Tag Archives: management

Success, A State Of Mind & 5 Things To Make You Better At Your Job Today!

Being “successful” is a state of mind. It doesn’t matter if you feel overlooked by your boss, underestimated by your colleagues, or even underprepared for the work required. There’s only one person who is stopping you from succeeding today: y-o-u.

Just can’t manage to get ahead?

Always feel like you’re behind?

Feeling too old for the job at hand?

Reframe your mindset today with these five simple steps and see better performance instantly:

1. Know your best asset

Everybody has one asset by which they excel. Perhaps you’re a quick writer. Maybe you’re a “people person.” Whatever that skill is, hone it (and own it!).

Make yourself indespensible for this asset. For example, if you have a great personality for handling and selling new business to the firm, ask to be a part of business development. Go out and find new clients just by being your best personable self.

Are you good with computers? Interact with the IT department and pitch new software or tech ideas to improve the efficiency of your firm’s practice.

Write down your talent on a sticky note and look at it everyday. Reminding yourself brings a can-do attitude, even when the hump of Wednesday is hard to get over.

2. Make daily task lists

Some people think lists are a waste of time. You know exactly what you need to do today, why waste valuable billable hours on a list?

Lists help everyone organize their daily activies by importance. It’s not enough to understand the tasks, you must also seperate those that are urgent and those that are not. Associates often start their day with easy tasks–the ones you can do quickly. It feels great to cross them off your list, right?

Wrong. Start your day with the most urgent tasks. This way you’ll stop procrastinating and start prioritizing.

3. Create (and complete) one goal a day

Now that you know what your daily tasks are, look at your schedule and make a goal for the day. Don’t make broad, long-term goals like, you will finish that brief or file that motion.

Focus on immediate issues that are manageable for the day. For example, you will finally schedule a group meeting about a client matter. Or, you will read and then respond to each of your emails (that you’ve let sit for a few days already).

By creating and comleting one simple goal each day, you will find you go home more satisfied with your performance, which is vital to job satisfaction.

4. Take care of your personal items

Yes, just like it’s important to complete one professional goal each day, it’s important to fulfill a personal one, as well.

Find the time at lunch or before 9am to take care of a personal matter–whether it’s finally organizing childcare for the weekend or looking up the time for a spin class at your gym for after work. 

It’s difficult to concentrate on work when there are personal tasks hanging over your head. By taking the time out of work to carry out a personal task, you will go to the office refreshed and refocused. You will also have something to look forward to later–a night out with friends, dinner with a spouse, or an overdue restful, child-free weekend!

5. Grow as a professional

Yes, you’ve organized your agenda, created a managable work-life balance, and gone home with a sense of pride in your work for the day. But, what skills or talents have your developed to become a better you in the future?

Just like you should be aware of your own natural abilities to succeed, you should be aware of your shortcomings, too. Work on areas where you’re weakest. Say, making use of technology available at your firm, or communicating with subordinate employees. Maybe you haven’t tried to improve on those things pointed out to you in your last professional evalutation.

Learn a new language. Get certified in a new technical skill. Attend a professional conference in your free time on behalf of your firm.

Today, do something new in order to grow into the best you tomorrow.

Are you a law firm manager who needs to get this message about employee empowerment across to your troops?

Do you face unimaginable pressure to streamline costs, improve profitability, and do more work with fewer employees?

In order to be successful in today’s harried corporate culture, you need to master the critical skills and competencies required for building and maintaining a productive and profitable workplace. Productivity is a powerful tool, that when harnessed correctly can help you address daily stressors, improve cooperation, complete tasks on-time, and sharpen your company’s competitive edge. Sign up now for The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s audio course on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 from 3pm EST to 4:15pm EST:

Smart Manager’s Guide to Building a Productive Workplace: 10 Proven Strategies to Boost Personal and Employee Productivity

This interactive, practical and effective event, explores 10 proven tips to boost personal and employee productivity. During this information-packed session, you will learn how to: Build a workplace atmosphere that encourages cooperation, productivity,Better enable employees to do their work, without excessive oversight, andRemove common obstacles that prevent productivity. Learn more about it here.

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Get A Better Boss By Being A Better Employee: Strategies To Combat Office Favoritism

At home, parents play favorites. In the office, bosses do, too. But being the boss doesn’t have to mean being a bully.

Employers can’t help but judge a person on personality (in addition to skillset, ability, or pedigree). And, those associates who have more in common in terms of sports teams, school mascots, hobbies, and family will likely form de facto alliances at the firm. Problems arise when those alliances form between a boss and a subordinate. As a result, other—often equally capable—employees receive less praise, less attention, and less interesting work.

Unsurprisingly, this idea is more than a suspicion. Data from a recent study, conducted by a leadership development consultancy and published by the Harvard Business Review Blog, confirms that there is such a thing as the boss’s favorites.

“And while, in any disagreement we inevitably find both parties bear part of the fault—that is, the disgruntled employees do certainly play some role in their own unhappiness—we consistently found in the analysis that their complaints were justified,” writes Joseph Folkman for the HBR Blog in the article, “Are You Creating Disgruntled Employees?

“Their managers were in fact treating the disgruntled employee differently than they treated their very satisfied employees.”

Surprisingly, however, both managers and employees can get back in one another’s good graces once again. With a few changes in behavior and attitude, managers can boost the performance of their most disgruntled associates.

In turn, disgruntled associates do play a role in their own happiness at work. Become the boss’s new favorite by increasing open and honest communication. Leaders in the office, according to the aforementioned study, need to:

1. Encourage employees more.

The study focused on the six percent of people in the database of 160,576 employees who displayed the lowest levels of job satisfaction and commitment on their 360 evaluations of their bosses. When this six percent was asked to name the skill that they thought was most important for their boss to demonstrate, the top response was “Inspire and motivate others.”

From a manager’s perspective, it’s far more rewarding to focus on the career development of the most receptive and happy employees in the bunch. Working over and over to inspire those who have poor attitudes or performance feels draining. In fact, negative attitudes tend to be contagious.

However, it’s for this reason that leaders need to work harder to encourage any disgruntled associates. Ignoring the problem will just compound it and increases employee dissatisfaction. What’s more, the aforementioned study indicates that when bosses treat their disgruntled employees like everyone else—as if they show equal promise—the employees’ performance and behavior quickly improves.

2. Take an interest in associate development.

“If a person works hard and gets a pay check he has a job. But if a person works hard, gets a pay check, and learns a new skill, she has a career,” sagely writes Folkman.

Bosses play favorites when they focus career development strategies solely on the high-potential associates. Unfortunately, everyone else is left to drown in their wake. Call these employees underachievers, disgruntled, inept. But, the reality is your firm is a team. If you expect the worst from your associates, you’ll get it.

Take interest in the career development of every employee. You’ll create a more well-rounded legal team, as well as dispel any rumors that you play favorites. Becoming a beloved leader will inspire more productivity and happiness among subordinates.

From these conclusions, disgruntled employees—or, at least, those associates who are not among the boss’s favorites—ought to:

3. Listen to other associates.

There may be a reason you are not among the boss’s favorites. You are that underperformer, underachiever, and generally disgruntled employee.

Have you heard people say you have a bad attitude? Do other employees tend to bypass your office whenever they’re looking to discuss last night’s ball game? Listen to what other associates are talking about. If your personal interests hold you back from being the favorite, it’s time to weigh in.

“Managers go to lunch more with people they like, our data show; they talk with them more socially (about children, sports, etc); they know them more personally. This is natural, surely, but so are the feelings of exclusion it creates among the less favored,” Folkman explains about the study results.

“A small effort by managers to spread their attention around more broadly can go a long way here.”

And, a small effort by employees to endear their managers can also go a long way.

4. Give feedback, in addition to taking it gracefully.

It turns out, a major complaint of the bottom six percent of the study was that bosses did not give them honest feedback. Instead, bosses wrote “You’re coming along fine,” or other innocuous comments in regard to performance. When you find yourself faced with a disingenuous review—or even just a generic one—ask questions. Seek further feedback. Not only will your boss perceive this as a increased interest in the job, but she will also likely appreciate your honesty and return it.

But, that being said, be prepared for negative remarks. Listen and accept gracefully. Then, ask how you can improve. Furthermore, give feedback about your boss’s leadership skills. Ask for more one-on-one mentorship. Don’t wait for an anonymous study to show that they play favorites–let them know you’d like to be one by seeking more work responsibility and building trust.

This year, make favoritism by your boss work to your favor.

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Does Your Office Feel Like A War-zone? How To Successfully End Inter-Office Conflict

Nobody likes inter-office conflict—whether it’s disagreement between two employees or disagreement with a manager. Without resolving conflicts quickly, however, they can fester. Before you know it, the office feels like a war-zone and you’re looking for a cease-fire.

There are three major types of inter-office conflict, according to Ben Rabon in an article for weLEAD online magazine: (1) disputes over task responsibility; (2) disputes over how something should be done; and (3) disputes related to personality and work styles.

Because conflicts can lead to lower productivity, firms should work quickly to resolve disputes.

Your firm should have informal preferences and formal policies regarding employee reporting of workplace disputes.

First, it may sound counter-intuitive, but communicate your preferences, as a manager, for internal conflict management. For example, if two of your employees are in disagreement over task responsibility or how a task should be done, tell all of your employees that you prefer they work it out amongst themselves first.

In the event these two employees cannot reach an agreement, invite them to send you a joint e-mail, for example, explaining the situation. By expressing your preference for a joint e-mail, you are tacitly discouraging your employees from writing you numerous e-mails regarding the same topic or complaining about their peer.

In addition, by writing a joint e-mail, you are also encouraging these two employees to collaborate and cooperate—if only on a two-line memo—which is, after all, the root of their initial problem.

If this process breaks down, and these two employees are at such odds in terms of personality or working style that they cannot craft a simple e-mail, then it may be time for formal intervention. This is where formal policies regarding employee disagreement should be circulated.

These policies are generally straightforward in terms of written notice, formal meeting with a manager, and a note placed in personnel files. At this point you may need to make use of some conflict resolution skills. Rabon suggests the following five mediation steps:

  1. Air all viewpoints from both sides
  2. Clarify the problem and the interests involved
  3. Brainstorm solutions with both parties
  4. Help both sides reach agreements
  5. Be aware of your own bias and do not let it affect your ability to remain impartial

In many conflict resolution situations, the parties simply want to be heard. So, it’s important to be a good listener. Once all opinions are voiced, you are able—as a manager—to implement a solution and assign tasks how you see fit.

Don’t forget to explain your logic behind the decisionmaking.

Paradoxically, a recent study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that showing people extreme versions of their own ideas that confirmed (not contradicted) their opinions on a divisive subject actually led them to reconsider their stance. Simply put, by showing somebody that you agree with their opinion, it may actually make them more receptive of opposite points of view.

In this study, led by Eran Halperin, a psychologist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel, researchers recruited over 150 Israelis and exposed half of them to video clips that related the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to viewpoints that the Israelis valued. Instead of trying to persuade the Israelis to change their opinion, they showed the study participants video clips consistent with their already established viewpoint.

“For example, the fact that they are the most moral society in the world is one of the most basic beliefs of Israeli society,” Halperin said to the Los Angeles Times. But, when researchers showed participants a video that claimed Israel should continue the conflict so that its citizens could continue to feel moral, people reacted angrily.

“You take people’s most basic beliefs and turn them into something that is absurd.”

The participants did not enjoy watching the clips, but, after numerous rounds of exposure over a period of months, participants’ attitudes on common political narratives, like the idea that Palestinians bear responsibility for continuing the conflict, softened considerably.

In the months leading up to the 2013 Israeli elections, participants reported almost a 30 percent increase in their willingness to reevaluate their position compared with participants in the control group. This shift persisted even a year after the study concluded, reports the L.A. Times.

In conflict, when you tell a person he or she is wrong, or try to convince them of your divergent point of view, you are often met with resistance. People become defensive when their ideas are questioned and can even become more extreme in their views of the same subject once challenged.

Although inter-office conflicts are far from being as divisive as Israeli-Palestinian politics, some of the same conflict resolution ideas may apply. When you disagree with one of your employees, try adopting their point of view first. See if you can’t get them to be more flexible on their own before you dictate your opposite personal agenda.

People just want to feel heard. And, most people are open to compromise. What they lack, however, is direction, management, and even a little compassion in this mediation process.

Interested in knowing more strategies to end inter-office conflict? Take The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s course: Conflict, Criticism & Sensitive Subjects: How to Successfully Address Tough Topics at Work.

In this “how-to” webinar, you will learn specific strategies for:

  • Complaining to your boss (or about your boss)
  • Giving constructive feedback to colleagues
  • Bringing up those “sensitive” issues that people are afraid to mention
  • Why you need different “road maps” for bosses, coworkers, & employees
  • Seven questions you must answer to prepare for a difficult conversation
  • How to avoid surprises by “getting inside the head” of the other person

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10 Behaviors By Summer Associates That Should Make Your Firm Think Twice Before Hiring

Congratulations, you’re a summer associate. With the right attitude and work ethic, you may become a salaried lawyer one day!

Condolences to law firm managers. You have to deal with a bunch of 20-something interns who haven’t a clue (but think they do).

There’s a time for forgive and forget and there’s a time for strict standards. When it comes to your summer associates, pay close attention. With so much competition these days, there’s nor reason your firm shouldn’t have the best that law schools have to offer. The following 10 behaviors by summer associates should make firm partners think twice about hiring:

1. Makes a bad first impression

Some people make bad first impressions. That’s understandable for a cocktail party or date, but not a professional event. If your summer associate can’t make eye contact, circulate the office and shake hands with everybody, or shows up to work in wrinkly or inappropriate attire, imagine the first impression they’ll leave on a judge or jury. The air of incompetence is not in-style this summer.

2. Avoids social events

Most summer interns are afraid of drinking too much and making idiots of themselves in front to firm partners, but that’s no excuse to eschew work events. If your summer associates can’t even attend events mostly designed to make them feel welcome, what are they going to do when you ask them to attend important after-hours events with potential clients, or professional galas that look well on the firm? Avoiding social events may be a sign your intern has no room in his or her priorities for the firm.

3. Is slow to answer your emails or calls

This is a no-brainer. You need associates who are serious, hardworking, creative, and—well—constantly available. That’s the nature of the law, it never sleeps, and your inters (for the first few years, naturally) shouldn’t either.

4. Doesn’t get along with other associates or summer interns

Yes, it is a cut-throat process, getting a job offer. But, it’s probably a bad sign if one summer associate doesn’t seem to get along with all the rest. Sure, the group may have disparate personalities or work styles, but so does the firm. You need a team player, not a lone-wolf in this business.

5. Name’s unknown to the partner

There’s flying under the radar and not getting noticed at all. If none of the partners ever know a summer associate’s name, it’s likely this person either (a) didn’t have any noticeable achievements or accolades from colleagues, or (b) doesn’t know how to network. Either way, it’s not the type of lawyer your firm needs in this do-or-die industry.

6. Doesn’t respect the support staff

Associates shouldn’t just be known by partners, they should be liked by support staff, too. A summer associate is lower on the food chain than support staff. They’ve not been hired, they’re here on trial, and they haven’t earned their place at the firm. Any associate who treats support staff like subordinates has no respect for the food chain—which sometimes means doing nitty-gritty and menial work and certainty not scapegoating support staff.

7. Makes too many mistakes on documents

There should be a learning curve in legal work, especially for summer associates. But, you should start to be concerned when an associate shows too many mistakes. Already, summer interns are given the lowliest jobs, which means it shouldn’t be too difficult to handle. And, mistakes are a sign that an inter was too afraid (or too arrogant) to ask questions of a colleague or classmate. Simple spelling mistakes reflect a carelessness (or lack of technical skills) that your firm just can’t afford. Another thing that’s costly? Constantly re-checking the work of one of your lawyers. You’ve got to have faith that your associates know the answer, know where to look for the answer, or know the right questions to ask to get it from somebody else.

8. Constantly appears frazzled

This is a difficult job. There are long hours. If your associate already feels overwhelmed after a summer, you should question their stamina for the “real world” of the law.

9. Says “no” too often

There is a time and a place to say “no” to work. But, your summer internship is not one of them. Saying “no” too often may be a signal that an associate has eyed another senior attorney or partner and plans on exclusively working for them, which means when hired, it will be more of the same. Or, saying “no” might signal poor organizational skills, where the associate is incapable of multitasking or managing his or her workload. Either way, take note of the person who says “no” too often.

10. Lacks social media or technical skills

Today there’s no excuse for poor PowerPoint skills or lack of Excel knowledge. Even law firms can’t get far without a website or social media presence. These are not skills left to the support staff. Rather, they represent the general willingness to progress and grow with the speed of new technology and a desire, on the part of an associate, to become more efficient and productive at what he or she does. You’d really have to go out of your way these days to lack such technical skills. And, as clients demand more innovative law firms, you can’t afford to hire one more traditionalist who favors to the yellow legal pad to an iPad.

As a manager you face unimaginable pressure to streamline costs, improve profitability, and do more work with fewer employees. In order to be successful in today’s harried corporate culture, you need to master the critical skills and competencies required for building and maintaining a productive and profitable workplace.

Take advantage of The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s course on Friday, August 1, 2014, 11:00 EST to 12:15 EST, Smart Manager’s Guide to Building a Productive Workplace: 10 Proven Strategies to Boost Personal and Employee Productivity.

This interactive, practical and effective event, explores 10 proven tips to boost personal and employee productivity. During this information-packed session, you will learn how to:

  1. Build a workplace atmosphere that encourages cooperation, productivity,
  2. Better enable employees to do their work, without excessive oversight, and
  3. Remove common obstacles that prevent productivity.

Whether you’re a new manager, or have been in the trenches for years, this event will get you up to date on the latest productivity enhancement techniques for:

  1. Reaching quick and innovative decisions
  2. Reducing decision-making anxiety for you and your employees
  3. Holding timely meetings that remain true to a core purpose
  4. Making intelligent decisions by battling groupthink
  5. Brainstorming effectively

Plus, you’ll also learn which workplace productivity apps really work and how to get started using them today!

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Should Law Firms Deliver Clients Good News Or Bad News First? Well, It Depends…

How do you tell a client that he’s lost his case, but there’s hope, at least, in appeal? How do you tell an employee you value their service, but the firm is downsizing?

The legal services business is rife with the good news/bad news scenario. So which do you present to people first?

Let’s start with the bad news. At least, that’s what most people would say.

In a paper published March 2014 in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, authors Angela Legg and Kate Sweeny studied whether or not participants would rather hear good news or bad news first. An overwhelming number of people (78%) preferred to receive negative feedback first, followed by positive feedback.

According to the study, participants believed that hearing good news last would help them end on a high note.

This is not entirely surprising as we’ve all been in the same position—wanting to jerk the Band-Aid off bad news quickly before reaching the healing, positive portion of the getting-news phase.

However, a second study, according to Psychology Today, turned around and asked the same participants to deliver good and bad news. It asked which order participants preferred to present it in, and the results are not what you might think.

Participants were split. Half wanted to deliver bad news first, assuming that’s what others wanted to hear, and half wanted to deliver good news first, believing it would be—selfishly—easier for them.

As a law firm manager, which matters most? Do you want to make bad news easier to hear or easier to deliver?

Well, it turns out, this all depends on what outcome you desire.

Let’s say you’re delivering a performance review to an associate. It may be that you want him or her to work on honing a specific skill or improving a certain behavior. In this case, it might be better to deliver bad news last.

Studies show that when negative feedback about a person’s personality is delivered last, people are more interested in changing their mood and behavior than if the same feedback is delivered first. Apparently once negative feedback is heard and followed by positive feedback, participants are less worried and committed to changing negative aspects of their personality.

On the other hand, let’s say you’re a law firm delivering good and bad news to a client. You likely want to retain their business, so leading with the bad news and ending your meeting with the good news might be the best way to go. Once clients hear the positive aspects of your firm’s performance and their legal prospects, they will have a heightened mood and perception of the situation.

Giving bad news last may sour a client’s opinion of your firm and leave them lingering on a low note.

In the end, it’s probably not a good idea to give people a choice: do you want to hear the bad news or good news first? Instead, decide what follow-up behavior you’re hoping to spur and decide on a sequence of news accordingly.

A law firm manager or partner’s position as the bearer of bad news is certainly not an envied one. But, with the proper ordering of feedback to clients and employees, perhaps society can learn to stop shooting the messenger.

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The Key To Cross-Selling Initiatives For Law Firms (What Your Firm Has Forgotten!)

You’ll nod your head in agreement that it must be done right before you list a couple of excuses for why your law firm doesn’t successfully cross-sell its services.

The average client has 4 major practice needs and 5 minor—yet measurable—needs. Nevertheless, on average, a primary provider delivers only 1.8 practices to a single client, meaning most law firms deliver one, and a handful service 2 practice areas.

There are several reasons why law firms fail at cross-selling multiple practice areas to the same client. And, there are multiple solutions geared toward success. Here are three common reasons firms fail to cross-sell:

1. Your associates aren’t encouraged to do so.

First, to cross-sell your practice areas, you need to tell your associates to do it!

Law firms assume that lawyers understand the need to push other practice areas on their current clients. But, few—if any—lawyers are trained marketing or sales aficionados.

Not only that, your employees may not be incentivized to cross-sell services. What does your divorce attorney get for pushing client hours toward your IP division? What does your first-year attorney gain by mentioning your in-house litigation consulting service?

An attorney will simply increase his billable hours if there’s no incentive to cross-sell. However, when the reward is compensation during his quarterly review, he may jump at opportunities to help.

So, to cross-sell your services to clients, first consider selling the idea to your attorneys.

2. Nobody knows what services you offer.

Clients don’t know who in your partner practice does what. Neither do your own attorneys. When the right hand doesn’t know what the left is up to, this becomes a real problem.

New clients should always be introduced to the firm as a whole—the variety of its services, the expertise of its lawyers, and the breadth of successful case wins. Never assume a client understands what a “litigation department” does. By standardizing each new client introduction to the firm, you have a better chance to cross-sell them services later.

Similarly, never assume your associates understand the full capacity of your firm’s services. Attorneys, especially new eager ones, may not know the full extent of your case history—your strengths (and weaknesses).

It becomes difficult to cross-sell when you—as an attorney—don’t truly know what size case or level of technicality his firm is equipped to handle.

3. You’re afraid to cross-sell.

Finally, the thing holding most people back from cross-selling legal services is fear. Fear of losing clients, fear of not knowing how.

A firm must have full faith in his own or his partner’s practice in order to successfully cross-sell. If you are reticent to recommend a fellow lawyer or partner, it may be time to cut ties with that person altogether.

As for fear of lack of know-how, there are a few sources to help.

The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM) offers a powerful resource, Law Firm Origination and Cross-Selling Credits: A Guide to Your Firm’s Future Success, which looks at the key to successful cross-selling initiatives—how to turn selling into a team sport, and manage the origination that ensues.

This comprehensive guide also explores the problems firms encounter before, during, and after implementing origination and cross-selling credits within the compensation system. It includes such sections as: Challenges for Modern Day Law Firms, Developing Your Compensation System, Cross-Selling Credits Within the Compensation of a Law Firm, and How to Teach Your Attorneys to Cross-Sell (and more!).

Now there are no more excuses to achieving success and boosting your law firm business today.

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Negotiation Tactics: #1 Don’t Get Caught By Surprise

From salary negotiations to severance to sick days, don’t get caught by surprise when negotiating benefits. When law firm manager or law firm employee, there’s much to be gained by constant preparation. Here’s how you do it.

For employees:

1. Know your true value

First, it’s important to know your true value. That means the market value for your current position in your current industry. Whether it’s via websites like glassdoor.com or information from your recruiter, find out whether your current salary is above or below your true value.

2. Know your relative value

Next, take into account your previous experience or unique skills. Are you bilingual? Do you have a second degree outside a JD, say a MBA or CPA? Did you previously work at the USPTO so that your patent experience exceeds that of much more tenured lawyers?

Make a list of these skills and experiences. This is your value added to the job in general.

Then, make another list of on-the-job training or tasks successfully accomplished at your current firm. This is your value added to the specific position you currently hold. These accomplishments are tangible benefits you’ve provided your employer.

“It’s all about demonstrating that you are the best person to help the employer address any challenges that may exist,” Roy Cohen, veteran career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, said to Forbes, “that you are going to change the course of history at the organization.”

3. Keep a hardcopy of this list accessible

In today’s day and age, you never know when you might be laid off. Or, when your boss wants you to move from say, the New York office, to the Sacramento one.

If you keep this list up-to-date and accessible, then next time a manager calls you into his office, you’re prepared for anything—negotiating a new, higher salary or, in the worst case, a better severance package.

If you don’t have this list ready, or you need more time to prepare for negotiating, keep some delay-tactic phrases handy, like “I need some time to see if there’s an opportunity to advance in that office [or division].” Or, “My kids go to private school, so I’ll have to review the options and prices for similar schools in said-location.”

Don’t get caught by surprise. Stay calm. And, be well-informed when you negotiate.

For employers:

1. Know who is undervalued or overvalued at the firm

Just like your employees, managers should keep track of the range of salaries offered at the firm. It will help at the end of the year for raises and bonuses, but it will also keep you from being surprised by requests for salary increases.

Keep a ranking of your same-level associates. This ranking can remain unofficial, but it will help you answer key questions, such as: Do I play favorites? How can I assemble a balanced team of professionals for this case? Who deserves the biggest bonus? Who can this firm not afford to lose?

2. Reward ability, not ego

If a potential employee comes into your office with hardball demands and an over-inflated sense of self, this may not be the best employee or team member.

At the same, realize that employees with confidence in their abilities or value-add will be prepared to negotiate. Be clear and upfront with them about what you are personally allowed, or not allowed, to offer at this time.

Don’t lie to employees about compensation or advancement. In the end, employees will quickly figure out that bonuses are not as large as you let on, or advancement opportunities are not as they seemed. Not to mention, lying or exaggerating often transforms into a legal headache for firms.

3. Be brief

Whether you are caught by surprise by an employee or well prepared for difficult compensation discussions be brief. Negotiation, from the employer’s side, is best accomplished when the employee has to wait—anxiously anticipate—the outcome.

For your turn, in this economy, there are likely plenty of fish in the pond. The best match for any position after both sides negotiate is a win-win, where the person who gets what he or she wants in terms of compensation and benefits, and—in return—adds fair and longstanding value to your clients and firm.

Learn more in The Center For Competitive Management (C4CM)’s course: Mastering Difficult Conversations: Tips and Tools from an FBI Hostage Negotiation Trainer.

The course explores:

  • Best practices for handling tough conversations about behavior and performance
  • What techniques work best when dealing with emotional employees – and how to keep yours in check
  • Methods for dealing with sticky issues like discrimination, gossip or pay
  • Which laws and regulations you must comply with in order to reduce legal risk
  • How to decrease your fear of confrontations How to tame a tense conversation before it gets out of hand
  • Ways to respond to employee pushback
  • And more!

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