She emailed me in a fit. She was mad, stuck and at the end of her rope. Feeling undervalued, over extended and just about over it all.
She was in a knot.
“I just can’t see what the problem is? I get the highest scores in my student evaluations, I’ve done a ton of work to optimize this course, I’m over enrolled, and all I get is great feedback. I just don’t see why I’m still not making the money other instructors are. Help!”
Annette is an acting teacher, and she had a goal: to complete a certification in a specific methodology and then open her own studio teaching classes using that methodology. She was clear that was the goal.
And she knew that bringing her teaching salary up, just by 15%, and more in line with what other instructors were making at her current studio meant she could afford to fund her plan. She had been asking for a raise, and she had been getting breadcrumbed. You know, that “maybe later, let’s talk about it next quarter, I’ll get back to you” type of response that keeps you on the hook but never satisfies? She had been breadcrumbed for a long time. And now was the time to make her final ask and determine exactly where they stood so she could decide her next move.
But mostly? She was mad, hurt and confused at how high performing she could be, and how little reward she was getting for that effort and impact.
So on our call, we dug in. I asked her what her goal was: Certification and her own studio. I asked her what her ask was: a 15% raise. I asked her about what she perceives the reason was for all the breadcrumbing, the quiet “no” or “not yet” she’d been getting.
This is when we were asking the questions, what are their values? And how do they assign value?
Things broke open.
She had been making a case for her ask using her values, because it was how she assigned value. She perceived that if all of her values, in the teaching space, were alive, high performing and activated, that the value of that would increase.
Better teaching? More value.
Better student impact? More value.
More exploration in her curriculum? More value.
More expertise? More value.
Undeniable Mastery of her craft? More value. More money.
Not for them.
Their values were different from hers. What created value for them, was driven by their values.
More status: They wanted their instructors to book national TV commercials at least twice a year. Feature films. Visible acting engagements that had nothing to do with what happened in their classrooms. More of that? More value.
Stronger Brand: As instructors book great acting gigs, that raises the brand value of the acting school. Instructor contribution to a stronger brand? More value.
Exclusivity: The more exclusive the seats in each class were, the more they could drive scarcity, the more in demand their programs are. When an instructor adds to that with their own brand? More value. More money.
We examined values to determine what gets valued.
When we uncovered those gaps, a shift happened. She was a theater actor and had built her career and brand around that. She didn’t care about national spots and studio shoots. She cared about her craft in a live audience context. She now saw the gap. In an instant, her attitude changed, her anger dissipated and her voice became more clear, confident and catalyzed. She saw now that how she valued herself, was not how they valued her and there was relief in that. She had been striving for something that would make a case for more money, but what she was striving for wasn’t at all what they cared about. It was a puzzle she needed to solve as these values and value were not clearly published, they were unspoken but once we saw them, they were loud as can be.
What did this shift do for her? It gave her choices. And having choices means being unstuck. It let her know that she doesn’t need to question herself, be mad or spin up a story that made her take this misalignment personally- that their failure to recognize how good and deserving she was was a sign she wasn't great at her job or deserving of more. Instead, she could just address the gaps.
She could choose to:
- Reframe her story to match up with what they value so that she could make a case for her ask.
- Go out and book more gigs, build her brand and contribute to the exclusivity they want to create and then make a new case for her ask.
- Decide that what she values and assigns value to, is too far from what they value and assign value to and say goodbye.
When we examine values to determine value alignment or value misalignment, we create choice and get unstuck. Wiping away that cruising feeling that we are unseen, unsuccessful or unimportant.
Because value is so contextual.
If you’re feeling stuck negotiating your way forward, stop and take a minute to examine values to determine value.
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