask us about our premier management development programs – all you need when you promote from within, and if you want to learn more about how to optimize your personality style when it comes to leadership, click here for info on our upcoming workshop on this topic. 

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 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 management systems New Managers organizational development Recruiting Training

Why growing businesses NEED a management selection and training process

When you’re the owner or senior leader of a growing business, one of the hallmarks of growth is the need to elevate managers to help oversee your operations. I think we tend to underestimate the difficulty of this step. Managers change the blueprint of your company instantly and irrevocably, and yet so often a selection and training process is overlooked. What should  leadership development program look like and how can you implement this amidst the chaos of rapid growth?

In a perfect world, you will have anticipated your growth and will have these plans in place well before you need them. But we all know that things rarely go according to plan. All too often, it looks more like this: You experience a dramatic increase in business and revenue. At first it’s fantastic, and you’re excited (and relieved) that all your hard work looks like it’s paying off. All the fear and anxiety you’ve had about whether this business is really viable, and/or if you’ve got what it takes, is alleviated and it’s a wonderful feeling.

Before long, though, you start understanding the term ‘growing pains’ in a whole new way. You just aren’t able to keep track of things by yourself. There have always been facets of your job that you know aren’t your strengths (maybe it’s administrative, maybe it’s managing day-to-day tasks, maybe it’s dealing with angry customers) but before you were able to stay on top of things. Now, the sheer volume of things to do means you’re spending a much greater amount of time doing things you don’t like, and aren’t that good at. You start dropping balls, and realize that you can’t keep going this way and maintain the service and quality that led to your growth in the first place.

So you hire or promote managers.

If you’re like most owners, you may assume that your managers are on the same page as you regarding their role, and how to perform it, and what’s really important in your company. This is your first mistake. The second most common mistake is to underestimate the importance of a strong proficiency in management and business basics. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this can make or break your culture and ultimately your business. As a management and leadership consultant, I am frequently called in after the problems have started, and each and every time prevention would have been much easier and more cost effective than problem-solving. This is accomplished by a leadership development program that allows you to select and train your managers to ensure you are putting the best people in the roles, and providing them the support necessary to gain proficiency in the foundational skills.

The foundational areas are: Basic legal compliance, employee relations (leadership), and performance management. Before you can begin training your managers in these areas, you first have to determine who should be in these roles. Some foundational skills are rather easily trained, and some take longer and are more challenging. Here are the skills to look for and/or train in order of difficulty, from MOST to LEAST difficult (approximately).

  • Ability to inspire and lead others by casting a vision of the bigger picture and articulating each person’s contribution to the whole.
  • High emotional intelligence, with the ability to manage perceptions, exhibit self-control, and communicate consistently, respectfully, and optimistically in times of intense pressure. Must be able to represent your company professionally and courteously to employees, stakeholders, and vendors, regardless of the circumstances.
  • Strong communication skills, with the ability to convey complex and abstract ideas clearly and concisely in a written and verbal format, to a variety of audiences.
  • Thorough understanding of your product and service, with the ability to train and coach every aspect of the operational role.
  • Proven ability to identify and utilize performance metrics to help individuals perform to their highest and best level.
  • Ability to address and resolve performance issues while reinforcing each employee’s intrinsic value and value to the team.
  • Understanding of business basics, such as profit and loss statements, revenue drivers, and profitability drivers.
  • An understanding of protected classes, basic employment law (FLSA status, wage and hour laws, ADA, and HIPAA protections).
  • Legal and effective coaching skills and the ability to dress behavioral problems in the workplace.
  • Legal and effective interviewing skills.

A good leadership selection protocol will identify these areas behaviorally and allow you to score applicants as objectively as possible to ensure you are being fair and consistent in selecting your future leaders. You need to take into account the urgent needs of your business while considering the long-term implications of selecting a candidate lacking an important, hard-to-train skill. Regardless of the experience and skillset of your manager-to-be, it’s important to train them in the basics before fully endorsing them as managers. There’s a legal benefit to conducting and documenting training. Not only that, a basic tenant of management is to treat each employee the same. Bypassing training on a ‘highly qualified’ candidate sets the tone right out of the gate that they’re above common protocol.

When conducting your leadership training, I think the best approach is a combination of low-hanging fruit, and impact to operations. Therefore, I recommend a quick and thorough review of legal compliance. First, because it’s easy to create standardized training – whether it’s an orientation webinar, or pre-recorded training of some sort. This is a great preventative measure right out the gate.

The business and performance management piece also lends itself well to group or virtual training. The specifics of your business are unique, but profit and loss concepts are universal, as are the fundamentals of performance management. You can often standardize quite a bit of this training, and have individualized training as a second or third step.

Last is the vision, communication, and emotional intelligence quotient of the job. Hopefully you haven’t hired anyone for a significant leadership position who is lacking emotional intelligence or communication skills, but it’s not uncommon to need to work on these skills when promoting from within. If you’re promoting your top performing individual contributors, there may be a great deal of leadership training and coaching you need to invest in. Ideally, this will be done as part of a succession plan, and not on-the-job. Similarly, the tribal and product knowledge specific to your company will not be present in candidates from outside your company. You’ll need to decide how important this is. It can be a deal-breaker for some companies, and simple enough to overcome in others.

To wrap it up, you’re doing yourself, your managers, your employees, and your company a huge disservice if you neglect to create a management selection and training process. True, you can hire and promote managers without it, but dollars to doughnuts you’ll spend a lot more time putting out fires if you go that route.

If you enjoyed this, please share the love…and sign up for a freebie…Quick tips for legal and effective interviewing…right here! Come hang out with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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, Performance Management experts, 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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Business Management Leadership Development New Managers

Three things your new managers need to know and how to teach them

If you haven’t noticed by now, training new managers is one of the things I’m most passionate about in my consulting business. There is no other group that I work with that is more motivated to learn, more in need of the information, and better positioned to make a positive impact in their organizations. I remember from my days of running HR and Organizational Development departments for growing companies that there are literally thousands of providers offering so-called management training. Some are cheap and some are wildly expensive and it can get overwhelming. It doesn’t help that the people who need the training are usually not the best ones to determine what kind of training they need.

Case in point: It’s been my experience that most new (or even seasoned) managers will tell you that they need training in time management, communication, and management skills. If you’re the one in charge of arranging for this training, you can spend thousands before you realize that this hasn’t actually helped. For example:

  • Time management courses almost all present cookie cutter information that you can get yourself online, and won’t help the real problem, which is usually multiple and conflicting priorities and managers who don’t have the tools or resources to manage them.
  • Communication problems are not usually communication at all. It’s usually a lack of systems and processes, and a culture that has permitted lack of follow through and broken commitments. This is not fixed by role playing difficult conversations.
  • Management training means so many different things. My main issue with canned management training is that to be a good manager you have to be able to manage performance, and newer managers need very practical, relevant information about how to do this, which I just haven’t seen done well in affordable classes all that often.

I think there’s a pretty safe rule of thumb you can follow when arranging for or creating management training for newer managers. First is make sure they don’t get you or themselves sued, second is make sure they don’t drive away your great employees, and third is make sure they know how to manage your resources to maximize profitability.

1. Don’t get sued: Even if you have a good HR department, it’s advisable to educate managers on at least the basics of employment law so they know enough not to get you in hot water. You’d be surprised at what you might take for granted that they don’t know, and I always say that common sense and employment law rarely intersect. An overview of protected classes, overtime law, and the ins and outs of privacy and leave laws will inform your managers of areas where they will need to ask for help. This can easily be done via webinar or in person if you have the resources. I’ve found you can cover the basics in about three webinars.

2. Don’t drive away good employees: This can happen when managers are promoted, or are brought in to a new team. Most problems result from newer managers reacting to the real or perceived pressure of their new roles by setting unrealistic goals for their team, blowing up, or acting unnecessarily abrasively. This can be easily corrected by helping them understand the roles and responsibilities of a leader and by role-playing various tough situations they are bound to face. I like peer group settings for this type of training, because the more we can use real life situations, the more applicable.

3. Maximize your resources and profitability: I so often hear business owners complain that their managers don’t care, and this is hardly ever true. If we want our managers to steward our resources effectively, we have to teach them how. Don’t just tell them to manager their overtime without telling them how. Or even more importantly -why. Explain profit and loss statements, show them how their departments contribute to the purpose and profitability of the company. Give accurate and timely feedback. This can be accomplished best by theory, and by practical application. We can explain the basics of a P&L using the same terminology across multiple industries, but you would use different metrics to manage a sales team and a manufacturing one.

Of course there are many other areas that managers benefit from training. I’ve found these three to be the top priority. If you neglect training in these foundations, it will be difficult to reach your goals, minimize potential problems, and create the kind of morale you want in your company.

If you’re a leader who wants to learn more about developing your team, click here!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, come hang out with me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, and please share the love.

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Business Management coaching New Managers Training

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.

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Business Management Leadership Development Training Uncategorized

What kind of leadership training does a small or growing business really need?

If you’re a small or mid-sized growing business, what do you think of when you hear the term leadership training? If you’re like many people, it’s akin to getting your car serviced. You don’t want the problems that not having it will cause, but you don’t have any symptoms now and you really don’t have the time, resources, or patience to deal with it right now. There’s time later for all that, right? To add to the confusion is the fact that so many leadership programs that are offered are frankly overkill for smaller business, and can be very expensive and/or offering large company, cookie-cutter solutions that are awkward or less than relevant to smaller players. The temptation can be to put this aside until you’re bigger.

Resist! The fact is that there is no better time than now to start working on your leadership program. It may seem hard to believe, but as you grow it’s only going to get more difficult to be proactive than it is now. Time and again I’ve seen business make less than productive hiring and promotion decision out of necessity, not planning, and quickly regret it. The trick to being strategic about your leadership training is NOT to start with the training.

What? Yes, you heard me right. Before you begin training your leaders or managers, you need to decide what your end goal is. This is where your vision of the kind of company you want to be is so important. This will be foundational to the kind of training you provide, the types of people you select to be leaders, and the expectations you have of them. The truth is that no matter what the brochures tell you, there is no one size fits all. For you to truly get your money’s worth out of your leadership training you need to be very clear on the environment you’re cultivating.

Think culture’s not important? Think again! The leader who excels at Amazon is going to be very different from the one at Google. They’ll espouse different values, use different tools, and have vastly different management strategies. Selection strategy is very different, as is training. Your company is no different. It’s so easy to buy an off the shelf communication, conflict resolution or management skills training program, but is that really what you need?

If you’re like most growing companies who have not formalized your management or leadership structure yet, your needs are a mix of tactical and strategic. It’s likely that many of your managers need help with things on a range of topics that include interviewing, performance coaching, understanding P&Ls, communication, casting a vision, and creating employee development plans. It’s usually difficult to find an inclusive program that has all of these, and the off the shelf are typically a little too generic to really work for smaller businesses.

Fortunately, this is one of those areas I’ve written about previously, where an outsourced solution might be a perfect fit. In addition to my own business, I’ve networked with some exceptional leadership experts, executive coaches, cultural alignment specialists and others who offer customizable, flexible, and best of all cost effective programs for smaller businesses. It can be confusing or overwhelming but it definitely doesn’t have to be! With so many options, it’s simply a matter of finding someone with whom you resonate, and feel you can trust. After that, the magic happens!

If you’re interested in diving deeper into where your business might most benefit from some consultative strategic and tactical solutions, take our free business success factors assessment.

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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Business Management New Managers Uncategorized

New Managers: 6 things you can do to be more effective

If you’re new to management in your company, or new to management in general, it can feel stressful and overwhelming. Whether you’ve been promoted to manage former peers, or are hired from outside the company, you’ve got the challenge of establishing relationships with people who may or may not welcome you in your new role. You most likely also have goals and targets you need to hit on your own as well as team targets, and on top of that, there is so much conflicting advice on what it means to be a leader! Where should you even start? Fortunately, there are some tangible and practical starting points for those new to the management role. These won’t solve every problem, but if you take steps to accomplish these things, you will find yourself rising instead of sinking, and you may even enjoy the ride!

1) Find out the company goals, and how your department supports them.

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, your company exists to provide a product or service to its customer, and to do so profitably. In addition, there is also a bigger vision for your company about where it will be in the future and the impact it will have on the  marketplace and/or community. One of the most important first steps you can take as a new manager is to become intimately familiar with the goals and vision of your organization, and with the role your department plays in achieving the goal or vision.

Now, don’t expect your boss to just have this information readily available; you may have to do some digging. If no one has sat down to map it all out for you, a good place to start is the Accounting or Finance department. From there you can have a conversation with your boss about how your team supports that goal, and hopefully even about future plans. Don’t approach this like an assignment you need answers to immediately, more like a series of conversations to better help you understand your mission.

2) Figure out how to measure productivity within your department

It’s been established over and over that to get good results, you need to measure performance. That doesn’t make it easy though – if it were easy, everyone would already be doing it. After you are comfortable knowing what your company goals are, and how your department supports those goals, you should spend some time brainstorming on the best ways to measure how you’re doing as a team and as individuals at supporting the goals. Sometimes it’s a matter of measuring work done per unit of time, other times it’s reducing downtime or waste…rest assured, if you’re paying people to do something, there is some way of measuring what they’re doing. This doesn’t need to be harsh, demeaning, or dehumanizing – quite the opposite. Assuming you want the people working for you to be as successful as possible, you will need to know when they need help, and when they need their praises sung to your boss, and your gut is just not a reliable indicator (no matter how good it is).

3) Make sure you know how internal processes work

Many new managers are surprised to find out just how difficult it can be to do seemingly simple functions. Whatever it is you want to do, there is probably a form, process, or person who needs to be involved. Frustrating? Yes. Avoidable? Probably not. Your time and energy would be well spent acclimating yourself to what’s expected of you. Chances are, your HR person will love you forever if you make an appointment (versus walking in unexpected and asking if he/she has ‘gotta minute’) to review the processes for hiring, terminating, purchasing, raises, and anything else you might need to know. Besides HR, you should make appointments with the heads of Accounting/Finance, Purchasing, and any other relevant support structures.

4) Talk to your people and get to know them

You don’t need to be creepy or weird about it, but everyone’s life will be more enjoyable if you make the effort to get to know your people and find out their goals, aspirations, and preferences. This will make it easier to determine training needs, task allocation, and best ways to deliver feedback. As with the other steps, you don’t need to accomplish this in a day with a list of personal questions you barrage your staff with. At the same time, you don’t need to try to be everyone’s best friend because you shouldn’t be and you won’t be.

5) Use everything you know from the above to make your people as successful as possible

As a manager, there are two groups of people you should always be trying to make look good: Your boss and your staff. If both those groups look like rock stars, you will inevitably be seen a rock star by association. Failing to elevate both groups will result in your seeming ineffectual, overly political, or both. You will enjoy management exponentially more when you make the shift from it being about you (how do the higher ups think I’m doing) to your employees (how can I make my employees more successful / eligible for promotion). Get it into your head that there’s more than enough success and accolades to go around and you’ll get much farther.

6) Talk to your supervisor

Your boss is busy, and if they’re like most bosses, they’ll initially be a little wary of your requests to talk. They’ll figure you want more money for yourself or your team, or are bringing problems to their already full plate of problems. And the reality is that you will be having these conversations with your boss, but you don’t need every conversation to be about what you want them to do for you. Try to make a habit of checking in weekly or every other week (as before, make an appointment, and don’t let it be more than fifteen minutes) just to let your boss know what your team is working on. This way, they’ll be informed without having to chase you down. You will be making their lives easier, and they’ll love that, and you by association.

So there you have it! Six tips that will greatly increase not only your success as a new manager, but also the chance that you will enjoy your job, and that your job will enjoy you. So again, congratulations, and good luck!

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Business Management Leadership Development New Managers Uncategorized

Management is dead! Long live leadership! Really?

Not so long ago, I nearly became embroiled in a bitter controversy on social media, and it was all about leadership. The gist of the conversation I joined was typical of what one sees currently, which was that we ought to ‘just say no’ to management, and YES to leadership, because you shouldn’t manage people, only lead them.

Now trust me…I get the sentiment. The main reason why I became a certified coach and leadership consultant is because I am convinced that strong servant leadership transforms lives and organizations. AND I know that there’s ONE thing I can say about leadership that is completely, 100% true and that’s that it means something different to everyone!

Just Google ‘leadership’ if you don’t believe me and you’ll see that although most of us think it’s very good and we want it, we don’t know how to define it, get it, build it, and keep it. We know it when we don’t have it, that’s for sure! But ask any set of ‘experts’ whether leadership is set of behaviors, qualities, or traits; you’ll get quite a range of responses. In other words, is being a leader something you are, or something you do? (Depends). Then ask if they are innate or learned, and the extent to which you can increase one’s quotient of leadership? (Depends).  Finally, ask if there are different types of leadership and when you should use each one. (Totally depends). See? It’s not exactly cut and dried.

Management, on the other hand, is getting a proverbial punch in the nose right about now. Everyone hates it! Well, that’s not quite fair. We think that ‘processes’ should be managed, and ‘work’ should be managed, but the word straight from the mouth of some of the greatest thought leaders of today is that people should NOT be managed…only led.

Hire smart people and they will manage themselves, we’re told. Policies and rules are demeaning and kill culture. Don’t get me wrong; I started my own business in part because I don’t like being ‘managed’, and I focused on organizational development rather than HR because I completely agree that some rules and policies are created to police the few percent who need policing and are a slap in the face to honest workers of integrity. I’ve had my life changed by a leader who looked past ALL my dysfunction and found the gold beneath a very rocky exterior and it changed the trajectory of my life. I’ve worked for a manager who cared for nothing more than the bottom line, and who treated me like a ‘resource’ – sometimes valued, sometimes not, but certainly not cared for in the sense that you’d care for an actual human being – and I didn’t enjoy that experience much.

But what I find curious is that as much as we denigrate management, or treat it as a second-class citizen to leadership, we still have organizational structures with supervisors and managers. We still appoint key points of contact to hire, train, schedule work, and to ensure people are paid, and presumably to ensure the work is being completed for less cost that the product is being sold for. At least, we should be doing that if we hope to stay in business.

Some of the ire directed towards management seem to indicate that people see management as a fear-based ‘stick-using’ discipline, while leadership is the carrot – where people are ‘motivated’ and ‘inspired’ into action. In my opinion, statements like this are not only needlessly divisive and confusing, they also imply laziness on both sides of the coin

If you are a leader, and you don’t understand the systems and processes of your business, even at the highest levels, you will eventually frustrate and stress out your highest performers. Why? Because it’s their job to get results, and if you don’t share that mission with them and provide tangible assistance to them in getting there, all your inspiring and motivating will eventually feel empty. If you are a manager who does understand the systems and processes and knows how to conduct your business as profitably as possible but don’t care about the people who work for and with you, even you will eventually realize that the hostility, lack of innovation, and turnover of your best and brightest is directly attributable to, guess who – YOU.

The people who are suffering the most in all this are the new and emerging managers, of course. These poor souls are terrified of alienating the people whose work they’re responsible for by ‘managing them’ and are usually completely unclear on what it even means to be a manager and how to do it.  I’ve seen first time managers fail miserably because they took the concept of ‘not doing people’s thinking for them’ to the extent of completely disengaging from the actual work produced and focusing only on their subordinates’ emotions and personal well-being. And even though their followers thought these managers were very nice people, they quickly categorized them as irrelevant to actually helping them doing their jobs better. And they were.

I know I’m somewhat of a lone voice in the wilderness on this issue, but I’ve been around long enough to see time and time again that the leaders who change companies, change lives, and even change the world, do NOT think management is beneath them. They know that words without positive actions are just words at the end of the day, and that once you have the hearts and the minds of the people if you don’t help them do what it is they should be doing, to the best of their ability, you will be of no use to them in hard times. And isn’t that when we really need a leader?

I hope you found this article useful and are interested in learning more about training first managers, please visit us at www.todaysleadershipsolutions.com and for a free new-supervisor assessment, please click here!

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