Roberta Chinsky Matuson
Creating Exceptional Workplaces and Extraordinary Results
Roberta Matuson's Blog

Bad Karma

Earlier this month, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that women should trust “karma” instead of asking for pay raises. Nadella suggested that the “system” would reward their work. In the apology, Nadella said he was “completely wrong.”

Well Nadella got one thing right. He was completely wrong.

Why? Because the “system” is flawed. Most reward systems are based on treating people equally. However, equal isn’t always fair. If I’m one of the top performing employees and I receive one percent more in merit pay than an average performer, is that fair? If the system forces managers to rate everyone according to a bell curve and I suffer because of this, is that fair?

I learned from an early age that if you want a raise, you have to ask for it. I was eighteen years old and working as a file clerk in a law firm and I went to my boss and asked him for a $20 per week pay raise. He said yes.

Every employee must learn how to advocate for him or herself. In my book Suddenly in Charge, I dedicated an entire chapter to the topic of How to Ask for a Raise and Actually Get It. I think I’ll send Nadella a copy so he can give it to his female employees, now that he’s apologized!

Encourage your employees to come to you if they think they deserve a raise. This option sure beats having your star performers go elsewhere for more money.

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Posted in Management, Retention, Suddenly In Charge, Thought Leadership

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What To Do If Your Employees Are Leaving Because of You

I QuitI was facilitating an executive breakfast the other day in NYC when one of the participants had an aha moment. Here’s what happened.

I was explaining to the group that most people don’t leave their jobs. They leave their companies. One of the business owners in the room couldn’t help himself and he blurted out, “Holy crap! People are leaving because of me!” A hush fell over the room followed by sounds of laughter as others noted his bluntness. Several other participants followed suit by admitting that they are also  the cause of unwanted employee turnover in their organization.

Moments like these remind me why I’m in this business. Holding up a mirror so others can see areas where they can improve is what makes my work so fulfilling. Why? Because I know these small changes can help them achieve big results.

So the next time you get ready to lower the hammer on your managers because they can’t keep staff, think twice. Are they root cause of the problem or are you?

Posted in Employee Turnover, Leadership

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Why Help Wanted Posts No Longer Work

Office chair Help Wanted Job Hiring IconsIs it me or have the number of “Help Wanted” and “I’m Hiring” posts been multiplying over the past year? So much so that some companies are sounding desperate, rather than attractive. It’s going to take a lot more in this competitive hiring market to land top talent than posting signs online saying that your company is  hiring. It’s going to take Talent Magnetism.

Think about people you’ve worked with over the years who you’d work for again tomorrow if the opportunity arose. What is it about those people that pulls you towards them? Did they always had your back? Did they encourage you to propel your career forward, even if that meant they’d have to hire and train someone else to replace you? Did they provide you with opportunities to do challenging work? They certainly did something.

In fact, the other day I was sitting on the beach listening to two guys talking about their former boss Ray, who had left their company five years ago. They mentioned how amazing he was and how things hadn’t been the same since he left. Sadly, I was the one who had to give them a reality check. Here’s what I said. “Listen people. You need to get over Ray. He’s not coming back. In fact, he’s retired. You have choices. You can  honor him by being the type of leader he was and pay it forward. You can also find another Ray in another company. But what you can’t do is mourn him for the next twenty years.”

My guess is that if there were more Rays, there would be less “I’m hiring” posts, as few people would leave a guy like that. The key to standing out in a crowd of postings is not to have to post in the first place. That’s right. Take care of the people who are in your chairs and they will stick with you through thick and thin.


Posted in Hiring and Recruitment, Talent Acquisition and Retention

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The Problem With Assumptions and Talent

Discovering TalentI just had a visit this morning from a new plumber by the name of Dave, who I assumed was educated at a technical school. My assumptions couldn’t have been further than the truth. Dave holds two degrees in engineering and is certified by the US Navy to fix submarines. Good to know in case I decide to purchase a submarine for my beach house. He also spent a year in Italy learning how to cook from a woman who lived in a small village in southern Italy. Lucky for me, he shared one of his recipes while fixing my garbage disposal.

We often make assumptions about people without taking the time to really get to know them. I have personally experienced what it’s like when someone makes an assumption without taking the time to get to know me. A number of years ago I was working as a temp for a large communications company. My intent was to make enough money to return to Europe. My boss Vijay, was being extremely detail-oriented when he was instructing me on how to enter data into an Excel spreadsheet. My sense was that he was a bit nervous, since I was a temp. How much could I really know? Imagine his surprise when I told him  I had an MBA in finance and that he needn’t be worried. We laughed and he apologized for making an assumption about my abilities and not taking the time to get to know me.

Many of you are in the midst of looking for talent to fill current positions or new roles that have come about due to growth. You are posting jobs here and there and may have even engaged a search firm to help you in your efforts. Yet the one thing you may not have done is look inside your own talent pool because you have assumed that no one inside is qualified to fill these slots. STOP what you are doing and make it a point to get to know the people inside your own firm. Take time to have a real conversation, rather than one of the many superficial, “How was your weekend?”conversations you typically have as you are quickly darting out of the break room. There is a lot of talent waiting to be discovered within your own organization.

Stop making assumptions and start having conversations that will no doubt lead to some interesting discoveries, including people within your own firm who are able and ready to take on a new role in your organization.

Posted in Hiring and Recruitment, Human Touch, Talent Acquisition and Retention

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Searching for Mr. or Ms. Right

Looking for jobAs I travel around the country working with top organizations, this is what they are saying:

We can’t find talent.

Yet, here’s what I’m hearing from those in the market looking for new job opportunities:

We can’t find jobs.

Seems to me that people may be looking for Mr. or Ms. Right in all the wrong places. The following are my recommendations to help organizations dramatically accelerate their ability to hire top talent as well as some ideas on how top talent can finally find their match.

Flaunt What You’ve Got

Employers: You may be one of the hottest employers in an industry that few have ever heard of. Time to get out there and flaunt what you’ve got. Today’s job seekers are looking for an experience. Not just a job. You’ve got to use whatever you’ve got to get their attention. This means describing how great it is to work in your company (it is great, right?) and creating job postings that have people saying, “Wow! I can see myself working here.”

Job Seekers: Now is the time to spruce up your looks and your attitude. Sure it’s been a few tough years for job seekers. But things have changed. You need to readjust your attitude and start anew. Update your wardrobe and prepare for success. Approaching interviews with a new look and attitude can go a long way towards landing your dream job.

Ask for Referrals

Employers: Ask your employees, customers, suppliers and friends who they know that may be seeking a new job opportunity. Of course it can’t hurt to offer your employees a bonus for their referrals. Do this on a quarterly basis so you can keep your pump primed.

Job Seekers: Ask your former co-workers, employer (if you left on good terms), neighbors, friends and professional service providers (e.g., your attorney, accountant, etc.) who they might know that is need of a stellar worker like you. Make the job easier for them by checking out their Linkedin profiles and coming up with three connections that you’d like an introduction to. Take this one step further by offering to provide them with a brief introduction.

Step Away From Your Computer

Employers: Posting a job and waiting for people to come in when the job market is flush with opportunities is like putting up a website and hoping customers will flock to your door. Neither approach works particularly well. I hear lots of employers complaining about their inability to fill jobs while at the same time, companies in the same industry have a line of people outside their door waiting to work for them. Every manager on your team needs to be a talent magnet. This means that at a minimum, they should be attending industry events, speaking at conferences and accepting requests for informational interviews.

Job Seekers: Applying for jobs online all day does not make a job search. You know this or you wouldn’t be reading this post because you’d be employed. Step away from your computer and re-enter the real world. Attend at least one networking event every week where recommenders or hiring managers may be in attendance. And when I say hiring managers, I don’t mean HR people. I mean the people who are the final decision makers when it comes to deciding who will be offered the job and who won’t.

Expand Your Reach

Employers: When you first started searching for people to fill your job openings you may have made the decision to consider only local applicants. Now that you are six months into your search, you may want to extend your search and consider relocating the perfect candidate, who happens to live somewhere else.

Job Seekers: In a perfect world, you might have landed a job that’s within driving distance to your home. However, life isn’t perfect and you are still looking for work. Take a look at those places where hiring seems to be plentiful and concentrate your search where there are significantly more opportunities than where you are currently living.

Companies are hiring and workers are looking for work. Imagine all the possibilities if both parties were willing to meet in the middle. Here’s to finding Mr. or Mrs. Right!

Posted in Careers, Creating Exceptional Work Places, Job Searching, Talent Acquisition and Retention

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A Tale of Two Hotels

I’m hosting an event in September and really wanted to give my business to the hotel where I hosted my last meeting. However, their policies and rigidness prevented me from doing so. On the other side of that coin is the hotel where I will be now hosting my event. The two experiences couldn’t be more different, yet these two hotels are located only a few miles from one another.

I reached out to the Hotel Indigo in Newton, Mass to book an executive breakfast that began at 7:30 AM and ended promptly at 9:00 AM. I chose this hotel because they had done such a fabulous job the last time I hosted a similar event. This time the experience was completely different. I was told that because I was not guaranteeing rooms, I could not secure my meeting room arrangements until four weeks prior to the event. I don’t know many people who could pull off a business event in less than four weeks time. I asked for a slight exception…the ability to book six weeks in advance…and I was told in four different ways, “No.”

Trying to get the hotel policy slightly modified was like trying to work with city hall. I  decided to take my business down the highway to the Newton Marriott.

My dealings with Sheila Townes, Catering Manager of the Newton Marriott, have been nothing but pleasant. I mentioned that I wanted to do something a bit more special than your typical continental breakfast. “No problem. Let me talk to the chef.” I asked if I could place a temporary hold on one of the meeting rooms. “No problem.” September is a particularly busy time of the year for business meetings in the Boston area and Sheila is taking care of me like I’m her only client.

A hotel is nothing more than a building with beds and some meeting rooms. It’s the service that is the differentiating factor. I hope the folks at the Hotel Indigo in Newton wake up one day and smell the coffee. Then again, thanks to them, I may have just found my new go to hotel!

Posted in Customer satisfaction, Word-of-Mouth


Coaching for Success

I do a lot of coaching for organizations looking to boost the effectiveness of their leaders. Some companies see more success than others. Here’s why.

My most successful clients understand that coaching is a two-way relationship. They have to give in order to get. By that I mean, they have to give their people the support they need to be successful in their everyday work life and not just give them permission to attend a one hour meeting every other week.

They give coaches to their most successful people. That may sound counter intuitive to many people, but actually it makes perfect sense. Great employees are always looking for ways to improve. The not-so-great are generally happy with the status-quo. In order for coaching to be effective, the conditions must be right. So before you hire a coach, make sure your intentions are clear. Is it to raise the level of performance of a particular employee or is it your last effort to save the employee before letting this individual go? Knowing this before hand will enable you to have more realistic expectations regarding how successful the engagement has been.

My best clients realize that it takes time for behavior changes to take root. It’s rare that they will see a noticeable change overnight, although at times it may very well feel like someone has just become an overnight success. They are patient and they allow the employee to move at his or her own pace.

My top clients don’t view coaching as the solution to every situation that is currently slowing down the growth of their organization. They rely on me to provide them with options that may or may not include coaching. After all, the goal is to dramatically improve the client’s condition, which may or may not involve coaching.


Posted in Coaching

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Why It Pays To Make Exceptions

If your HR team has convinced you that it would be unfair to give a high performer a raise because they’ve only been with your firm for several months or they’ve told you that for legal reasons it’s best to wait until everyone is reviewed prior to rewarding a particular group of people, then it’s time to fire your team.

Companies spend so much time covering their butts, that they often forget why they have these policies in place. Last time I checked, it was to reward specific performance. However, over the years it’s become more and more apparent that most reward systems aren’t working.

 Dare to be different. Reward those who are doing a great job and let the others quit or show them the door yourself. Doing so will make room for you to hire those who are much more productive.

Posted in Performance Management, Talent Maximization

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Remarkable Leaders

A+I had the pleasure of facilitating a remarkable group of leaders in the two-day session of Move Up/Manage Right/Suddenly in Charge in Boston. I’ve worked with enough leaders to know that many are competent, but few are remarkable. Here’s what separates these people from the pack.

  1. Passion. They love what they do and it shows. They come to work everyday excited to be there. Their enthusiasm is contagious.
  2. Determination. Three of the participants completed degrees while overcoming obstacles. One did this debt free and without assistance from family or friends. Once they made the decision to pursue their degrees, they didn’t allow anything or anyone to get in their way.
  3. Life Learners. These people attended the session because they wanted to. Not because they had to. They saw an opportunity to learn and they took it.
  4. Risk Takers. Leadership isn’t for the faint of heart. These people put themselves out there not knowing what the day will bring. And then they do it again and again.
  5. The desire to teach others. You know it’s a great day when your students teach you a thing or two. I’m grateful for their patience in teaching me how to use Vine and helping to expand my ability to use technology. I hope they learned as much from me as I did from them.

If you missed our session in Boston, I hope you will consider joining us next month in Toronto or in Nashville this fall. I’m facilitating a number of Suddenly in Charge onsite sessions over the next several months and would be delighted to do the same for you. Contact me at to reserve your date.

We had an exceptional few days together, but don’t take my word for it. Watch this Video Testimonial and see for yourself.



Posted in Leadership, Learning and Development, Managing Up, Suddenly In Charge

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How To Get Your Leaders Unstuck

Depositphotos_stuck manager_mIf you haven’t done so already, I recommend you read Why Managers Are Stuck in Their “Silos,” which appeared in the April 28th edition of the WSJ. The professor who wrote the article cited a survey she conducted with participants in her executive-education program. She asked, “What, if anything has helped you to become a more effective leader today?” 89% found external training very helpful and that the most highly rated sources of help were external. HR in my company came in last with only 11% reporting it was helpful.

HR people are “tasked” (their word, not mine) with taking care of compliance issues and paperwork. Many are up to their eyeballs in resumes, as they attempt to stay ahead of the packs of departing employees that are exiting their workplace like wildebeests crossing the Serengeti. Their intentions are good. However in most organizations there aren’t enough of these people and the good ones often leave for jobs on the line, where advancement opportunities are abundant.

External resources are fluid. They can quickly scale up or down depending on the project on hand. Can you say the same about your organization? Most likely not, as managers must go through hoops to add staff and walk through political minefields to dismiss sacred cows who are no longer performing.

External resources can provide an unbiased view, which cannot be offered by internal people. I see this all the time in my consulting practice. A leader may think one of his people needs to go, but quickly changes his mind when he sees that perhaps he’s the problem. He trusts that I have his best interest in mind and is willing to make the necessary changes that will result in better leadership all around.

So the next time you consider using an internal source rather than an external partner I hope you will remember that in the end, it’s about results. Without that, you’ve got nothing.


If you are looking to transform from an okay manager to a great leader than join me in Boston on May 19th & 20th for my two day workshop, Move Up/Manage Right. Only a few seats left so don’t delay.


Posted in Leadership, Learning and Development

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