coaching Leadership Development

How to ensure your first-time supervisors are bullet-proof without compromising profitability and productivity

If you’ve ever managed people before, then there was a time when you were a first-time manager. We all arrived at that spot by different paths. Some people via the educational route, earning degrees or advanced degrees in the discipline before taking on the role, while others established themselves as uniquely high performers in their field, and were promoted to a supervisory role on merit. Some companies have robust in-house training programs, others outsource their leadership development and still others (perhaps the majority) rely on ‘on-the-job training’, which often translates to sink or swim!

Suffice it to say, it can be a nerve-wracking experience being ‘crowned’ supervisor – especially if it means supervising former co-workers. Most organizations don’t do as well as they’d like preparing new supervisors for their challenges. I’m reasonably confident it’s not out of malice, or some perverse desire to make the new supervisor suffer as we once did (although I’m not saying it’s not…kidding) but I do think as difficult as it is to be a first-time supervisor, it’s equally difficult to manage first time supervisors. Although there’s a plentiful supply of leadership resources to help senior leaders on a strategic level, I haven’t encountered as much from a tactical side for second-tier managers.

One of the biggest challenges first-time managers face when assuming their role is their relative lack of experience dealing with performance problems. The reason is simple – they’ve likely always been high performers, so they’ve never been on the receiving end of the conversation, and there’s likely been very little opportunity for them to deliver coaching for performance. And anecdotally, given the predilection for so many people to avoid these conversations anyway, it’s a safe assumption that this is not an area a new supervisor will come to the table proficient in.

To compound the problem is an inherent insecurity most of them have (I say ‘them’ but let’s be honest and say us because it’s not limited to first-time managers) about not being quite qualified for the role. That ‘if only they knew how little I know, they’d demote me’ fear keeps these supervisors from asking what they think you think they already know. And, if they like you (and hopefully they do) they’re also going to want to maintain your good opinion of them.

That’s why I strongly recommend orienting them to their role with a very clear set of expectations about the types of things they’ll be doing as supervisors that they weren’t doing as individual contributors. In many cases, it’s not just a matter of training them so that they’ll be more comfortable, it’s also a matter of liability. Your supervisors can get themselves and the company in a lot of trouble if they say or do something illegal! Some areas where you’ll likely need to work with them are:

  • Performance management
    • Goal Setting / Organizational and Individual Metrics / Coaching / Reinforcement / Training
  • Understanding and correctly functioning within established company processes
  • Recruiting and hiring best practices
  • HR policies and employment law
  • Communicating appropriately and effectively
  • Championing the company culture
  • Other Management Skills
    • Delegation / Effective Meetings / Vocation to Leadership

Now fear not! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your new supervisor isn’t going to break your company if she/he doesn’t have this all mastered by day one (probably). You’re not going to teach your first-time supervisors everything they need to know on their first day in their new role, and you certainly don’t want to overwhelm them or destroy their confidence. If your company has defined processes and training in place already, this is much easier. Assuming they don’t, it’s often helpful to start with a simple checklist. List out the items of import and have the new supervisor fill out a checklist indicating for each whether they are: Completely comfortable, desiring refresher training, or in need of complete training. In addition, have them rate the urgency of the training need on a scale of 1-5.

Armed with this information, you can decide first whether or not their self-assessment and judgement is accurate, but also where this particular supervisor needs immediate support. In addition, if adopted by other managers, this will illuminate significant areas of training opportunity within your company.

As with most skills, stating expectations is only the first step to mastery. New supervisors must also be taught HOW to perform the tasks, and how to determine if they are doing them correctly. As their manager, you must be prepared to coach and provide feedback every step of the way as they grow into their role. Encourage your new supervisors that a mis-step does not mean the end of the career or that they just weren’t cut out for management – far from it! Instead, support them in taking the risk of stepping out of their comfort zone! It’s a huge mental shift to learn the delayed gratification of accomplishing tasks through the efforts of others after being a high-performing individual contributor.

I hope you found this article useful. If you are interested in learning more about training first-time managers, please visit us at for more information.

For a free 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

Leadership Development management systems Uncategorized

Do you still love the business you started?

If you’re like many business owners I’ve encountered, you started your company because you are passionate about the service or product you provide and confident that you can do it better than anyone. It may be true for you that you know that your employees have a choice when it comes to where they work, and you appreciate that they’ve chosen you. You’ve most likely always succeeded as a result of your hard work and perseverance, and therefore you enjoy having employees and managers who have the same qualities. If you promote from within, it may be because of this, and you likely feel a lot of loyalty to the people who are passionate about your business. Many business owner start their company to give people a great place to work that will support them and their families, and they want to provide an above average lifestyle for themselves and their families as well.

As you’ve started to grow, if you’re like most business owners, you’ve noticed that things are falling through the cracks that never used to. Even though your managers were superstar employees, they might not always be able to get the performance out of their employees that you could in their role. Although you probably don’t feel like you’re asking for too much, maybe it seems like a struggle to get performance evaluations, productivity updates or labor hours managed to expectation.

Most business owners hate feeling like they’re coming down on people all the time, but they also hate never quite knowing how the company’s performing and if they’re going to meet budget. There’s usually so much more they want to do, but don’t feel like the team’s ready. You may have noticed an increase in turnover, with employees starting to complain that they’re not getting treated fairly, or trained enough. It costs far too much to replace employees to keep losing good people and you almost certainly didn’t get into business to train the competition. Sometimes you even ask yourself if it’s worth it. Any of this sound familiar?

Now imagine a different scene:

Your managers treat your company like it was their own, and are diligent about managing your resources so that waste is minimized and you are highly profitable and able to re-invest into your employees. You have systems that identify and reward the hardest working employees, who as a result love working at your company, and recommend it to others. You’re able to give back in multiple ways because there’s so little waste and dead weight. Everyone’s on the same page about the company goals and how to get there, and employees and managers love finding creative ways to make the company better. You truly feel like you’re a team, and the people in your company are all working together to succeed. You actually love coming to work and so do all your employees and managers.

This isn’t a dream. This is the company you deserve, and we can help you get there. Let’s talk.

Leadership Development Uncategorized

How can coaching help me perform better?

It was almost ten years ago now that I embarked on the journey to become a coach. I’ve always known my calling had to do with helping people enjoy their lives more fully. This calling has led me to obtain my degree in psychology, and to be attracted to roles such training, teaching, consulting, and coaching. What has always appealed to me about coaching is the premise that you are not making a dysfunctional person functional, but rather helping an already functioning person reach the next level in their growth and development. During my certification process, I took courses in things like powerful questioning, reframing perspectives, and I learned specifically how to work with professionals in transition – either to a new career or to the next step in their existing career. A large part of the certification process was not only coaching others, but being coached, and this was one of the most challenging – and transforming –  parts of the process.

In the ten years that have followed I have received good coaching as well as abysmally bad coaching and my appreciation for the discipline only continues to grow. At the same time, I’ve worked with many fine organizations that are in the process of growing and have seen firsthand how well coaching can augment corporate growth and reap benefits that include more effective managers, more productive employees, reduced turnover, and the ability to attract top talent based on growth and development opportunities.

In my opinion coaching for management and high potential people is highly valuable in companies with a formal training and leadership development program and indispensable in organizations without one. The reason boils down to human nature and the simple fact that most people on some level feel somewhat unqualified for their roles, and live in a state of low level to high level anxiety that their next mistake will reveal this and their livelihoods will be at risk. For this reason alone, it is very difficult to coach or train one’s direct reports because it is too difficult to have the raw honesty and transparency needed for true growth. Not to mention the supervisors are often in the same boat and don’t always have the clarity of perspective an outside third party has. In addition, in most growing organizations there is very little bandwidth for supervisors to invest in up and coming managers to the extent that is needed.

Formal leadership training is important, and group training is very effective when introducing concepts such as goal-setting, delegation, and performance management, but when it comes to individual development, nothing can replace coaching. Of course, I say this with a caveat, because not all coaches are created equal.

The essence of great management/executive coaching is the ability to hear what a client is saying, and also possess the business acumen, leadership skills and intuition to hear what is not being said and to ask powerful questions to help the client discover their own answer. What makes it so difficult is that it also requires the coach to lay their ego aside and NOT assume they simply know the answer and ‘walk the client down a path’ to the ‘correct’ solution. A coach assumes that it is the client who has the answer, but the coach’s personal experience and training allows them to answer productive questions. Coaching can and should challenge the client to think about different perspectives and consider innovative, untried solutions.

On the other hand, there is bad coaching. Bad coaching can take different forms. From a purist perspective, bad coaching consists of leading the client to the coach’s own solution, or directing a client to what action to take. It’s a fine line that most coach/consultants have to navigate. Sometimes a client genuinely doesn’t know an answer and is looking for the coach to wear a consultant hat for a moment. When this happens, both parties should be aware of what is transpiring. Other bad coaching occurs when the coach tries to make the client uncomfortable for the sake of discomfort. This is an ego/power move on the coach’s part and can lead to significant distraction pursuing unproductive questions. If your coaching always leaves you feeling frustrated and like you’re pursuing the wrong line of inquiry, you may not be in the right match for you.

The benefits to managers and leaders of having a coach can’t be understated. A coach allows a manager to work through issues, personnel problems and areas of conflict in a safe place, gaining valuable insight into their productive and unproductive responses. It also can allow the manager to work on areas that are affecting work performance, such as work life balance, career goals and identifying one’s calling. A manager who is working in alignment with his or her values, in pursuit of clear goals, with the emotional intelligence to lead subordinates to do the same will not only be a more satisfied employees, they will be a force to be reckoned with in terms of productivity.

For that reason, investing in a management coach for your team can be one of the best investments a senior leader can make.

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


coaching Uncategorized

What your managers need the most to make your business successful

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘our employees are our most important resource’ or some version of this. Most companies are in agreement with this (sometimes customers are stated as most important but employees are usually a very close second). It’s true that without employees, you can’t get critical functions accomplished and you wouldn’t have a business, but I think that managers are a very overlooked critical resource within an organization. In larger organizations, there is often a budget set aside for management development but the vast majority of growing companies don’t have this luxury. Often, managers are promoted for technical prowess, or hired from the outside, and organizations don’t devote time or money to growing these people. Failing to grow your managers always results in your leaving money on the table and not just any money, either, but pure profit.

There are several areas where it’s important to work with managers but financial/business training, interviewing and hiring, performance management and succession planning are the areas where failure to invest in your management team WILL result in problems for you.  It’s also important for managers to have a basic understanding of labor law compliance; at least in terms of knowing what problem areas are and when to ask for help. If your managers had a better understanding of each of these areas, your business would be virtually guaranteed to be more successful.

I’ve only met a handful of business owners who didn’t agree that their managers would benefit from being developed in these areas. The ones that don’t typically are the types of people who want to control everything and don’t truly want managers to ‘manage’ anything. Everyone else almost always agrees it’s necessary, but they don’t perceive that they have the time or resources to invest in their team. And they’re not wrong to be cautious. Cookie cutter ‘management training’ is not the solution for many smaller and medium sized businesses. In fact, many managers HAVE read the management books, attending the seminars and/or even gotten the degree. But that’s not what will transform your business.

For your managers to be truly effective, they have to get the relevant information AND learn how to apply it to their employees and business segments. Not many first time managers can read “Good to Great” and turn that into an actionable plan. No, most of these folks are struggling with much more tactical challenges. How do they make sure they don’t hire another deadweight employee? How can they address the fact that their star performer is not playing well with others? What should they communicate to the team about the pending slow down? How can they cut over time but still maintain output?  THESE are the problems real life managers struggle with every day and there’s a very slim chance they will ever feel comfortable telling their boss that they don’t know the answer to these questions.

Targeted training and coaching can provide the competitive advantage needed to overcome these obstacles and many more. This intervention deals with your managers in your environment with your specific problems and teaches managers how to find and apply solutions. The result is more effective, confident managers which will always be felt by the employees. So before you spend another dime on management training make sure this will really help your managers deal with the real problems they’re facing and not just textbook examples.

 So if you are a growing business, first of all, congratulations! Second, don’t beat yourself up for what you might not be giving your managers, but think about outsourcing this very critical business function. Your managers, employees, customers will thank you…not to mention your peace of mind, and bottom line.

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Limitless HR Solutions, a Seattle-based management consulting firm devoted to helping business owners fall back in love with their businesses. A certified executive coach, seasoned Organizational Behavior Management Practitioner and Senior HR professional, Carrie can be reached for consultation at

coaching Uncategorized

Why you should coach your managers (and how)

If you’re like me, you’ve heard the term ‘coaching’ in reference to something we’re supposed to do with our employees so often that you’ve become somewhat immune to it. In my roles as HR Director, Consultant and, yes, Management Coach, I have found that the term means vastly different things to different people and as a certified professional coach I can’t help but cringe a little at some of the ‘misuses’ of the word. Previous experience tells me there is a sizeable population who will disagree (violently) on the terminology but in the spirit of peace, unity and brotherly love I invite you to look past the labels to the essence before you call me mean names.

People often use the term coaching to mean telling people how they can perform better, or providing specific performance related feedback, or even corrective action. I will be the first to admit that all these conversations need to take place in the workplace from time to time, but the purist in me can’t help but point out that this is NOT coaching! Yes, I know that sports coaches give specific, pointed feedback and proscribe corrective action and that we as a culture are addicted to sports (and war) analogies in business but sports coaching is not identical to professional business coaching.

Coaching, as a discipline, refers to guiding people through a series of thoughtful questions to assist them in discovering their own solution. It usually involves helping people reframe their perspective and uncovering their own limiting beliefs to allow them to reach new potentials. There is also usually an element of accountability in coaching. I don’t let my clients think I am holding them accountable, as that’s not empowering, but I will agree that I help them hold themselves accountable.

So when should you coach, versus use another tool in your toolbox? This is not set in stone but I think coaching is a great tool to help people with conflict resolution skills, career aspirations, handling interpersonal problems, and developing strategic plans. An easy rule of thumb for me is that Coaching helps good people get better, when there are no obvious problems to address.

Non-coaching situations are ones where there are tactical issues to address, knowledge to be transferred, or problems to be overcome. In these cases, then training, feedback or goal-setting is a more appropriate tool. If you have a performance problem such as neglecting to perform a required function or failing to meet minimum expectations, then a more formal performance discussion and possible exit plan are more appropriate.

Hands down, the hardest part about coaching another person is NOT giving them the answers – especially if they are struggling with a situation you are well-versed in solving. Part of becoming an excellent coach is the process of letting go of the need to be seen as an expert, accepting that each person has their own learning journey and that you might not have all the answers (I hate that!). Coaching requires immense patience and faith that the discovery process bears more fruit than just being dictated a solution.

In my experience, it is really (REALLY) hard to coach people who work for you in subjects in which you are an expert; not impossible but it taps into a completely different skillset than training. When you are training someone, you are telling them what to do and how to do it, but in coaching you are helping them explore alternatives and come up with a solution. Sometimes we can fall into the trap of ‘pseudo-coaching’ where we ‘KNOW’ the right answer and ask a series of questions that we believe will get someone to the place where we think they should get. This is NOT coaching and unless you are extremely skilled in this technique it’s also usually glaringly obvious what you are doing and not a little patronizing.

If you have identified a coaching need and have the time and skill to engage in coaching, it can be one of the highest and best uses of your time and very rewarding as well.  Watching the light in someone’s eyes as they get it, and seeing their careers blossom and their confidence grow is amazing, and why I decided to pursue coaching as a major segment of my professional life. It’s also great to receive. As a coach, one of the ways I stay sharp is to work with a coach myself.

If you are interested in learning how to better coach your employees, or have some success stories to share, I’d love to hear it! If you are mad at me for saying coaching is different from performance management, I hope we can stay friends and agree to disagree!

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Limitless HR Solutions, a Seattle-based management consulting firm devoted to helping business owners fall back in love with their businesses. A certified executive coach, seasoned Organizational Behavior Management Practitioner and Senior HR professional, Carrie can be reached for consultation at