This month’s ASQ Influential Voice topic is about making your case for improving yourself financially. Well, unfortunately, I am in a system where I cannot do this. Working for the federal government, if you want to increase your salary, you will have to compete with others for a new position, which means using USAJOBS and tailoring your resume to closely match the desired position description. I have too many years invested in federal service to leave my current position and I am getting too old to go back to “chasing the paycheck” mode which is what I did during my time as a quality manager in the paperboard packaging industry. Plus, I REALLY like what I am doing now. It is a new challenge, has new learning opportunities and continues to allow me the financial freedom to let my daughter finish her senior year at a fine Virginia university without saddling her with major debt when she enters the workforce.
So, if you are in a position when asking for a raise is job or political suicide, what do you do? Simple: be a leader, provide value, and draw attention to others. Let’s take the first point. Being a leader is being seen as doing the right thing for your position, even when it doesn’t matter that you need to do the right thing. Some folks call this “walking the talk,” others call this being ethical. For me, I am in charge of a large Navy calibration center. My primary mission is to make sure that my folks have everything they need to daily accomplish their job. Yes, I have to be cognizant of the daily operations but my job focuses more on the future than worrying about how many pieces got calibrated today.
Being a good leader is closely tied to providing value. A leader is supposed to communicate change, provide direction, and celebrate success. This includes, as many Lean folks say, going to the GEMBA, enforcing standards, and communicating expectations. Providing value also means being cognizant of organizational performance and how you and your team fit into the big picture. This includes mentoring your team so that they appreciate new opportunities and support them to challenge rules that no longer fit the current world view. Providing value means not tolerating, “that’s the way we always have done it,” or “they say it can’t be done.” Providing value means asking your team, “how do you think we should solve this problem?”
Lastly, as a leader success follows you, it is not you. As a leader, your energy should be towards focusing the spotlight on the team and how the team is successful. Make every effort to praise success, learn from mistakes, and communicate direction and course corrections. As a leader, we should be focused on people with the primary mission of ensuring their behavior supports the organization’s direction and mission. That means leaders must possess intimate systems knowledge, a deep understanding of human capability and expectations, and identify the cultural behaviors to ensure individual success.
All of this sounds a lot like Deming, Scholtes, Drucker, Ohno, Imai, Senge. The biggest mistake that we make as leaders is shifting our focus away from people and moving it towards money. We forget that money is simply a result of what our team produces. If we as quality professionals and leaders concentrated our efforts on making people in our organizations enjoy their work life more, all the money and titles will eventually be there. So, in my opinion, skip the raise and help your team be successful.