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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.

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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, 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 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

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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.

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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

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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