I’ve always worked hard. Some have told me that I worked harder than I needed to.
I was someone who was the first to raise my hand and say “yes” to a new project or additional responsibility. I stayed late and came in early. I gave the proverbial 110%. I carried the belief as a badge of honor that, if I worked hard enough, I would get rewarded — which, to me, meant more money from those I worked with or for.
It worked out pretty well until the day I realized that years of creating new client relationships, building on existing ones and developing an entire curriculum of leadership development material was in the control of a boss that had authority to do with it what he wanted to. When he made the decision to cut me out of the business arrangement and choose someone else to work with, the hidden factor that I had been missing in all my corporate relationships hit me in the face and the gut. I had raised my hand too soon, trusted without contracting and hadn’t negotiated the authority I needed to achieve the outcomes I really wanted.
The real reason that I wasn’t getting my full worth at work — and perhaps you aren’t, either — is that I was playing the short game. I was focusing on what I thought someone in business “should” do.
From my boss’ perspective — or the average business person’s perspective — what they think they “should” do is negotiate the best possible price for goods or services sold. The lower they can keep that figure, the higher the profit to the equity holders will be. If you can prove that you are delivering a high rate of return that leads to that outcome, you can get more money. That job is yours, not theirs. You need to ask what you are worth, not wait to be recognized and rewarded for your contribution. You boss’ job is to negotiate the lowest amount of pay for the highest amount of value. It’s your job to negotiate the highest price (salary/compensation package) based on what you can and promise to deliver.
To reach your true worth, though, you will need to have negotiated authority for what you are responsible for — and definitely what you will be accountable for. If you fail to see that hidden factor, there is a high likelihood you will hit a real glass ceiling. Without holding the authority in a situation at work, you can easily be held back from reaching agreed-upon goals, and you may not have a seat at the table or the influence necessary to make changes that lead to success at work.
What I learned the hard way is to ask some questions at the very beginning of a business relationship:
• What will right results look like this time next year — for you, for me and for the organization? What will we have, be doing and feel when we get there?
• What part of that goal will I be held accountable for?
• What are the consequences if I do not reach that goal?
• Who, what areas and what resources will I have authority over to reach that goal?
• If I am assigned team members, will I have the authority to remove them from their positions if they are not achieving the goals that we agree on?
• Will I have the authority to hire new team members, or does someone else at the company have that authority?
• What will be my full compensation package for working towards achieving that goal, and what level of compensation will I earn if I overachieve that goal?
• What recourse will I have if the person I report to and I do not agree on the same course of action for reaching that goal?
• To what degree is how I am doing something supervised or dictated to me?
• What will be the check-in points between me and the person I report to in order to be sure that I am receiving the appropriate feedback to be successful at the job I am doing?
Communicate and receive feedback up front on what you feel you are responsible for. Many times, we feel responsible for things that others do not think are our responsibilities. By receiving feedback from the person you report to, you can understand more clearly what their expectations of you are.
These questions won’t give you every answer you need to determine what level of authority you are walking into for a new job, position or project assignment, but they should give you some clear benchmarks to determine what your level of authority is and what you will be held accountable for, which means you have a clearer picture of what you are getting yourself into.
Ultimately, your pay needs to be in alignment with your ability to set the direction for what you have committed to accomplish at work. When you ask for (and receive) the appropriate level of authority, your chances of earning more money dramatically increase. Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) normally make more money than vice presidents, and they make more money then directors. The entrepreneur/owner of a company holds the highest level of authority and, therefore, determines what they make and what everyone else does, too.
Today, I am the CEO of my own leadership coaching and consulting firm. I ask members of my team for their input on decisions that need to be made for our organization. I give them authority over their areas and anyone who would report to them so that we can maintain velocity as the firm quickly grows. The ultimate authority lies with me now, though, and I’m happy to report that I feel I am finally getting what I am worth at work.