How to Make More

Do these four things to make more money says Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison

Published: Nov 5, 2019

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When I give a speech, I often ask, “How many of you think you’re underpaid?” Invariably, every hand goes up. (I’ve yet to see anyone raise a hand for being overpaid.) Everyone wants—and thinks they deserve—more money.

Most people, though, are clueless about how to make that happen. I’ve seen it time and again with people at all levels: those just starting out, middle managers, and even senior people.

For one thing, they focus only on money, which immediately makes things awkward. Money is a high-anxiety topic everyone hates. In relationships, money is one of the main reasons couples fight, more than in-laws or who should take out the garbage.

In the workplace, the money conversation is just as problematic. No one knows how to engage in it, so they end up frustrated and resort to blaming the boss. (Believe it or not, your boss isn’t thinking about your salary as much as you are.) And, they have no real plan for getting ahead.

So what’s the secret for getting more? Move from self-interest to shared interest.

First of all, most people don’t think about it, but their boss wants to make more money, too. That means you and your boss are actually aligned in your respective self-interests. By shifting your focus from just your paycheck to helping your boss achieve short-term goals and deliverables, you and your boss can both get what you want.

Now that’s an entirely different conversation than just asking for money!

To do this, you must engage in ongoing discussions with your boss about how you can make a bigger impact on team success. The discussion should center on what needs to get done and how you can help accomplish these goals.

Don’t worry—this isn’t kissing up. You’re acting like a partner who is focused on deliverables. And you haven’t abandoned your self-interest; you just linked it to achieving your boss’s short-term goals. When self-interest is aligned with shared interest, good things can happen for all.

The way to do all this is summed up in one of my favorite acronyms: MORE.

  • M – Meet Face to Face. Initiate a dialogue with your boss by meeting face to face, with regular and ongoing discussions about the boss’s priorities and short-term goals. Remember, it’s performance first, pay second. The dialogue needs to be focused on what you are contributing now and what you can do to expand the size and scope of your responsibilities. Ask your boss, “What does our team need that isn’t being done now? How can I contribute?”
  • O – Own Your Objectives. You aren’t going to get promoted or make more money just because you decide you need a raise. Set expectations with your boss on deliverables, establish check-ins to make sure you’re on track, and give updates when you are finished. You will be focused on what’s most important to your boss and the team--plus, you’ll increase your chances of becoming an outlier in terms of performance.
  • R - Research the Market. You can’t just arbitrarily choose a number for what you should be paid or decide you need to make “X” amount to support your new lifestyle. Instead, you need to do research. It’s like selling a house: you need comps. Korn Ferry Advance can provide insights into what different positions pay (and coaching on how to get more). Ask your network, talk to recruiters, reach out to friends. Without that market intelligence, you don’t know how you are priced—above market, below market, or fair value.
  • E – Envision Your End Game. Money is the result of a well-managed career path, which is why you need to define your end goal. Ask yourself what you are really aiming for. Keep in mind, though, that more money will entail more responsibilities. Be sure to know where you are going – ideally, to a better job with more challenges and new opportunities to grow.

Believe me, when you center the discussion on MORE, your boss will welcome the partnership and greater alignment around priorities and objectives. That sets the stage for a far better conversation for all involved instead of endless complaints about money.


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