The Harvard Business Review pumps out a ton of great content typically aimed at those in the corporate world, and every once in a while they publish a piece that also speaks to the sports world, and football coaches in particular.
One area that those in the corporate world and coaching profession have in common is the pursuit of a raise. Many coaches get their start in this profession as volunteer assistants, part-time guys, interns, or graduate assistants making not much more than the occasional “Thank you” from a full-time guy. For guys that want to make a living in the coaching profession, the pursuit of raises plays an important role, and it’s my feeling that most coaches (most notably at the non-FBS college level) feel vastly underpaid.
The number of guys that become millionaires in the coaching profession are very few, but there are plenty of guys who make a living for their family in this great profession. There are even more out there that are currently just scraping by, living paycheck to paycheck and working their tails off hoping to do enough to justify a raise, a promotion, or to land a coaching job with another program making (even slightly) more money.
According to HBR, one of the keys to getting that raise can be getting an outside offer first. Hannah Riley Bowles, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School found that when you go to your boss with an outside offer in your hand, the “request is perceived as more legitimate and justified.”
A few other things the article notes to keep in mind:
Know your audience:
This is perhaps the most obvious, but important piece of advice offered. Know your head coach and what he’s going to respond to best.
From the article: “You have to know the culture of your organization. If your boss is someone who would get defensive or see an outside offer as mutiny, it’s better to avoid it.”
Reaffirm your commitment:
As an assistant coach, your commitment should always be the the head coach, the kids, and the program, and that needs to be clear if you’re going to go in and ask for more money because there is a 0% chance an assistant is getting a pay bump if he is not loyal and uncommitted in the eyes of the head coach or AD.
Rather than threatening to go elsewhere, emphasize how much you like your job and the organization – “I love it here. I’m committed to staying and I also want to be paid fairly.”
Using questions can be an indirect way of letting your superiors know that you have choices. It’s important that you know your audience here, because this can easily come off as passive-aggressive.
From the article: “Rather than saying that you are going to leave if they don’t match the offer, ask, in a genuinely curious way, “What would happen if I weren’t here to help with this project? Who would you need to get involved?” or “If I’m gone in two to three weeks, how would this work?”
Illustrate that what’s good for you is also good for the company:
Called the “I-We” strategy, where instead of talking about what you want, focus instead on what is best for the program.
From the article: “I know this is inconsistent with our organizational values and I know we’re going to want to fix this.”
Have someone else advocate on your behalf:
It’s not always the best approach to go to bat for yourself in matters like getting a raise, so getting some help from a trusted colleague might be a good alternative. If you’re a position coach that could mean your coordinator, and if you’re a play caller, maybe it’s your head coach going to the athletic director on your behalf. At the very least, go to someone on your staff who has some experience in these types of things that would be willing to offer some guidance.
From the article: “It might be better for you to go to a mentor or someone senior and say, ‘I have this offer and I’d love your advice in thinking it through.'”
Focus on more than the money:
I feel like this area is absolutely vital for coaches who are seeking a raise, make sure you’re keeping the big picture (job security, job title, learning opportunities, work flexibility, family time, alignment of coaching philosophies) in perspective. Having a common vision with your head coach / athletic director in those areas can go a long way and oftentimes mean more than a dollar amount.
From the article: “Your lifetime earnings are more likely to be influenced by your career path than a few thousand dollars in a particular job.”
Head here to read the entire piece, which includes lots of great information including more specific questions on the benefits and risks of going to your boss and asking for a raise.