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.

Take high road and don’t question decision

March 16, 2014

Q: I was promised a promotion to vice-president based on my knowledge, experience and performance.  Then last month a political appointment was inserted above me, pushing me down a level.

I’m convinced my opportunity has been torn from my grasp.  I feel betrayed and want to get to the bottom of how this happened. What’s the best way to do that?

A: It is devastating being passed over when the selection appears biased, unfair or undeserving. You may have been assured the role, but it still is not an entitlement. Therefore, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose by hunting down the culprit.

How will judging or critiquing the boss’s choices reflect on you? A knee-jerk reaction to quit or blame may, in their mind, justify their decision that you were not the right person for the role. This is not your first obstacle en route to the executive suite. The hardest distance to run in a marathon is the last mile.

If you choose to stick it out, take the high road to the finish line.

Keep your disappointment away from the workplace, seek feedback for improvement and support the new leader.

Believe that your continued commitment and outstanding abilities will once again be recognized.

If the leader is not a fit for the role, the obstacle may only be temporary. Therefore, staying the course may still pay dividends, albeit delayed.

Use the additional time strategically, exhibiting qualities of a resilient team player, trusted ally and reliable leader. If this is not the first time you have been passed over, your future may be limited at this company.

Best to move on perceived as a diplomat caught in the crossfire than an antagonistic bridge burner.

Originally printed in The Province, Mar 16, 2014.

Succession planning faux pas

May 20, 2013

Q : Two key executives unexpectedly announced their immediate departure for different reasons but we don’t have the appropriate talent in our pipeline to replace them. How can we prepare our juniors to take such an enormous leap?

A : You’re not alone. While the risk of sudden executive turnover is ever present, many companies still scramble in the wake of sudden vacancies because succession planning is often overlooked.

Leadership transitions are stressful for the entire organization. The goal at this time is to ensure a seamless transition. A transition consultant could assist in creating a new organizational vision and managing the transition process. This is an ideal time to determine the leadership skills needed for your organization’s future success.

Identify the crucial leadership characteristics and skills for each of these and other senior roles. Assign promising internal leaders to special projects to assess their capabilities and compatibility with the business’s future direction. Ask board members to remain beyond their terms for continuity during this challenging transition. Which internal high potentials could assume acting roles as you look for the ideal candidate?

What skill or experience gaps do your junior leaders have? What accelerated development, training programs or assignments would provide them with the necessary tools or expertise to get them ‘ready now’ for a potential advancement? Match them with leaders who can mentor them.

Annual executive planning sessions should include updates on the development of talent – their strengths, weaknesses and succession feasibility. A successful succession plan has more than one good person available for key roles.

A well-developed process increases the retention of superior employees. Continually challenging and rewarding talented employees reduces their need to seek opportunities elsewhere. They feel recognized, valued, invested in. The key is to match their career aspirations and the company’s future needs.

Originally printed in The Province, May 19, 2013.

It pays to hire female execs

October 25, 2010

Q: None of my top women managers are applying for executive positions. How can I change that?

A: Good idea, since studies reveal companies with more women in the C Suite and on the board financially outperform others by 35 to 65 per cent.

Results are best generated with an initiative actively championed by the CEO that implements a structured hiring policy, targeted development and a workplace that recognizes women’s need to balance work and life.

The easiest way for managers to fill roles is through their networks. Research shows 70 per cent of executives favour promoting men. Make gender parity a top management goal by rewarding it. By identifying particular capabilities to be promoted, current leaders will not merely replicate themselves. Require two qualified women be shortlisted for all leadership roles.

Fill the pipeline with eligible candidates, grooming high-potential women for promotion. Most women downplay their strengths and need to be persuaded to apply. A Hewlett Packard study found women apply for promotions only when they fill 100 per cent of the requirements. Men apply if they possess 60 per cent.

Offer women technical and leadership training. Give them high-profile assignments that partner them with a mentor. Appoint an internal champion to put capable women’s names forward. Coach women on navigating the organization, executive presence and negotiations.

A culture that supports women’s advancement rewards collaboration, promotes work-life balance, less travel, flexible work options and job sharing. It sponsors events during business hours so working mothers can attend.

Finally, measure your success. Track women’s progress, survey them to find out what best supported them and adjust the initiative accordingly.

Originally published in The Province, October 24, 2010.