Did you get coffee on your way into work this morning?
When the barista handed you your coffee and you handed them more or less than a fiver depending on how fancy the coffee shop was and where you live, you both completed a value exchange.
You paid money to receive a warm, caffeinated beverage made and given to you under certain conditions like a clean coffee shop, (fairly) speedily and pleasant service.
This was the value exchange you entered into:
In exchange for your coffee prepared and served under a particular set of conditions, you were happy to hand over the money you were asked for.
It was an honest and fair value exchange.
How do we know it was?
Both parties deemed it so.
If the service was amazing. Hearts and whatnot on top of the coffee and a barista who knows you and who is a PLEASURE AND DELIGHT to enter into a value exchange with: you leave a tip.
Your leaving a tip tells them they went over and above: that they overdelivered on value.
We pay more when we perceive that value is overdelivered.
People who overdeliver on their side of a value exchange usually get paid more and will get paid again.
If the coffee shop was a shambles, the coffee was lukewarm, the cup you was dented and old looking, you wouldn’t perceive the value exchange to be honest and fair. You don’t feel good about that value exchange so you withdraw from it by never going back. In making your decision not to go back, you don't take into consideration things like how hard that coffee shop owner works; how long the coffee shop is open; what the menu is; how long it took him to find the property his coffee shop is on or how many months it took him to source his coffee beans and his cups.
Note that this doesn't necessarily mean you don't feel empathy or understanding for the coffee shop owner: you just don't chose to transact on value with him any more.
You're not getting what you came for; so you don't go back.
We enter into value exchanges all the time with respect to the good and services we pay for. We're discerning customers. We know what we're paying for and when we don't get it we tell them; we might even refuse to pay if we don't feel a minimum service was obtained.
We don't like to enter into value exchanges that don't feel amazing.
When the value exchange does feel amazing, we'll come back. We want more.
Your relationship with your employer is a value exchange
Your employer pays you your salary in exchange for the services you provide in your Firm.
You get paid a bonus when you go above and beyond in delivering value
You get promoted when the value you are delivering is significantly above and beyond expectations in your current role.
Every single day you go to work, you participate in a value exchange. You are the service provider.
So the question is - what ARE you the provider of?
What’s your side of the value exchange you've entered into?
Crucial to providing value in our roles is our connection to an understanding of how it is we create value.
Understanding this makes time planning significantly easier.
It makes giving and asking for feedback feel necessary and service focussed.
It makes knowing how to frame yes's and no’s feel clean and easy.
It makes overdelivering on value easier which - if you want to be promoted - is necessary.
People who overdeliver on their side of the value exchange get paid more; which means paid bonuses and promoted.
It makes feeling good about what you showed up for, and did at work on any given day much more within your control.
When someone works with me to help them get promoted, one of the first questions I ask them is:
Why should they promote you? Tell me.
When they tell me one of these things, I know they are not focussed on creating value:
- 'I'm really loyal to the firm'
- 'I've put in the hours and worked really hard'
- 'I've been a director for 4 years now'
- 'They told me once that they would'
- I really feel like I deserve it
These things aren't any basis or guarantee for promotion. They aren't focussed on delivering value.
If you aren't in the promotion pipeline and you'd like to be; it's because the people making the promotion decision don't perceive that you deliver sufficient value to be promoted or believe that you have plans to create value that make your promotion a no brainer for them.
What about office politics, though?
People tell me that we can't have a conversation about bases for promotion in professional services without recognising that there are political factors at play.
Let's explore what we really mean when we say that.
We all have preferences to work with certain kinds of people. Like the coffee shops we visit, certain people are more our vibe and some aren't. You aren't everyone's vibe and never will be.
So, all else equal, if there are two coffee shops side by side and they feel, smell and appeal to you similarly; coffee equally delicious in both; but one is run by someone you just jive with really well and you're a bit lukewarm about the other one; you'll 100% choose the one you jive with you. Is exercising your preference political? I say it's human.
But let's say now that the shop with the owner you're lukewarm about changes things. It goes much faster in there. You also notice that the cups they use keep the coffee hot for longer. Do you still pay more to the other guy because you like him and jive with him or are you now attracted by the irresistible value the other has offered?
It depends on how you perceive value to be delivered.
If your desire to spend an extra 5 minutes very lovingly peeling your 3 year old off your legs and going through the extended goodbye routine that she loves so much in the morning, outweighs your desire to get your coffee off the bouncy, fun barista; then you're probably going to value speed and go to the speedy coffee shop.
If you don't like drinking coffee en route to the office but like to start sipping once you've set up; then you might be valuing heat retention.
Value perception isn't an absolute thing. It exists only in the perception of the value receiver.
In your case, it's probably the set of Partners you work for.
You know that riddle:
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, did it make a sound?
I think framing how we think about value works in a very similar way
Is it possible to have provided value if those you are serving don't perceive that they've been valuably served?
Value delivery is subjective so you need to be able to answer this question:
What do the people you work for consider to be valuable?
Are you providing value in your role?
How do you know you are?
How would you know if you aren't?
Look around you at the people you perceive as bringing a lot of value in their roles:
What is it that makes them valuable in their role?
Who are they serving in the value they bring?
Look around at the people you perceive as not incredibly valuable.
What thoughts do you have about them? What is it that they DO that makes you think what you do?
What don't they do and what do they do that makes them valuable to their clients, firm and people they work with?
How are you valuable in your role?
Are you earning your salary?
Would you pay you to do the job you're doing?
You need to know the answers to these questions.
You need to reach out and get help answering them from the people you work with if you sometimes feel that 'no one appreciates you'.
Your role exists for a reason. Part of your role is figuring out your role and THEN going to town on what you do.
Are you a Mum working at the Big 4 who's stepping up for promotion soon?
I can help you manage the process and the panel with confidence and ease. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org me to speak with me about how I can help you do that.