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Reclaiming Leadership

Because Someone's Gotta Change The World
Natural Ways To Lose Weight

Natural Ways To Lose Weight

If you’re like me, you could stand to lose a few pounds, there are many diet programs that you can read about online or in books that purport to help you get to a healthy weight. It is important, however, to use caution and consult with your doctor before you start on any weight loss program. Some diets are dangerous, and may cause harm to those who blindly follow them. The good news is that there are some safe, natural ways to lose weight and a few of these are presented in the list that follows.

1. Eat Pears

In an article published in March 2003 in the journal “Nutrition,” researchers reported that overweight, non-smoking women aged 30 to 50 who ate 3 pears a day for 12 weeks lost more weight than those who had a similar diet but did not eat pears. The average weight loss for the pear group was 2.7 pounds. Pears are a high-fiber food, and they contribute to the feeling of being full. Since you feel full, you are less inclined to overeat.

2. Daily Almonds

Reporting in the “International Journal of Obesity” in November 2003, researchers described their study in which a group of obese adults were able to achieve an 18% reduction in their weight after they ate three ounces of almonds every day for 24 weeks. The almonds were a supplement to a 1000 calorie per day liquid diet. The control group had the same 1000-calorie liquid diet, but instead of almonds they ate wheat crackers as a supplement. The control group achieved only an 11% reduction in weight.

3. Green Tea

According to Dr. Nicholas Perricone, medical researcher and author of the book “The Perricone Weight Loss Diet,” you can lose weight by regularly drinking green tea. If you are a coffee drinker, you can lose weight by replacing coffee with green tea, says Dr. Perricone. The weight loss may be the result of increased metabolic rate. The University of Maryland Medical Center advises, however, that if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney or liver problems or stomach ulcers, you should avoid green tea. In addition, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not drink green tea. You should consult your doctor if you have questions about the effects of green tea. Green tea supplement comes in capsules as well as a drinkable tea. You may also see some health benefit from the extract Forskolin. This may include weight loss, lower blood pressure and more energy. Here’s what you should know about forskolin before trying it.

4. Walking

According to the Mayo Clinic, if you walk briskly every day for about 30 minutes, you can enhance the weight loss you get from decreasing your daily intake of calories. Walking is a natural form of exercise and just about everyone can safely enjoy it. If, however, you have been leading a sedentary life for a prolonged period of time, you should check with your doctor before you start any kind of walking regimen.

5. Drink More Water

In the December 2003 issue of “The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism,” researchers report that people who drink more water each day, can increase the rate at which they burn calories. According to the researchers, if you increase your daily intake of water by 1.5 liters, then over the course of one year you will burn 17,400 more calories than you would without increasing your consumption of water. This translates to a weight loss of about five pounds.

The many health benefits that you can derive by controlling your weight are well documented. In order to maintain a healthy weight, you don’t have to resort to complex diets. The natural weight loss methods discussed here are easy to implement, and can contribute to your overall well-being.

Donald Milford writes about healthy living and fitness for various online publications.

Want To Get Ahead in Your Career? Put Away the Pictures of Little Billy

Want To Get Ahead in Your Career? Put Away the Pictures of Little Billy

Nancy and I bonded in the late ’90′s workaholic days of an internet startup when our kids were little. More than a decade has passed and she’s VP of a growing company and I’m consulting and coaching, both of us busy as can be. We don’t see each other enough now, and the reason I know that is that at the end of every lunch that survives our schedules, we hug and say things like, “which college did Jeff decide to go to? Is Alex already graduated? Really!?” We’ve been so busy talking business, leadership challenges and career strategy that we don’t manage to squeeze the kids in until the end.

And this is so refreshing to me, and Nancy too. How many women’s networking lunches do we go to where everyone is so busy catching up on the personal stuff that we don’t get around to business? Another friend of mine recently complained about her women’s professional group, because the business issues she cares most about haven’t gotten a chance to surface due to others chatting up their family dramas.

Are we too integrated?

I think women are – as a rule – really getting skilled at work-life balance. We, more than the men I know, manage to integrate ourselves into our lives very holistically. Maybe it’s because we’re good at multitasking, maybe it’s because we still carry the larger burden when it comes to kid care, or maybe – most likely – we’re just that good:)

I have heard some women say they value women’s networking groups precisely because they can focus on non-work issues. These women don’t feel like they can “let their hair down” with their staffs and colleagues because they’re afraid of being perceived as not focused on the business, so they rely on their professional gatherings to get that itch for personal sharing with others who understand the stresses of their work-life challenges.

But I’m beginning to wonder if this could be a problem for some women in terms of tapping into the Old Girls Network we talk about needing to create to help each other out. Are we getting good at networking but not using it to build our business and mentoring skills? Are we using our woman-to-woman networking to vent our personal stuff and complain about the system to the point that we don’t coach each other in working the system, using it and dominating it so we can change the rules more directly?

Not like the guys

Let me be clear. I’m not advocating that women put their personal challenges aside completely to be “more like the guys” who focus on the business to the exclusion of personal issues so often. I don’t think that we’re “not ambitious enough” or uninterested in success. I’m also not worried about what “others” think of our proclivity for mixing personal and business issues in our dialog. Overall, I think our ability to integrate our personal and professional selves is a good thing – for our businesses, our families and ourselves. And there is some special bonding that can happen over pictures of the kids.

What I’m wondering is whether many women are missing an opportunity to really mentor each other on the business of business. Are we giving each other a leg up or are we just empathizing and listening sympathetically?

I know some women have particularly negative experiences with other women leaders who actively compete with them and refuse to help them. I think this is a different phenomenon and will cover this research on the Queen Bee/Adult Mean Girl bosses in a separate blog.

What’s Your Experience?

I have no idea what the statistical average of women’s group’s practices are so I’m not trying to come to any grand sweeping conclusions here. But I am curious about your experience. Have you noticed women optimizing the personal bonding to the detriment of the business mentoring and support? Do you know programs that are good at managing this balance? Am I making a mountain out of mole hill or tapping into a deeper theme we’d be advised to examine in more depth. Please share your thoughts.

The Power of Joy

The Power of Joy

Is a secret to personal power sitting right under your nose? It was mine. I grew up a negative, cynical kid, and it wasn’t until relative adulthood that I discovered the ability for simple joy to help me find my power in otherwise powerless situations – mostly, but not only, on the job.

Turns out I’m not crazy or stupid (the remnants of that old cynic talking). Research into the power of positive thinking is thrusting happiness into the business and leadership press. It turns out that positive thinking leads to success more than success leads to positive attitudes. The U.K. is even launching a national Happiness Index this year to measure the national well being.

What goes around comes around

I like to dig beneath the data, because when we understand the dynamics producing the information, we gain power over how to bring it intentionally into our lives.

People respond to those around them. This is how we have power to affect others emotionally – and to be affected. To understand how this dynamic affects the business climate, we don’t have to look any farther than the stock market, which fluctuates our portfolios based on some impossible-to-predict-or-measure emotional confidence factor (we don’t fully understand it but we measure it in the Consumer Confidence Index).

Using the market dynamic as an example, it follows that when you inject an attitude of joy and optimism into the group around you, you provide others the opportunity to be infected with your positive outlook and thus infect even more people. This ability to infect and affect others works for good and bad – especially as it impacts those below you in the pecking order. So the question is, what do you want to be coming back at you from those you infect?

Choose wisely.

More Joy

But there’s more to the positive attitude power than even that. The feeling of joy is a clue that you’re doing something – surrounded by something – “onto something” – that lights up your soul. If you treat it like a clue and follow the clues, your joy will lead you to places that bring you even more joy. This is true in our careers as much as it is in our personal lives. If we really let it lead us, it takes us straight to our purpose in life, and in our purpose, we discover power we didn’t know we had that can fuel and support us as we take on the tough work required to change the world.

Of course we are all programmed with lots of “reasons” to ignore the joy clues littering our lives, or otherwise diminish them, to the point where many of us don’t even notice the little energy blip of joy that lights up sometimes when we do things that would bring us joy if we just paid attention.

If you’re on a personal power journey, however, I suggest that you begin to pay attention to those joy blips. Anytime you are faced with a choice on where to put your energy – open this email or that? – go the long way or the short way? – tackle this project or that? – follow the more joyful choice and see what it has to teach you about yourself and what powers you up. Think of it like a life-sized version of Angry Birds. You’re always working to make your next flail at the pigs more effective (i.e., your daily, Sisyphean life) but if you can snag one of those little golden eggs, you get some extra points that pay off in other ways.

Always snag the joy in every activity you can and over time your joy-score is higher.  You’re more positively infecting those around you and – according to those who measure such things – you’re increasing your chances of success. You have nothing to lose except your cynicism and everything to gain. What are you waiting for?

Giving Away Your Personal Power – And Taking It Back

Giving Away Your Personal Power – And Taking It Back

A key leadership skill is learning to manage your personal power in every situation. Just like balancing on one foot, once you understand the feeling of InPower, it’s easier to identify when you unconsciously give your power away and can take steps to retrieve it and catch yourself earlier next time.

How do you know you’ve just given your InPower away?

Our emotions are excellent indicators of our InPower balanced state. When we’re InPower, we are calm, balanced, unapologetic and free of the culture around us. By contrast, fear, anger, doubt and guilt are sure-fire signals that you’re giving your power away and need to take it back. Similarly, expressions of disrespect, distrust, irresponsibility and unkindness, given by others (and believed by you), mean you’re off balance and out of power. These emotions and reactions are not “good or bad”, they are merely indicators of your power stance, signals to you and others around you that you are vulnerable to being knocked even more off balance. They mean that your power is leaking and in need of repair.

“Taking back your power” is as simple – and as hard – as paying attention to these emotional signals and putting yourself in a genuinely positive state. Sometimes this can be challenging, causing us to let go of beliefs and unconscious reactions that no longer serve us, and other times it’s really quite easy. Always it is a choice.

Once we become adept at managing our own InPower balanced state, we can also practice it in the world, helping others around us attain more InPower so that the groups we lead as a whole are more powerful. An InPower leader can not only foster group power but direct it into achieving great things in the world.

Not your fault?

Often we like to pretend that no one else notices when we’re out of power, or convince ourselves that our lack of power is someone else’s fault. This approach is tantamount to admitting our powerlessness and waiting around for someone to allow us to be in our power. Guess what? The chances that someone will give a powerless person power is about zero. Plus, no one can give you your internal power; you need to show them how powerful you already are and how much you deserve more power of the type they can give (e.g., authority, money, title etc.) In short, powerlessness is a lousy strategy for gaining power.

Anyone who believes no one notices their InPower state, sometimes unconsciously, is fooling themselves. While an occasional wobble may go unnoticed, regular flailing is clear to everyone – except sometimes the out-of-power folks themselves who rely too heavily only on external signs like money – to diagnose their leadership power.

Most of us aren’t used to feeling InPower and balanced because it is a discipline that must be learned and practiced. It’s certainly not reinforced by our culture or media. Looking at the headlines and typical daily routine most of us find ourselves in, it seems as though our culture is working hard to keep us out of power. In addition, we’re not born with InPower. Learning to take back our power requires that we notice when we are in balance, when we give it away, and then making the choice to stop giving it away; this is an adult skill, not one babies come wired with.

Unlimited supply

Unlike external power, which tends to have natural resource limits that people often squabble and fight over, InPower benefits from an unlimited supply that requires no competition with others to access. Each individual has an unlimited supply of InPower, and when InPower individuals get together and focus on accomplishing things, the total supply merely expands.

So what do you do?

There are many practical ways you can gain balance. Learn to read the signals of when you’re wobbling out of it and take back your personal power – for yourself and for the people around you that you are leading to change the world. My weekly newsletter provides you prompts to help you become conscious of where you are in and out of power, as will these blog posts.

In upcoming weeks we’ll be exploring the way our language can tip us off to power drains and provide us tools to take back our power and even learn to speak truth to power. Follow the Take Back Your Power series of posts or subscribe to the blog to be notified of these posts when they go up. I hope you’ll not only join us for this power journey, but share your stories and experiences with InPower along the way.

6 Dynamics of Transformation – for Your Business and Your Life

6 Dynamics of Transformation – for Your Business and Your Life

Good leaders need to be reasonable managers, able to make sure the important stuff gets done from day to day, but a true leader’s potential is discovered and exercised during times of business transformation.  It is in those times that the leaders truly change the world. The words “change and transformation” are used a lot interchangeably and I’ve come to believe their meaning has pretty much been lost in modern business. “Change and transformation” don’t just mean “different than the way things are today.”

What is business transformation?

I love Chris McGoff’s distinction of CHANGE VS. TRANSFORMATION in The PRIMES. Change is improvement on the past (e.g., better, faster cheaper, ______er.) Transformation is something else altogether – a new thing, designed to achieve a vision of the future that isn’t here yet and is waiting to be created by us.

Transformation is what happened to Shell Oil in the mid 70′s when they redefined themselves as an energy company instead of an oil company. Transformation is what happened when the Internet turned into the web thanks to intuitive interface inventions like the hyperlink and the browser that organized information for human consumption instead of computer consumption. Transformation is what happened when Zappos gave customer service agents free reign to make customers happy instead of instructions about how to handle their calls.

From the outside, transformation can appear magical – like the emergence of a butterfly from a caterpillar cocoon, but when we look inside, we see very definite patterns which are repeatable if not predictable, and this is why transformation is more an art than a science.

Repeatable Patterns of Transformation

Here are the key elements of any business transformation, using the examples above and a few others:

  • Define radical success: In any transformational effort, the definition of success initially sounds a little crazy. Zappos went for 100% customer satisfaction, Shell set a target that a meaningful percentage of their revenue would someday come from chemical products. Looking at these things with our 40/40 hindsight, including how the market and technology developed, makes sense. However, from the perspective of where the market had been, and prevailing norms at the time these way-out goals were set, these were radical goals.
  • Understand what’s at stake if you don’t: It takes more than just a dream of the future to motivate groups of people to change, much less transform. For people to get up and move, they must not only be able to understand the radical definition of success you offer, but they must also believe that complacence with the current situation is not an option. The major inhibitor to transformation isn’t failure, it’s inertia. The catch in business is that you have to counter the inertia of many different people, all motivated by different things. Chris McGoff has identified the three ways people are motivated – intellectually, emotionally and financially – to transform in his STAKE PRIME. If you want to start seeing Change and Transformation happen in your world, starting asking people what’s at stake if things stay as they are. For an example of this, read about my recent power breakfast.
  • Look back once, and then never again: Make sure you honor the past and take from it a few things of value, but don’t let it be your guide. Transformation is like reading the wind while sailing, you may have to tack to one side and then the other, but your horizon point is always the goal. Shell could not grow it’s chemical business by doing things the way the oil business worked. They had to stay focused on doing what was necessary to grow a new kind of business and adapt their company along the way.
  • Experiment and do more of what works: Once you’ve really unhooked from the past, you have tremendous freedom to try new things. Many won’t work and that’s ok because you’re learning what does. Fail fast and when you find out what works, do more of that and learn from the wisdom of failure. Sure you have limited resources, which provides some urgency, but there’s too much at stake and no going back, remember? The development of the Mozilla browser birthed the internet and even though Netscape (the company that productized Mozilla) isn’t around anymore, its investors made so much money they are now the Silicon Valley funders of much of the technology underlying the Internet as it continues to morph and grow so fast that less than two decades later people like me can build and manage a web site.
  • Constantly let go:  Skilled transformers are always ready to release that which has outlived its usefulness – a brand, a technology, a market, or a customer. Microsoft is actually a good example of doing this well and failing. Under Bill Gates, Microsoft at first ignored the Internet because its business model relied on multiple private enterprise networks, not a single public, open network. After Netscape’s wild success, however, Microsoft saw the writing on the wall and risked much of its product integrity to transform itself successfully into the dominant Internet-savvy company for a time. With the successful release of Internet Explorer it succeeded in dominating the desktop software market once more, putting Netscape out of business. However, while adapting its products to the Internet, it did not become Internet-centric and remained vulnerable to Google and subsequent Cloud initiatives. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft can, or wants to, transform itself fully into the Cloud. There is always a little bit of caterpillar carcass sticking to us and we must be ready to shed it the moment we are certain it’s holding us back. The art of it is in learning to know when that moment to let go actually arrives when you can begin leading your customers just as they are ready to let go too (you don’t want to get too far out in front of your customers).
  • Be comfortable – but not too comfortable – with risk: There are no guarantees in life and there are certainly none with transformation. If transformation is anything, its unpredictable. Those that survive and thrive in it pay close attention and adapt quickly, managing and mitigating risk instead of trying to avoid it. Quite often the secret to success comes at odd times and in odd forms, and if you don’t open yourself to risk you’re not likely to discover it.

Learning the art personally

Because it’s an art more than science, the way to learn transformation is to experience it. Sometimes we’re thrown into a situation where we have no choice, but an opportunity we all have all the time is to become adept at transforming ourselves. It’s not just businesses that can transform, people can too and transformative leaders are often transformative human beings who become skilled at managing transformation in their own lives as well as at work.

Research says that it’s a small percentage of people – 5% – that can do so, but I take a broader view of transformation. I think we can become skilled at it if we try because we already are. We transform from children into adults, our bodies are biologically transforming all the time and everything I listed above is available to us all personally at any time. All we have to do is want that brighter future, understand what’s at stake if we stay where we are, and step boldly out to let the past go.

What do you think? Do you think transformation is hard? Do you think anyone can do it if they try? Can any company? What’s your experience with transformation?

3 Ways to Avoid Founder’s Syndrome

3 Ways to Avoid Founder’s Syndrome

In entrepreneurial circles, there is a well-known trap waiting for any successful startup visionary, the Founder’s Syndrome, which has gotten many an organization’s founder fired by the board and/or their funders. It’s what happens when the founder’s original vision and passion, which enabled the little startup to succeed originally, actually starts to hold it back from growing past a certain point.

The limits of passion and vision

Passion and vision are amazingly powerful. They can cause people to invest in even the most crazy idea. (Can you imagine what people said in 1999 when Sergey Brin and Larry Page told their venture funders their startup was called “Google?”) But, even crazy-smart ideas have their limits. Eventually, the wild-idea startup has to take on some business discipline, learn to scale and keep coming up with marketable products and services.

No matter how smart they are, even experienced entrepreneurs rarely know all that they need to know to lead a long-term successful effort. None of us do, really. All we know is that the challenges we face today will be different from those we encounter down the road. So when we fire up our engines, here’s what the smart founder needs to do to avoid the crash-and-burn fate of Founder’s Syndrome:

  1. Fail fast and become skilled at letting go of any residual attachment to the failure. Learn the lessons the failuregave you and move on quickly.
  2. Enjoy your successes and become skilled at letting go of any residual attachment to success. You may have to do it differently next time.
  3. Be ready to transform yourself and your company into something altogether new. Work to put yourself out of business.

Successful Founders experience personal transformation

These all basically boil down to “become skilled at letting go and actively seek to become what the world, business and customers need from you.” When you are the founder, if you don’t transform and become capable of being more than your humble beginnings, the company can’t transform either because at first you and it are really the same. If you don’t transform, not much happens, but if the company doesn’t transform it won’t grow, scale and turn into the wealth-engine you were looking for.

But frankly, why waste the chance for a personal transformation, fueled by that thing you’re pouring your heart and soul into? Let it engergize you and give you the courage to do what we all find so difficult – to become more than we are. Let it be the impetus for your personal transformation to face your fears, experience wonderful highs, live through heart-thumping near misses and change the world.

Business is an adventure. Let it grow you into someone new.

The Leadership Effect

What if everyone woke up one day and decided to lead from inside their power? We all can. All you have to do is set your intention. And do it.
“Don’t make us wait any longer to benefit from your greatness and contributions.”

What are you waiting for?

Thanks to Sagestone Partners for putting together this awesome video, inspired by The Girl Effect(also an awesome video). And thanks to Mike Henry and the LeadChange group for sharing this so widely.

Why Is Leading Innovation So Hard

Why Is Leading Innovation So Hard

The U.S. is traditionally the hotbed of global innovation and I believe it’s likely to continue to be well into the future. This is good because innovation changes the world by definition.

However, many of my clients have struggled with leading innovation and from perusing the leadership and business literature, most other organizations do too. I have to ask myself – why is that? Why can’t a country that practically invented innovation as a lifestyle and workstyle in places like Silicon Valley institutionalize this important capability?

After much pondering I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because innovation so often happens in the unplanned places. This is something of a conundrum for many leaders whose manufacturing B-School heritage tells them that everything should be planned out, documented and accounted for.

Innovation – like its sister creativity – cannot be planned, budgeted, shoved into a “retreat” or predicted. It happens in the shower and in the in-between spaces of life and work.

Leading innovation is difficult because you have to risk looking like a fool. Fear of shame is one of the biggest inhibitors every leader faces and many succumb to. Leading innovation is a perfect example of the kind of risk great leaders take on and fearful leaders eschew. To “invest in innovation” is to put good, hard resources out against what is guaranteed to be largely a basket of failures… except for that one “big one” that comes along every so often. On its face this looks crazy. Put out good money with no guarantee of return? Take such a high-risk bet knowingly? But when the great leader looks under the basket, they often discover that in those failures are seeds of success. Sometimes it’s a specific idea that results, sometimes it’s just reenergized employees, which can pay back in employee creativity, retention and improved customer service.

Companies who invest in their employee’s creativity often see rewards. This is what Google does. They allocate some space for that creativity to happen and it always does because that’s how people are wired. Read Daniel Pink’s Drive for highly readable research into human motivation and how it relates to your staff.

Leading innovation takes courage and in our business culture, telling everyone to put “pencils down” and chill out in the playroom (whatever that looks like for your company) still feels like an unnatural act. But then again, leadership isn’t about doing the easy thing, is it?

Innovation is a personal skill too

Creating space for creativity and innovation is not just something organizations do; it’s something people do too. We have the power to create the space in our lives for innovation to occur by simply – creating space in our lives.

Yes, it seems counter-intuitive to “do nothing” so that “something” will result – until you do it and experience that font of creativity and energy that wells up when all the other stimulus keeping your brain busy subsides. Then it makes all the sense in the world. In the silence and boredom (that doesn’t last very long) ideas are born and passions are found.

These personal innovations can enrich your life, set you on a life-changing journey or simply frustrate you until you learn to give them more space. But one thing is true, once you’ve let the space for innovation into your life, your life and your work will never be the same.

3 things you can do to create space for innovation into your life

  • Turn off the TV.
  • Give yourself permission not to answer every email.
  • Take an hour a week to yourself to do whatever you want. Then two. Three. Until you have to stop. What comes up for you? Pay attention.

What happens for you when you create the space for innovation? Can you apply this in your work? With your team? Have you asked your team what making space looks like for them? What would they do in that space? How can you give them more space for innovation? How can you reward them for the seeds of successes they plan there? What happens when you do?

What Are You Worth?

What Are You Worth?

Let’s start with the notion that you are priceless – an utterly unique mix of experience, judgment and talent. Do you feel resistance to that notion? Not true? Impractical? Culturally irrelevant? Play with me anyway. Let go of those negative ideas for just a minute. Just find that part of you that knows you’re priceless and let’s move on.

Next we’ll accept the fact that there are limited resources in any particular situation – a company, a project, a market, a country – whatever. No matter how limited, it’s important to realize that there are resources and they do find their way to people in a variety of ways. If they’re not coming to you, they’re going to someone else. Does that feel unfair? Hey, I didn’t say you were the only one that was priceless, did I?

People Aren’t Worth Anything

People – including you – are totally priceless, which makes us all worth the same, which makes us all worth nothing – because people aren’t worth money, that’s called slavery. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our best to access the resources we can because we have mouths to feed, bills to pay and any number of other responsibilities that we can only fulfill with money.

I have always taken an InPower approach to financial compensation – and my satisfaction with financial remuneration has fluxuated with my situation. I’ve given up money in order to obtain experience (new challenges, new expertise, new contacts or lifestyle bennies like flexibility) and I’ve taken money to use my talents on behalf of others. Now that I’m a consultant it’s easier for me to negotiate financial vs. other benefits on a project-by-project basis, but the same dynamic held for me in my corporate jobs. And I don’t regret this approach at all. In some cases, I had to take a job for less (learning later I left money on the table) to learn not to do that anymore!

One thing all this negotiation has taught me was that when it was the right job or project, money has never been the issue. I didn’t say money wasn’t an issue for the jobs I wanted, I said for the right jobs – where my employer/client and I both gained tremendously – it wasn’t an issue. More often than not, for the right job I am compensated more than I expected and sometimes more than I asked for. And what this means is that I know now that I can ask for whatever I want (within “reason”, see below) and the right jobs will give it to me.

In the Equal Pay Gap – What’s “Reasonable” Compensation to Ask For?

Here’s the crux of it. The data tells us that women still make less than men and so I believe that’s true on a statistical and social scale. They also tell you that women often don’t negotiate for as many benefits, making their total package worth less. The science of this is fascinating but here is what struck me most clearly in a recent article at Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge Blog:

Research shows that in conditions of ambiguity, if you bring men and women into the lab and you say either one of two things: “Work until you think you’ve earned the $10 we just gave you,” or “Work and then tell us how much you think you deserve,” the women work longer hours with fewer errors for comparable pay, and pay themselves less for comparable work. But if there’s a standard [that men and women know], then this result goes away. (Hannah Riley Bowles)

If find this hugely empowering because it indicates that ambiguity is often the culprit, and ambiguity is something we as individuals can deal with. How? In applying for the job we need to get information to fill in the gaps in our knowledge about what this employer typically pays, what others make, what are industry standards in our geographical location etc. The research implies that if we’re armed with such information all of us – men and women – will often negotiate for the right sized package.

This is a perfect example of how to turn an unempowering situation – negotiating salary or project fees – into an InPower situation. Armed with knowledge and your own assessment of your value, in that situation for that opportunity, employees feel confident in their ask and are likely to get a fair salary.

If you don’t negotiate for your salary,
they walk away happy that they paid you less
but wonder why they hired you.
— Kathleen McGinn
As a leader, we’re often in the position of hiring, in which case this principle works in reverse and we bear the responsibility for giving all applicants similar information about salary so we don’t unintentionally – or unethically – disadvantage some of the applicants from getting a fair salary.

Standing In Your Power in Salary Negotiations

So knowledge is good and evens the playing field a bit, but it’s not where the true power lies in the negotiation. Here’s the secret to an InPower salary negotiation: as the employee – when you make the informed ask, do you feel worth it? If they say no, do you feel like it’s their loss? If they say yes, do you make your choice fully and freely and 100% unapologetically?
The way to tell if you’re not InPower is that once you give your agreement – freely and of your own volition – you feel abused or regretful the moment you sign the employment contract or send the email saying “no thanks.” Try to work this part out before you close the negotiation. Imagine how you’ll feel when you’ve said yes and if you feel at all regretful, review your negotiating position and try to come up with another response – or walk away. The power in any negotiation is held by the person who is most willing to walk.

As the employer you need to make sure you’re InPower also. Did you make a fair offer based on researching the comps? Was the applicant adequately informed of the salary range? Was the applicant fairly treated?

If the answer to all these things is YES! then no matter which side of the negotiation you’re on, you cut a good deal and can feel proud. Even more importantly the actual dollars involved have just become largely irrelevant. Social stats be dammed.

Sure it takes some work to get the information, work through some of your own demons about self-worth and competitiveness and stuff, but hey – what are you worth to you?