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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 New Managers

What I learned from managing the worst case of personality conflicts I’ve ever seen

I’ve written previously about my early career, and how I started off as an Organizational Behavior Management program manager and ended up a very reluctant manager in charge of building and running an HR department in a rapidly growing construction company. Most of the things I learned were either from my mentor (so had a decidedly behavioral slant in the approach) or trial by fire. This is a pretty good way to learn, if a bit stressful. There’s no way you can prepare someone for everything they’ll encounter in their management journey, which is why I love being a ‘mentor on call’ for folks starting out, or entering a new industry. One of my more memorable early experiences involved a gigantic mess of interwoven personality conflicts.

The scene was thus: I got a call from the area manager one day, who was completely frustrated that the upstairs admin team and the downstairs admin team were engaging in petty bickering to the extent that the majority of his time was being spent figuring out ‘she said/she said’ scenarios, hurt feelings, and accusations. He was ready to fire everyone except his lead Billing Manager.  Not because she wasn’t involved, but because he felt she was integral to his operation.

This was my first experience with a conflict of this magnitude, but I grabbed my trusty notebook and started talking to people one by one. Here are some of the things I heard:

  • It’s not that I don’t like her, but she makes mistakes all the time that make my job harder.
  • I don’t have a problem with anyone here.
  • She’s my co-worker not my friend – I’m getting paid to do my work, not socialize with everyone.
  • The manager has no idea what a slacker she is.
  • The manager has no idea what she’s saying behind his back.
  • She doesn’t take her job seriously.
  • I might have said that, but she said this.
  • There’s a LOT going on around here – you have NO IDEA.
  • I’m not being paid to be her friend.
  • I’m not rude. Maybe I don’t say good morning, but I don’t say anything rude.

A lot of this was accompanied by tears. At the end of the interviews I was no clearer about what was going on than I was at the beginning. If some of the employees were to be believed, things were dire indeed. I was inclined to agree with the manager that everyone needed to go, but we were in boom times, and qualified employees were not growing on trees. Fortunately, my behavioral training provided me with the skills to separate emotions and interpretations from behaviors, and this turned out to be one of the most important skills I had as a manager and HR leader.

The truth is, that an action can and will be interpreted in vastly different ways depending on the person doing the interpreting. Something like not saying good morning can be interpreted as somebody is busy, somebody doesn’t like you, someone is purposely disrespecting you, or the company is going out of business, depending on who is doing the action and who is doing the interpreting. The first job of a mediator in personality conflicts is to define behaviors and come to collective agreement on interpretation.

For example, in the situation I’ve been describing, I had to explain to all parties that saying good morning was expected professional conduct, that refraining to say good morning was impolite and discourteous, and that a basic expectation of our employees was to say good morning to one another. You may think this is an exaggeration, but this not by any means the only example of this situation that I’ve encountered.

Another comment I routinely hear is that the employee is not being paid to be friends with the co-workers. This can sometimes flummox managers, but it needn’t. The response is simply that they are being paid to ACT like friends, in that friends are courteous, help one another, exchange pleasantries, and keep commitments. No, I’m not paying you to hang out after work, but you certainly are being paid for professional conduct during work hours.

The other thing I learned that served me well for the next twenty years is not to be baited by ‘I know a lot of terrible things but I’m not going to tell you’ nonsense. There are different ways to deal with this but my preferred response is to let the person know that if they’re aware of illegal or unethical things happening and they don’t tell me, they’re accomplices and will be fired and that if something’s important enough to hint at, it’s important enough to be forthright about and if it’s not, keep quiet or I will suspect you of purposely sowing seeds of distrust. After that, just use common sense and your own emotional intelligence to determine whether someone has a legitimate problem or is making trouble.

Believe it or not, the case of the personality conflicts ended well. We were able to listen to everyone’s concerns, establish boundaries and expectations, and overcome some past grievances to achieve an astonishing about face. We didn’t end up letting anyone go, and I think the area manager and I were equally surprised and delighted by the result. Of course it’s not always that easy, but it taught me that it’s worth taking the time to go through these things and explain behavior that you think should be obvious. At least once.

What was the worst personality conflict you ever dealt with and how did it turn out?

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 Leadership Development New Managers organizational development Uncategorized

What every manager ought to know about holding effective meetings

Ah, meetings. It’s not common to hear people raving about them, wistfully wondering why there can’t be just one more meeting this week. Although many companies have made significant progress into streamlining their meetings and eliminating the unnecessary ones, some companies are still decades behind the curve when it comes to meetings. There can be reluctance to change under the assumption that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, or a fear of under-informing employees.

Unfortunately, more meetings does not mean more effective communication, and what usually happens instead are some institutionalized weekly boredom sessions. Here are some signs that your meetings have become stagnant.

  • The agenda never changes
  • The majority of the time in the meeting is spent reviewing information
  • People don’t show up on time, or at all, and if they do they spend the time ‘multi-tasking’ (i.e. checked out)
  • No one can articulate the purpose of the meeting
  • Nothing changes as a result of the meeting occurring

There are some great resources out there to holding more effective meetings. I strongly recommend Patrick Lencioni’s Death by Meeting for some innovative methods to completely revamp your approach. Organizational tolerance to some of Lencioni’s suggestions may vary but his underlying premise can be applied in any setting, and that is that the basis of any good meeting is constructive conflict. In other words, meetings should drive change and improvement, and this can only be done by challenging the status quo, speaking truth, being respectful, and examining other points of view.

I completely agree with this, and would hold that in addition to change and constructive conflict, another purpose for meetings is to foster team unity. Many people insist that this can only be done in person, but I’ve experienced excellent team building through virtual meetings. The fact remains that a properly facilitated meeting can bring people closer together, create shared experiences, and increase morale and unity.

Here are some things that I’ve found effective in accomplishing the objectives of creating change, achieving teamwork, and avoiding stagnation.

  • When building your agenda, consider what will be the most productive use of time. Reviewing numbers (after the team understands a P&L statement, of course) is something that can be done before the meeting. Discussing variances and best practices is a much better use of time. If you can’t trust your participants to review the material before the meeting, you have other work to do.
  • Another agenda item to include in big, bold letters is the intended outcome of the meeting. Put it right there on top: What do you hope to accomplish in this meeting? If you don’t have an intended outcome, other than ‘review x,y,z’ do you really need to have the meeting?
  • Set the expectations of your meeting clearly, and review as needed. Some of the expectations I like to set in a meeting are that people don’t look at their devices (and I include breaks to alleviate withdrawal symptoms), no sidebars, and minimal ‘piggybacking’ (restating someone else’s point).
  • Create an agenda where all the participants are talking equally. If you’re the manager and the one doing all the talking, you will probably be the only one who enjoyed the meeting.
  • If it’s a recurring meeting, change up the meeting every six months or so. Your cue to change the meetings up will be the level of energy and participation.
  • Get comfortable with silence, and force yourself not to answer it.
  • Team building and trust are critical if you hope to generate innovation in your meetings. It’s risky to volunteer a new idea, and people won’t do it in an environment where they don’t feel safe. You can’t force the trust, but you can increase the likelihood of it occurring by introducing exercises where the team gets to know one another more deeply. This should be an ongoing exercise. It’ s almost impossible to hate someone when you know their story, so as much as you can encourage this to happen, the more close knit your team will be.
  • Unique exercises. Some meeting outcomes that have always been important to me are brainstorming new ideas, and looking for positive occurrences in others. Because of this, I usually end up having two recurring agenda items in my meetings. One I call ‘Stupid Ideas that Just Might Work’, where people are encouraged to bring forth the most creative ideas possible. I called it that after noticing the tendency of people to say ‘this idea might be stupid, but’…the name of the exercise was ironic, and meant to drive home that all ideas are worth discussing and no one will die if the bring up an unfeasible one. Because we all know that all ideas are NOT good ideas. But that’s okay. Another is ‘Lines that Should be Mine’, where basically participants report on something a colleague said or did that they admired.

These are just some ideas, and there are countless more. The biggest piece of advice I can offer managers who are responsible for planning and executing meetings is to always keep it front and center that your role is to best serve your employees. Keep asking yourself what your employees need, and how do they need to hear it, and you won’t go wrong!

If you’re a leader who wants to learn more about how to create memorable meetings, click here to go deeper.

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

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Business Management coaching New Managers Training

The skinny on executive coaching – is this really helpful for smaller businesses?

The discipline of coaching has been around for a while, but there are still some misconceptions. Many people think of therapy sessions, complete with couch, bespectacled observer, and a notepad. Others may imagine a hyper-positive cheerleader, chanting that you’re good enough and people like you. Either way, with all the daily fires that are part of owning and managing a growing enterprise, many business owners view coaching as overly indulgent at best, and a waste of money at worst.  On the contrary, coaching is a very powerful tool in developing managers that larger companies have been utilizing for quite some time. Is coaching valuable enough to invest in when you’re in those lean, chaotic growing years?

To answer that, it’s helpful to understand the purpose and process of coaching. Coaching can be done individually or in a group, with most executive coaching being individual. Unlike therapy, where there is an assumption that some sort of dysfunction exists that needs to be resolved, in coaching the assumption is that the client is already functioning well and is using coaching to get to another level. Coaching is also unlike training or consulting, where the consultant is retained as an expert in a particular field, providing answers that the client does not have.

Coaching is unique from all other disciplines in that while the coach may, and usually does, possess expertise in certain areas, their role is not usually to provide these answers to the client, but rather to help the client arrive at their own answers. In a typical coaching session, a coach will hear the client’s issue and ask questions designed to help the client reframe their perspective, or understand the issue in a different way. There is almost always an ‘Aha moment’, when a client is able to view the situation differently and reach a solution they hadn’t considered before, which is very empowering.

The value of coaching is in how extremely powerful it is in helping clients get to a place of strength and confidence in dealing with various aspects of their lives. Oftentimes new and even seasoned leaders feel stuck; whether it’s because they are struggling giving or receiving feedback, unfulfilled in their role, or unsure of how to handle a particular challenge. Senior leaders, in contrast, can be uncomfortable sharing their uncertainties, sometimes rightfully so, because of the unsettling effect it might have on their employees.

Practically speaking, a leader or business owner benefits from coaching in these ways: They receive a sounding board to discuss issues, problems, or new ideas. They work through frustrations or conflicts they are experiencing in their roles. They learn to identify their areas of strength and weakness, and explore ways to capitalize on those strengths for maximum effectiveness. In addition, business and leadership coaching can often be combined in some form with training or consulting in order to provide more guided development.  The one-on-one interactional format ensures rapid advancement, far greater than classroom or virtual learning.

To wrap it all up, the impact coaching can have on one’s effectiveness in the areas of leadership, communication, problem-solving, strategic planning, conflict resolution and other areas is so great compared to the cost of the investment that it’s one of those things to put at the top of the list when budgeting for training and development.

If you’re interested in coaching and want to learn more, or take advantage of a complimentary coaching session, click here.

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Business Management Leadership Development Training Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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Organizational Behavior Management organizational development Training

The number one reason executives feel frustrated with training and development programs

If you’re a senior leader or company owner I can lay good money on a few facts about you. First is that you believe your employees are the most important aspect of your company, along with your customers. Second, is that you believe in order for your company to grow and remain competitive, you need to invest in the training and development of your employees. Third is that it is surprisingly (or maybe not) difficult to free up the time and resources for this task that everyone acknowledges is critical. Fourth, and this is that part that might be hard to admit, is that significant investment into in-house or outsourced training has not produced the results you want.

If this is you, you’re not alone! The training industry, in the US alone was $161 billion (yes, with a ‘B’) in 2016 with worldwide training estimated at $359 billion, and these figures do not include additional expenses such as paying for workers’ time while they are at training, or the cost of their replacements while they are out of work. Of course some training is essential. If employees don’t know how to do something, you’d be mad not to train them. There are some highly specialized fields in which safety and proper execution absolutely depends on acquiring knowledge, and there are also governing bodies that require you to perform X hours of training in order to remain compliant with their regulations.

And there are also millions if not billions of dollars invested annually in training geared towards making your employees function more as a team, or your managers more effective, or your communication more meaningful, or your conflicts more resolvable. You get the idea. And let me state very clearly that I’m not saying this training is unnecessary. However, I am stating, categorically, that it is not sufficient to attain the objectives you want. I’ll lay out the evidence proving my point.

Let’s look at the science behind it, first. Applied behavioral psychology puts it like this: At the center is a behavior that you would like someone to perform.  Because the behavior is a discrete event in time, things can occur before the behavior and things can occur after the behavior. As it happens, things that occur directly before the behavior (antecedents) do have an impact. A short term, quickly extinguishing impact, but an impact. Things that occur directly after the behavior (consequences) have a much greater impact on that behavior, and if those things occur consistently, and contingently upon the behavior, you can ensure the continuance or extinction of the behavior. There’s a significant body of work dedicated to the types of reinforcers (consequences) that work best to strengthen various behaviors but the law of behavior remains in place. Training is an antecedent, in that it always occurs before the behavior you are hoping to elicit (as are motivational talks, by the way).

The anecdotal evidence certainly backs this up. I wonder how many of us have ever found that simply telling someone what you’d like them to do results in them doing it? Certainly telling them how in addition to what (a condition surprisingly missing in a lot of corporate training) helps, but just walk into the lunchroom of any office anywhere in this country and I guaran-darn-tee you that you will find AT LEAST one sign taped up somewhere ‘reminding’ people to not steal each other’s lunch, to flush the toilet, or to clean up after themselves.

Clearly, telling people what you’d like them to do doesn’t even work for something s basic as lunchroom etiquette and yet we expect that training, even when accompanied by pastries, is going to mobilize a company of individuals to go against self interest (in many cases) in favor of the company? And those of us who are parents can relate doubly to this. I highly doubt the plethora of kid-junk on my living room floor right now is due to the fact that I have neglected to ‘train’ them in the fact that they are supposed to PUT AWAY THE STINKING LEGOS!

Last is just something I’ll pose to you. If training is so effective, why is it no training ever comes with a guarantee of better performance? No one is willing to put their money down saying that training WILL improve performance because it almost never does, on it’s own. Furthermore, not to sound completely cynical (maybe just 99% cynical), is it possible there’s more money to be made treating the symptoms than in treating the disease? Just saying. I know many professional trainers and all the ones I know are amazing people with a heart for helping. That doesn’t mean that training will get you the results you need. I know I said it before, but after this paragraph it probably bears repeating. I am not saying training isn’t necessary, only that it is not sufficient in most cases to get you improvements in performance and goal achievement.

So what does? If you go back to the science of it, the only way to really get the behaviors you want is coupling training in what and how with a schedule of consistent reinforcers contingent upon the behaviors occurring. In other words, you need to define what you’re looking for, explain it to your employees, and then be diligent in catching them doing something right and rewarding that, and that only. Now you can do this the effective way or the ineffective way (and guess which one is the easy way?).

Ineffective is what most people do first after they see the logic spelled out for them, Which is of COURSE to identify the productive behaviors, explain to their staff that these are the keys to success, and make an effort to reward those behaviors. And then life kicks in and guess what? This amazing endeavor goes the way of the team-building obstacle course and the employee of the month initiative. Don’t beat yourself up about this though. Your exposure to these concepts is, also, an antecedent. Presumably you are human and so therefore not immune to the laws of human behavior, even if you are the boss. So the impact of knowing this only has a short-lived affect on the behavior of you and your managers executing it.

So is all hope lost?

Yep. Sorry.

Actually, far from it. A solution is in not only the understanding, but also the systematic execution of the interventions proven to cause lasting behavioral change, including interventions that set up rewarding consequences to you and your managers for completing your part (and that’s in addition to the increased revenue and profitability you’ll see from doing this, of course). And yes, I am talking about OBM (Organizational Behavior Management). Again. There’s much more to this than I’ve spelled out as briefly as I could here, so if you’re interested in hearing in more detail about each of the interventions, please give me a call or an email and I can walk you through it in about 30 minutes and gift you with the overview and slides for you to share with your teams.

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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Business Management New Managers Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

2) Figure out how to measure productivity within your department

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

3) Make sure you know how internal processes work

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

4) Talk to your people and get to know them

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

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

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

6) Talk to your supervisor

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

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

Categories
Business Management Leadership Development New Managers Uncategorized

Management is dead! Long live leadership! Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

 

Categories
Leadership Development management systems organizational development

Not ‘inspirational’ enough to be a good leader? Think again!

Inspiration! The word itself is infused with optimism and a sense that the sky’s the limit. When I think of inspiration I think of creativity, positivity, and hope. When it comes to managers and leaders, I’ve found there are two main camps. Those who desire above all to inspire their followers to greatness, and those who feel that ‘inspiration’ is a bit silly, or at least unnecessary, to successfully attaining performance goals.

Now before you start thinking bad things about the leaders in the second camp, I think it’s helpful to understand why they might feel this way because it’s there that we’ll find the most helpful clues as to how to be an inspirational AND effective leader.

There are only a handful of reasons why someone would dismiss the ‘inspirational’ part of leadership. One that we can take off the table is the folks who actually don’t like people or care about their success. They see people as mere tools (or ‘resources’) to accomplish their goals. These people are likely sociopaths (or narcissists) and while they certainly can show up in senior leadership roles (for reasons we’ll table for another day), they’re really not who we’re talking about, because there are other, far less sinister reasons to mistrust the more intangible aspects of leadership. These reasons have everything to do with one’s perception of oneself, and one’s perception of the leadership role.

If a leader does not see him or herself as a particularly inspirational person, they are likely to eschew that aspect of their role. This can happen if one is introverted, or just doesn’t see oneself in that light. The introverted leader has probably felt for the most part that they have been effective due to perseverance and technical excellence, and sees inspiration as the territory of his/her more flamboyant peers. As Carol Dweck so excellently explains in her book Mindset, the Psychology of Success, we tend to avoid activities that conflict with the labels we have assigned ourselves (or have had assigned to us). ‘Non-Inspirational’ leaders in this camp usually care very much about the success of the people who work for them, but feel that the best way to lead is to ensure they are hitting their goals. Goal achievement is reward enough, and the other ‘fluff’ isn’t that important (they tell themselves). These are the managers that the high achievers respect, but that many would also describe as cold and unfeeling at worst; lacking warmth at best.

But there’s another reason to feel skittish about inspirational leadership. We’ve all encountered that person who could charm the stingers off the bees with their personality. These leaders always make you feel good and motivated. You feel like they really care about you, and you’d follow them to the ends of the earth. Except they’re not going anywhere! This is the person who is great for rallying the troops, but underwhelming when it comes to actually achieving any type of organizational goal (and make no mistake, even non-profit organizations have goals). These folks (correctly) assume that people are the most important part of a business relationship and invest their heart and soul into validating, encouraging, and inspiring their people, which is wonderful. But without direction, those very people who are being inspirted will eventually grow frustrated and stagnant.

I’ve seen both types of leaders fail to fulfill their true potential simply because of their preconceived notion of what their role can or should be. The best leaders, who change lives and companies, are both inspirational and organizationally effective (and I know many people will disagree with me, but this has been my observation over twenty years, and backed by research). Of course a leader can’t be ‘in the weeds’ doing the work instead of overseeing it, but they simply MUST have the tools to enable their subordinates to be effective in their roles. They must understand not only WHAT leads to success, but also HOW to perform those tasks, how to measure them, and how to reinforce them.

At the same time, it IS true that when people believe you sincerely care about them, as people, and are rooting for their success, it brings out the best in them, not to mention elevating their morale and engendering loyalty. You show you care by getting to know them as people, learning their stories, finding out what they really want in life – and helping them attain it. Old school managers worry that by being ‘too personal’, people will take advantage, but you can rarely go wrong by looking for the gold in people.

A solid performance management system releases you from the fear of being taken advantage of, and allows you the freedom of truth. It allows you to clear away misunderstandings about performance and, when there’s a mis-fit between position and aptitude, you can handle the situation with dignity and compassion and, because you know the person, often find a better suiting role.

So don’t be afraid to inspire! And at the same time, don’t be afraid to manage performance. Mastering both will allow you to become a legendary leader!

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
organizational development Uncategorized

What are you measuring (and why)?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people. With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work. Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com