Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Meritocracy is Dead: Long Live the Value Proposition!

I spent a good part of the day on Saturday in a mini-retreat with my Mastermind group, Professional Women's Network.  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The If I work really hard, and do a great job, I'll get: belief system is academic in origin and even becoming outdated in that paradigm.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 10 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.


  1. The Professional Women's Network sounds like an interesting group! I have to agree with your practice of being proactive about asking for what you want/need by putting together a presentation for the decision-maker. After struggling for three years in a previous role, I did that very thing, making clear points of how valuable I was to my employer and I got exactly what I wanted. I was only sorry that I had not done it sooner!

  2. Thanks Gretta: and you took that great initiative one step further to start your own successful business!