The other day, two neighborhood kids came to the door and offered to rake our leaves for fifty cents each. My husband said to them, “what are you going to buy with fifty cents?” The kids were dumbfounded. They couldn’t think of an answer (and probably thought he was crazy!).
The silence lasted a minute…a very long minute.
If it were a scene in a movie, the music would have been cued in order to build the tension, because without them knowing it, he was about to tell them one of the most important secrets of life…
“Ask for What You’re Worth.”
Silence. Blank stares. blinking eyes and more silence. To which my husband said, “What are you worth”? Silence. Blank stares. blinking eyes, more silence and now… stammering.
“I’ll tell you what,” he said. “If you can give me quality work, I’ll give you a $1.50 each, can you do that”?
The boys nodded their heads yes. So my husband took them into the 20 x 10 yard and showed them how he wanted them to do it and then asked them if they thought they could match his example. They did.
Twenty minutes later, he not only gave them a $1.50 each, he had given them one of the most important business lessons. When you are doing a proposal or when you are going for that promotion or new job, remember to ask for what you are worth, not what you think they can or will pay.
It Only Takes One Time
The story reminded me of an article I recently read from the Harvard Business Review. While I found the entire article interesting, the part that really stuck with me was the story told by Sharon Allen, who became chairman of Deloitte & Touche USA in 2003 (not only the highest-ranking woman in the firm’s history, she also became the first woman to hold that role at a leading professional services firm).
Asking for what she wanted was something that even she had to learn. She described how when she was a rising manager in her thirties, she received a memo announcing the promotion of several close colleagues and went to speak to her boss about it. “I was surprised to see my name not included on the promotion list,” Sharon said to him. “I have accomplished A, B, C, D and E – and I think I deserved that promotion.”
I love that part. Allen actually tells her boss what she is worth…albeit a bit too late for that promotion. She concluded her story by saying it was the last time she didn’t ask.
I hope it was the last time for the two boys who raked our yard too. Hopefully, they went on to other neighbors and asked for what they wanted – for what their time and effort are worth.
As an employee, a business owner, a freelancer or a consultant…do you ask for what you are worth?