Business Management Leadership Development Mentoring New Managers Uncategorized

Do you have what it takes to be a great manager? How do you know?

When I first started managing people I was terrified! I had never had people report to me before, I was a woman in a male dominated industry (construction) and to top it all off, I was (and am) a confirmed introvert!  Every day going to work there was a war waging inside of me. On one hand, I was sure I was going to crash and burn, but on the other hand, I knew that if I let my fears get the best of me, I’d never get to where I wanted to be in my career.  I think it was my pride, ego, and perfectionism that kept me in the race more than anything else at that time.

I learned a lot of what I needed to know on a trial-by-fire basis, and I was fortunate that I had some very patient leaders who believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Even so, as I learned how to manage, and then how to be an inspirational leader, I left a lot of wreckage in my wake. I was so sensitive about being considered ‘soft’, ‘weak’, and ‘emotional’, that I overcompensated and came across as critical, demanding, inflexible, and intimidating. The first time someone gave me that feedback, I didn’t believe it. I knew how nervous I was inside about doing my job properly, so how could I possibly be intimidating? I was crushed!

For me, realizing I needed help was NOT a freeing experience, because there was not help readily available!  Far from energizing me to take action, becoming aware of my shortcomings only added to my feelings of being under qualified, and a fear that if my bosses ever figured out how very far from ‘management material’ I really was, that I’d be demoted immediately. Because of that, for quite some time, my management journey consisted of a ruthless drive for excellence, lack of compassion, zero tolerance for mistakes (mine or others), and a near-constant anxiety, feeling like it was all just one wrong move away from crashing down.

That’s no way to live, and there’s no salary big enough to make it worth it.

I looked into training, but the problem was that the off-the-shelf training courses were so generic and vague that they weren’t worth the cost.  There are a lot of dynamics at play in smaller, growing businesses, and in blue-collar industries, that just aren’t addressed in most training courses and seminars.  I needed highly tactical, relevant information, delivered in an accessible, non-patronizing manner. Things I wanted training on included:

  • Legal AND effective recruiting, interviewing and hiring
  • One-on-ones, performance reviews, dealing with performance issues, and terminating employees (This was actually an area I was comfortable with based on my background, but there was no good training available for my peers, so I had to develop it from scratch for them, and in every company I’ve ever worked in since then)
  • Resources for accessing information on employment law such as protected classes, employee classifications, wage and hour issues, and creating job descriptions
  • Delegating, goal setting, holding effective meetings…OH MY!

I didn’t just want to know what these things were, I wanted to know HOW to do them, in MY company, with MY employees.  I mean, we’re talking about accessing some very specific, practical management tips (like, how do I make a job description for a cashier or a construction worker, or, are there any performance review formats out there that DON’T just suck? Yes, I said it, and you know it’s true!)

I thought if I could only get a handle on those things, my management fears would be over, but I was wrong.

I mean, I was right that I absolutely DID need to acquire those skills (and a lot more) But there was more that had to happen inside me before I would get to a place where I loved my leadership experience, and that was figuring out how NOT to feel like a fish out of water. In my case, it was the fact that I was an introvert, and the lone woman manager and one of the few female employees. Other people have different challenges, but they all add up to the same thing – feeling underqualified. I wasn’t able to articulate it then, but I needed to figure out how to:

  • Love leading, and feel excited about how I could better the lives of the people I was leading, and my company, even though I didn’t feel like a ‘people person’
  • Get my team excited about being on my team, and how to drive performance while still enjoying my job, and liking myself
  • Deal with conflict (with my peers, subordinates, and bosses) proactively – without being overly aggressive or too passive and people please-y

For me, this came through YEARS of work, experience, and trial and error. The honest truth is that nothing boosts self-esteem as much as genuine success, and quickly coming up to speed on the basics can jump start that process. But if you bring some limiting beliefs about yourself to your management position, it can be harder than it needs to be. And don’t take this wrong, because you’re probably a really bright person, but you’re probably NOT the best person to identify limiting beliefs in yourself. If you’re fortunate enough to have an awesome boss or mentor working with you, they can help you through the self-doubt that most of us experience when we’re new to the role. If you don’t have access to that, don’t worry…there are tools and exercises that can help you escalate your growth here too.

At the end of the day, if you’re in a leadership or management role you owe it to yourself and to those you lead to be the best leader you can be! And there’s no better time to start than today!

As part of my management & leadership training, and personal development programs, I’ve created a lot of tools, tips, and checklists that I want to share with you to help you on your journey. Why am I giving this stuff away for free? I really do want to help, and wish this would have been available to me early on in my journey. I’m also confident that you’ll get great value out of this, and when you are ready for more formalized mentoring and/or training, you’ll already know that I know my stuff!

So if you’re ready to start seriously brushing up on your skills, let’s start with an overall assessment. This is a tool you can use on yourself, or if you manage new managers you can use this with them. It’s a supervisor assessment to give you a big picture idea of where you’re strong and where you need extra training. Click here to download, and let me know your thoughts!

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based mentoring and training company committed to equipping managers to overcome the typical tactical, strategic, and personal development challenges facing managers in growing companies. Will a full suite of mentoring, coaching, training, and on-call support available for managers and leaders, we’ve got you covered! For more information, visit our site or contact us for more information about how we help leaders and managers grow.


The ultimate guide to growing great managers and avoiding burnout

If managing people is not for the faint of heart, then managing managers is truly only for the very brave! When it’s your own company it feels that much more life and death-ish.  If you are the senior leader or owner of a small to medium size business, then at some point you have or will cross the (terrifying) chasm from overload to delegation by hiring one or more managers to help you. If you are like most leaders, you might feel like you traded one set of problems (not being able to complete all the work yourself) for a whole new set of issues and like most high-achieving people, dealing with getting things accomplished through others brings a whole new set of pain points (or growth opportunities, if you will). That’s why it’s critical that you are able to take the emotion out and develop a reliable way to assess the skillset of your manager and create a development plan.

Granted, there are ten million (or so) books, articles, theses, opinions, on what makes an effective manager and about twenty million more on leadership. It can be overwhelming trying to decipher, let alone implement, any given plan. I have worked with enough organizations and have seen enough repetition in certain problems, concerns and solutions that I am confident in recommending a basic template to help just about anyone get started, but this will be most applicable to privately held, first generation companies who are out of the start-up stage and getting ready to prepare for growth. Out of necessity this is written in generalities but I hope can give you a good starting point in helping develop your people in order to prepare your company for greatness.

Essentially, you want to develop your manager profile, and I would recommend you do this before hiring your first manager to allow you to be as objective as possible about the ideal, knowing you will be required to compromise. As an evaluation tool, this will be an evolving document, so don’t imbue it with more specificity than is realistic.  You would never complete an evaluation based on one observation of a manager. You will need to spend time with your managers or even talk to their subordinates to arrive at a fairly accurate assessment of where they are thriving and where you need to invest some time with them. The idea is not to make everyone the same – diversity is good for your management team. Rather, you need to make sure all your managers understand your expectations and that they are given the information they need to carry out your expectations, in their own style, to the best of their abilities.

The manager profile should encompass three areas: Culture/Leadership, Management/Administrative and Technical Proficiency.  Within each category, you then create 5-7 objective statements that your ideal leader will DO on a regular basis. The idea will be to score your managers to determine where they are performing well and where they need work.

Cultural/Leadership plays a huge component in executing your vision for your company and is typically the most difficult to identify and measure. What do you want it to be like to work there? Do you want people to feel loved and appreciated for their efforts, or for their accomplishments? Do you want an edgy, competitive feel or a relaxed, affirming one? There are not really any wrong answers here other than no vision at all. There are highly successful companies with all sorts of different cultures but you can bet that the truly successful ones have managers that are aligned with that vision. An aggressive, achievement-oriented manager will crash and burn in a relaxed environment and vice versa. Once you have identified your cultural vision, it is relatively easy to identify how you want your managers to lead. How should they interact with employees? How often? What kind of reinforcement should they give? How much information about company performance should they communicate? How do they develop and promote employees?

Sample Assessment Questions:

              Manager understands and communicates the 5-year plan of the company

              Manager communicates the employees’ place in the ‘big picture’ regularly

              Manager communicates appreciation for employee accomplishments

Management/Administrative skills are the easiest to measure and because of this there is sometimes an over-reliance on these skills to the exclusion of others. Here, you’re looking at things like how well company policies are communicated, adhered to and enforced. Does the manager turn in their variance reports in a timely manner? Their employee reviews? Do they follow the guidelines in the employee handbook and make sure their employees do too? This is also where you would look at things like department efficiency or output. In other words, are they making sure the things under their purview are getting done appropriately? It is possible to have someone score very well in this aspect but very poorly in the cultural aspect, which can have grave implications for employee engagement and retention down the road. On the other hand, if someone has the hearts and minds of the people but no ability to provide the products and services your business is commissioned to provide, you won’t be able to keep your lights on.

Sample Assessment Questions

              Manager completes employee performance reviews in a timely manner

              Manager ensures performance problems are documented according to company          policy

              Manager’s department is performing at or better than forecast (revenue and/or profitability)


Finally, there is Technical Proficiency. It is arguable how technically sound a manager needs to be in the ‘thing’ he or she is managing. A basic rule of thumb seems to be that the higher up the ‘ladder’ you are, the less important it is that you know how to make the widgets. I agree – theoretically. I agreed more before I had to manage a team who was responsible for doing tasks that I didn’t know how to do AT ALL. Until I became proficient in what it was they were supposed to do I was not really able to identify problems…and there happened to be a LOT of problems as it turned out. My experience, as well as a couple decades’ worth of management training and coaching has led me to believe that it is important that a manager know enough about what he/she is managing to identify poor performance and to identify coaching and training. I think the degree to which technical proficiency is required is a sliding scale; if you are managing line level employees then you usually need to be as skilled as they are. If you are two or three levels away then a more basic proficiency will serve. With my clients who have 100 or less employees it usually is helpful if the managers are as technical proficient as possible.

Sample Assessment Questions:

              Manager is able to perform the basic functions of his/her subordinates

              Manager is able to identify root cause of performance problems

              Manager is able to identify legitimate training needs in employees

By putting together a management profile encompassing these areas, ensuring the most weight is placed on your current largest areas of concern, you will be able to transition a huge source of anxiety for yourself into a source of pride and joy. This is one exercise that I unhesitatingly recommend to all business owners and it never ceases to reap rewards.  Keep in mind, this is just foundational. There are all sorts of useful metrics you can begin to layer in to get to the next level but if you master the basics you will be amazed at what you will accomplish.