Promotions Archives

“Good responses to interview questions about how I would best manage people?”

Published on February 5th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

Question: In my previous jobs I did not manage staff. My previous jobs have been devoted to influencing stakeholders across the company. Now I have an upcoming interview, and would really love your advice on the following: how to best respond to this question: “If you are hired as a manager, how would you interact and engage with team members?” Many Thanks, and Kind Regards,

Sydney, Australia

Answer: Dear Valeria: I cannot remember the last time I was asked about ways to manage staff,  but since you have asked this in the context of “interview questions,” and good managing is a part of being a valuable employee, let me give your question my best try.     

1. Convey Competence: Conveying confidence and competence is perhaps the first way a manager can garner respect, admiration, cooperation, enthusiasm and productivity from his or her staff. I have read many studies that show that employees actually want to look up to their managers, and easily become disillusioned, disgruntled and dismayed if they believe their managers suffer from a lack of confidence or insufficient competence. Boasting and bragging don’t do the trick: wise and steady actions and thoughtful and respectful attitude are what matter. Perhaps this is the true derivation of the phrase “Managing By Example.”     

Nervous about an upcoming interview? You might want to review our Newsletter with that exact title. Just [click here.] 

2. Set Clear Goals: Setting clear and achievable objectives and goals helps staff members establish their own daily priorities, focus their attention, and stay on course. As the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, chances are you’ll never get there, and even if you do, you will never know if you have arrived.” People like to have a sense of direction in their lives, especially if their direction is one that makes sense to them. On the other hand, aimless efforts lead to great frustration. Good managers bear that in mind, and set clear goals that all efforts can be directed toward. Greater satisfaction and productivity almost always follow.

“It pays to be polite!” Use our Model “Thank You” Letter After Interview; with Later Follow Up. It shows you “What to Say, and How to Say It.™” To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!  

3. Establish Boundaries: Some people think that managers and staff members should be good buddies, fast friends, and close companions. I don’t. To be effective, team leaders need to be at least a little different from the team, and walk slightly in front of them. To be effective in supervision, to be respected enough to set direction, and to make the difficult decisions that sometimes have to be made, a manager needs a little “distance.” That does not mean I favor aloofness; I don’t. And, surely, I don’t mean to suggest a “holier-than-thou” attitude. Neither works well in management. But establishing and maintaining a limited degree of boundaries is quite useful in good management of teams. Simply put, “The coach can’t be one of the players.”

Be careful. Use our Model Letter to Remind Interviewers Not to Contact Your Present Employer. It shows you “What to Say, and How to Say It.™” To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!  

4. Equal Opportunity, but Equal Accountability, too. In articles about “good management,” you often see the word “fairness” used. I don’t like to use that word because I think it sometimes gives the wrong message: that everyone will be treated “fairly.” Fairness in the minds of all people is nearly impossible to achieve. What is “fair” for one is simply not “fair” for others.

Instead, equal opportunities to prosper and grow, and equal accountability when mistakes or malfeasance occur, are what employees appreciate. Not coincidentally, that is what, in general, the law requires: equal opportunity and equal accountability, no matter who is friends with who, and no matter who is one “kind” or another. 

5. We all “Long to Belong.Ever wonder why so many people put bumper stickers on their car bumpers? If there is one component of management skills that is so often overlooked, it is an appeal to the strong need we all have to “belong” to something. A family, a team, a neighborhood, a company, one type of association or another. Good managers recognize that, and include “team meetings” and “group get-togethers” to foster a sense of belonging to a group. It is something like a mini “company outing.” These things do work, and without much fanfare, actually do improve employee morale, encourage employee retention, and motivate employee productivity.

Received a Job Offer? Consider our Model Letter Confirming Terms of Job Offer. It shows you “What to Say, and How to Say It.™” To obtain a copy, just [click hereDelivered by Email – Instantly! 

Alternatively, you might want to ask for improvements. Use our Model Response to Offer Letter; Seeking Improvements. It shows you “What to Say, and How to Say It.™” To obtain a copy for your use, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

Valeria, hope this helps you. At a very minimum, these ideas may show  you are thinking about how you can best manage others, and are looking forward to the challenge.

Thanks for writing in!

My Best,
Al Sklover

P.S.: Interviewing? We offer a 152-Point Master Checklist of Employment Negotiation Items to help you make sure you have not (a) forgotten to ask for anything, (b) failed to raise any issues, and (c) that your interests are protected in your offer letter and/or employment contract. To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly! 

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“In-The-Meantime” Clause – This is One to Remember, and Request

Published on November 8th, 2013 by Alan L Sklover

You can’t do better than to expect the unexpected.

“Nothing is so certain as the unexpected.” 

-       English Proverb

TWO ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES”: Melinda was a 32-year-old family practice physician recruited to leave her home and practice in the suburbs of Boston to join a large family-medicine practice in southern Maine. As is so often the custom, she was told that after two years of practice, provided her skills and demeanor were found to meet the practice’s standards, she would become a Partner in the practice, with a 15% ownership stake.

Melinda had no qualms about the deal. First, she was entirely confident she would meet all criteria for becoming a Partner in the practice. Second, it was spelled out entirely clearly in her contract, and her brother – an experienced attorney – said “It could not be clearer.” Third, the practice was a growing one, and her 15% ownership would surely “set her up for life.”

Then, 18 months after Melinda joined the medical practice, something entirely unexpected happened: a corporate health service headquartered in Boston made a very significant offer to purchase the family medical practice in order to merge it into their growing network of family medical service centers throughout the northeast U.S. The physician-partners all sold their shares in the medical practice for a handsome price, and were offered long-term jobs afterwards.

Melinda? Because she had not been a physician in the practice for two full years, she got nothing. She was not even offered a job by the corporate health service. It all came to be a very large loss to her – and a serious setback in her life plans.

Something very different happened to Howard, a 31-year-old hedge fund trader at a small hedge fund in St. Louis. After leaving a large Wall Street firm, he joined the hedge fund in large part because he was offered ten percent (10%) of the firm stock if he remained with the firm for two full years. Like Melinda, Howard saw it as an opportunity to become an “owner,” and to establish himself for the long term.

Fortunately for Howard, we assisted him with his contract of employment that provided him with his ten percent (10%) ownership interest. We insisted on what we call an “in-the-meantime” clause that provided that, if anything happened “in the meantime” to prevent his receipt of fully vested stock due to no fault of his own, in all events Howard would receive the stock or its equivalent in value in cash.

Sure enough, when Howard’s small hedge fund merged with a large hedge fund headquartered in Chicago, the owners received a hefty purchase price. Howard’s stock did not get a chance to vest, so he would likely lose out completely, as Melinda did. In Howard’s contract, though, his “in-the-meantime clause” saved the day. Because it was there, Howard received the same purchase price as if he had owned the stock.

LESSON TO LEARN: An ounce of “in-the-meantime” forethought is surely worth more than a pound of “I wish I had thought of that,” or even a ton of “I can’t believe what just happened.”

If, in your employment negotiations, you are being offered a “thing of value,” but must wait to receive it – whether it is elevation to a partnership, an annual bonus, vested stock or stock options, a promotion, or a coveted sales territory, just to name a few – insist on an ‘in-the-meantime” clause to provide that, if for any reason other than your own misconduct you don’t receive it, you will be given either its monetary value or an alternative, but no less valuable “thing of value.”

Chances are you will never need it. But, if you do, you sure will be glad you have it.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: So many of our clients have requested, and received, “in-the-meantime” clauses in their offer letters, employment agreements, relocation agreements, retention agreements, and other work-related contracts. While few have ended up needing to exercise their rights under their “in-the-meantime” clauses, those who have done so have been just thrilled to have the “safety net” they provide. Here are five things you can do to help yourself in this regard: Read the rest of this blog post »

“Any way I can make sure I will get a promised promotion?”

Published on June 1st, 2012 by Alan Sklover

Question: Dear Alan, I am being made an offer by another company for a Marketing Director role. The reason I am seriously considering taking this position is that the employer promised me that I will be likely to take the China President role if I perform well at the Marketing Director position.

I plan to ask that a clause be put into my offer letter to that effect that I will be promoted to the China President role in three years.

Have you ever seen this kind of thing happen based on your experience?

Beijing, China

Answer: Dear Thomas: Yes, many times. I call them “Try Out” promises. Let me explain:

1. Often, an employer wants to “try out” the employee before giving him or her a position of considerable importance and/or trust. Quite often professional firms – such as law firms, accounting firms, and consulting firms – want to acquire a promising candidate, and intend to give them a position such as Partner, or Director, or President – but first want to “try out” the person in a less demanding, less critical role. This way, the employer can assess the candidate far better – even as to such subjective qualities as personal “chemistry” – before making a rather “permanent” appointment. In large corporations, too, a candidate for a CEO position who has never before been a CEO can be “tried out” as, for example, COO, before being given “the keys to the kingdom.” These are quite common.

Some people believe this is the exact same reason for an “engagement period” before actual “marriage” in personal relations.

2. Because employers in these circumstances seek a “try out” period before making a long-term or permanent commitment, they often decline requests for written commitments to promote, such as in offer letters. Your interest in taking the Marketing Director position is only because you are so interested in the President position, and so you want a written commitment. That makes total sense, and I salute you for your approach. It is the right approach to take, and you should make a respectful request for such a clause. However, in my experience, because many employers want a true chance to “try out” the candidate before making the firm commitment, most will not agree to such a firm commitment for the ultimate position in an offer letter or “Welcome Aboard” memo.

3. Beware of “Words of Intention.” As what may seem to you to be a compromise of sorts, your prospective employer may offer to insert into your offer letter a clause that says something like this: “If you do well as Marketing Director, IT IS OUR INTENTION to make you President within three years.” Beware of such “Words of Intention,” because while they may make you feel comfortable, or make you think you have an assurance, to my knowledge “words of intention” are not binding or enforceable in any legal system. It is the same thing regardless of the particular “Words of Intention” used, which may include “may,” “expect to,” “will likely,” “subject to,” or “our present plan.” Be very careful in your reading of words, phrases and even punctuation marks.

I have written an article on this exact subject entitled “In Hiring Memos, Offer Letters and Employment Agreements, Beware of Words of Intention.” To read it, just [ click here. ]

4. Usually, in negotiating this issue, the best a candidate in your situation can do is to ask for, and receive, an “Alternative Reward.” As I noted above, I agree that you should ask for a clause in your Offer Letter committing the employer to promoting you to President within three years. If you get that, great. As I also noted above, beware of “words of intention,” because they represent a false sense of security. Most commonly, the most effective source of real assurance is what I call an “alternative reward, such as the following:

“In the event, despite our present intentions, you are not promoted to President within three years of this date, for any reason (other than your committed a serious crime or offense), you will be entitled to then choose any of the following, at your discretion: (a) immediate promotion to Vice President, (b) appointment to the Board of Directors, (c) a lump-sum severance payment equal to two times your full annual compensation, or (d) two percent of the common stock of the company, immediately vested.”

Of course, these listed “alternative rewards” are merely illustrations; you can and should come up with your own.

By the way, in most countries, if a prospective groom breaks off an engagement with a prospective bride, the law says that the would-be bride may keep the engagement ring, just like an “alternative reward” for not getting the marriage promise fulfilled. Yes, that is true.

5. Alternative Rewards can serve both as “Risk Limiters” to employees and “Fulfillment Motivators” to employers. From the employee’s perspective, such “alternative rewards” at least make it more palatable – perhaps even pleasant – to be denied what you really want. From the employer’s perspective, such “alternative rewards” can serve to make employers think twice about not fulfilling an assurance, because it is so “expensive,” perhaps even “painful” not to do so.

Thomas, it is this mindful sort of “navigation and negotiation” that can make a career move such as the one you contemplate both more rewarding, and less risky, and that’s what business and careers are all about, no?.

Hope this is helpful to you. Thanks for writing in all the way from Bejing. We hope you’ll spread the word to your colleagues in China about the value of our blogsite.

My Very Best,
Al Sklover

Not getting the advancement you want? If you going to seek a new job, we offer many Model Letters for Seeking a New Job. To see the complete list, just [click here.] All of our Model Memos, Letters and Checklists are Delivered by Email – Instantly!

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© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“Any suggestions for getting a Promotion or Raise?”

Published on April 12th, 2011 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Alan, I like your ideas on presenting value to your employer, especially what you call “triggers of value,” in order to get a promotion or raise. 

Do you have any suggestions for how to handle presenting what you call a “triggers of value” or similar memo to get a promotion or raise when this sort of thing is not part of the corporate culture? In the past, when following up on these types of conversations with email, management has become defensive. Thanks.

Boston, Massachusetts

Answer: Dear Paul:

Paul, thank for your very helpful question. (For those who are not familiar with using “Triggers of Value” memos when requesting raises or promotions, you can read a good summary of the topic if you [click here].) “Triggers of Value” memos are not “magic,” but they are based on a fundamental element of human nature and smart negotiating: If someone perceives you as valuable to them, they are more likely to be good to you. A “Triggers of Value” memo simply ensures that your value, and what you seek in return, is clearly known. Most commonly, this increases your chances of getting what you seek.

a. First and foremost, you are wise to observe and respect your employer’s corporate culture. If you feel that “Triggers of Value” memos violate your employer’s corporate culture, then by all means don’t use them. You’ve mentioned, in particular, that using emails in asking for a raise or promotion seems to lead to defensiveness; then by all means don’t do what doesn’t work. Instead, try to determine what does work: Conversations on the golf course? One-on-one meetings with supervisors? Letting managers know you are interviewing elsewhere? Some of your colleagues do get raises and bonuses: ask some of them how they did it. 

b. Second, perhaps your “Triggers of Value” memo is too direct and/or forceful, and not “gentle” enough. There is a big difference between, on the one hand, “I have done X, therefore I deserve Y,” and, on the other hand, “As you can see, I love this company and my job; any guidance and support you are willing to provide me regarding my ability to grow with it would be so very much appreciated.” You can also say, after an in-person meeting, quite simply, “Thanks so much for the meeting. I found it very motivating.” Nonetheless, even a simple “Thanks for the meeting” email can prove upsetting to some employers.

c. Perhaps instead of as a post-conversation “Meeting Follow-up,” you might try using a “Triggers of Value” memo as a “Pre-Meeting Agenda” memo. There are many people who, upon receiving an email AFTER a meeting, read it and say to themselves, “Hey – I didn’t say that! He (or she) is rewriting history.” To prevent that feeling in your superiors, you might try instead using your “Triggers of Value” memo pre-meeting, as respectful preparation for that meeting.

d. Consider, perhaps, an Annual “Triggers of Value” memo as part of your Annual Performance Review. Consider the possibility of using your “Triggers of Value” memo in the context of your annual review, as your response to the process. It may just seem to be more as part of “their” process, and not “your” efforts to convince them.

e. Consider making only an Oral Presentation of Your “Triggers of Value.” One suggestion may be to simply avoid the written part of a “Triggers of Value” memo, and instead lean entirely on your oral presentation, and firm handshake.

f. Lastly, remember that, at least in some companies, value is not what gets people hired, raises or promotions, but only politics count. Unfortunately, in some companies and organizations, “perceived value” is not what gets people hired, promoted, or more highly compensated. Instead, in some companies and organizations, politics and only politics make a difference in these decisions, which is entirely legal. Whether or not hiring, promotion and compensation is merit-driven or politics-driven is a very central part of an employer’s corporate culture.

Though every company and organization grew to be what it is due to the value it presented to its clients, customers or others, many do grow so large that they do remain in existence – at least for some time – by politics, and not value. But that does not work forever, and these tend to be the companies and organizations that eventually wither, die, are taken over or go bankrupt. Value, always and eternally, will determine human success, just as it does in the long run, in the natural world.

If you would like to obtain a Model Memo Requesting a Promotion based on “Triggers of Value” [click here].

Hope this helps. If so, please consider recommending us to a few of your friends on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media.

Best to you,

Al Sklover   

© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“Any ideas on how I can get a promotion, despite my relative youth?”

Published on January 9th, 2011 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Hi, Alan. I am a recent addition to your blog reading family. I have read a lot of your “back issues” and have thoroughly enjoyed them while broadening my business savviness.

I am a young professional, under 30, and have been in my field for 6+ years. During my recent employment review, I asked my supervisor for a promotion to a management level. I have received nothing but stellar feedback and have managed many projects on my own so I feel that the promotion was completely warranted. The additional feedback I received in my review was all positive. In fact, it was requested that I do more business development outside the office.

My proposition for the promotion was well-received, but a promotion needs to be approved by the Board of Directors. After nearly a month of waiting for an answer from the Board, I am afraid the answer is “no” and that I may be stuck in this position for another year, until my next review. I haven’t spoken to the supervisors who sat in on the review since then as I didn’t want to appear overly pushy.

How can I inquire on the status of my promotion without appearing too forceful, and secondly, if my request is denied, how can I break through the age perception, as I feel that may be a huge factor in the decision? Previous employers have shot down promotions due to my age – it was implied, but never stated directly – and I am afraid déjà vu may be happening again.

         Boulder, Colorado

Answer: Dear Lorna, Welcome to the SkloverWorkingWisdom family! Your questions are truly great ones, because they bring up so many thoughts that I would like to share with those who are relatively younger than their colleagues. Admittedly, I am first addressing certain things I “read into” your letter before I address your specific questions; I hope you don’t mind. Here are my thoughts:

First, keep your expectations of yourself high, but your expectations of others low. While promotions, pay raises and other rewards may be “warranted” (to use your own word) it is not reasonable to expect that, therefore, you will receive them, either promptly or ever. Many, many things at work will be clearly due, earned, warranted and even overdue, but it is a touch self-defeating to expect such “fairness” or “justice,” promptly or ever. 

Second, you will not be rewarded based on what you “deserve,” but rather on what you can “motivate” others to give you. They are two very different things: one is based in a sense of “entitlement” and “expectation,” while the other is based in a sense of “hope” and “challenge.” People will reward you to the extent they feel they need to reward you, not to the extent you “deserve to be rewarded.” That’s the real challenge: motivating the decision-makers. You may have the best product or service in the world, but you still have to sell it, that is, convince others “it is in their interests” to buy it.

Third, do not make the mistake of believing you and your colleagues necessarily share the same interests and goals. It may be that your supervisor is “stealing” credit for your accomplishments, and it is not in his/her interests to tell the Board about your true contributions or value. It could be that some of your colleagues – including your supervisors – feel that, if you get the promotion, they or their “friends” will not get it. It could be that, if you get a raise, the company will have lower profits. It may seem cruel, but it is often true, that many people feel intimidated by a “rising star.”

Fourth, remember what Einstein said, “Do not worry about success, but rather your value to others, because if you become valuable to others, your success will follow.” For the moment, I suggest you focus on developing yourself for your next promotion in this company or the next one. Take the important courses, meet the important people, develop the important relationships. Then you can either “sell” your value, or it will “sell” itself. It sounds like you have been doing this; you may need to give it a bit more time.

Fifth, every request should have “The Three Magic R’s”: That is, it must be (1) presented respectfully, (2) reasonable in nature, and (3) most importantly, it must have as its rationale the interests of the persons to whom it is presented. The rationale should never be “I want, I need or I deserve,” but instead, “I believe, for these several reasons, this would help you accomplish your most important goals.”    

Now to your two specific questions:

1. I do not think it would be “pushy” to address an email memo to your supervisor to (a) request an estimated date for a decision regarding your request for promotion, (b) accompanied by reasons you believe your promotion would help your supervisor accomplish his or her most important goals. Bear in mind that all of his or her most important goals may not be limited to the success of the company, but rather will likely include his or her own personal success. Keep it respectful, and I don’t think it should come off as “pushy.”

2. I suggest you read (or review) a newsletter I wrote entitled “For a Raise or Promotion, Use ‘Triggers of Value” that I think presents a pretty good summary of how I think you might overcome the age issue.  Perceived Value, if anything, is your path to success in this matter; if your perceived value is great enough, you will get anything you ask for. Bear in mind, though, it is your perceived value to the person you present your request to, not necessarily your perceived value to others, or even the company. To review that Newsletter [click here].

3. We also offer a Model Memo for Requesting a Raise or Promotion.

If you would like to obtain a copy, simply [click here].

My own sense is that you are doing all the right things and, yes, your youth is holding you back a bit. Those of us who are “more experienced” (I prefer that  word to the word “older”) are often concerned that intelligent, motivated, focused younger people have not yet had the chance to gain the one missing ingredient they need for great success – experience – for which there is simply no substitute. Lorna, I do not refer necessarily to experience in the field – your six years is a lot of experience – rather, it is experience with people and organizations, in general, and introspection on those experiences. Sure, a younger person may be better in so many circumstances, but there is often a preference for a person who is a touch more “seasoned by life” and possibly more adept at handling unexpected and unforeseen problems of any kind. 

Is this illegal discrimination? You bet it is. But is it something that you should allege? Of course not! It is simply something you must do your best to deal with, which is something you are obviously doing. But take it as a challenge, which I gather you do enjoy! I am certain that, over time, you will be so very successful. I really am.

I hope I have not written too much. But I hope this does help you. Thanks for writing in. I would LOVE to hear how things turn out for you in this regard.

Once again, welcome to our “SWW Family.” Sempre Famigila!

Best, Al Sklover   

© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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