Posted by: christopherfeld | April 13, 2011

Engaging with mentors

I’ve blogged about the importance of mentoring for one’s personal and career development. You may have heard of others urging you to enlist a mentor. But some many not know how to engage with mentors. This post will address just that.

  • Remember that mentoring is about relationships and helping others. According to Dr. Troy Nielson, his research shows that “the natural emergence of mentoring relationships comes out of genuine interest in helping others” (class lecture 2011). Mentoring thus comes down to a mindset.
  • Don’t come on too heavy. It scares seasoned professionals when a new employee asks them to begin a mentoring relationship. The time commitment may cause them to be reluctant. Take time to get to know key mentors that support one’s values and developmental desires and areas.
  • Carefully select the mentor. Make efforts to learn about what a potential mentor does in their role. Get an idea about who they are. Drawing from one’s individual development plan areas. Then find someone with expertise in that area, think of their expertise in the organization.
  • Be cautious when identifying mentors when joining a new organization. See if this is someone that one can trust, and ascertain whether they have one’s wellbeing at heart.
  • Hold oneself accountable through others. Have someone that one trusts and have them hold one accountable for one’s progress with their mentoring progress.
  • Use peer mentors. Identify 1-2 classmates, and stay in touch. Speak regularly about developmental challenges. The use of peer mentors begs the point that the mentoring relationship doesn’t have to be with someone who is senior to you or hierarchical in experience. This approach can offer accountability and a fresh perspective.
  • Be a good mentor for others. Being a mentor requires self-awareness and the humility of going through the process. Those that are mentored early on are more likely to mentor later for someone else. Mentoring is about knowing where one can add the most value to others. It may be that one’s greatest mentoring could be to connect others.
  • Know people by name, by talent, and by experience! Plain stated, this is a critical leadership behavior.
Posted by: christopherfeld | April 6, 2011

Personal development tools

Education is an ongoing process. Advanced degrees help to provide students with the discipline necessary to learn a great deal of subject-specific expertise. Yet, not all of us have the time, money, or proclivity to go through the punishment and rigor of gaining an advanced degree. Nonetheless, there are still some handy ways at gaining the discipline and subject-area expertise one desires.

This post will discuss one handy option that promotes ongoing personal development. Using this tool, one ought to have the framework necessary to strive towards their personal development goals. This framework is inspired by Dr. Troy Nielson’s Individual Development Plan and class lectures, 2011.

Create a Personal Development Framework

One’s personal development plan may contain the following features: mission, development areas, goals, and action steps. Each will be discussed below.


The mission statement is the purpose behind the development effort. This mission statement should contribute to one’s overall life purpose/mission. Having this statement will help to keep one on track as they go through the process.

Development Areas

Development areas are broad areas that one wants to focus on for their development efforts. For instance, one may want to work on improving their physical health. Thus, this would be the specific area. It is most helpful to stick to one to two development areas as choosing too many development areas may result in too much work at once and the effort mail fail.


Goal setting is a critical mechanism towards developing in one’s intended areas. Goals out to be SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time based). Develop one to two goals as to not overburden oneself.

Action Steps

Action steps are the specific methods that will be used to achieve one’s goals. Think about available resources such as materials or individuals that may help one reach one’s goals. Furthermore, a consulting with a mentor can be a great way to stay on track and mine invaluable information.

Use It Frequently

The above mentioned framework provides a systematic tool to help one stay on track towards achieving one’s goals. While one development project or two will help towards shorter-term goals, one must have a growth mindset towards development. Use this framework frequently to help get towards one’s life mission. Also, revisit the life mission and be sure one is on track. Revise as necessary.

Posted by: christopherfeld | April 6, 2011

Create a portrait of you at your best

In our society we tend to get “feedback” on all that we do. Yes, it is important to shore up our weaknesses, but if you are very weak in one area, a great deal of practice may help you to be mediocre at best. On the other hand we each have unique strengths, and how often do we work on our strengths? Many of us aren’t even aware of our strengths.

Thus, this post will offer an exercise for you to learn about your strengths, and to develop a portrait of you at your best. In doing so, you will be better able to focus on what you are good at, and become even better (techniques based on Dr. Brad Agle’s class lectures).

Learning About Your Strengths

Here are some suggestions to learn about your strengths.

Create an email that requests feedback. Compose a message that asks for your friends, loved ones, and those closest to you (co-workers, etc) for feedback. The message should tell the recipients why you are doing this: to help you learn about strengths so you can build upon them. Ask for specifics of when they noticed you performing at your best. Ask for four specific examples. To get it back in a timely way, ask for it by a certain date.

Identify the Recipients. As mentioned above, create a list. You will want around 20 people to have a diverse range of responses. The more the better.

Send a Follow-up Email. If you don’t hear back after a while, send a courteous follow up email. People are busy and would appreciate a kind reminder.

Analyze Trends. Read through your responses. As you read through them, begin to create categories that sum up a theme from the response i.e. Creative — “Joe always makes the most creative cookies.” Next to each category also include the specific corresponding responses.

Put It In Your Own Words. Based on the themes that emerge, describe in your own words what you interpret the responses mean for you. For an example, see my portrait below:

I am passionate about everything I do. I pour my heart and soul into what I believe in. My internal drive stems from my service ethic. I am concerned for my fellow man, and go out of my way to help others. Helping others is important to me as service can be contagious, and I wish for people to spread the love. Also, commonly cited among respondents I am kind, gracious, and thoughtful. I try to put people’s needs above my own. I believe it is important to make others feel valued for their unique skills, contributions, and experiences. To do so, I leverage my skill at communicating through written and oral mediums. I believe that direct, cogent, and meaningful communication is critical to creating understanding and value.

Producing high quality work is important to me. I do what I can to build consensus and meet the needs of individuals. In getting things done, I tend to be thorough in my actions. Otherwise, I tend not to do it at all. I try to take initiative and go above and beyond what is required of me. Also, I am extremely curious and love to learn new things. I am enchanted by the wonders and mysteries of the universe. I believe my curiosity helps me to produce high quality work.

Another of my most commonly cited qualities is that people see me as a bold and critical/independent thinker. I try to see things from different perspectives, and I try to weigh in all evidence before drawing a conclusion. I am patient. I listen and learn how I can best influence situations in the long-term. I am also open to changing my views when equipped with new and convincing information. I don’t settle for mediocre solutions. I do what I can to draw out the best solutions for myself and for the benefit of others. I feel that I fight for the underdog and for those that hold other unpopular viewpoints. I believe it is important that unpopular views be reflected in the majority. Lastly, I am bold and not afraid to speak my mind on an unpopular subject. Being genuine is important to me. What you see is what you get. While I may come across as aggressive or heavy, I try to arrive at truth for the betterment of the team.

Next Steps

This shouldn’t stroke your ego, but it should provide you with some insight into building upon your strengths. Continue to be aware of your strengths. Make specific actionable goals to improve your skills and abilities. Make them SMART goals.

Posted by: christopherfeld | April 5, 2011

Leveraging power and politics

Are power and politics dirty words? Can one use power and politics in positive or beneficial way? This post will address just that–and I believe that power and politics can be used for good (or evil). Content based on Dr. Jeffery Thompson’s class lecture, Fall 2009.

Competing Views on Power

Power as a control issue. In this view, power comes from coercion, dominance, and justice. From this view, power is self-focused, gratifying, immediate, hard to maintain, and externally focused.

The other view point was based in self-control. In this view, power comes from inclusion, influence, respect, empowerment, sharing power, dominion (with power coming from below).

Power and Politics

Power is the capacity to influence the behavior of others even in the face of resistance.

Politics is deliberate attempts to influence others in specific ways and or develop or reinforce one’s power bases.

Power and Politics–Dirty Words?

The number one cause of executive derailment is the inability to influence (requirement in a new position). This can occur when one misreads the political landscape and acts inappropriately. There can be insufficient power for the new position (inadequate or underdeveloped power base. )

The Morality of Power and Politics

Power isn’t bad or immoral–it just is. To use power, it is about doing it with positive intention and motives.

Two types of power:

  1. Power that is derived from one’s position in the organization and resources one controls (self interested orientation).
  2. Personal power that one derives from one’s relationship with others (encourages social responsibility).

It’s good to have both.

Strategies for Increasing Power

To enhance power, increase centrality – make your networks well connected (so long as you are in the middle of the network, you can be connected to everything and people we depend on you to transfer information across the network.

Structural Hole Theory – you will increase your influence the extent to which you fill your structural holes (structure your friends in a way that you put distance between them to keep them from talking to each other, and keeping you the most important element that holds it all together. Linking informal networks gives you power. Good in theory, but could be ethically troubling.

Posted by: christopherfeld | April 5, 2011

Develop a code of ethics

Ethical derailment tends to occur because we aren’t aware of what we stand for, and when we incrementally make choices that are counter to our values. To overcome life’s challenges, we must know our values, and we must stand by them.

One key way to do so is to develop a personal code of ethics. After developing the code, review it annually and update it as necessary. Also, keep it in a place where one can review it regularly. Lastly, if you aren’t aware of your values, pick up the newspaper and figure out what your stance is on the many issues. For an example code of ethics, see mine below:

My Code of Ethics

My ethical code impels me to act in accordance with my reason or conscious. I derive this duty from the imperative to treat people and myself with dignity and respect. I also have a duty to balance integrity, value, passion, love, purpose, respect, output, and excellence.

Yet, various duties will sometimes conflict as an individual, husband, worker, citizen, and student. Within each of these roles, I strive to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences. I will also all that is possible to be the best person I can be, and become myself. When confronted with a right versus right situation, I will promptly and thoughtfully consider the context, information, and stakeholders and evaluate the best and most ethical outcome based on my values.

To help me live up to my values, I am committed to a set of guiding principles. These guiding principles are as follows:

My Personal Code of Ethics

  1. I hold the categorical imperative—I see and respect each individual’s inherent self-dignity and humanity.
  2. I improve upon my human shortcomings—the propensity to error and moral lapse.
  3. I respect my body and mind by devoting time to physical and emotional betterment.
  4. I sensitize myself to other’s plights through free reading time, scripture study, contemplation, and continual education.
  5. I serve others on a consistent basis and create value in the world.

My Commitment as a Husband

  1. My family is my first priority.
  2. I actively seek opportunities to better my wife’s day, each day.
  3. I lead spiritually enlightening activities.
  4. I am a good listener.
  5. I love my wife unconditionally within our reciprocal relationship.

My Obligations as a Worker

  1. I am true to my personal values above all else.
  2. I perform my duties to the best of my ability.
  3. I grow influence within the organization to help the organization grow.
  4. I consistently include ethical reasoning time within decision-making processes.
  5. I follow and encourage others to abide by all company guidelines, rules, and bylaws.

My Obligations as a Citizen

  1. I am a steward of the Earth and its resources.
  2. I remain informed of pertinent issues and problems—avoiding “Tepid Ethics.”[1]
  3. I serve my community and make the world a better place.
  4. I enhance social discourse.
  5. I respect laws.

My Obligations as a Student

  1. I learn course materials to the best of my ability.
  2. I enhance classroom learning for my colleagues.
  3. I adhere to university and class guidelines, rules, and regulations.
  4. I treat professors, colleagues, staff, and students with respect, courtesy, and care.

[1] “Relatively few of our moral failings are attributable to inept reasoning about dilemmas. Many more arise from moral indifference, disregard for other people, weakness of will, and bad or self-indulgent habits.” – Edwin Delattre

Posted by: christopherfeld | April 5, 2011

Conflict management techniques

Our society is very conflict adverse. We tend to shy away from conflict because we think it is the nice thing to do for the other person. Yet in many instances avoiding conflict breeds contention, and does not respect the other person’s needs or interests. Take for instance performance management reviews. Is it kinder to not tell someone if they are doing bad and have them be fired, without knowing how they could have tried to improve?

To help navigate when it is best to deal with conflict, this post will describe five conflict management techniques and their implications. Then it will discuss when to use it.

Conflict Management Techniques

The chart below shows the five conflict management styles. These include forcing, avoiding, compromising, accommodating, and collaborating. Each of these categories fall into a 4×4 chart. On the vertical axis, there is unassertive techniques that include avoiding and accommodating, and there are assertive techniques that include forcing and collaborating. On the horizontal axis, there are uncooperative techniques that include forcing and avoiding. Cooperative techniques include collaborating and accommodating. Next, I will define each of styles.

Conflict Management Styles

Adapted from Whetten, D. A. & Cameron, K. S. 2007. Developing Management Skills (7th Ed.). Prentice-Hall.

Implications and When to Use

Here are the implications of the various conflict styles, and when to use them. Notes based on Dr. Jeffery Thompson’s class lectures, Fall 2009. Dr. Thompson also offers one rule of thumb, “How important is the issue? How importance is the relationship?”


Forcing is an assertive and uncooperative technique. To use forcing, one uses their formal authority, coercion, or bullying to get their way. The outcome is that the person using this style feels vindicated, and it occurs at the other person’s expense.

This style an be used at times of emergencies and when it is necessary to force through an issue that must be done quickly. The drawbacks are that it is disempowering for the other party.


Avoiding is an unassertive and an uncooperative technique. Avoiding ought to be used when the relationship will mean little to the party using it. This is so because this technique will neglect the interests of both parties. It is also an avoidance of emotional conflict.

This style can be used when the issue is not as important as the relationship, or if there is limited time or resources available.


Accommodating is an unassertive and cooperative approach. This approach satisfies the other party’s needs but not your own. It can be a useful tool to preserve the relationship. But the drawback is that one’s true issues are not being met.

This approach can keep the peace. And it can result in a loss in power or face over time, and it can be seen as the other person taking advantage of you.


Compromising is an approach that seeks some satisfaction for both parities. This approach is best used as a last ditch effort should a partial win be better than nothing for both parities.



Collaborating is an assertive and cooperative approach. This solution can be used for important issues where time is not an issue. This can also be used when one has organizational support, and where mutual concerns may result in a win-win solution.
Posted by: christopherfeld | April 3, 2011

Performing a salary range simulation

I did a great salary range simulation for my advanced HR class. I prepared information regarding the salary range of a new safety officer five years after employment.

Below, I will describe how I determined the salary range, salary range projections over 5 years, and projected salary payouts.

Determining the Salary Range

The Safety Officer position’s salary range is competitive to comparable positions. In order to support the city’s safety strategy is to attract, develop, and retain top safety officers, our I offered the position a competitive salary range. To derive this range, I performed market research. I based my market research on safety officer positions with similar duties and experience in cities of comparable size within our state. Also, shifts in supply and demand influenced salary levels, and these factors are incorporated into the salary structure.

The salary range structure is determined by a position-in-range and percent of midpoint methodology. This range is broken into thirds and consists of the first salary range or the minimum bottom range from the midpoint. The second range consists of salaries at the midpoint, and the third salary range in the upper third is at the maximum salary range. The range minimum represents the lowest salary available for this position, and for an incumbent that does not possess all the skills, education, or experience necessary to perform the job. The midpoint range represents the going rate for an incumbent that meets all skills, education, and experience necessary to perform the job. The maximum range is the maximum salary available for this position, and it is reserved for highest performing employees.

The range of thirds can be seen as a percent of midpoint (comp-ratio). The first range occurs at 80%. The second range is the midpoint at 100%, and the third range or the maximum is at 120%. Thus for a salary at 90% from the midpoint, it would require a 10% increase to reach the midpoint. This range of thirds methodology is described in the chart below.

Percent of Midpoint (Comp-ratio)
Range Minimum Range Midpoint Range Maximum
Range Thirds 1st 2nd 3rd
% of Midpoint 80% 93% 100% 107% 120%

Applying this methodology for the safety officer position at $15.10 today, I found that the minimum would be $12.40 or 80% from the midpoint. The midpoint would be $15.50, and the maximum would be $18.60 or 120% from the maximum. See the chart below for the range.

Safety Officer Salary Range
Minimum Midpoint Maximum
$12.40 $15.50 $18.60


Salary Range Increase Projections in Five Years

The chart below details salary range projections for the Safety Officer over the next five years. As it shows a number of market assumptions accounted for the variance in pay increases. For instance, year one was based on setting a competitive salary range. For year 2 I found that there was a high demand for safety officers in the state. Thus, I raised the range by 3% in order to keep the pay competitive.

Salary Range Increases for the 

Safety Officer Position (5 Year Projections)

Year Minimum Midpoint Maximum Market Assumptions Range Movement
1 $12.40 $15.50 $18.60 Competitive Salary Range 0.0%
2 $12.77 $15.97 $19.16 High demand 3.0%
3 $13.16 $16.44 $19.73 Medium-Low Demand 1.0%
4 $13.55 $16.94 $20.32 Medium-Low Demand 1.0%
5 $13.96 $17.45 $20.93 Low Demand 0.5%

The chart below illustrates the amount that the salary was increased per year based on the range movement (listed above). Following with the example from year 2, the minimum range was determined by multiplying year 1’s $12.40 minimum pay by the 3% range movement. The product or $0.37 was added to the minimum pay amount of $12.40 to result in $12.77 for that minimum. This formula was then followed for each year, and for the minimum, midpoint, and maximum values.

Salary Range Increases
Year Minimum x  Range Midpoint x Range Max x Range
1 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
2 $0.37 $0.47 $0.56
3 $0.38 $0.48 $0.57
4 $0.39 $0.49 $0.59
5 $0.41 $0.51 $0.61

Projected Salary Payout

City employees receive salary increases based on their performance. The performance management system consists of an annual review. Based on the review of the employee’s performance, the manager rates the employee based on a five-point scale. Returning to the concept of range of thirds, level four employees continually exceed requirements and will be compensated 1-10% above the market rate or the (101-110% comp-ratio).

Performance Management Rating System
Level 5 107 – 120 % Exceptional
Level 4 101 – 110% Exceeds Requirements
Level 3 93 – 107% Fully Satisfactory
Level 2 80 – 93% Acceptable
Level 1 To level 2 or out Not Acceptable

Payout for employees based on their merit would be based on the guidelines set below.

Merit Increase Guidelines
Employees in the lower third range Employees in the middle third range Employees in the high third range
Level 5 Exceptional 5-6% 4-5% 3-4%
Level 4 Exceeds Requirements 4-5% 3-4% 2-3%
Level 3 Fully Satisfactory 3-4% 2-3% 1-2%
Level 2 Acceptable 2-3% 1-2% 0
Level 1 Not Acceptable To minimum or out 0 0


Thus, the final expected salary on the fifth year could be derived from assumptions related to an employee’s learning curve and expected performance in the Safety Officer role. I assume that the employee will spend two years at level three, performing fully satisfactory work. Then they will perform at level 4 by exceeding requirements. Lastly, they will spend one year at level 5 by performing exceptional work.

Following the expected performance assumption described above, the chart below details expected payouts (accounting for salary range increases over each year). Within each level, there is a 2% discretionary variation of what can be paid out to employees for merit. The chart below shows the lowest percentage and the highest within each performance category. Also, it shows total payouts including the five-year total payout within each third range.

Lowest Percentage Merit Payouts Highest Percentage Merit Payouts
Year min mid max Year min mid max
1 $12.77 $15.81 $18.79 1 $13.14 $16.28 $19.34
2 $13.16 $16.13 $18.97 2 $13.41 $16.60 $19.73
3 $13.68 $16.61 $19.35 3 $13.68 $16.94 $20.13
4 $14.23 $17.11 $19.74 4 $13.96 $17.28 $20.32
5 $14.94 $17.79 $20.33 5 $13.96 $17.45 $20.93
Totals $68.78 $83.45 $97.19 Totals $68.15 $84.54 $100.46
5 Year Total Payout $143,056.58 $173,569.94 $202,147.33 5 Year Total Payout $141,749.06 $175,837.52 $208,963.71
Posted by: christopherfeld | April 3, 2011

Strategy models from Dan Nelson, CEO of Making Memories

Dan Nelson, CEO of Making Memories visited our strategy and leadership class to share his background. During his talk he mentioned a number of great strategy models he uses frequently. These include the RACI model, three questions to ask in each executive meeting, and impact achievability.

RACI Model

The RACI model is an acronym for Responsible, Accountable, Consult, and Inform.

Responsible. This element helps to clarify roles and responsibilities.

Accountable. Everyone in the meeting ought to know why they are in the meeting.

Consult. Members consult on their issues.

Inform. Members inform others.

This model pushes accountability down to the bottom. Helps people to know how clearly it will be for them.

Three Things to Ask in an Executive Meeting

  1. Month to date achievement against the budget.
  2. Year to date achievement against the budget. What is variance in both?
  3. Strategy. Are we strategically on target, and do we need to make adjustments?

Impact Achievability

Impact achievability is a handy-dandy 4×4. Impact can be defined in any way. Achievability is straightforward–whether it can get done. Thus, this model can give a sense of the importance of an item, and if it is feasible to accomplish.

High Impact


Low Impact

Low Achievability High Achievability

This model can also help to identify opportunity cost or the cost of what you might miss out on.

Posted by: christopherfeld | April 3, 2011

Thoughts on leadership: John W. Keys III

I learned about key leadership principles from a true leader–John W. Keys III.

Each year, the Romney Institute of Public Management at Brigham Young University holds an Administrator of the Year Banquet, which honors public and nonprofit administrators that exemplify public service values. The late John W. Keys III. was posthumously honored this year.

Mr. Keys was a true leader. He spent his career working with the Bureau of Reclamation. In 2001, he became commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. Individuals he worked with knew him as John. He wrote caring postcards to his employees, and never forgot the name of their child, spouse, or detail about their lives. He also anonymously set up scholarship funds for individuals to go to college.

These characteristics exemplify leadership. Being a leader means knowing people, spend most of their time on people problems-knowing their concerns, their families. Leading by example by offering scholarships–all true leadership characteristics. What a man.

Posted by: christopherfeld | April 3, 2011

The importance of change management

Change management is critical to implementing any new system. This post will offer some of my thoughts on a research project that I’m doing with a large global organization whose name I will not disclose due to confidentiality.

No matter how good the system, the human element must be considered for it to succeed. This organization does virtually everything from a functional perspective. As it has redesigned its performance management system, the impact of the change has not taken effect. This organization had virtually no consistent PM function. Conversations were not productive, and merit increases were given to individuals whom for personal reasons. The new system is much more consistent, yet employees aren’t bought into it. This is because managers aren’t required to go through trainings that show them how to use the system.

The change process is not complete. When I asked why managers weren’t required to use it, I was told by a high level administrator that they were fighting so hard to get it together, that they just aren’t there yet. In order to create buy in, it is critical that a strong vision is communicated that relates the importance of the system. Then individuals need to champion the change.

As this example illustrates, without clear communication and buy in, it doesn’t matter how good the system is if employees don’t know how to use it. Never under look the human component.

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