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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 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.

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Business Management coaching Leadership Development New Managers organizational development Training

Three “AHA”s needed for your managers to be truly teachable

If you are a business owner you know that once your company grows to a certain size, your success depends on the success of your managers. I recommend basic training for all new managers, whether they’re new to management in general, or new to managing in your company. Before you invest one cent or minute in training, though, you should be sure that the ground is fertile. In other words, is your company cultivating a culture that supports a heart of teachability in your managers?

At the heart of successful training is successful learning, and the heart of successful learning is being teachable, and the heart of being teachable is being vulnerable. Ugh. Being vulnerable enough to be teachable is one of the most difficult challenges anyone can master in life, and failing to grasp it will (not might, will) limit your growth in every circumstance. There are significant barriers to experiencing this vulnerability, both internal and external, and my experience is that how we deal with the discomfort of vulnerability varies depending on gender, age, and culturally.

In order to be teachable, the first ‘aha’ needs to be an awareness that there’s a gap between where you are and where you want to be. Sometimes the gap is obvious and doesn’t really need to be pointed out. For example, if you haven’t been given a promotion to management that you aspire to, you are all too aware of this. Other times it’s not so obvious. This is that area of unconscious incompetence that was developed at Gordon Training International, and basically means that you have to know you don’t know something before you can learn it (simple, right?).

Once someone becomes aware of a need for training, the next step is to access that training. If you have a healthy, intact ego and a healthy, non-toxic culture, it’s a relatively painless process to explain the need to training and education to your boss. Here is unfortunately where so many people get blocked. Here are some of the thoughts that block new managers from seeking help:

  • I should already know this
  • My boss thinks I should already know this
  • If they find out I don’t already know this, they’ll demote/fire me

In an unhealthy and toxic culture, this fear is actually perpetrated by senior management. I’ve known business owners and senior leaders who want their managers to remain in a state of insecurity because it keeps them from asking for more money (really, this happens), and/or are otherwise vested in keeping the people who work for them feeling slightly unsafe. They will usually say it’s to keep people ‘hungry’ or ‘competitive’ but it’s pretty much nothing more than a raging case of narcissism or deep insecurity.

The second ‘aha’ needs to be a realization that you can acquire the skills necessary to thrive in your role. Your level of self-efficacy, or belief in your ability to learn, is directly correlated to your success. Dr. Carol Dweck has proven that our mindset determines our teachability. The more we believe certain things are innate, as in we have them or we don’t, the less likely we are to seek out or embrace training and coaching. When we talk about ‘born leaders’, we’re actually discouraging people from asking for help, because the assumption is that if you need help, you’re not cut out for your role. A growth mindset, on the other hand, values progress over perfection and is perfectly suited for training and coaching. If you as a senior leader don’t intentionally create a growth mindset in your culture and with your managers, you will find yourself with a singularly unteachable team.

The third ‘aha’ is a belief that this training will actually improve your performance. The problem with a lot of management training is that your managers can become jaded if it is too general to be useful, or if there’s a new ‘most important thing’ every month. Before investing in training, make sure you understand what is going to be taught, how it will be taught, and how relevant it is for your managers. If you do your homework, you’ll have a stronger belief in the outcome, and your confidence will be contagious. Once your managers are confident the training will help, they’ll be more receptive (teachable) and more likely to implement what they’ve learned. The success they experience will reinforce them to keep going. On the other hand, if you say something along the lines of “I’m going to send you to a seminar today. I have no idea if it’s any good, but we got a discount from our vendor, so you might as well check it out”, do you want to guess how likely it is that whomever you’re sending will be very teachable?

So vulnerability, mindset, and belief in the value of the training are all critical components of teachability, without which you really should reconsider investing in training at all. Although you obviously aren’t in control of your managers’ teachability, you can definitely set the stage for a culture of successful learning and development, which creats a high-performance, high-impact culture!

For a more in depth discussion about how these all work together, click here.
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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 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 management systems New Managers organizational development

Why great employees quit and what you can do about it

After being in the Human Resources arena for more than twenty years (does that mean I’m officially old? Eeek!) I have seen employees quit for a variety of reasons. When the employee is a high potential, high contributing one, or a well-loved manager, it can be a devastating blow to the company. If the employee is non-performing or toxic to the culture, it’s not but shame on you for not addressing it before they resign. Here are the reasons I’ve been given for why great employees quit:

  • I didn’t see any opportunity for growth here
  • My manager doesn’t care about me
  • My manager doesn’t know what they’re doing (I’m not saying this is true, I’m saying this is what I’ve been told)
  • The company doesn’t care about me (or the company owner doesn’t care about me)
  • I haven’t received the training I was promised
  • The job isn’t what I was told it would be
  • I am not being compensated what I’m worth
  • I’ve been here X years, and have never even gotten a review
  • This is a really negative environment
  • I’m expected to work so much that I never see my family anymore. I need balance
  • We’re having/have had a baby/small children, and want to make a change so we can be home with them
  • I thought I could stand the commute but I can’t
  • My spouse accepted a transfer, so we’re moving

All of these reasons, with the exception of the last two (possibly three but I think there are some improvements to make here), are completely avoidable. The problem is, by the time someone is ready to quit over these things, there’s really nothing you can do to keep them except to desperately offer them more money, which I’ve never seen work long-term.

Retaining an engaged workforce of high-performing employees does not happen by accident.  In my experience, this only occurs when you have a comprehensive performance management system in place. Some employers try to circumvent this by implementing perks without getting to the core issue. I liken this to putting beautiful buttercream frosting on a liver pate cake (or a custom paint job to a car without an engine if baking analogies don’t work for you). It looks nice and might fool people for a minute, but won’t stand the taste/drive test. Additionally, these interventions cost money without adding to the bottom line. Some examples I’ve seen are:

  • Foosball or pool table in the break room
  • Free food
  • Unlimited PTO (that hardly anyone takes because they think it’s a trap)
  • Awesome employee benefits
  • High-above-market pay
  • Employee BBQs (Potlucks if times are tough)
  • Monthly birthday cake for employees (or cards signed by everyone in the office)
  • Bring your pet to work (if you do this, please have a plan for poo patrol)

I’m not saying any of these are bad. I think they’re great. I’m just saying they don’t do anything to retain great employees if you don’t have a robust performance management system in place.  So what does that look like?

  • Accurate documentation of the job details as well as the knowledge, skills, and ability needed to perform the job
  • Clear and accurate understanding of what behaviors lead to team and department accomplishments that lead into desired revenue and profitability goals
  • Behavior-based training for employee and managers detailing HOW to perform the job and not just what is expected
  • Correctly functioning equipment as appropriate to perform tasks
  • Clear, articulated explanation of the company goal, mission, and how each job support that
  • Accurate individual performance metrics provided weekly to employees to give them feedback on how they’re doing
  • Contingent positive reinforcement for performing tasks at or above expectations
  • Regular goals to promote job achievement, and growth
  • Personal development plan to support employee’s and organization’s growth plan
  • Ensuring struggling employees are coached and supported, and ultimately removed from jobs in which they can’t or won’t be successful

This is relatively simple, but not easy, and it’s a lot to navigate with all the other pressing business items to manage. If you’re interested in learning more about setting up a performance management system, click here to set up some time to walk through a complimentary overview of a proven performance management protocol. Or just reach out directly to carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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. 

If you enjoyed this post, please share the love, and come hang out with me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Business Management Leadership Development management systems Organizational Behavior Management organizational development Uncategorized

How performance management will improve your revenue, profitability, and give you your life back

I started my career with a degree in psychology and a professional goal of becoming a) a best-selling author or b) something that helps people somehow. By luck, fate, or something else, I ended up mentoring under a pioneer of applied behavioral science, and learned some of the most powerful performance management practices I’ve encountered to date. I thought I was diverting from my chosen path into the business world for a ‘little while’. What I ended up discovering was that understanding how to improve individual performance in a business absolutely helps people, improves lives, builds companies, and makes a difference.

There are many ways to look at performance management. I recommend a twofold approach. First, I like to train new (and even seasoned) managers on the basics of your profit and loss statement. I’ve found through the years that this is worth reviewing even with long-time managers, because sometimes there is not the clarity you think and it’s often the case that your managers won’t tell you if they don’t understand something. Make sure everyone understands your revenue lines, your costs of goods sold, and particularly the labor line items. They should also be educated on gross profit, operating expenses, net income, and EBITDA. Some company owners are uncomfortable sharing all the financial information, and some prefer open book management. Regardless of your preference, sharing the how’s of a P&L will enable your managers to make better decisions, and to start looking at the business as a business, and not a bottomless well.

Once managers have a strong business understanding, you can introduce a more robust performance management system. This intervention is where my team and I get the most excited, because this is where you get to make more money, keep more money, experience less stress, invest more in your people, and start loving your business again. In other words, this is where the fun is!

Performance management (as we teach it) is based on the understanding that a business – any business – is comprised of the activities performed by the employees. The goal of performance management is to clarify your business outcomes, identify the milestones, and map out the steps needed to hit the milestones. Once that’s done, we look for the ‘tracks’ that proper task achievements leave, figure out the most effective way to measure them, and provide feedback on those measurements to each individual employee.

If it sounds like work-process mapping, it is. If it sounds like behavior-based training, it is. If it sounds like individual performance metrics, it is. If it sounds like individual, team, and departmental key performance indicators, it is. If it sounds like the only proven way I’ve ever seen to drive double digit improvements in top and bottom line performance, it’s that too. But it’s more than that.

What I love (love, love) most about performance management is that at the end of the day it’s connecting employees to the big picture of the company, and about connecting managers with their employees. It means making sure important conversations are happening. It means that great performance gets recognized, not taken for granted. It also means that people who need help, receive it. It’s also exciting, because while there are certain predictabilities (like, you as the owner will be super frustrated at the first set of metrics because of how hard they were to get, and how much less is happening than you assumed) there are also always exciting gains, and huge increases in morale as employees come together to solve problems, figure out the best ways to do something, and feel heard.

So, while the best-selling author thing is still a work in progress, doing something that helps people has become a reality, and it’s even better than I thought it would be!

If you found this article helpful, you may also be interested in the three things you should train all your new managers (one of which is performance management, of course). If you believe your small or growing business could benefit from performance management, or other management training, please feel free to email me and we can chat.

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 coaching Leadership Development New Managers Uncategorized

Three of the toughest challenges you’ll face as a leader that might surprise you

As William Shakespeare is famous for saying, ‘Some are born to greatness, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” If you are in a position of leadership in your organization, chances are it occurred due to a combination of the three. During my twenty years as HR Director, and subsequent years after that as a leadership and executive coach, I’ve had countless people tell me their goal was to advance to some kind of leadership or management position. When I hear this, my first question is always ‘why?’ People think it’s a trick question, but it’s really not. Answers typically range from wanting to make more of an impact, to wanting a greater scope of authority, to wanting more money, to wanting to make a difference in people’s lives. I’m not here to make a value judgment on anyone’s motives, but some of the challenges of management are hard enough that I like to let people know that if their motivation is solely money, there’s probably an easier way. Here are the three toughest situations you’ll face in your leadership journey. We all go through them, and it’s these experiences that grow you and also leave you changed forever in both positive and negative ways.

Letting good people go

It’s never easy to fire people, but at least when it’s because someone has committed some egregious act it’s a little easier to call it quits. One of the worst experiences a manager can face is letting people go who did nothing wrong. In financial downturns, it’s not uncommon to have to let go of highly valued, contributing employees; some whom have been with you for years. Anyone who tells you that you can compartmentalize this and leave the personal out of it is either lying, a sociopath, or delusional. Even worse is when you are forced by higher ups to let go of good people for workplace political reasons. If you are in management long enough, this will happen to you.

I’ve found the best way to get through this is not to try to leave feelings out of it, but to lean into your emotions. Whenever possible, leave the person with as much dignity as possible. Remind them (because it’s true), that this is not the only job out there, and that other doors will open. Your employee may not appreciate it, but it may make a difference for them. Sometimes the story ends terribly. There is one situation that I’ll never forget, where a termination was the precipitating point for the employee of a severe mental and emotional breakdown that ended in violence and incarceration. These things can leave scars on your soul.

Having great employees

Weren’t expecting that one, were you? Having bad employees is no walk in the park, but it’s the truly great ones that will ultimately put you through your paces as a leader. One of the ways these people will stretch you is because to develop them, you will at some point need to stop giving them answers and encourage them to do things their own way. This is incredibly tough if you think you already know the answer, and if they make a mistake, or fail it will be very painful for everyone. Another way these folks will challenge you is that if you have gotten into the least little bit of a comfort zone (and let’s be honest, comfortable is not SO bad, is it?) your super stars will always be there pushing at the boundaries.

They’ll want to know, why, how, and what else for just about everything. You’ll want to tell them to just back off a little, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and they don’t need to change the world by Wednesday, but you won’t. Or you shouldn’t. As much as we want people to slow down and earn their promotions, we’re not serving them well by squelching their enthusiasm or stifling innovative ideas. It’s much harder to channel all that energy. It takes a great deal of investment to mentor and grow your people and fulfil the other demands on you, which is why having great employees is one of the hardest things about management.

Failing

I know what you’re thinking…duh…but stick with me here. If I were to ask any one of you if it’s okay for someone on your team to try something and fail, all but the jerkiest of you would say of course. But I’ll bet far less of you believe this is true of yourself. It’s one thing for a calculated risk not to work out your way, or for something to happen that’s beyond your control, like a failed economy, but what about real failure? Not acting with integrity, blowing up at a subordinate, cutting corners or making a mistake that has serious financial repercussions are all the kinds of failure that can break your spirit and make you feel like your career is over. Some failures are harder to  recover from than others, and it might not be possible to recover at your current company, but its these very things that can be a jumping off point for you. These failed life tests can be what turn us around, sharpen us, and give us a degree of compassion for others that we might never have had (and yes, I speak from experience). Really failing can turn you into a great leader, but only if you let it.

Of course there are other tough things about being a leader. Budgets, meetings, angry customers, and unrealistic deadlines are all par for the course. But if you really want to leverage your impact, change people’s lives, and leave a legacy, this can be a great way to do so.

If you’re a leader who wants to learn more about developing other leaders, click here.

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

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

Categories
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.

Categories
Business Management Training

The business owner’s guide to virtual training

If you’ve been reading my previous articles, you’ll know that I’m very cautious when recommending training to fix performance problems. Although training is a fundamental part of the performance management systems that I implement, it is not sufficient in and of itself to achieve lasting change. Knowing that, I’m always a little bit skeptical when I see webinars offering to fix any host of problems in just thirty free minutes. At the same time, as a learning and development professional, with a heart to help smaller businesses find scale-able solutions, the affordability and flexibility of webinars and online training is irresistible. So how can you make sure you’re not getting ripped off?

First, consider the different types of online training. There are a lot of variations, but let’s first consider two sub-categories: Instructor-led and self-directed. In instructor-led, the participants are typically in a teleclass or webinar with someone taking them through material. In self-led, participants have access to the course content, whether it’s video, audio, transcripts, and progresses at their own speed through the curriculum. This is contrasted to traditional training, where an instructor takes participants through theoretical and practical applications, in real time, in real life (radical, I know).

I have been both a consumer and provider of all of these and there are clear pros and cons to each that should be taken into consideration when choosing the best training for your needs. But first, it’s important to put training into the correct context, to understand what it can and cannot do for your company.

Training is always an antecedent intervention. This means that it happens before a desired behavior, in order to elicit a behavior. Training purports to achieve change by a) notifying recipients of expectations, b) providing information about how to perform desired behavior, c) provide practice in performing desired behavior, and/or d) creating a desire in recipients to perform desired behavior. These conditions all need to be met in order for behavior to change, but just doing these will not get you lasting change. After all, how many of us aren’t doing the things that need to be done because we don’t know we’re supposed to, or don’t know how and how many of aren’t doing them because we find other things more important (I’m talking about YOU, exercise!).  Knowing the purpose and limitations of training can help you make the best choice.

That being said, if it’s truly training you need, let’s start with the two extremes; traditional and self-directed.

Traditional

Biggest Pro: Live interaction is highly effective, because questions can be addressed, and a skilled trainer can evaluate learner comprehension and task acquisition.

Biggest Con: This is usually the most costly training. Not only is there usually travel involved for either the trainer or trainees, there is also the possibility of lost work time as training typically is done during work hours.

Self-Directed

Biggest Pro: This is usually the most cost-effective training, as you’re not paying for the cost of the trainer, and the training can often be done outside of work hours.

Biggest Con:  Without significant follow up, it can be tricky to ensure course completion, and skill acquisition can be difficult to attain (or quantify).

Then there are the hybrids, where I think one can find a lot of gold. We’ve all participated in webinars. Some are incredibly valuable and some less so. Instructor-led webinars, with a chance for Q&A, offer the best of both worlds. The more opportunity for participant interaction, the more valuable the webinar will be received.

Finding the right type of training is like finding the right solution for any need. I would recommend doing your research and asking lots of questions. If you ever feel pressured to buy, are not encouraged to ask questions, are told customization isn’t an option, or the provider makes unrealistic promises, this is probably not for you. Wherever possible, try to seek out solutions that include the other requirements for performance change: feedback and ongoing reinforcement.

For example, I specifically work with small and medium-sized, growing businesses, mostly outside the tech space. I use a combination of traditional training and instructor-led virtual training because it allows me to overcome  geographical challenges and also keep costs reasonable. I also highly customize my training for my clients. When it comes to my OBM training (which is an 8-week course) I add a second Q&A or practical application session for my clients to ensure they’re able to apply the concepts correctly in their organizations.

Training is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. This is good and bad for small business owners. The good is there is a solution out there for you. The bad is the sheer number of options can be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals, or help. Good luck with taking this important measure to improve performance and productivity.

If you’re a leader who wants to learn more about various training solutions, click here!

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

Categories
Business Management Uncategorized

Avoid these surefire ways to ensure your managers fail miserable and ruin your business (and do this instead)

We’ve all got our war stories about the boss from hell, the narcissist who made our job torturous or even that one supervisor who could probably be legitimately classified as a sociopath. This article is not about them, it’s about YOU – a manager or business owner who is neither evil, stupid, or sociopathic. To the contrary, you’re probably above average in intelligence (actually, you don’t necessarily agree, but a lot of people describe you as ‘brilliant’) and yes, you might be a little intense, but you care deeply about your business and the people who work for you. You know there are some people who are threatened by talented subordinates but you’re not one of them. You want your people to be successful, and you definitely want to grow your company, earn more money, and be able to provide some unique perks for your employees.

And now, your business is at the point where all these great ideas can’t come to fruition until you can get some of the responsibility off your shoulders and distributed to those chosen few…your management team! This is an exciting place for you to be so let’s look at the 6 ways to GUARANTEE your managers will fail miserably…so you can be your brilliant self and avoid these things like the plague. Ready?

  • Avoid ‘insulting’ them by explaining what you expect leaders to do in your company
  • Never explain the P&L basics and how it applies to their business segments – they’re managers, not accountants!
  • Don’t waste their time with touchy feely stuff like missions, visions, and teambuilding nonsense that won’t help them do their job better.
  • Always assume they know how to have difficult conversations and just trust that they are taking care of performance problems
  • Assume that because they’re decent human beings they are fully capable of understanding and adhering to state and federal HR laws
  • Expect that they are smart enough to know when they need help, and that they’ll ask you if they’re unsure of anything. The last thing you want to do is micro-manage a new manager and make them think you don’t trust them.

Some of these points might seem a little contradictory. After all, isn’t the current wisdom du jour that we should just hire smart people and let them do what they do best? All I can say to that is that an unmet expectation always leads to frustration, and an unstated expectation almost always becomes an unmet one. Of course, you didn’t start a manager training company so you don’t necessarily want to spend all your time on this, but rest assured the investment you do put into setting expectations, training, and providing feedback to your managers, will pay exponential dividends in productivity, employee engagement, retention, and morale. So, here’s how to avoid setting your managers up for failure and fast-tracking this next stage of growth and success for your business.

1) Provide clear written and verbal descriptions about what you expect leaders to do in your company.

Not everyone gets to be a leader, so take some time and effort to make the designation special! After all, if these folks are doing it right, they’re going to be giving of themselves constantly for the betterment of the employees and the company. This is not a job for the faint-hearted, so it’s a good idea to not only celebrate the position, but really go the extra mile in describing why and how leaders are chosen and what you expect.

I recommend leading with a brief explanation of what leadership means to you (and it will be different for everyone), why it’s important, and what you want leaders to be known for. If you have a code of conduct that’s important, you need to specify that as well (for example, when I ran HR departments, I made sure people understood that they were held to a higher level of accountability in their position).   This sets the tone and the pace for the role, and also will allow people to opt out if this isn’t what they had in mind. PS…if they do opt out, don’t hold it against them.  A lot of people say they want to be managers because that’s the only path they see to earning more money. It’s important to explain what it’s really like, and often you can use creative compensation to reward individual contributors who will not thrive in a leadership role.

2) Explain the P&L basics and how it applies to their business segments. This will help them make better choices, empower them, and increase their value.

Your managers are in charge of your largest most controllable expense…labor. It only makes sense to educate them as to what this means. If you want your managers to treat your money as if it were their own you have to educate them. I’ve seen very well-meaning managers put $30/hour people in charge of sweeping to get the sweeping done, while $12/hour people were sent home early. Your labor and overtime will be managed much more intelligently and effectively if you explain why and what it all means.

3) If you don’t have a documented company mission and vision, it’s time to get one!

No, I’m not talking about the corporate buzz-wordy mission statements of the nineties that everyone made fun of (for good reason), but the best teams are ones where the people feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Everyone needs a ‘why’, and ‘earning a paycheck’ or ‘meeting revenue goals’ doesn’t really cut it. What is your dream for you company? Where do you want to go? Don’t be afraid of being unrealistic – be afraid of not dreaming big enough.

4) Always assume they DON’T know how to have difficult conversations and are NOT addressing performance problems.

As I’ve stated before, your new managers were probably once your highest performing individual contributors. They probably haven’t ever had to be coached or disciplined for poor performance. Not only that, I’ve found that even seasoned managers often would prefer to just terminate someone rather than have uncomfortable performance talks. You’re better off assuming your managers have no idea how to have these conversations, and then make role playing them a fact of everyone’s life from here on out. The ones who need help will appreciate it, and the ones who are great at it can give everyone some ideas.

5) Assume that common sense and fairness means nothing when it comes to employment law

Even if your managers all operate on the right side of grey and have the best of intentions, this does NOT mean they are ‘safe’ to represent your business. One of the most intelligent, and well-meaning young managers I’ve worked with earnestly informed me that he always asked people how old they were and if they had kids, because that affected how well they could do the job. AAHHHHH!!  The point is, we can have biases and not even know it. Not only that, HR law does often not correlate with common sense of even fairness. Everyone needs to be updated and refreshed on what the courts are telling us these days.

6) Set up regular one-on-ones to talk about expectations and questions, because they won’t ‘just ask’.

It’s not fair to expect something of someone and not tell them what it is. Neither is it fair to assume that someone has the wherewithal to determine when they need help. Most of us are very leery to ask our boss for help because we assume she thinks we already know it – that’s why we were hired. Not only that, none of us know what we don’t know. So don’t throw someone into the snake pit and tell them to let you know if they have questions. They won’t. And I’m not saying your company is a snake pit, but you get the idea, right? State expectations, check in, YOU ask Them questions, and follow up. Repeatedly.

It’s a wonderful thing to have grown to the point where you need managers, so pat yourself on the back…but don’t think that withholding expectations, support, and communication will be doing them any favors!

I hope you found this article useful. If you are interested in learning more about training first managers, please visit us at www.todaysleadershipsolutions.com for more information or click here for a free ‘new supervisor’ 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