My $.02 on Gravity Payments 70K Minimum Salary

I first heard about this story in late July by reading this NY Times article. I also decided to read this article in Forbes, this one in Entrepreneur, and this one in Fistful of Talent.  Four articles is plenty for me to have an opinion.

Really, there are two pieces of this story that interest me.

Psychology – Price hears a psychology study and realizes his company can do better providing for people’s basic needs.  Fact: people who make 70K aren’t worrying about paying the basic bills.  “Price based the figure on a 2010 Princeton study he read, and an epiphany while on a hike with his friend who was struggling to pay her bills on an annual income of $40,000.” – From Entrepreneur.  Basically, just take a look at Maslow – employee’s have their basic needs taken care of and can then focus on other pieces like improving job performance, or saving, or creativity.

Maslow, Compensation, Benefits

Biblical Literacy – The man paid attention to this extremely disturbing biblical parable of the Workers in the Field that rocks me every time I read it.  Seriously, go read it.   The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t work like the USA works, and doesn’t work like we want it to work.  It won’t be “fair” they way we like to think of “fairness.”  Is Price a Christian?  Well, he grew up in a household of faith, but he isn’t anymore.  According to the NY Times –  “Mr. Price is no longer so religious, but the values and faith he grew up on are “in my DNA – It’s just something that’s part of me.”

Parable of the Workers

So, this crazy decision made his employees obviously uncomfortable.  No, it wasn’t fair within his company, and he definitely should have consulted other people on his decision.  It’s demoralizing to people who only got a slight salary increase for their already higher paying positions.  After all “ Giving large raises to lower paid, lower contributing employees may be well intentioned, but unless it’s paired with equitable raises for higher contributing employees, it is bound to cause dissatisfaction and turnover.” (As Forbes points out: Equity Theory!)  I can easily see other psychology principles coming into play pretty soon, like the fact that we easily get accustomed to the new normal – hello Hedonic Treadmill!

But, quite a lot of what I see in this is that we (journalists? Americans? pundits? fellow employees) continue to confuse the idea of labor value with personal worth, and at the same time, pretend that how much we earn shouldn’t/doesn’t affect how we see each other.

The change forced the employees to reckon with the way they judge their own worth and the way they judge the worth of other employees.  Suddenly, they’re all on the same “worth” scale, and so they cry foul, they see it as an attack on their personal worth.  If I’m suddenly making as much as the admin, despite my different duties and education, am I worth what I think I am?  Serious ego blow.  I think this is also a story about identity and the way we value people.

That, and the obvious workplace connection, is what makes me keep thinking about this story.   The Bureau of Labor Statistics gives us plenty of ways and formulas to help calculate salaries and benefits, but they don’t touch on how we as humans make meaning from that data and determine worth.  A lot of us take what the BLS says about labor value, and the emphasis on making money and spending money and determine that a salary is equivalent to their personal worth.  All you do is answer phones, that’s not worthwhile, you’re not worth a wage like that.  That’s not even close to true. My labor is worth a dollar amount, but my worth as a person is priceless.

What I think Price did is to try and make that discrepancy between worth and value a little smaller.  His method was flawed, imperfect and is causing waves, but I definitely applaud him for a radical decision and doing something.


Learn to be an Exceptional Peer Coach

4 steps to increasing your peer coaching effectiveness.


Who can be a coach?

It is natural to consider coaching as the domain of an expert, the responsibility of the manager or part of a high-potential talent development program offered by HR. However, coaching can exist between peers within the same department or role and provide myriad benefits for both the individuals and the organization.

Peer coaching, initially developed as a way to train new teachers, has seen effective crossover into the business world. Developing peer coaching skills can have benefits for individuals and the company.   It can be used in any department struggling to find ways to train new hires or support a stretched-thin manager.  Additionally, since peer coaching relies on building strong, positive relationships amongst co-workers and developing competence it can act as a strategic employee engagement technique.

People who take on a helping role are often able to understand a rote process in a new way, as well as reap the feel-good benefits of facilitating an “a-ha” moment for a colleague.  Coaching coworkers gives employees a chance to develop important managerial skills, or enlarge their job responsibilities for an added challenge.  The most effective peer coaching relationships are built on mutual trust and confidentiality, and involve refining and building new skills and competencies that are identified early on in the relationship through use of specific objectives.

Here are four ways you can become an exceptional peer coach.

Learn to help others set specific goals.  It is difficult to coach or be coached when the goals is to “Become a better widget maker.”  What does better mean?  What does it look like when you’re successful?  How will others know you’re a better widget maker?  How will you know when you’ve reached the goal? Help your colleague set specific goals for the peer-coaching relationship either by relying on the job description, manager input, or coachee self-identified skill deficiencies. The more control the coachee has over the process, the more likely he or she will be invested in the outcome.

Learn to ask open-ended questions.  Correctly identifying the error the coachee is making isn’t the point of a coaching session.  Instead, developing possibilities for solutions, identifying what led to to the error, or what assumptions are being made are much more crucial.  Taking a non-judgemental stance and asking questions such as “How did you determine that would be your next step?”  “How can you improve on this for next time?”  “What did you learn from this?”

Develop a non-evaluative attitude. Taking on a coaching role does not give you more power over your colleagues and as such you should not be evaluating their work as “good” or “bad.”  However, any time someone is given feedback it is instinctive to feel defensive.  Rather than asking “Why did you…” questions that push your colleague toward justifying their actions, use questions that help diffuse tension such as “what evidence did you use for that decision.”

Develop a reflective mindset.  In his book Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky wrote, “Most people do not accumulate a body of experience.  Most people go through life undergoing a series of happenings, which pass through their systems undigested.  Happenings become experiences when they are digested, when they are reflected on, related to general patterns and synthesized.” How do you create your own reflective habits?  What open-ended questions do you ask yourself?  Set aside time during your week to process your own experiences and consider areas of growth as well.

For Further Reading.

Peer Coaching.   R. Ladyshewsky (2014). Chapter 20 in The Complete Handbook of Coaching.

Honing your skills as a peer coach.  S. Friedman (2010). Harvard Business Review.

This post was initially published on LinkedIn on August 6, 2015.

Convincing Others to Set Goals

Ever met someone who doesn’t set goals? Here’s a couple answers for common reasons people give for not setting goals.

DirectionI’m a vision seeking, goal setting, to-do list making person. I suspect you are too.

However, it’s likely that you run into people in your daily life who could care less about setting goals.  It’s also likely that you may manage some of them, or perhaps, be tasked with converting them to goal setting.  The horror!

How can you go about convincing others to set goals?

Here are some common excuses I’ve heard, and ways to work around these road blocks.

Every time I set goals, I fail!

Lots of people set goals… many of them on January first.  Others set department goals in response to initiatives from management.  Both of these sets of goals are often unrealistic, quickly lost in the daily to-do lists, or require a lot of metaphorical moving parts that don’t exist at hand.  Unsurprisingly, these goals fail because of lack of planning and so many things outside the goal-setter’s ability to control.

If this is the reason you hear for someone’s lack of goals setting, you need to help them assess why that goal didn’t work, and get their confidence back.  Ask questions such as:

Was the goal you set realistic? Did you have the time and money to accomplish the goal, or was it a stretch? Did it require other people who didn’t have time to dedicate to the project?  Was the goal in line with your overall priorities for the year?

One goal I had for this year was to run a half-marathon, and I was hoping to do it in May.  However this goal directly conflicted with my volunteering goals, and goal to get a job.  I used my free time to pursue those goals, rather than run.  Therefore I “failed” in respect to my half-marathon goal.  I didn’t take a moment to assess how much free time I had, sometime simply assessing resources will help people set realistic goals.

I already have a to-do list.

Yep, me too.

Let’s go back to that first sentence “Vision seeking, goal setting, to-do list making”  I’m surprised how often people mix up those three items, but they are absolutely not the same thing. Your goals are not another to-do list, and furthermore your goals should flow from your vision.  Vision is focused, and it starts at the top.  It’s the 50,000 foot view, not the street view.  When you decide where you’re going to go, it means you can’t see travel down all the side streets.

I hate that.

With every cell in my body I want to be able to do all the things I like to do, read all the books, see all the friends, run all the races, write all the blog posts.

But a vision means that you have a place you’re going.

Here’s the good news.

Having a vision means your to-do list can get shorter.

Why is that? Because it becomes easier to stop adding things to your list and life that don’t matter.  You stop getting so attached to projects that don’t contribute to your bottom line, or your overall success.  It becomes easier to look at other people who are doing those things and say “It’s great that they can do that, but it doesn’t contribute to my happiness or my plan.”

If this is the reason someone gives you, ask them questions that get at the types of items on their to do list.  Ask: Are these tasks contributing to your overall success?  Who sets your to-do list?

I don’t have time to set goals.

Imagine you’re heading from Salem, Massachusetts to San Diego, California, and you have a timeline of a week to travel there. So you set out on your bike. By the end of the first day you realize, “There’s a long way to go, and I’m not even close to meeting my first deadline. I better work harder.”  It doesn’t matter how hard you work pedaling that bicycle, you will not make it to California in a week.  Google maps estimates that it’ll take you 269 hours, and there’s only 168 hours in a week!

A lot of times people think there’s not time to set goals, then set out on their bike to make a cross-country trip.  But, taking a look at the vision, and then assessing the methods you’ll use to achieve them is crucial.  Instead of using a bicycle – try a car, or a plane!  Suddenly you’ll find a lot more time in your schedule, once you’ve assessed the methods for tackling your to do lists.

Setting intentional goals save time because you can properly assess your resources, build your team, and cut out the side trips, and finally, picking the appropriate vehicle to travel in.

The next time you run into people who are skeptical about goal setting, figure out the why behind their excuses, and then set them straight.  Gently.

Nix the Thousand and One Minute Elevator Speech

Two different methods for crafting a one-minute elevator pitch to answer the question “Tell me about yourself.”

I’m considering a new book to write – a highly autobiographical (but useful) e-book entitled “How to embark on a long and tortuous career change.”  The subtitle will be something like, “What to do if you are visionless, but not aimless.”

I did not realize in 2009 that changing careers and figuring out what direction to point my life would take more than five years. (I still won’t pretend I know what I’m going to be when I grow up.)

I also did not realize I would one day have to turn up at career fairs and job interviews and try and cram this journey into a one minute nugget known as an ‘elevator speech’ so that I could tell potential employers about myself.

One minute. Ha.

One minute is not nearly enough time to include all the relevant a-ha moments, personal insights, game-changing books and blog posts, and life-altering choices I’ve made (and had made for me).  Maybe 1000 and one minutes would be enough time.*

But, news flash, you don’t get that much time in job interviews or career fairs.  So let me tell you about two different methods I have for answering the dreaded question “Tell me about yourself**”


Method One: Chronological

When I approach this question with a chronological format I am trying to make it clear to the interviewer “How did I get here from there.”

As a someone looking for a new industry and new career I make the case that human services is very similar to human resources and organizational development.  Both of them are all about helping people reach goals!  Basically the same thing, right?

  • I started out at XYZ role because of my passion/interest in…
  • While at my position I  did XYZ, which led me to realize... 
  • So I started/decide on this other course of action… 
  • Which is why I’m applying for this position

Your transition phrases should make clear the path you took, but also WHY you took that path, and WHAT it was about that path that matches up with the position (and company) that you’re interviewing and considering.

Method Two: Identity Driven

Another method I have for answering this question is more about discussing my identity, trying to answer the question “Who am I and how do I work.”

I cut straight to the way I like to describe myself –

I am a problem solver!  I love looking at challenges and finding a way to get from A to B…

Then I unpack what the words I chose meant in context with past positions I’ve had –

How do I do this?  I use (skills), for example when I was at (company) as a (position)…

I’ve found both of these methods to be helpful in organizing my thoughts and answering these questions.  Personally I enjoy using cliches in my elevator speech – which isn’t to say this has never backfired.  I’ll save that story for my autobiographical e-book on changing careers, however.

For the very literal among us it’s helpful to know you can usually get away with 2-3 minutes, if you throw in a joke or two.

 What about you? What do you say when people ask you to “Tell me about yourself?”  Do you have an elevator speech?


*Yep, 16 hours and 40 minutes sounds about right.

** By the way, you should know this question is not being asked to find out what your favorite movie or best summer vacation.  Talk about a waste of a prompt all through middle and high school, which should be preparing kids for the ‘real world.’

Balancing Work-Search and Home

Forget work-life balance – I can’t even figure out how to balance searching for work and my life.

Forget Work Life Balance! I can’t even manage to balance searching for work and my life!

Photograph: Jake Wyman/Getty Images via the Guardian

Up until 2 months ago when people asked “What do you do?”  I said “I’m a Graduate Student in the Industrial Organizational Psychology program at Salem State University.”  Then we’d talk about the program, and what the heck I-O psychology is. Those were fun conversations because in my unofficial study of the population, about 1 in 20 people knew what Industrial Organization Psychology was – or even let me get all those syllables out of my mouth.

However, now that I’ve finished the school work for the program, I’m in a surprising limbo of job opportunity hunting, mixed with Stay at Home Mom responsibilities.

If you’re scratching your head and wondering how this could be harder than being a grad student and stay at home mom. We’re in the same boat.  I’m totally confused too.

Since I used to spend about 15-20 hours a week reading, writing, and studying for class, I thought I could easily turn that into time spent job searching. Ha.  It turns out a big part of my motivation was turning up in class and having intelligent discussions, being well-prepared, and oh yeah… impressing my peers and teachers.

This type of gratification isn’t exactly readily present after you’ve sent your resume and cover letter down a half-dozen black holes of online application platforms.  I’ve got a lot less motivation to keep working after the clock hits 9:00pm and I could be using my Netflix account.

This is a problem of motivation and reinforcement that performance management expert  Aubrey Daniels talks about in his book “Bringing out the Best In People.”  If you want to set people up to thrive, you need to create environments that reinforce the behaviors you want them to demonstrate. Reinforcement can be either Positive or Negative, Immediate or Future, and Certain or Uncertain.

The reinforcement for job hunting is definitely Negative, Future and Uncertain.  I can’t know when I’ll get a job, which of my actions are contributing the most to my success (is it the informational interviews? The networking events? The number of resumes submitted?), and for submitting any applications the only response is a frustrating automated reply!

On the other hand, being a SAHM has Immediate, Certain consequences, even if they aren’t always Positive.  For example, I tell my preschooler he can’t have candy for breakfast and the consequence is immediate – yelling and screaming.  Or I can spend time with friends at the park on a gorgeous sunny afternoon.

It’s so much easier to cross off “Do the dishes” from my to-do list and so much harder to find the perfect answer to the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

I’m tired at the end of the day. Without the extra motivation to impress others at tomorrow’s class, applications seem so much easier to just do tomorrow, when I might have more energy.

So, I’ve thrown myself into being solution oriented – what’s worked for me in the past, and how can I make it work for this particular situation?

  1. I’ve found an unemployment partner. In order to keep myself accountable for setting realistic weekly goals I found someone else in the same stage of job hunting as myself. We swap advice, share helpful articles about how to avoid self-sabotage and maintain a marathon, not sprint,  approach to job hunting.
  2. I’m making my search social. Most good job hunting advice will recommend that you network, conduct informational interviews, and talk about your job search like it’s a favorite hobby of yours. So, I’m trying to balance the computer application part of the work with these much more fun, much more social elements of job hunting.
  3. Remind myself that the length of my unemployment isn’t a measure of my worth, or my skills.  It will happen when it happens, and being flexible and trying new things is a key part of any job or job search.’

How about you? Any tips for this job-hunter?  Any moms out there have good solutions that worked for them when they were job hunting? Weigh in with your comments below!

Changing careers and figuring out what to do with my life has been a key part of this blog the last couple years. Here are some of my other posts people loved. 

A lament on finding that perfect position: Single People I hear you!

Some old thoughts on how messed up it is that we expect kids to know “what they want to be” where they are 17 or 18.

Career Advice for my Younger Self

All Growing Up

Career Advice WordPress

I’ve been poring over my resume in order to update it with my new (almost completed) degree, as well as recent projects, experiences and high hopes for the future – Oh wait, that last bit just goes in my diary.  So I’ve been considering lessons and career advice I wish I’d known during my first  job… but that I’ve learned along the way since then.

After a series of eclectic high school and summer jobs (orthodontist assistant, library page, soccer referee, camp counselor..) I finally got my first real job – as in only 40 hours a week, with a liveable salary – as a twenty-two year old.  The salary was enough to move into my first real apartment, which I wrote about on Connect Shore last year.

But, as most of us know, first jobs are well… first jobs and the learning curve is steep, and includes…

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Single People, I hear you!

Several weeks ago a very brave woman in her mid-thirties stood up in my church and shared her testimony as a single person who wishes she were married.  The audience, as you might expect from a moderately conservative Baptist church, was married couples attempting to keep their offspring from crawling in the rows, with limited success.  (At least one skittered past me that day).  There were few other singles in the church, but those that were, were mainly in the pews filled with college students.

But her words hit me deeply as she talked about the longing to get married, the frustration with the time it was taking to find the right person with which to settle down.

I’m almost as far from single as one could get, barring those few who met in high school or before.  I met my husband when I was 19 and he was 17, and though it most certainly wasn’t love at first sight, by the time I turned 24 there really wasn’t much question that we would be getting married.  This year, though only our 4th anniversary, marks our 10th year of friendship.

How then can I, who’s never made an online dating profile, never been on a blind date relate to anyone who’s single?

Because I, friends, have been unlucky – not in love – but in careers.

I like to say of my resume – great life, terrible paper trail.  I stand by each of my experiences as necessary to growth – but, like a string of exes, they’ve each taught me what I didn’t want.

Like many others who I’ve talked to, both in love and careers, early on I received little advice beyond admonitions to lighten up and it would happen, or to follow what basically amounted to ‘common sense’ in both the job search or in the quest of relationships.

“Get good grades!”
“Only date Christians!”
“College is for everyone”
“You’re still young, you’ll find some[one/thing].”
“Just get out and meet a lot of people.”

But these cliches aren’t really that helpful when you’re home at night and start wondering –

What’s wrong with me?
Why haven’t I found my passion yet?
Or – worse – why hasn’t my passion amounted to a job that supports me/ creates wealth?
Am I smart?
What am I doing wrong?
What is wrong with me!?

And you attempt to answer that last sentence with any amount of gleaned wisdom from thoughtful well written blog posts by your peers – who are successful – and have managed to secure positions that they deserve and earned.

Am I just unlucky? Should I have just tried harder?  Did I end up on the wrong path so long ago that there’s no finding my way now?

In those bleak hours, that happen, not every night, but unfortunately every now and again, I must review advice and comfort from what I’ve learned.

1. There is no one right path/ Mr. Right. It’s hard when you’ve tried a string of actions that hasn’t repaid your investment, or when you are surrounded by stories that champion the people who knew when they were 17 what they wanted to be. A culture that celebrates child geniuses and profiles CEOs under 40.   That shows success can be had anywhere and success means money, fame, and power.

Hunt out the other stories, and don’t believe lies that tell you there is only one right way to do things and you’ll know it when you see it. You might not.

2. It is not now or never. If you do not find the perfect job (or date) today that does not mean that you will be forever stuck in your parent’s house, or in a basement for the rest of your life.  It only feels like it.  Any psychologist worth their salt will tell you to banish dichotomous thinking whenever you can – it isn’t all or nothing!

3. You are loved. Really. And as someone who is loved, you should continue to be purposeful.  Vision is important – but, vision, I think, can be continually shifting – constantly being refined by life experience and wisdom from respected others.  If your vision looks different than it did when you were in high school.  That’s fine.  Sure, you may be no Donald Miller, but then, who is? As the late great Kurt Vonnegut said – You wouldn’t have written Beethoven’s  9th Symphony anyway.

HOWEVER – it is possible to live purposefully without a clear, well-defined end vision.  I wrote a little bit about what to do when you feel “in between times” and I stand by my suggestions. Make friends, invest in community, volunteer, support causes, learn.  If you can’t see where you will be in 40 years, that is okay – why don’t we just try for 1 okay?

4.  There is more advice and help out there than cliches.  There are plenty of ways to glean self knowledge and to continue to search for and find ways to express your passion while waiting for vision to blossom. Don’t assume that it will come to you in a dream – and – forgive your parents or guidance counselors who gave you bad/no advice.  You’re a grown up now.

However, sometimes cliches make the best endingsSo get out there and Try Try again.

Or at least eat some discount chocolate.


If you liked this post about my career woes you might also like: Career Advice for my Younger Self.

And you should probably share this post with your friends 😉

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