Improved Leadership. Competitive Advantage.

Few things can tear apart a team or organization faster than pay problems. Understandably, most leaders don't like to deal with pay issues since they often invite conflict, defensiveness, and hurt feelings. But, make no mistake, the pain is much worse by ignoring or waiting. Here are some guidelines in dealing with pay issues.

  • Be proactive and transparent. We know of one organization that sends the HR department around on 'town-halls' to cover 100% of the workforce. Their goal is to educate all personnel on the logic and procedures governing pay raises (or lack thereof). They do this annually before the annual bonus or pay raise is officially announced. Doing it before is always better than doing it after.
  • 24-hour rule. When a subordinate voices a pay issue, acknowledge it, preferably in person, within 24 hours. It shows that you care. When we ignore pay issues or 'kick them down the road', we send a signal that we don't care about the person. There are few things, by the way, more personal than a person's livelihood.
  • 72-hour rule. Once a pay issue is voiced, engage necessary stakeholders such as HR, to get an answer within 72 hours. Again, preferably, deliver the news face-to-face in a private setting within the recommended timeframe. Respect confidentiality. Even if the answer is not a desirable one for the employee, they are still owed an answer. Most people are conflict avoiding and despise, if not hate, these types of conversations. That being said, it is our leadership duty to do the difficult. This conversation must occur.

A compelling force behind union drives is not the amount of pay that employees receive or don't receive. Rather, it involves how pay is managed and communicated. Commit to transparency behind pay decisions. Most importantly, treat an employee's pay concerns like they are your concerns. Resolve them completely and immediately. Failing to do so will erode your culture.

To learn more about how you can manage pay better and how to deliver courageous pay decisions, call Robin Bichy, an ELP founder and principal, at 703.999.5676.

Three months ago, a manager with 20+ years of experience approached us after a meeting with a remarkable assertion—she was ready to quit. And the dominant reason offered was that she was convinced her boss didn’t care about her. Using our own medicine, one of us asked, “How could you possibly know that?” Her response was telling. She had said that over the last five years, neither her boss nor HR held a career discussion with her.

She may have been right. Few things signal that we care more than having a career discussion with members of our team. We remember her saying, “I don’t even want a promotion. I would love a lateral transfer to this job at HQ, but nobody ever asks me. I’ve been a top performer for the last five years, and I expected more of my leadership than this.”

Career mapping serves dual purposes. Most importantly, it shows, as a leader, that you take interest. You care enough to know someone’s wants, needs, talents and desires. It shows, as a leader, you care about the future potential of a person to a degree more than just caring about what they can produce in the present. Career mapping also serves the organization. The most sophisticated executives and HR departments are matchmakers! In essence, they match an employee’s wants, needs, talents and desires with organizational opportunities. As a leader, if you don’t know the wants, needs, talents and desires of your employees, how could you possibly match them up with an organizational opportunity that fits? You can’t. That’s the point.

To learn how to do career mapping correctly, legally and effectively, ping Robin Bichy, an ELP principal and founder, at

In keeping with the theme of this newsletter in terms of employee development, let’s turn to some best practices regarding Succession Planning. By the way, most organizations don’t do this. And because they don’t, they are often caught flat-footed when someone unexpectedly leaves or earns a promotion.

We just can’t get why so few do Succession Planning. It isn’t hard. And it is the essence of a contingency plan. All executives should be able to sleep at night knowing that nobody is irreplaceable. And, if an A player leaves, we have at least one contingency plan in place.

Here are five best practices of effective Succession Planning:

  1. Write the plan down. Many executives say that they have the succession plan “in their head.” That isn’t good enough. It doesn’t need to be 10 pages—even one page will do.
  2. Don’t keep it secret. We think that we may hurt people’s feelings if their names are left out of the succession plan. That’s not a good enough reason. We know of one instance when a leader left the organization. As he was leaving, he was told that he was on the succession plan. His response was, “Now you tell me? That’s why I’m leaving. I didn’t think I was part of the future here. It’s too late now.”
  3. Re-evaluate it annually. Many people leave, retire, or get sick in a given year. You’ll be amazed how much a succession plan can change year over year. Because it is a simple plan, all you should need is 30 minutes to dust it off.
  4. Develop targeted training and leadership interventions based on the succession plan. For those on the succession plan not ready for their predicted position now, preparation is necessary. For what some call Ready Now candidates, a specific training, mentorship, or leadership plan should be implemented to close any gaps to improve readiness.
  5. Use the 2% Rule of Thumb. Keep the succession plan focused on only the key, critical positions. Anything more could be a waste of time, resource, and/or capacity. In general, we have found that the 2% Rule of Thumb is a good yardstick. In a 1,000 person organization, there are probably around 20 key positions that should have a succession plan.

For nuance into the art and science of succession planning, please contact Robin Bichy at