The Key to a Successful Salary Increase Conversation

Salary adjustments.  Merit increases.  Annual salary reviews.

Call them whatever you want, this simple fact remains:  the process of reviewing and adjusting salaries for employees is a stressful one.  So much anxiety, tension and trepidation.

Many companies are focused on a standard process, a fair review that incorporates performance and potential, and hitting “the number” just right, to compensate employees according to the factors important to the company.  As a matter of fact, many companies do this very, very well.

Why is this, exactly?  Why does it almost never go well?

During my recent reading about Customer Experience, Employee Experience and how important Employee Expectations are in both of those equations, I had an epiphany.

I think I have discovered the key ingredient:  expectations.

Think of it this way – the success of a salary increase conversation hinges not on whether the process was fair or equitable.  It hinges on whether the employee thinks it is fair.  That is a fairly small, but at the same time HUGE difference.  Let that sink in for a minute…

It hinges on whether the employee thinks it is fair.

Soooo…

What am I saying, exactly?  Am I saying that the only successful salary increase conversation is one that the employee dictates entirely, and basically chooses what his/her increase will be?  Nope.  Not at all.

I’m saying this – understanding what your employee expects going into the entire process will help you understand their mindset coming in, and allow you to have multiple productive conversations to arrive at a point where trust is present, and the ultimate decision (even one that you may not have agreed with, or approved of) can be successful.

Here are a few tips on how to do that:

  1. Build trust first.  It starts early on in the relationship and needs to be sustained over time.  Trust matters.  Seeds of successful salary conversations are planted months before the actual salary conversation.
  2. Hold regular 1:1 conversations.  Become comfortable talking with each other about work topics, and “how do you feel about ______”.
  3. Introduce the topic frequently enough to make it a comfortable conversation.  In these private 1:1 conversations, talk openly about salary & compensation.  This will allow future conversations about compensation to happen much more easily.  #practicemakesperfect

Note:  countless managers talk about compensation/pay once per year (at salary adjustment time) and are shocked when it doesn’t go well… OF COURSE IT WON’T GO WELL!!! 

It takes effort and practice!

Now, I understand it’s never this simple.  There are so many complex factors and variables in each individual circumstance that it would be impossible to prescribe one “best practice”.  But start with building trust over time, and understanding expectations, and you will feel better prepared during the entire process.

(“What’s next?” after you understand their expectations is a future post… please share any thoughts/comments/questions below!)

 

Leadership is the ‘Platinum Rule’

The Golden Rule.  Feels like something most of us have known, and been taught, from when we were young – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Basically, ‘treat others as you want to be treated’.  Simple enough, right?

While a very good concept as a basic thought & principle, to find success at work and in leadership, I always felt it needed to go one step further.

Several years ago I stumbled upon a concept called the Platinum Rule.  I will attribute my learning to a Dr Tony Alessandra (an originator of the concept, as far as I can tell, in this book from 1998).

The Platinum Rule simply states:  treat others as they want to be treated.

While a very simple concept, it is profound in its application in the workplace, in leadership, and in our personal lives.

A couple of simple personal examples:

  • Once I received a Christmas gift from someone I know fairly well, and am fairly close to.  The gift was well intended but was very obviously something this person would have chosen for themselves.  The sentiment was basically, “I would love this gift, so I know Scott will as well.”

Probably more of a ‘Golden Rule’ type gift (and for the record, it was not my wife.  She is an excellent gift giver! LOL!)

  • A few years ago at work, I was talking with a certain manager about some recognition he was giving his team for a job well done on a certain project.  He was very excited to call out excellent performance of these team members.  As he was talking through each person, he shared that for one lady on his team, he was going to pull her aside, and in a private, 1:1 setting, express how important her contributions were, and how much he appreciated her.  “Why not do that in front of the whole group?” I asked, thinking I was adding an element of excitement to his recognition.  “Because she would hate that.  She’s told me.” He replied, very matter of factly.

Wow!!!  True “Platinum Rule” recognition – he did it in a style that she preferred, and would appreciate.  I learned a lot about the Platinum Rule that day.

The best leaders I have ever known use this concept constantly – it is almost second nature to them.  The communicate in a way the other person prefers (thus increasing the effectiveness), or they assign tasks, follow up, and check in the way the other person prefers.  It’s awesome.

Please share comments below!  Have you ever worked with a leader who truly demonstrated the Platinum Rule on a regular basis?

 

Four Steps to Effective Delegation

Leaders are asked to accomplish many things with limited time and resources.  They can’t possibly do everything themselves (nor should they).  It is absolutely critical for leaders to properly delegate.

Delegation is not just “passing the buck” to others; responsibility still lies with the leader.

Delegation is also not just blindly passing tasks to random team members. Effective delegation takes effort, preparation, and practice.

Back in 2012 I got an e-mail from Competitive Solutions, which now appears to be connected to, or known as Process Based Leadership.

Here are the Four Steps to Effective Delegation:

  1. Maintain supervisory control  (in other words, don’t go completely “hands off”)
    • Observe and provide feedback
    • Review periodically and track progress
    • Validate completion of tasks – both milestones, and final/overall task
  2. Select the task and match it to the proper employee
    • Consider time frame, necessary training, and ability to complete the task
    • Use previous experiences, utilize strengths and provide opportunity for growth
    • Consider desired outcomes and benefit to the employee
  3. Communicate the task and gain commitment
    • Meet to discuss the task’s importance and value to the organization
    • Explain the benefits of accomplishing the task
    • Clearly articulate the desired outcomes, timeframe, and results
    • Confirm understanding and gain commitment
  4. Provide recognition
    • Recognize both effort and results
    • Acknowledge growth, learning, and development
    • Set the tone for future delegation of tasks

Delegation, when done properly, can provide a true “win win” situation.  Help and support to the leader, and a valuable, rewarding experience to the employee.

And remember:

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.“ – Max DePree

(sidenote: I couldn’t find the original content I captured back in 2012, but this is a really good article I found on their site, on the topic of delegation. Credit “jamiee” – author of the article, who shared this quote)

Align with your team using this one simple exercise…

Meet John.  John has been part of his team for three years – he knows his peers well, the team is doing a good job.  The Manager has resigned from the company, and John is promoted.  Congrats John!  Now the fun begins!

So John comes in on a Monday morning, as the newly minted Manager of the team, now the fearless leader!  Certainly John has many great ideas to implement that will help the team accomplish great things.  He probably can’t wait to get started!

Hold on John.  Pause for a moment.

Even if you are 100% certain your ideas are the best thing to do for your team’s performance, be warned that many, many Managers have started off on the wrong foot by trying to implement good ideas before taking important steps to build trust.

The first task for any manager is to build trust.  Genuine, authentic trust.

I recommend one simple activity for John to gain trust of the team and get off to a great start.  The exercise is simply called “Start Stop Continue” (this is not my original activity – I learned it a while back, there are many representations of it online… I truly do not know the origination).  The idea is very simple:  find out what the team thinks that you (collectively) should start doing, should stop doing, and should continue doing.  

Start with a whiteboard (or note-taking paper on the wall) like this: Continue reading

What a leader should do when it’s awkward…

awkward-meme

If I say “awkward,” what’s the first thing you think of?  A first date?  A painful social interaction?  What about a job interview or a work conversation?

You figured once you “arrived” into management, your days of awkward conversations were coming to an end, right?  Welp, if you haven’t figured out already this is not the case, you will soon…

You know what?  I hope you embrace it!  Yes, that’s right! Embrace awkwardness in leadership.  It is a challenge, for sure – but it will allow you to build your own leadership capability, and demonstrate true firmness as a leader (a very important attribute).

Why?  Because leadership is not comfortable.  

You will need to acknowledge awkward conversations, prepare for them, and tackle them head on.  One of the most damaging thing to credibility and trust, as you manage your team, is to always take the easy way out.  To always say or do what makes things comfortable.  It’s the wrong way to go.  “Management awkwardness” is potentially a very important way for you to gain ground as a leader.

Let’s play out “management awkwardness” in a few different scenarios:

Scenario 1:  giving employee important coaching/feedback on some points of improvement.  He immediately starts arguing – making excuses, blaming, or (worst of all) pointing our your flaws and shortcomings as a leader.  What do you do?

Natural response: you ‘hedge your bet,’ either softening the feedback message, adding in some positive elements, or even retreating altogether.

Correct response:  wait.  Endure the awkward silence, but hold fast to your previous comments (which, I’m going to assume, were substantive, fair and objective).  Don’t back off.  Instead, listen to understand what makes them feel this way, then request to continue the discussion at a later date.  Don’t ‘keep trying’ to get your point across; they aren’t listening anyway by that point.

Scenario 2:  all-star employee, high performer asks to meet with you to discuss career development.  He/she expresses concern at not knowing what his/her direction and future will be with the company.  What do you do? Continue reading

Ally or Adversary? 5 Actions that Destroy Professional Relationships

(Guest Author Morag Barrett, for Real. Simple. Leadership.)

For Part 1 (5 Actions the Build Professional Relationships), click here

Remember, if relationships matter, they matter even more at work.

Your success depends on the quality of your professional relationships.

Those people without whom your success would be compromised; the professional connections that you reach out to when you have a question or are unsure of what action to take; winning relationships that empower you to achieve outstanding results together; the “I-couldn’t-get-my-job-done-without-you” relationships. It is also about those difficult and challenging relationships that drain your energy, that create roadblocks and impact your ability to deliver the goals and results expected of you, the “I-get-my-job-done-in-spite-of-you” relationships.

Improving the quality of our professional relationships at work is not rocket science, but it may as well be. We’re all so busy keeping our heads down and eyes on the prize that we can forget to look up and connect with those around us.

Here are five Don’t’s that will help ensure you create career allies and not career adversaries:

DON’T: Focus only on what you can get.

If you only contact your critical stakeholder when you need something, you’ll very quickly find that your ‘work-spouse’ might be washing their hair and unavailable! An Ally relationship is about ‘give and take’. Be proactive in offering your expertise, and ensure that reciprocity is part of your relationship.

DON’T: Stick with the usual suspects.

Many leaders put a lot of energy in cultivating relationships with those with the right title and seniority (the vertical relationships) but spend less care and attention on horizontal relationships across their business. If you’re focused only on the ‘right’ connections, your style will come across as inauthentic. I’ve worked with many leaders whose relationships have been skewed in one direction (usually up) and do not include representation from across the organization. Continue reading

How do I Repair a Broken Relationship With My Employee?

Imagine for a moment, you are the manager of a team.  You were promoted into this role either because…

  1. It was the only career path (more $$$) available,
  2. You had some preconceived notion about the glamor of ‘management,’
  3. You were the highest performer on the team at a time there was a vacancy in the manager spot, or
  4. …Well… you don’t really know why or how – you were just going well in your job, and then suddenly found yourself promoted into a manager role.  #howdidIgethere

Sound familiar?  Let’s continue.

Even though you have been in the role for a little while, there is still one person on the team that is just a struggle.  For some reason, you can’t connect with him/her.  He/she causes problems, is a poor performer, or there is something else “broken” about your relationship with that person.

Still sound familiar?  If so, you are not alone.  In fact, it happens often.  VERY often.

Oh, and the feeling you probably have that this situation is known by others, and is probably dragging down the team in some way?  You’re not alone there either, and your instincts are right.  Resolving the situation with that one person will help the team.

Now, I have some good news and some bad news.  Good news: you’re not alone, all is not lost, and you will be able to improve things if you want to.  Bad news: it won’t be easy, there’s no ‘magic  bullet’, and it might be painful at times.

So where do we begin? Continue reading

Ally or Adversary? 5 Actions that Build Professional Relationships.

(Guest Author Morag Barrett, for Real. Simple. Leadership.)

How many hours a week do you spend at work with your colleagues? 40? 50? 60? How many hours a week do you spend with family and friends? My guess is that, like many of the leaders I work with, you spend more time with your co-workers than you do at home.

If relationships matter, they matter even more at work.

Your success depends on the quality of your professional relationships.

Those people without whom your success would be compromised; the professional connections that you reach out to when you have a question or are unsure of what action to take; winning relationships that empower you to achieve outstanding results together; the “I-couldn’t-get-my-job-done-without-you” relationships. It is also about those difficult and challenging relationships that drain your energy, that create roadblocks and impact your ability to deliver the goals and results expected of you, the “I-get-my-job-done-in-spite-of-you” relationships.

Having an Ally relationship at work has been shown in numerous studies to make you a better leader, more engaging to customers, deliver stronger results and produce higher quality work. An article in Harvard Business Review reported that strong social bonds don’t just predict overall happiness, but also have a significant effect on a person’s long-term career achievement, occupational success, and, ultimately, income.

Improving the quality of our professional relationships at work is not rocket science, but it may as well be. We’re all so busy keeping our heads down and eyes on the prize that we can forget to look up and connect with those around us.

These five Do’s will help ensure you create career allies and not career adversaries:

DO: Identify who you need to connect with.

You don’t have enough time to develop Ally relationships with everyone. Take a moment to write down three critical goals you must achieve in the next few months. Next to each goal, write down the names of your coworkers who could help or hinder your ability to achieve those results. These are the critical relationships that require care and attention, and the people with whom you need to proactively invest time with to develop an Ally relationship. Remember: your success depends on this person (and may be at risk if you don’t)!

Continue reading

Keep Your Eye on What Matters Most

I heard a speech in 2009 about a very important principle of leadership:  the importance of keeping an eye on what matters most, even in the face of an immediate or important crisis.

The following story was shared to illustrate this principle***:

On a dark December night 36 years ago, a Lockheed 1011 jumbo jet crashed into the Florida Everglades, killing over 100 people. This terrible accident was one of the deadliest crashes in the history of the United States.

A curious thing about this accident is that all vital parts and systems of the airplane were functioning perfectly—the plane could have easily landed safely at its destination in Miami, only 20 miles (32km) away.

During the final approach, however, the crew noticed that one green light had failed to illuminate—a light that indicates whether or not the nose landing gear has extended successfully. The pilots discontinued the approach, set the aircraft into a circling holding pattern over the pitch-black Everglades, and turned their attention toward investigating the problem.

They became so preoccupied with their search that they failed to realize the plane was gradually descending closer and closer toward the dark swamp below. By the time someone noticed what was happening, it was too late to avoid the disaster.

After the accident, investigators tried to determine the cause. The landing gear had indeed lowered properly. The plane was in perfect mechanical condition. Everything was working properly—all except one thing: a single burned-out lightbulb. That tiny bulb—worth about 20 cents—started the chain of events that ultimately led to the tragic death of over 100 people.

Of course, the malfunctioning light bulb didn’t cause the accident; it happened because the crew placed its focus on something that seemed to matter at the moment while losing sight of what mattered most.

So, an important lesson for all leaders:  keep consistently focused on what matters most.

Don’t lose sight of the big picture.  Don’t let an urgent issue (no matter how big or small) take our attention off the big picture, the most important stuff going on.

It is especially important to remember this during times of transition and change.  As a leader, always keep the big picture in the forefront of your mind.  Help others to do the same.

My advice on how to do this, especially in times of crisis & urgency?

  1. Reflect. Each day remind yourself of the priorities and big picture.
  2. Connect.  Share with someone you trust, what you are thinking/feeling and your action plans.  Help keep each other on course!
  3. Inspect.  Examine what you’re spending your time and energy on.  Does it fit within the big picture?  Write stuff down. Keep detailed notes & communication to ensure information won’t be ‘lost in translation’.

It is a HARD task, to keep the big picture in mind while so much is going on around you.  But as a leader, you need to do it.  You need to lead others, as they struggle with the same thing(s).

But you can do it!  Others will look to you!  Work together to succeed!

***(Detailed description of the flight and crew found here;  details of the crash found here.  Full description found here – pay special attention to the section entitled “Cause of the Crash”.  Official report can be seen here.)

The Most Dangerous Threat to Culture & Leadership

Team.  Department.  These terms describe a group of people together.  We are all working together, right?

At first glance we may be, but have you ever noticed someone who just isn’t quite “part of the team”?  You may be noticing the first signs of a dangerous threat to your own culture and leadership:  isolation.

One of my favorite TV Shows, Lost, had a great scene early in the series that dramatizes the effect of isolation (scene takes place shortly after their plane had crashed on a desert island):

As you lead your team, you may not feel such a dramatic impact or risk of isolation, but maybe you did notice people who exhibit signs such as:

  • closing their office door
  • working with earbuds in, seemingly all the time
  • “too busy” for things like team meetings, team lunches or workplace activities
  • demonstrating a “just leave me alone to to my work” attitude in any number of ways

On the surface, these things seem pretty harmless.  But if left unattended, that kind of behavior can become contagious; it will start to erode your team’s culture, and undermine your own leadership.  It is important to address early on.

There are many causes of isolation, but a few environmental factors can make it more likely:

  • someone is new to the company
  • someone is new to the team, or department
  • someone works remotely, or in a different location
  • someone has done their job for a really long time and doesn’t really “need” anyone else for help
  • someone who just wants to come in to work, do their own job and go home

Individuals in these categories may simply be more likely to isolate themselves.  Many times this happens so subtly over time that they don’t even perceive it.

But I guarantee your team will be much better off if you eliminate isolation.

My advice to you, as a manager?  Be aware of these causes of isolation – if you identify possible risks or warning signs, take action!  Build trust with that person.  Connect.  Work with them and talk to them on an individual basis, in a meaningful way.  That is the heart of leadership.  Connecting with people.

What do you think?  How have you overcome isolation in a team you lead?

Comment below!