Startup salary too small- Autonomy, stimulating work may compensate for less pay

February 21, 2016

Q: I’m working at a startup where the owners keep adding to my workload without increasing my salary. I’m starting to feel frustrated and resentful but afraid to talk to the owners because they keep telling us they aren’t drawing salaries. What else can I do but quit?

A: Remember why you joined in the first place. It’s almost a given that you will be paid less at a startup than you are worth. However, for many the chance to wear many hats and the potential for huge financial rewards later when the company gets traction outweighs the lower initial salary.

Other rewards of working at a start up are: greater autonomy and authority, variety and stimulating challenges, flexibility with less bureaucracy, a hands-on business education and a chance to shape the enterprise.

The benefits that will help your future marketability include greater responsibility, more visibility in a broader range of skills and a higher title sooner than is likely in a larger company.

While long hours and pitching in wherever needed are job requirements, an honest conversation with the owners about the impact the increased workload is having on you and the quality of your work could provide them with valuable feedback about the needs of their growing business.

Be calm, tactful and unemotional. Ask if they would be willing to reassign some responsibilities, hire additional support or increase your pay.

There are many creative options beyond salary that could be more economical or advantageous to a company with tight cash flow.

Flex hours, extended delivery deadlines, telecommuting, additional holiday time, dividends, profit sharing, health benefits, fitness membership, car/phone allowance or an assistant. If you continue to feel under valued, you may decide you’re better suited to a more structured workplace and exercise your option to leave.

Reprinted from The Province, February 21, 2016.

Motivate your staff by reviving effective work habits

January 6, 2013

Q: Last week my team returned from the holidays rested but unmotivated and unfocused. What can I do to re-engage them in work?

A: When depleted employees recharge their batteries during an extended time off, inertia can set in, making re-entry challenging. Cut through the holiday hangover by reviving their effective work habits.

Ride the holiday mood by hosting a new year’s social meeting highlighting last year’s wins, crediting the key players and having them share their key learn-ings. Present lighthearted awards for the accomplishments and comical prizes for meeting participation.

Jump-start their creativity by brainstorming a list of what they want to build on from the previous year’s successes. Stimulate a positive environment by inviting them to dream BIG. What do they really want to create as a team this year? If there were no limitations, what would it look like? How will they define success? What new skills and responsibilities do they want to gain?

As the team begins to imagine what could be possible, compile a list of simple ideas and short-term goals on a large whiteboard.

When your team starts to see the magnitude of accomplishments compared to modest effort required, you’ll create momentum without overwhelming them. As the list grows before their eyes they will feel productive, committed and inspired to move to action.

Finally, paint a compelling vision for them to invest in for the year. What does the team want to be known for at the end of the year? What attributes do they want to be recognized for? Innovative, visionary, bold or customer focused? What is each member’s personal stake in the vision?

When members create and take ownership of a vision, it’s easier to keep them on track, hold them accountable and re-spark them throughout the year.

Originally printed in The Province, January 6, 2013.

Hints to help bump up 2012

January 16, 2012

Q:  I love my work, team and organization, so I don’t understand why I’m feeling so
stagnant and bored. I’d appreciate some suggestions to kick start my year.

A: Sometimes we need a change and a challenge. Here are some ideas to make 2012 a
motivating adventure.

– Take on something completely different at work. Step up for an acting role, a
secondment to a project, or an assignment in new department where you would be
shaken out of your com-fort zone, challenged and grow.

– Initiate a cause in your organization that’s meaningful to you. A client of
mine led a team to build a school in Kenya.

– Hire coach to give you a shot in the arm, a kick in the butt and explore more
of your potential!

– Mentor someone who you really want to see succeed at work or in your community.

– Take an intensive leadership pro-gram, get a degree, learn to conquer a fear.
Engage your mind in new ways.

– Set a lofty career aspiration with an unrealistic timeline and ask a mentor to
hold you to it.

– Take a sabbatical to work with a community that would benefit from your
expertise. Nothing is more humbling or rewarding than serving those who attempt
to do so much with so little.

– Transfer to another geographic region or business partner. Be bold. Go
somewhere you don’t speak the language.

– Write a professional bucket list and start tackling it NOW. If you only had one
year left at your company what would you want your legacy to be?

– Email me what you choose and in December let me know how it went. Make it a
breathtaking year!

Originally published in The Province, January 15, 2012.

Meet Gen-Yers on their turf

June 12, 2011

Q: I’ve been a CEO for a long time and frankly this generation has me stumped. Our new hires are 20-somethings. I hate to stereotype but they seem arrogant and self absorbed. During an interview one candidate even checked a text message on his phone! How do I manage and motivate them?

A: Generation Y are whiz kids raised on instant gratification where a click of a button gave them access to everything. They have short attention spans, which makes them excellent multi-taskers.

If you want to reach them, meet them on their turf. They respond better to an instant message or text than a phone or face-to-face meeting. Be brief. They speak in shorthand, processing information quickly. What you may be interpreting as disrespect is their chomping at the bit to take action.

They work best in an open, energetic atmosphere. They love to participate, not wanting to miss out on anything. They thrive in an entrepreneurial environment where they are empowered and rewarded for their individualism.

Salary is less important than meaningful work where they’re recognized for the difference they make. They are motivated by a management style that mentors and develops them professionally. Inspiring leadership can unleash tremendous productivity. When they’re engaged, they willingly work after hours as long as they can check their Facebook status at work.

Sharp, highly creative and ambitious, they crave variety and challenge. If they aren’t given the chance to advance they’ll be out the door. They know they don’t have to go far to replace an aging boomer. With 1,000 retiring each day in Canada, you’ll need to continue meeting the key retention question: “What’s in it for me?”

Originally printed in The Province, June 12, 2011

Coaching cancer

June 10, 2011

In my 11 years of Co-Active coaching, the toughest coaching client I’ve ever had has been my mom. She had never dared to believe she had any right to ask for what she wanted. Even her own life. So the concept of living a fulfilling life was not merely a “radical act,” but a foreign concept to her.

Mom’s wake-up call came in the guise of lymphoma at age 75. Even though the incurable blood cancer had first gnawed 10 pounds off her delicate 99-pound frame before she was diagnosed, she insisted she was fine: “I don’t need to go to any doctor!” she’d snap with a swat of her hand at us. Ignoring the unwanted had always worked in the past to make it go away. Why not now?

She was finally so weak that she went to the doctor. We learned it was cancer, and it was advancing relentlessly. In spite of three rounds of chemotherapy, a spleen removal (it can block blood production) and regular blood transfusions in the following 18 months, Mom struggled to control the chaos the only way she knew how – by continuing to live exactly as she always had. She kept smoking in secret, but insisted she wasn’t, and refused to exercise every day, but insisted she was.

Mom’s always been a rebel. How else do you distinguish yourself from eight siblings in a traditional Chinese family where boys are born valuable and girls are only there to serve and sacrifice? Revealing her true feelings was an indiscretion worthy of a beating. No wonder she couldn’t receive the outpouring of assistance, love and support from family and friends. Needing help would reveal a humiliating weakness of character.

We have been partners on this journey for almost three years now. Working as a professional Co-Active coach has permitted me the flexibility to be at every lab test, check-up, oncology appointment and chemotherapy treatment. The first two years, I tried to shift her perspective from ‘the cancer is omnipotent’ to ‘I am capable of beating it’ but she clung to her saboteurs for dear life. I tried future visioning to create a possible dream to reach for post-chemo. But giving selflessly was so ingrained in her that all I got back was, “What are you talking about? What on earth is fulfillment?”

Then, last August, her blood levels and immunity plummeted to an all-time dangerous low, she was stricken with a second more aggressive cancer and Dad, her life partner of 53 years, died – all in the same week. She called it a cruel slap in the face and crumbled into helpless tears. The only other time I witnessed Mom cry was when her father was killed in a traffic accident.

The crushing blow jolted her out of her denial. Mom began wondering aloud how she could transform this disease and take back her life. My powerful question that shifted her thinking was, “What would make life worth fighting for?” She whispered, so as not to jinx it: “To travel a bit of the world with my sisters and be at each of my four grandchildren’s weddings.” These dreams transformed her relationship with her disease. Instead of being a victim to it, she began visualizing her body full of goodness powerfully shooting the invading cancer cells.

Mom and I during chemo

You know how the most powerful part of coaching happens between the sessions? As coaches, we can’t underestimate our impact. During this final round of chemo she sighed, “I guess it’s time I start loving myself.” Wow! That’s HUGE! Since then, she has been paying attention to her body’s subtle cues, being compassionate with herself, even graciously receiving help. The Future Self/Captain archetype I anointed her is “Queen”. She surrenders in giggles when I ask, “Now, Mom, what would a Queen do?”

The journey has also transformed our relationship from one of a mother shielding and protecting her daughter’s innocence to two adult women relating authentically as friends, mentors and equals. It took months of redesign for Mom to recognize that maintaining a stoic facade was pointlessly taxing and lonely. All my life I’ve been craving to know my mom deeply. That was cancer’s expensive consolation gift.

During our daily phone calls, I consciously create a safe and courageous space for her to explore her darkest emotions. When I ask how she’s feeling now, “fine” has been replaced by checking in with herself and articulating anything from “I think I may be on borrowed time,” or “This has been going on so long, I’m so discouraged,” to “You know, I’m pretty lucky.” The witnessing is helping her become comfortable with this disconnected part of herself. She told me last week that talking about it is helping her to let it go.

Mom’s sixth and final chemo treatment is this week. She’s weak from the toxic cocktails, fatigued by disturbed sleep cycles, and experiencing new side effects. She knows her belief in herself has the greatest influence on her healing, but those old self-berating habits are seductive and it’s taking all of her will to hold onto her optimism. She is conscious of keeping the healing energy flowing through her by focusing on the good in situations rather than worry about the worst-case scenario.

I’m writing this in O’Hare airport waiting for the flight home after leading the Process course. Tears are streaming down my face as I reflect on the perfection of being this weekend’s practice client. Skillful coaches allowed me to voice my own fear of losing Mom. They gave me the judgment-free space to express my anger at God, frustration with her situation and guilt about not being able to make it all better. This clearing enabled me to move through my own emotions to acceptance so I can be present for hers. What is…is. It IS enough to simply love her as she is. She may well be the very reason I was called to this work.

Originally posted in the Coaches Training Institute’s blog: Transforum, June, 2011

Put the spark back into staff

July 19, 2009

Q: With sagging sales, our company is re-evaluating our five-year plan. My managers are concerned their jobs may be at risk, yet their motivation is waning. How do I reassure and re-engage them?

A: Even with job security down, disengagement is up. People are torn between knowing they must perform to keep their jobs, and the emotional drain of economic uncertainty. It takes fortitude to remain optimistic. You can re-spark your staff with a few simple steps:

1. Reinforce their value and worth. Recognize more than just accomplishments. Make every effort to point out how their actions positively impact the organization. Acknowledge their innate strengths and characteristics liberally.

2. Set up your staff to be successful. Be clear and specific about the expected outcomes, then give latitude and flexibility to complete the job their way. When feeling lack of control in one area, people need to feel in charge elsewhere. The freedom to be innovative and creative will empower and inspire them.

3. Invite input and collaboration. Under pressure it’s easy to revert to a directive style of managing, but it comes at a high cost. Take the time to include staff in decision-making, giving them choices wherever possible. When included, people become invested.

4. Build trust. Open, honest and frank communication is paramount. In uncertainty, silence sends people to imagining the worst. You can avert reactive behaviour with regular updates — and it is just as important to say there’s nothing new.

5. Support their development. Find out where they want to grow and make it happen. Web-based or tele-training, coaching, internal mentoring, mastermind groups or even a new project are cost-effective ways to build new skills.

It’s important in any economy to show your most valuable resources matter as much as the bottom line.

Originally printed in The Province July 19, 2009.

Is time right to take the leap?

July 13, 2008

Q: I’m ready to leave my job to launch my own business, but I’m worried about the U.S. recession and the impact it might have on the Canadian economy and my business. Would you recommend I wait until the economy improves?

A: New businesses start and succeed at every point in the economic cycle. The advantage to starting up during a weaker economy is there are probably fewer competitors entering the market at this time and what better way to create a recession-proof enterprise than to launch a lean business machine?

For now, keep your expenses minimal and set up simple stream-lined systems. Resist the need to invest up front on glossy marketing materials, elaborate business cards or lavish office equipment to make your business “official.”

Focus your efforts on the work itself — and doing the kind of outstanding job you want to become known for. Start small by giving clients a low-risk experience of working with you. Your goal is to leave them wanting more.

Develop your reputation and build on their confidence and trust in you. Trust that word-of-mouth referrals will follow when you’re professional, deliver excellence and ask for more business.

Grow your market slowly and steadily, ironing out the kinks in your early days. A start-up business has the flexibility to respond quickly to consumer needs — an advantage in a constricted market when buyers are more value conscious.

However, if worries are getting in your way, it’s not unusual to hold a day job as a fledgling business is ramping up. Being hungry for the business can drive you; being desperate for the sale can drive clients away. Playing your cards right when consumers are belt-tightening could mean hitting the jackpot when spending confidence resumes.

Originally printed in The Province on July 13, 2008.