What are you measuring (and why)?

Are you sick of hearing ‘you get what you measure’ yet? It’s one of those crusty old sayings that we (and by ‘we’, I mean ‘I’) really want not to be true, because it would be so awesome if businesses would just thrive without going to all the hassle of recording, collecting, and reviewing all that data. As a business owner or senior leader, there’s also sometimes a fear that you’ll seem too ‘Big Brother’-ish or focused on profit and not people by measuring performance. We (many of us) want to be the kind of leaders that inspire others to greatness, innovation, and dedication, without having to resort to what can feel like petty meanness such as charts, dashboards, and the like. Right?

As I’ve mentioned, my professional background started with extensive training and application of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM), which is all about defining and measuring the behaviors that lead to success. If you’re looking for inspirational leadership, transformation, motivation, you will not find it in this applied science. The problem is that it works. Frankly, after about five years (two years longer than my mentor predicted anyone could manage OBM projects without experiencing burnout), I wanted to believe success was possible without all the work of measuring.

The good news (for me at least) is that there IS a place for leadership that can’t be measured. It’s not always easy to teach, but when you can help leaders adopt the mindset that they’re mining for gold, and that there’s gold to be found in everyone, it’s life-changing. When I can help people get – really get – that there’s so much more to true leadership than profits, I feel like I’m doing what I was put here to do. It doesn’t mean that every business needs to become a non-profit. You can love the people you are serving as a leader, and still sometimes need to coach them on their performance and even let them go. This can be a life-affirming or life-destroying process, literally, and when leaders understand this and apply their influence with compassion and kindness the world is a better place.

And we STILL have to measure things! For your business to be able to provide a means of financial provision for yourself and your employees, you need to be profitable. For you to be profitable, you need to know what’s working and what’s not. Even more basically, you need to know how much revenue will be incoming in the short and long term versus your expenses. Most owners know this intuitively when the business is small enough that they’re in it exclusively, but this can get out of hand very quickly
There are a lot of excellent resources to assist you in defining your organizational metrics and dashboards and the best way to depict your measurements. What and how you measure varies greatly in complexity. In OBM, we differentiate between organizational outcome, team or individual accomplishment, and individual behavior. The rule of thumb is you want to measure at as high a level as is sensitive to your tracking and feedback interventions. Unfortunately, top line revenue metrics do very little to change individual performance (but you’ll be hard pressed to find a good argument for not tracking top line revenue).

My simplified approach is to look at the four main areas of your business: getting the work (Sales), doing the work (Ops), getting paid and paying vendors (Accounting and Finance), and legally finding, paying, and providing benefits to staff (and all accompanying employee relations) – (HR). Each of these four areas can be measured on a high level, intermediate, and behavioral level, and what to measure and how will depend on your business and the performance of each. In companies where the operations team is not fulfilling on sales’ promises, you’d measure different things than in areas where there’s not enough orders in the pipeline to pay all the bills.

Most businesses do a pretty good job of measuring where they were, and less good at seeing where they are, which can be fatal. Determining what and how to measure takes skill, time, expertise, and the input of several key leaders in your business. I can’t do it justice in one or two articles, and in fact have created several training webinars and seminars around targeting and tracking alone. However, there are some things you can start doing today that will get you further ahead than you are now. If you’re interested, check out the Leadership Tools section on my site and download the Tracking Cheat Sheet or any of the Targeting Tools for free.

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


Help! I’m plateauing or even on the wrong Mountain! What do I do?

Last week I wrote about defining your Mountain, in terms of establishing larger than life, long-term goals as a way keep focused on your overarching purpose and mission in life, as well as utilizing short-term mini-goals to ensure forward progress. Having a well-defined sense of purpose keeps you passionate about your efforts and can be the glue that keeps a high performing team enthusiastic, engaged and excited. But what if, as a leader, you feel like you’re on a plateau or have even lost sight of the Mountain? This happens to the best of leaders, frequently. We all have a myriad of options and career opportunities and sometimes can get so excited by a new venture that it can take considerable time to realize that it’s not leading up the Mountain we want to climb.

In my opinion as a coach, plateaus can happen for a few reasons. The first is simply attaining a goal. The problem with most goals is that if we haven’t thought about what will happen after we attain them, we immediately go out of action after we’ve hit that goal. For example, when I write novels, I used to make my goal writing a novel in X days, and I always accomplished that goal. And the book sat there. If the Mountain was writing a novel, I was a success, but if the Mountain was becoming a successful published author, then simply finishing the first draft is just one mini-step along the path. It took me five novels and some woe-is-me angst to actually get that and get off the plateau of non-published to published author with an actual contract and release date.

Another reason plateaus can happen is plain and simple burnout. No matter how well you pace yourself, if you are run long enough without a break, YOU will break. Our culture is particularly terrible about lauding overwork and work-life unbalance and buying into it will result in feeling like you’re plateauing but in reality you just need some refreshing time.

Boredom is another culprit behind the plateau. If you do the same thing time and again, you will attenuate – and this holds true in every area of life from exercising to leading. I used to have team meetings every Monday and it was a great way to exchange ideas and keep the team enthused….until it got a bit too routine and the meetings were more of an obligation than a motivation with nobody getting anything out of it. Taking a week break to change up the format and do things a bit differently added the spice back.

The fourth component of plateauing is inertia. If you are not being intentional about taking every opportunity to learn and grow you will hit a plateau. Although we all fantasize about having a leader and company that invests in our growth, and that is a wonderful thing when it occurs, our growth is an inside job that we are all responsible for. If you create any forward motion here, you will pick up speed, but beware of inertia because it’s a lot more difficult to get moving after you stop. If this is you, get started again with just 10 minutes a day invested into reading or talking about something you are passionate about.

But what if you’re not on a plateau, but on the wrong Mountain altogether? How do you know you’ve climbed the wrong Mountain? It’s different for everyone, but a sense of unease, of being trapped, of frustration and even depression is a good clue.  This is not to be confused with ordinary fatigue, the goal taking longer than expected, or hitting unanticipated obstacles. If you’ve ever taken a detour from your true calling, you know that this is a very different thing.

It can happen to the best of leaders and seems to be most common in people who have multiple strengths. John Ortberg explains it best as a Shadow Mission. The basic concept is that we all have competencies and callings and sometimes they are not the same. Some of us get distracted by our competencies, or are motivated by fear of failure or economic insecurity to pursue our competencies in lieu of our callings because it feels safer. In Mountain language, you pack your bags and start climbing the wrong Mountain. Because you’re a good mountaineer, you’re likely to get very far.  If you find yourself climbing the wrong Mountain you only have three options. Keep going and forget about your original Mountain, stop moving (and die) or backtrack and get back to your original Mountain.

The times I have found myself on the wrong Mountain, my first response is usually to keep going. To do otherwise feels like quitting, which is unacceptable and counter to my self-concept of being able to overcome anything. This has rarely (okay, never) worked out in my favor and usually ends up with me subconsciously or consciously sabotaging myself in order to get off the mountain.  The next response is then paralyzed indecision. This is where I question every decision, make excuses for not going back and starting over and trying to convince myself that the view at the top of the Mountain I’m on is likely to be just fine. Staying in the same place will only accomplish getting eaten by a predator, so it’s also not a good idea.

That leaves backtracking and/or starting over. To figure out if this is what I really have to do, I have to get quiet and try to imagine myself twenty years from now – what will I want to be doing, what will I want to have done, and is my current situation getting me closer or farther away? Another good barometer is a values check – does my current situation allow me to be in alignment with my values and beliefs? The answer is usually apparent, if seemingly inconvenient.

It can be scary to find yourself on the wrong Mountain, but rest assured ignoring it won’t do a thing to make it better and rationalizing only goes so far. As someone once told me, if you navigate by the firmaments, when you get off track you will be able to detect it and course correct.  And in the end, it’s worth it, because energetically climbing the right Mountain for you is the most fulfilling thing you can do personally and professionally.

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


Do you have your Mountain yet?

If you’re a success in your business, whatever it is, you are no stranger to setting and achieving goals, sometimes seemingly impossible ones.  Almost every significant thing I have ever accomplished was done through methodical planning, setting of milestones, and slow, steady persistence. As much as I am an impatient, ‘get er done and done NOW’ type of person, this has not been the key to success as much as the often boring, far less glamorous trudging. If it weren’t for a combination of having a Mountain AND the markers I’d set along the way (i.e. mini-goals), I might have lost sight of the prize and wandered off into more exciting terrain (not that I haven’t done THAT a time or two either).

In my opinion, there needs to be two kinds of goals to really inspire, motivate, and achieve long-lasting improvement, and it starts with a Mountain. Notice I did not say Mountains, plural. Your Mountain is the overarching goal (the ‘why’ to borrow language from Simon Sinek) behind all your other endeavors. Your Mountain is your big dream, and, if you share it with your team the ‘bigger than yourself’ experience that draws people together to accomplish a mission that can feel life-changing. It is probably not going to be a revenue and profitability goal, although those are likely going to feed into the dream. Your Mountain is bigger than that.

My Mountain, for example, is to eventually start a foundation whose purpose is to seed and grow self-sustaining, entrepreneurial businesses to help people grow incomes outside of typical job structures. This grew slowly out of my firsthand realization of the limited career opportunities available to me after having children. I didn’t want to spend all day, every day, away from my children, nor did I want to completely take myself out of the workforce. This turned into a passion to help others in my position find fulfilling, lucrative, and most of all flexible opportunities – something that is just not available currently.

Of course, there are a lot of things that need to come into place before I can get anywhere near achieving this dream, not the least of which are proving out the model, generating capital, and building out a program that makes sense. Each of these is a daunting endeavor in and of itself. I can easily get bogged down in the day to day of the entrepreneurial life of marketing, networking, and of course actually performing the services my clients are paying me for, and start thinking that any of those ARE the Mountain.

Losing sight of the Mountain is what leads to stress, burnout, and taking on distractions that may seem enticing but don’t really lead anywhere. The Mountain is the gel that holds teams together and the thing that keeps you excited about slogging through. But the Mountain is not enough. Just like great leadership is ineffective if no one is managing the processes, a Mountain in and of itself is just a pretty view without a trail, a backpack, a map, and supplies. These are your goals.

My Mountain won’t be achieved in a year, but you can bet I have a solid 5-year plan that gets me closer and closer and none of that will happen if I don’t set and track the steps I need to take me there. The reason both together are so important is a funny little thing about goals and human nature. We always (without exception) tend to cease our effort when we hit a goal. It’s why so many of us fail to make long-term improvement. Don’t believe me? Look at the average person’s weight, bank account, and even career. Most people make progress towards a goal, hit the goal, and then stop effort until they congeal around a ‘set point’, determined by a belief about what’s possible.

Keeping a Mountain in mind is imperative to not only changing your belief, but in generating forward momentum PAST your goals – ‘Onward and Upward’ (to quote C.S. Lewis).

So before setting your resolutions and goals for 2017, take a moment to consider your Mountain. Dream big. Forget SMART for a moment and forget realistic too. Your Mountain should be bigger than you and require more than you know at the moment to attain it. And that’s where the fun really starts!


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


Your 2016 Leadership Inventory – the foundation for future success!

As 2016 (the year that shall live in infamy) draws to a close, most people will spend some time reflecting and planning for the year to come. As much as resolutions are out of vogue, I am a passionate advocate for goal-setting, and think the start of a new year is a great time to set goals to achieve your dreams. There are two necessary components to any journey. One is knowing where you need to go (your goal) but an equally critical component is knowing exactly where you are. Suppose you’re going to New York and this year you really intended on reaching Hawaii and planned on jetting to New York from Hawaii. If in actual fact you are in Iceland  but you base your plans assuming you are Hawaii, guess what? You are NOT getting to New York and probably not anywhere else, either.

And so it is with your leadership journey. We say two things about the truth (or at least I do). One is that it hurts and the other is that it sets you free and what I’ve found over the years is the more you believe in the latter, the less it actually does hurt.  So how can you assess how you did as a leader in 2016 in preparation for making 2017 your best year ever?

I suggest a Leader Inventory. Like any good inventory, this will have credits and debits. Here is a format I find illuminating.

1)     Review any goals you made in the previous year related to your leadership. How did you do? The point is not to beat yourself up, but to assess how you performed to goals, and maybe how good your goals were. If you didn’t have any specific goals, skip this step (but don’t let it happen again!).

2)    Credits: Start with the positives, because it’s all too easy to beat ourselves up. Answer the following questions in your Credit column:

a.     Who did you invest in this year?

b.     Who did you positively impact?

c.      What initiatives did you lead or participate in that had a positive impact?

d.     What 1-3 things are you MOST proud of this year?

3)    Debits: Likely these are already keeping you up at night, but including them in your inventory takes the power out of them and helps you move forward:

a.     Were there any times you acted in self-interest over the interest of your people?

b.     Were there any times you were dishonest?

c.      Were there any times where you withheld praise or recognition inappropriately?

d.     Is there anyone in the past year towards whom you hold a particular resentment?


After documenting these answers, do some reflection into the circumstances surrounding your missteps to detect a pattern. Likely, you will see some default coping mechanisms in response to stress, fear, or exhaustion. After completing your inventory, the next steps will have you well-positioned for the year to come!


1)     Restitution: If there are any situations where you owe an apology to someone, don’t delay. The obvious exception is if by doing so you will hurt them even further.

2)    Forgiveness: The fastest way to recover from a bad case of resentment is forgiveness. This is not always to facilitate reconciliation. There are some people who don’t need to be in your life, but forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, to protect against the toxic effects of stress and anger.

3)    Gratitude: As always, gratitude is your surefire way to walk in peace. Be grateful for the lessons you’ve learned about yourself, and about leading and be grateful for the opportunity and ability to continue to improve.

As the year draws to a close, be patient with yourself and gentle in your corrections. It’s been a rough year for everyone, but 2017 can be the year your leadership shines at a whole new level!

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


The five major drivers of business pain

If you are a business owner or senior leader, you are no stranger to problems. They are everywhere and typically revolve around two groups of people: the people who work for you, and the people for whom you work (i.e. your customers). 

If you’re like most of the people I deal with on a regular basis, you may find yourself at times wondering if it’s even worth it. I had one client who actually downsized his project list just so he could complete all the work himself and eliminate any need for employees. He’s much happier now doing the tangible work he loves and not having to deal with the myriad of issues that comes with management.

On the other side of the spectrum are those who truly feel inspired to lead others and know in their heart of hearts that they were born to do so but find themselves at a loss with how to deal with inspired employees who are just not hitting the company revenue or profitability goals.

Usually when someone calls me, as a consultant, they are experiencing a pain point that they attribute to a certain problem. Some examples of pain points:

  •  It’s impossible to find good people
  • Turnover’s through the roof
  • You’re getting audited and have no idea if you’re compliant or not
  • You can’t afford to pay your employees more and are afraid you’re going to lose them
  • Productivity is too low, or error rates are too high
  • Employees are constantly complaining about management
  • You’re too slow to market with new products

In other words, the pain point is the issue that becomes intolerable enough that a business owner is willing to talk to yet another consultant in hopes that maybe there’s a solution.

The good news is that there is a solution, but believe it or not, the pain point is almost always a symptom of the problem, and not the problem itself. I have found that the problem usually lies in 1 or more of 5 basic areas:

1)     There is lack of clarity from the top down about the company revenue and profitability goals, the strategy to hit these goals, and objective information about how the company is performing to goal.

2)    The employees may genuinely not have the knowledge, skills, or tools to perform the tasks they need to perform.

3)    Managers are not providing information to employees about expectations, and are not providing feedback about performance to expectation and/or appreciation for excellent performance.

4)    An over-reliance on management rather than leadership has resulted in a compliant but not committed employee base, whose performance lags when not monitored, and whose desire to remain undetected by management results in a consistent lack of creativity and innovation.

5)    Basic legal requirements are not understood and spelled out in an understandable way, with clear company policies and processes built out to make it easy to follow.

Some companies only have one of these problems, some have them all. In times of starting up or growth, it’s far more common to experience one or more of these. If you’re lucky, or in a strong market, or have uncommonly dedicated employees, it’s possible to get through these problems without massive disruption or financial hits. On the other hand, why go through misery if you don’t have to?

When your business is in the $5 to $25 million a year range, finding help can see overwhelming because many of the packaged, off-the-shelf solutions seem like overkill and at the same time don’t really address the problem at hand. When you’re small to medium-sized and growing it really pays to work with someone who’s had success with businesses your size and is willing and able to customize a solution that works for you, is flexible and most importantly scalable so that you don’t have to redo everything once you hit a major milestone. Yes, there is a gap in the market for turnkey solutions for companies this size, but that’s precisely the basis on which Today’s Leadership Solutions was formed!

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


There is no neutral workplace culture

Talk about workplace culture is always a topic in Organizational Development circles, which is no surprise, given its importance. I hear about it from every angle; whether it’s news stories about giant corporations, talking with former colleagues and working with my clients.  Full disclosure: I’m not a big fan of the term ‘workplace culture’ because I think it’s a little vague (by which I mean that I don’t necessarily think we all meant the same thing when we say it) but I am absolutely convinced that the work environment is set up to either encourage or discourage certain behaviors and that there is no neutral!  This is important because of the three groups most impacted by workplace culture: Leadership, Employees, and Customers; in other words, everybody. So what is this elusive ‘culture’, who cares, and how do you get a good one?


Early in my Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) consulting days, we referred to Setting Conditions when describing what most people call culture. Because the laws of behavior are pretty much immutable, it’s always the case that behaviors that are rewarded are repeated, behaviors that are punished are extinguished and behaviors that receive no consequence are gradually extinguished. (There is a huge, secondary body of knowledge concerning rewards and the best way to reinforce different behaviors, but that’s for another day.) Part of the OBM process includes a detailed analysis of which behaviors are currently being positively reinforced, which are being punished and which are being ignored.  The true value in the OBM analysis lies in discovering not only what behaviors are being intentionally rewarded and punished, but also in what are being unintentionally rewarded or punished. 

Suffice it to say, it’s pretty easy to do a setting condition analysis on an organization. You simply observe the company for a certain time period and document what you see. Creative solutions? Clock-watching? Gossip? Sabotage? Longevity? Extra-role responsibility? Whatever you are seeing, you can be reasonably confident that those are the behaviors that are currently being rewarded (or not being punished).  I got to be pretty good at assessing and documenting the setting conditions based on observation an interviewing. The question then becomes ‘who cares’?

The impact of culture is so vast, a better question might be ‘who doesn’t care’?

·      For leadership, your culture impacts your efficiency, profitability, employee engagement, retention, innovation, and competitive edge.

·      For employees, culture impacts the extent to which you are able to contribute your gifts and talents, therefore your sense of fulfillment, your ability to perform at your highest level, and correspondingly your level of perceived stress and enjoyment, and ultimately your health and financial well-being.

·      For customers, culture determines the extent to which you are able to purchase a desired good or service within a desired time frame, at a desired cost and quality in a socially/personally acceptable manner.

I often get called by senior management to help with the culture of a company when there is a pain point. Because most company owners do have a vision for the positive things they want, there is usually a disconnect between what they want and what they are rewarding and here’s where it gets fun! As I said before, there is no neutral. Because of the laws of behavior, if you are not intentionally fostering the desired behaviors within your organization you are either quickly or slowly extinguishing them. This is great news because it means there is a solution! It’s a very simple (albeit not easy) process of

1)     Defining the behaviors you want to be prevalent in your organizations

2)    Redoing Step A until you are crystal clear on what people are saying and doing in your vision for your company

3)    Identifying what you are currently doing to reward these actions

4)    Defining how you these actions are currently being intentionally or unintentionally suppressed.

5)    Redistributing the balance of consequences to support the culture you want.

This is a fundamental process that can produce results that seem almost unbelievable. It does take a leap of faith and a brave degree of vulnerability for owners to really pull back the covers and be honest about the current balance of consequences and I have found that when the willingness is not there, the culture is usually perceived as unattractive, with the expected results. On the other hand, embarking on the exploration can transform not only organizations, but also the people in the organization. 


The 6 MUSTS of employee engagement

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one of the most common frustrations I hear from leaders and company owners is that people don’t care about their company as much as they do. Sometimes these folks engage me to help make their people care more. Once we establish that short of providing stock options (and even that’s debatable) employees will never care ‘as much’ as the owner, there are things that tend to elicit far more employee engagement and good stewardship and usually when company owners are frustrated, they tend to do less of these things so it can be a vicious cycle. There are a lot of ways to increase employee engagement. The magic bullets used to be ‘empowerment’, ‘accountability’ and ‘communication’…well, they still are, only they’re not magic and you actually need to do things differently to produce the effects call ‘empowerment’…etc. and not just tell people they are empowered.

Here are some behaviors I have found have been highly successful to draw a team together, enhance unity and elicit good stewardship of company resources.

Trust: If your people truly trust you and each other, you will be amazed at the collaboration, innovation and honesty you will see. We all know that it takes much more effort to lose trust than to earn it and that simply telling people to trust is not effective. Trust takes time and is built on a foundation of shared experience, honored commitments and integrity. The more vulnerable people are with one another, the more trust will develop. Although this is not something that can be forced, it can be modeled and it starts from the top down.

Respect: When you don’t respect people, they can tell, and it does not bring out the best in them While trust needs to be earned, respect is best given freely. If you treat people like brain-addled children or larcenous miscreants, there is no way you will get a committed work force. Yes, we need accountability measures and security, but you probably shouldn’t have people in your employ who you don’t trust. If you don’t trust anyone on general principle, management and leadership might not be the best and most fulfilling role for you.

Communication: Many leaders think of communication as telling people just what they know to perform their task. This is a necessary component of employee engagement but far from sufficient. People by nature need to feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. You build this by sharing your vision of where your company is going. You also do this by sharing the bad news as well as the good. I don’t mean causing panic and disruption by scaring people within impending doom, but assuming you have hired responsible adults they will appreciate the opportunity to be part of the solution. But more than telling people things, communication is also listening and hearing. Ask your people if there are things they need from you. Ask if there are better ways of doing the job. And implement what you can.

Contingency: This isn’t talked about much but is absolutely essential to building an engaged workforce. You need your balance of consequences to favor the things you want in your company. These things might differ but some examples are hardworking employees, innovation, and extra-role responsibility. If you want these things, reward them and for goodness sake don’t punish them. Not too many people intentionally punish good behavior, but it happens in subtle ways when you load up your superstars and when you tolerate under-performing employees.

Appreciation: It is not a sign of weakness to sincerely thank employees for doing their job. I have heard more managers than I can say question why you’d need to thank people for doing what you’re paying them to do. Yes, you’re paying them. Understood. And if you want a motivated and engaged workforce, you also need to thank them. This is really not debatable. To paraphrase an amazing transformational coach I know, the desire of every person is to contribute to the best of their ability and to be recognized for their contribution.

Mount Everest: Finally, if you want to build an unforgettable team, you need an (almost) insurmountable obstacle. Think back to the most amazing team you were ever part of. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that your example includes going through a storm together or accomplishing the nearly impossible. Don’t worry, there is no need to manufacture a crisis to gel a team, they are plentiful in today’s climate. Instead, use setbacks to work together to find new solutions.

If you are being intentional about doing these things now, congratulations! You probably are experiencing some amazing contributions from your employees. If you realize that your intentions are outpacing your actions, don’t worry…this is something you start any time and get results. And of course if you need help, that’s what leadership development coaches are for!

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!


How to ensure the people on your team act like they’re on YOUR team

If you are the leader or manager of a business, you are not alone if you’ve ever thought “I’d love my job if not for the people!” Leadership is NOT for the faint of heart and I’d hazard a bet that even as you’ve thought those words, you still know in your heart of hearts that you only want what’s best for your team.  Most entrepreneurs and business owners that I’ve worked with have all had a vision for their company and part of that vision included being the best at what they do and being a great place to work. I know many very successful executives and business owners who have learned everything on their own and by doing the opposite of what they experienced and hated as employees.

Yet as strong as the vision might have once been, many people find themselves at that turning point wondering, is it even worth it?  Big deals dry up, small problems don’t and people who said they were eager to turn your dream into a reality when you interviewed them have suddenly become complain-y and entitled and you often think to yourself, this is NOT what I signed on for. Sometimes, the temptation of going back to your old nine to fiver when you at least had a steady reliable paycheck is almost irresistible.

If that sounds familiar, rest assured that it is extremely common! Just because you had the courage and initiative to start a business doesn’t suddenly make you immune to self-doubt or fear like the rest of the world. The difference for great leaders and entrepreneurs is that you have the ability to work past the fear and hold on to your vision.  If you have identified that the people on your team aren’t acting like they are on YOUR team, then you need to take action!  Here are some tips to address  pitfalls common to leaders and entrepreneurs to prevent them from becoming huge headaches.

1) Maintaining communication

This is particularly true if you have a small team. A lot of times, business owners and leaders just assume that the team has the same passion for success and are as excited about the business as you are. This is not a safe assumption. Most of your employees are probably not as informed as you think. They’re not mind readers and if you want them to be as enthusiastic as you are, you have to plant the seeds and water them daily. Share your hopes, share your excitement and…

2) Solicit Input

Hopefully you have people working for you whose input you value. If you don’t, it might be worth a look at why that is and whether you have the right people working for you OR whether you might be better off as an Individual contributor rather than a leader with employees reporting to you. If you want your people to care about the organization, the more you ask what they think and implement the more invested they will be.

3) Rigorously address issues

Understatement of the year: Avoidance and denial are not good business tools. Whether you are overlooking sloppy workmanship, trying to see the best in an employee who unenthusiastic in her role or just hoping things get better, failing to address issues can quickly lead to an unbelievable amount of stress on your part. Think of the absolute worst case scenario if you were to have a tough conversation with your employee and NOT having that conversation is guaranteed at least five times worse than that. 

4)  Keep the big picture in mind

Work ON the business! Yes, there are fires, yes there is the tyranny of the urgent but if you want your business to grow, you need to have a vision and destination. Growth and success are not just they happy by-products of doing all the little things right; instead, you need to be intentional every day about where you are going so you know what little things you should even be doing!

5) Develop your leadership skills

A recent article in Forbes illuminates how extremely important leadership skills by showing that in almost all cases, the skills of the subordinate are always slightly less than their immediate supervisor. That means that if you are at the top, it’s critical that your leadership abilities be top notch! If you don’t feel this is your strong suit, fear not…many of the skills are teachable AND learn-able. 

Clearly these are just five points, but if you are diligent about improving you will soon find yourself with much fewer ‘people problems’ and moving much closer to your vision.




Do nice guys (and gals) finish first or last? Who cares…just be nice. Please.

There have been studies, articles and social media blitzes on the subject of the effectiveness of either being nice or being a jerk.  The labels are narcissist, selfish a$$hole, altruist, transformative leader etc etc etc.   Then the offshoot questions start; which gender exhibits which trait more often and why, or is it a cultural thing?  Learned or innate?    And what is success anyway?  There has been more money and brainpower thrown at this than I can claim to have.  The prevailing question seems to be, is it better to be nice or a jerk in terms of your career success? There is almost as much evidence for one as for the other so I thought I’d weigh in as a bystander, HR Practitioner and Coach.  

My opinion is…please just be nice.  Even if you don’t get selected for promotion as quickly, or your obnoxious peer/rival gets the kudos you deserve or you end up doing more than your share of the work for not as much credit.  Please be nice.  Why?  Well, I’ll skip the moral argument that it’s just the right thing to do because I know many people can/will argue that.  Here are some practical HR reasons to Just. Be. Nice (Especially if you’re the boss):

1)    Your office will be more efficient
If you are rude, abrasive or inconsistent, your staff will spend an inordinate amount of time talking about you, trying to figure you out or trying to placate you.  This is not what you are paying them to do, presumably.  Their job is to produce a product, serve a customer or design something.  Your bad or mean behavior is a distraction to the purpose of your organization.
2)    You will spend less on recruiting and training
Yes, this is self-evident but bears repeating.  If you are mean to people they will leave and then you have to replace them (unless you are mean to your customers, too, and then you really won’t need to replace the employees who are leaving).  
3)    You will retain better and more confident employees for less money
If you are rude and abrasive, only people who feel they deserve that kind of treatment will stay, or else you will have to pay far above market value to keep the confident and productive ones.  There are people out there who are wonderfully talented AND insecure but statistically speaking, you won’t be able to hire enough of them.
4)    You will achieve commitment instead of just compliance
If you are a jerk, people will probably give you what you ask for because they will be afraid of you.  But they won’t give you an ounce more.  You won’t get innovation or creativity because people who are resentful and fearful don’t take the risk or effort required to be innovative.
5)    You will not have to worry about bloodless (or bloody) coups all the time
Even the most ruthless tyrants can get deposed.  If you are a big enough jerk, even if you own the company people will be plotting your demise.  A distraction at best.