Monday, December 21, 2009

Why? I Say Why Not?

As more people stumble across this forum, I am increasingly asked "Why are you doing this?" Those of you who know me personally likely understand I am not one to self promote and though I do not lobby for the spotlight, I am not necessarily one to hide from it. Additionally, I give consideration to how my actions are perceived, acknowledging the resulting perceptions are not always aligned to the intended projections. It is that mindset that had me waffling for quite some time on whether or not a public blog was a worthy investment of my time and energy. I offer the following insight to address idle curiosity and more specifically those wondering, "Who does this character think he is?"

Reciprocity - Life is about sharing, caring and growing. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to have mentors both sharing their wisdom and caring about my personal and professional development. To both demonstrate my gratitude to them and formally embrace my role as a mentor (a role each and everyone has, whether or not we choose to acknowledge it), I decided to MAKE the time to be a part of the conversation.

Therapy - Living a life of go, go, go both at work and at home, makes it challenging for some of us to "live in the moment." I have been continually reminded (by my wife) that life has been passing me by. As I continually planned for tomorrow in favor of enjoying today, I have now made it a point to Make time to reflect and keep a journal. This has been very therapeutic for me and serves as a tool to help me acknowledge and appreciate the continually passing todays.

Parental Legacy - Life is all too short and unfortunately each passing holiday season is a painful reminder of that fact as our fond memories of Christmases past include loved ones who are no longer here to share Christmases present. My son is six, which makes it much too early to share proper perspective and give meaningful context to many of the lessons I continue to learn and the observations made during this journey. If something unfortunate were to happen before my privilege of nurturing his personal development to adulthood was complete, I would want him to have a resource that might prove valuable when I am gone. I have clearly benefited from both of my parents sharing their unique perspectives and would be remiss if I did not do my best to ensure my son had the benefit of the same.

So rather than wonder why I am doing this, I ask you to think about why you are not. We all have wisdom to impart on others and a unique perspective on the journey of life, both of which are worthy and deserving of documentation and sharing. I am amazed by the insights I gain and the lessons I learn through the eyes of others who choose to be a part of the virtual conversations surrounding us. Please consider contributing to the discussion, imparting your wisdom and actively sharing yourself. There is much to be learned from our peers, juniors and seniors, friends, family and strangers. I look forward to adding your blog to my ever growing RSS subscription and learning from as many of you who are willing to share.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Salaries, Value and Welfare

There are many types of employees, but for the sake of argument let's bin all of us into three categories...hourly, salaried and commission. Without question, those of us who fall into the hourly employee category recognize that in the most simplistic of terms, we are compensated for our time irrespective of the value we provide. Clearly, we must add some potential value, otherwise our employer would not have asked us to come to work and agreed to pay us for our time. Regardless of how many customers we serve, items we sell or widgets we build, we are compensated for our time. Those of us working for pure commission are motivated a bit differently because we are compensated based solely on the results we deliver. It matters not how much time we spend or the means we use, we are paid for results. Two very different, but easy to understand models, where the metric is either our time or our result, but not necessarily a combination of both. The challenge comes in putting a value on the salaried employee.

As salaried employees, we are usually expected to spend 40 hours of our week "working", but may exceed twice that. Most tend to pour our heart and soul into the job, while others coast until supervisors are looking. In the military, we all earn the same base wage with our peer group. Sure there are special pays that subsidize the base salaries of those with a specific skill set (language proficiency pay, flight pay, retention bonus, etc) or those asked to make additional sacrifices (sea pay, hazardous duty pay, family separation pay, etc), but again no direct assessment of value. We use these monetary levers to incentivize behavior and grow/sustain capabilities of perceived importance, but again no true measurement of value.

I am currently serving as a staff officer where I work with a team of professionals writing point papers, building PowerPoint briefs and analyzing spreadsheets all to inform strategic decisions that will not be measurable for 5-15 years. It is sometimes challenging to generate "The Good Idea Machine" and feel good about the effort and time investment at the end of a given day, knowing meaningful feedback will not come for years. In the absence of tangible evidence of contributions, I often times ask myself if I am being compensated merely for my time.

Whether we are an hourly employee, work for commission or are salaried, we must all heed Jim Rohn's words...“You don't get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour.” In some cases, it may be up to us to define the measure of value for ourselves, but it is always up to us to define the measurement of value for those under our charge. Likewise, we all need to understand that we are compensated for the value we provide in many different ways. Most believe wages serve as the sole compensation and motivation for our time invested, level of effort and/or personal contributions. Some are motivated by promotions, some are motivated by helping others and still others are motivated by the expressions of gratitude they enjoy throughout the journey from customers and coworkers. For those of us in the military, I hope we can all agree that being promoted or achieving a certain rank in no way validates us as people (many deserving people are not promoted, while more than a few lesser contributors are promoted in their place each year), and neither does the number of ribbons we wear on our chest. The value we provide is measured in the person we become, the help we give others and the legacy we leave after each phase of the journey. Being monetarily compensated without providing value is nothing more than a form of welfare. I don't know about you, but I know more than a few people who are cashing their welfare check after a week of "work" and it is painful to watch (especially when it is our tax dollars enabling such behavior).