The Meritocracy is Dead: Long Live the Value Proposition!
The karma flap caused by Microsoft’s CEO this week reminded me of a retreat I attended with one of my women’s mastermind groups / tribes several years ago. A mixture of business owners and executives, our discussion turned to the well-worn and tiresome workplace variation on the Just World Theory:
If I work really hard, and do a great job, I’ll get:
a) The job of my dreams
b) The promotion
c) A larger raise than anyone else
d) More clients / customers than I can handle
e) All of the above
f) Fill in the blank.
We had a lively discussion about how misleading a belief system this is from both a career and an entrepreneurial perspective. “I’ve had to ask for every promotion I’ve ever gotten,” one member remarked, and the rest of us agreed. In my case, I have always put together a short presentation for the decision-maker on the value (money saved, money earned, etc.) that I had accomplished for the organization in the last year and would accomplish in the upcoming year, thanks to my father’s sales mentoring early in my career. Depending on the size of the metrics, I invariably get a larger raise, a promotion, or both. The key is to ask the decision-maker for the order with the facts and figures that have and will meet / exceed the decision-maker’s needs.
The If I work really hard, and do a great job, I’ll get: belief system is academic in origin and even becoming outdated in that paradigm. Instead of just teaching our 13 year-old son Noah to work hard and get good grades, he is also learning that those efforts can’t happen just for their own sake or in the narrow vacuum of the student’s magical thinking. Noah is witnessing through the work of his parents (Joel and I), that the hard work and great results must first happen in the context of always meeting / exceeding customer needs: whether the customer is one employer or the many customers of his family’s business.
When there is that context – when there is clear customer agreement on exactly what hard / great work and precise, metric-based results will receive rewards / renumeration, it will be then that the workplace will truly become a marketplace (or propel us into the larger marketplace as evolving entrepreneurs) for us all to profit from the valuable products, both tangible and SME-based, that we all have to offer.
In my book, that beats getting the highest grade on a test, hands-down.