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  • Lessons From Parenting: Rewarding Good Values/Character Spurs Motivation

    If you are one of those people who wants to earn a higher salary (and feels you are deserving of more money) then this is the article for you!  Candidates who feel they are driven more by money than by contributing to the mission of the firm, turn off employers.  Everyone wants to be compensated fairly, but the candidate who will come off more favorably in an interview will focus on how they can contribute and fit into the firm’s culture and will avoid focusing on salary (at least not openly at the onset).

    The savvy interviewer will put her best foot forward to convince her prospective employer that she can do something that will help the firm and do it faster and better than anyone else who can do her job!

    There is a time to negotiate for a higher salary but NOT before you’ve proved you have something to offer that your employer needs. If you have a convincing case about what you can do to solve acute problems and you are able to demonstrate that you have these abilities during your interview, you will probably get the job offer.  Once you’ve been offered the job (having demonstrated you will be able to add value to the firm) you will have more leverage to negotiate for a salary increase or scheduling requests.

    The savvy candidate will ask himself/herself, if the workplace rewards contributors then how can I motivate myself to want to contribute and to use my creativity to solve problems? It seems easier for people who were raised this way to be contributors in the workplace as they have been practicing this behavior throughout their lives.

    Parents can inspire their children to become motivated contributors by rewarding them when they exhibit these behaviors.  This parenting strategy places value on pitching in more than on simply following a description for chores that earn an allowance. My hypothesis; if we reward kids for making a contribution and being resourceful they will develop these character traits which eventually will become a part of their personality. Conversely, if we pay them for doing a task, they will become more task oriented and less inclined to look for ways to contribute and solve problems. Some experts say that meaningful work, solving problems, making a contribution, using creativity have an equally if not stronger role in getting people to perform and excel at their jobs.  (See TED Talk  Dan Ariely) .

    Here’s one story that highlights how this can work:

    A client (let’s call her Barb) shared with me her views about how her kids turned out to be extremely ambitious, successful at getting what they want and yet are not driven by money.  The fact that they are ambitious and unselfish intrigues me and from knowing them I can see that these two traits aren’t mutually exclusive. I think their story is worth relating as her daughter (we’ll call her Sarah) exemplifies many positive character traits that employers are seeking and that people need to have to excel in today’s challenging economy.

    After Sarah completed her freshman year in college she found a summer internship doing content marketing for an online company, managed to negotiate with her boss to work from her parents’ home (to avoid expensing them for rent by staying near the headquarters in NYC) and found an additional paying job as well. Barb applauded Sarah for her resourcefulness and lauded her for establishing her first flextime job; Sarah negotiated for terms that meet her needs and those of her family.

    How can you get motivated to take pride in and value pitching in order to help the team succeed?

    Here’s another example that may seem mundane but it demonstrates how positive reinforcement for pitching in at home can translate to pitching in to help elsewhere.  Sarah overheard that her mom’s housekeeping at the last minute cancelled prior to an event she was hosting in her home; knowing that her mom would be stressed she jumped in to help clean the house and assist her in setting up…immediately after she finished her own job!

    Although Sarah is regularly responsible for pitching in to take out the garbage, emptying the dishwasher, cleaning her room and cleaning up from her own friends…filling in for the housekeeper required 10 hours of cleaning, cooking and set-up. Sarah never complained and in the end my client showered her with appreciation and accolades for helping her pull-off a successful event. Sarah didn’t stop here; she persisted with her positive attitude towards helping her family members and said she can’t wait to gain more knowledge and skills as a computer science major so she can improve her mom’s websites SEO.  This sounds too good to be true this really happened. I’ve known this family for many years and have admired how this young woman has matured.

    When her mom offered to pay her for acting as a fill in on the last-minute (which for now is in an area “outside of her training” (her major is in creative writing and computer science) she said something that blew both her and me away.  “Mom, I guess you raised me WRONG in that I really don’t care about the money.  The truth is I know how lucky I am that you pay my bills and I appreciate you send me to college and that you cover my other living expenses.  I want to help you because this is a time I can pitch in to lighten your load and show my appreciation.”

    Barb explained that when she was raising her kids (who are now in college) one of the regular discussions among parents was on the topic of how to make sure their kids would understand the value of money. Parents of toddlers would practically compete for recognition for being the most conscientious about awarding allowance for chores, teaching kids investment strategies with their allowance and for some even insisting a certain percentage of that money would go towards charity. In fact, Barb and I both know several people who enrolled their school age children in summer camps to teach them how to save, invest and contribute a certain percentage to charity from their precious allowances.

    At first glance the idea of tying chores to a child’s allowance, and giving them strategies for investing/saving and even giving to charity seem to be noble parenting goals. But in further reflection this approach limits an even greater life lesson about adding value for its own sake, showing appreciation for other privileges, being a team-player, filling gaps, solving problems, accountability and more.  In short, the first strategy, which I call tit for tat, pales in comparison to the lessons offered in the value-based strategy.  The tit for tat method teaches children that if they do their work they will automatically get paid for getting the job done.  This method reinforces kids for immediate gratification and doesn’t take into account a reward for going above and beyond what was asked of them nor does it address how well and efficiently they did their job.  The entire structure of giving an allowance for specified chores to an extent limits kids from taking spontaneous initiative. In contrast, the value based approach which teaches children that there are loftier rewards than money, and that is earning respect and appreciation for making a valuable contribution.  Eventually, these skills pay off but they require delayed gratification.

    In evaluating the value based approach to parenting, children learn to care about causes that improve the world and focus more on adding value and on developing positive character traits when parents give attention to them for these behaviors. We all know that normal kids crave attention more than money and material gifts so why not give them attention for that, which will build their character.  If parents’ goal is to insure that kids become productive, self-reliant, contributing members of society and solid citizens then a sensible parenting strategy should focus on teaching kids how to stand out and make a difference and thereby earn respect and be appreciated vs. teaching them that merely doing their chores is enough to get paid.

    Regardless of how you were raised, there is a clear benefit to adhering to the value based reward system. As a career coach, I would argue that the best employees are those who know that fulfilling the requirements stated in their job description is the bare minimum one should obtain.  Ideally every employee should have a goal TO EXCEED these requirements and to use the job description as a baseline for where to begin.  In fact, in the real world, employers evaluate employees and offer rewards (increased compensation and promotions) to those who add the most value, solve problems and make a contribution to the firm.

    Those who focus strictly on their salary and expect raises without focusing on how they can help the firms are usually the ones who get rejected in interviews and denied promotions. A recent article said that you should never ask about salary or for when you get a promotion in your first round of interviews.  Another article in Forbes said similarly, don’t ask if you can change the job details, the schedule, or the salary. This is a clear indication to the hiring manager that your priorities are focused exclusively on yourself and not on what you could do to earn the salary or a promotion. Surprisingly, many people still do ask and they hurt their chances for getting hired let alone for getting a raise.  Either way, it makes good sense to become a contributor and a problem solver as these are the employees who typically say they’re happier, and overwhelmingly are the ones taking home the bonuses and the raises!

    Beth Kuhel, M.B.A., C.E.I.P., Executive Leadership and Career transition coach, writes about leadership strategies, career advancement and improving the workplace for Forbes, Huffington Post, Personal Branding blog and has been featured in Business Insider, Entrepreneur magazine, Tiny Pulse, U.S. News & World Report. Beth’s weekly career CJN career column was sponsored by Weatherhead School of Management.

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