In the Spotlight

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Whether you know it or not, you are in the spotlight.

Maybe not every day, maybe not even every month, but there are one or two times a year that you are in the spotlight. Under the microscope. I’m talking about raise and bonus time.

The problem a lot of people run into is that your raise or bonus is theoretically based on the past year or the past 6 months, but people tend to have a better short-term memory and forget things more than a few weeks old.

They need a reminder.

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You can give them that reminder. Remember the 2 keys:

  1. How am I adding value to the company?
  2. How do raises / bonuses work at my company?

I once forgot #1 when I started a new job and it almost got me fired.

This was an example of showing up in the spotlight in a BAD way.

I remember sitting in my cubicle thinking, “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this! This is so cool!” There was a fully stocked kitchen and I had just read Linchpin by Seth Godin. I was ready to take on an undiscovered project and show just how cool I was.

I sat near 2 customer service reps for the company. It seemed like they really had to wrestle with the software to do their job.

“I can fix that!”

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Problem #1: I wasn’t hired to help 2 customer service reps. There were other areas in the company that were more mission critical and had a much higher value and return on investment for the company.

Problem #2: I started focusing on this “side project” and talking it up to everyone. However, I was not aware how I was being measured and evaluated by my manager. I was actually falling behind in what they needed me to do.

This resulted in a conversation where I was given a day to decide if I wanted to shake hands and leave with a 2-week pay advance or come up with an improvement plan to stay.

Oh yeah, and if the plan didn’t work out then I would just be fired.

Ouch.

I didn’t even see it coming.

Because I didn’t know how I was adding value

Because I didn’t know the goals of the company

Because I didn’t know how I was being measured

All 3 of those can be solved by asking.

Talk to your manager and find out the answers! You’ve got to focus on the right thing. It does no good to focus on a side project if it does not add value and it is not in line with company goals.

Reminders and focusing on how I add value and finding out how things worked at the company resulted in a conversation with that same manager 2 years later about what they could do to get me to STAY.

Much better conversation.

Ok, so with that caution light in place, back to reminders. And we’re going to do that by talking about dessert.

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I love cheesecake.

But I can’t eat much more than 1 slice of really good cheesecake before I start to feel sick. It’s just too much. I would much rather have 1 slice every month than an entire cheesecake all at once.

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This is the same with reminders and to remember key #2 – know how bonuses and raises work at your company.

If you gather a bunch of good information about what you have done throughout the year but wait until your review meeting to present it to your manager, that’s usually a little too late to make much of a difference.

They need that information when the decisions are being made.

They need little reminders throughout the year about how awesome you are.

I’m not talking about making things up or being a show-off. I’m talking about providing information about where you are adding real value.

Testimonials

The best reminder won’t come from you, but someone you helped.

When you complete a project for someone or really help them with a critical item, often they will reply with a “thank you” or “good job”. Save these emails for later so you can quote what other people said about you.

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It’s also a great idea to ask various people you help or work with for a testimonial. Just ask them for a few sentences describing how you helped them out.

I’ve been surprised by this – something that was pretty easy for me turned out to have a huge impact on them and how they describe it in their own words is usually much more than I would have said about it.

Sometimes you don’t know just how awesome you are. And coming from other people is even better than saying it yourself.

Timestamp Email

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If you’re up late working on something, don’t be shy about sending an email to inform those who are interested in your progress or that it’s done. Copy your manager so they are in the loop.

Just make sure you’re actually producing something. I remember seeing people “stay late in the office” just to keep the chair warm until the boss left but they were pretty much just watching youtube those last hours of the day. That’s just a waste.

These timestamp emails should serve to educate others on what you are actually doing so you don’t have to play the stay in the office game.

Working late also shouldn’t be your only claim to fame so don’t over-use it, but depending on your company culture this can go a long way and put you in the right spotlight.

Plant a Seed

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When someone helps you out whether it’s a colleague, a vendor, a customer, whoever, send a quick email or note describing what they did, the impact it had on you, and thank them. Be sure to include their manager. You may help someone more than you’ll ever know.

You’re not going to just trade testimonials with others, I’m talking about genuinely expressing thanks for people who help you out. This is a general principle – if you want testimonials, then be the type of person who also gives testimonials.

How do you remind your manager? What has worked or not worked for you?

Sincerely,

Craig Golightly

Are you waiting in the right line?

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Happy Black Friday! Are you shopping online in your PJs, bundled up and waiting outside in a line, or happily sleeping in after a nice Thanksgiving?

A big part of black Friday for me was the build up and suspense. Going through the 2-inch thick newspaper while eating just one more piece of pie, making a game plan with family to divide and conquer different stores, waiting outside in the freezing cold to be one of the first in line.

But ultimately when the doors opened, you didn’t always know where stuff was in the store or if there would be enough for you by the time you found it.

I’m all for a good mystery but do you really want your bonus to be a black box?
blackboxIt’s time to find out how things work at your job and there’s no better place to start than when you get the news for this year’s bonus.

For our discussion, we will refer to a bonus as a one-time payout each year and a raise as something that is added to your salary which stays as long as you are at the job. Strategies we discuss can be applied to both raises and bonuses. You decide what makes the most sense for your situation.

Raises are usually done every year either on an individual’s anniversary with the company or during a scheduled company-wide window. They usually have some average range and managers have some freedom to allocate higher or lower raises based on performance.

Most companies pay an annual bonus toward the end of the year, and it is usually tied to some company metric like a percentage of revenue or some other target the company has set.

This is because most people are average. They don’t want to think about setting specific goals and rewards for achieving those goals. So from the company’s perspective they just pick a “lazy” metric to base things off of since very few people actually want to think about setting and achieving goals.

This is good news for you – above average people stand out more in a sea of average.
aboveaverageDoes your company pay a bonus? If not, don’t panic – you can skip to the Tesla story further down if you want.

When is it decided?
I once worked at a company where all of the managers met with the directors in October and everyone debated for a larger piece of the bonus pool for their team. They more or less got the same amount unless someone had shown exceptional work and at least some of the people in the meeting knew about that exceptional work. Each manager then was allocated their pool of bonus money and they would divide it as they saw fit among their team.

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Here’s the kicker – the bonus was decided in October but paid in December. That left many people working lots of overtime in Nov and Dec to meet “goals” and “deadlines” in hopes of influencing their bonus but in reality, it had already been decided 2-3 months earlier. Talk about waiting in the wrong line.

How is it decided?

You may be uncomfortable digging around trying to find out how bonuses and raises work at your company. Don’t be. A lot of it is outlined in your company handbook or you can talk to HR. Start there to get the standard from the book answers.

As you get the news for this year’s bonus that is a perfectly logical time to get more details from your manager about how it works at your company. Some of the best information I’ve received about raises and bonuses came from managers because they are directly involved in the process.

Maybe you don’t have a formal bonus or maybe it’s based on some company metric that you think you can’t directly influence.

That’s ok. Right now you are defining the wall so you can step over it. The more you know, the less of an obstacle it becomes.
wallAsking questions shows initiative. There’s nothing wrong with finding out how things work. Remember, you’re not just asking for more money, you are finding out how you can add more value to the company, and how the company can compensate you for that added value.

We want to make sure you are waiting in the right line.

Great Question
I was once at an all-hands meeting for a billion dollar company.

The CEO opened up the floor for questions and some guy in the front asks, “Can I drive your Tesla for a day?”
teslasMost of the crowd probably expected the guy to get shot down or laughed at while quickly moving on to a more “serious” question, but what happened next was the real lesson.

The CEO asked him what his job was at the company then instructed the employee to talk to his manager and set an exceptional goal. If he achieved it then he would let him drive his Tesla for a day.

Takeaways:
1. Ask
Some people like to “fly under the radar” at their job. They show up, put in their time, and go home.
radar“Flying under the radar” may help someone avoid getting associated with something bad, but it also means that you probably won’t be associated with anything good either.

If you want to start getting an above average raise or bonus then you have to start showing above average behaviors and results.

That means getting on people’s radars (in a good way)

2. Set an exceptional goal

We are all hired to do a job. Doing your job is expected. You get a paycheck and other standard benefits in exchange for doing your job.

If you want more than that, then you have to do something more. You have to provide an exceptional amount of value.

Not only that, but you need to state it as a goal at one point in time, then achieve it by some future point in time.

You have to commit.

commitCommit to tackling something above average and exceptional by a certain date.

Did it just get a little warmer in here? Are you feeling the pressure?

Ok, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Find out how things work at your job. Then you’ll be ready to think about what you can do to step over that wall of average.

All of the strategies and tools aren’t going to work as well if you’re waiting in the wrong line. Do your homework first then we can start talking strategy.

Do you have a “Tesla” story to share? How is your bonus determined? Share in the comments or send me a message using the form at the bottom of the page.

Sincerely,
Craig Golightly

What I Learned While Fishing with a Millionaire

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Do you want a better bonus or raise? How would that help you out right now?

I’ve always been obsessed with finding out how businesses do raises, bonuses, promotions and perks. If I had to sum up all of the tips and tricks in one sentence it would be this:

Think like a business owner.

I went fishing with the owner of a multi-million dollar company and we started talking about career development from his perspective.

He said two things that really stood out to me:

1. Employees want a paycheck and to know how much time off they get

2. I could pay my employees more if they made less mistakes

As an employee, I am definitely concerned about growing my paycheck and I also want as much time off as possible.

But that is a very one sided focus, and to ask for more just because I want more isn’t going to get very far. We need to set up a fair exchange.

Let’s turn that around and think from the perspective of the business owner:

How much value am I producing for the company?

Employees are an investment. Put in a dollar, get more than a dollar back.

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Do you know how you add value to your organization?

Do you have a direct effect on revenue?

Can you show a correlation between what you do and revenue?

Or are you providing support to your organization that doesn’t have a direct tie to revenue but can be measured in time savings, productivity, or some other way?

We’re getting close to that time of the year associated with presents and that favorite present from your job – a bonus.

What if getting your bonus was less of a mystery and more like tracking a package you’ve ordered from Amazon?

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The first and foremost element of taking control of your raise, bonus, and other perks at work revolves around the value you are producing and your ability to demonstrate that value.

All of the other tips and tricks fall apart if you don’t have a value based focus.

How am I producing value for the company? How much?

Am I producing more than I am consuming?

Making less mistakes is a natural consequence of producing more than you consume.

I know times when I have printed off waaaaay more copies of a report than I would have on my home machine.

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I once received two huge gift boxes because it was shipped to the wrong address – awesome for me (they said keep it) but the company who sent it had to pay for another one because of the mistake.

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Now, we’re all going to make mistakes, and most of these things go unnoticed in the day to day bustle of work. But at the end of the day they do have an effect on the bottom line of the company and how much is available to come back to us.

The focus of this newsletter is things you can do at your current job to make more money.

It’s not about starting a business or going off and doing something completely different than what you’re doing right now.

This is for people who are good at their job, like what they do, and could use an extra $100, $500, or $1000+ each month.

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This is for people who want to have a bigger influence on your raise, your bonus, and the perks you receive at work and who aren’t afraid to try something a little different to get those results.

Even if you have “something on the side” that you hope will replace your day job, why not get the most out of it while you’re there?

I want to support you with what is going on right now in your career.

What is your next step? What is stopping you?

Send me a message using the link below or comment with your #1 challenge right now with your own career development.

If you are a business owner or manager, what is the #1 challenge with the career development of your employees?

What is your #1 challenge with career development?

Sincerely,

Craig Golightly

PS: Here’s to a better bonus than a subscription to the jelly of the month club. Unless, of course, you really like jelly.