I was in a really hard place, feeling like I wasn’t valued at all within my company, when I finally thought all the way through how organizations show value in their employees, as I briefly explain in The Value Hierarchy. As painful and frustrating as that time was, it helped me to grow. It helped me refocus on what was important and learn how to take control when it felt like I didn’t have any. It also helped me become more aware of times when the value started to build. When you have an awareness you’re able to appreciate it more and be more intentional around cultivating the response you want. I have one final thought on the hierarchy for you to consider and then, in the spirit of being able to learn from one another so we don’t have to learn all the lessons the hard way, I want to jump right into the reminders.
These last few posts we have discussed a lot of where you are in The Value Hierarchy. My hope is that you have a better understanding and awareness of where you are. If you wish to move beyond your current level I hope you feel equipped to starting taking steps in that direction. There is more than just you in this equation though. Have you thought about where your boss is in the hierarchy? Are they highly revered in the group or are they relying on their title exclusively? Do they speak to the values and the culture of the company or do they spend time tearing others down or complaining about pay? Do they seem to have their bosses ear or do they think of your team as a loan ship at sea? If you’re looking and listening for it you’ll get lots of clues on what level they are in and that is important to understand. It is nearly impossible for you to rise above the level they are at in the hierarchy if they are the only leader or mentor you’re aligned with. It is incredibly difficult to get to autonomy for example if your leader is in status/title because they aren’t being empowered to be able to empower you. If you’re in this situation, this is a great opportunity for a mentor, for someone to align with who you can choose and seek out that is where you want to be value wise, or above.
I was in this situation a years ago when first being promoted to a new role. I had come into the role all starry eyed and excited to this step toward my goals and was coming off of working with one of the best leaders I could imagine. He was wonderful and I had infinite amounts of respect for him and he was well respected and valued within the organization as well. He was often put on projects outside of his normal job, sent to different classes to learn anything and everything, and was afforded opportunities to travel and help other groups in the organization; he was certainly in the Influence level. After the promotion however I was aligned with a remote manager who, looking back, was in the Status level. She was both micro managed and ignored by her own leader and not empowered to complete much work other than micro managing us. It was so hard. To add insult to injury the assumption became that our team must be floundering for her lack of leadership which was wholly untrue. Over time, I began to realize that I would have to work twice as hard to be considered what similar employees on other teams were. There was no amount of working with my manager that would help either. So, I reached out to my old familiar mentor that I had worked so well with in the past. Not only did he help me see other areas to develop in and make actionable suggestions of how to improve, he provided a sense of inspiration and hope. This combination both equipped me and pushed me into the next step in my career. As I said, it is nearly impossible to derive value from the organization if the leaders you’re aligned with aren’t themselves valued. Make sure you’re aligned with someone who is able to bridge that gap for you.
Now, let’s look at some of the other teachings that I gained and I hope you’ll take away as well.
Things I’m reminding myself of
Never run from something, always run toward something else. Sometimes hard things bear the best fruit so don’t just rush through them or out of them. Allow yourself to go through it and feel and learn and grow from that space. If you’re in a hard season or a toxic environment take control and start planning and preparing yourself to make a change but only make the change when you have something to run to. Find something that lights you up and excites you while objectively checking the boxes of what you enjoy from the current situation and what needs to be improved.
Communicate your success. This isn’t bragging or puffing out your chest this is brining light to the great work that you’re doing. It is difficult for your company, your boss, your spouse, your friend, (the list goes on you get the point) to appreciate and value all that you bring to the table if they don’t know what that is. We all have enough on our plates and don’t have capacity to be investigating for all things done well, so share them.
Be open but intentional in all areas. Allow yourself to consider alternative options and opportunities that come your way and while keeping your intentions in the back of your mind. While one development opportunity, job offer, meeting invite, or project suggestion may not at first make a lot of sense, if it aligns with your intentions, consider it. You’ll be astounded at what you’ll get out of the out-of-the-box experiences.
Only you can put in the work to build your value within the organization. You don’t have to strive for influence or strive for any particular level really. For many people it isn’t even about trying to achieve any specific level but rather being aware of the level you’re in and what level of effort is getting you there. Sort of like a check and balance. If you’re working your tail off to bring value to the organization and but the organization is seeing you as brining value enough to supply you a paycheck that is cause for a conversation. Conversely, if your organization is valuing you to the point that they trust you to make autonomous decisions and speak for the group, be aware of the gravity of what that means from their perspective and take it seriously.
One of the most interesting things I’ve learned through developing this hierarchy is that it not only builds up, as any hierarchy would, it also cascades down naturally. On any level within the hierarchy when you make gains in the level you’re in, you are increasing your ability to make gains in the levels below it. Let’s just start with Development, right in the middle, if you increase your level of development you will increase your status within the team or organization which will likely increase your compensation. Moving up to the top, if you’re given the opportunity to influence you’re creating for yourself increased autonomy, the autonomy allows you to grow in your understanding which is further development, resulting in increased status, and likely increased compensation. It is almost as if while you’re climbing the mountain you’re adding rocks and fill to the layers below you effectively raising you even higher than you thought you could go.