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Posted: March 18, 2013

Can you pass the Hallway Test?

...and other rules for success in business and life

Laurence B. Valant

(Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from business performance improvement expert Larry Valant's book, Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance.)

Let your compensation program take the worry out of being close.

One of the most volatile work issues, and the one most likely to damage work relationships, is compensation. That is why a key mark of management competence is the ability to create and sustain a fair compensation system.

When confronted with making assignments, measuring and appraising performance and then determining merit or promotional increases, an arbitrary approach to compensation will feel like walking through a mine field. And if you try to save pennies when awarding salary increases, you will suffer higher turnover and most likely the loss of your most talented staff.

Where then does the worry in being close come from? It comes from that disconnect associated with assigning work and measuring and rewarding performance fairly.

Management must clearly define expectations (performance and deliverables), measure that performance quantitatively, and reward performance fairly and consistently. Such an approach to compensation takes the worry out of being close, with apologies to the Dial Soap advertising campaign.

Remember, of all the things you do in your company, your compensation programs are the clearest manifestation of your management philosophy.

90 - Good relationships are built on compromises.

I know of very few relationships that are sound and successful in which one of the participants always wins and the other always loses. Winning may feel good, but the need to win so diminishes the other person that identities are lost and inevitably, relationships crumble.

Within any work or personal relationship there will always be areas that are never compromised: integrity, kind behavior or delivering on commitments. However, most of life demands small and large compromises.

Compromises can only be achieved through open and honest communication where all parties feel at ease to express their views and where those with the most power or position also listen and yield. And, each party must trust that they will not be harmed by the outcome.

It is important to understand that compromises result from great personal strength, not from weakness. My longest and best relationships have been with strong individuals who do not find it essential that they win, rather, that sound, collaborative decision-making trumps, "I must be right and I must win."

Compromise builds bridges to a closeness and understanding that are the foundation of good and successful relationships.

The Hallway Test always applies.

One of the tests of the quality of my relationships is the Hallway Test. What is that? Simply my ability to look everyone in the eye when we pass in the hallway.

If I can pass someone in the hall, look them in the eye with no discomfort, I have passed the Hallway Test. If, however, I have unresolved disputes, ill-feelings, unfinished business or, if for any reason, I seek to do a 180, take the first door on my right (or left), or otherwise avoid any person, I have failed the Hallway Test.

What must I do if I fail the Hallway Test? Sit down with that person, admit my error, and ask for forgiveness, if appropriate. Even if you have been the one wronged, take the time to say, "I'd like to put this behind us, what can I do to sort this out and move on, making our relationship better?"

I must be able to meet and pass the Hallway Test every day and with every person in my life. If I cannot, then I have work to do to resolve differences and settle disputes.

Passing the Hallway Test is one of the best measures of good character.

Laurence B. Valant is President and CEO of Valant & Co., a Denver-based business performance improvement consultancy that has worked with almost 300 firms to increase their value by billions of dollars. He is co-author of the hot-selling new book, “Make Plan! With Effective Execution” and now, “Lead and Manage!” Valant can be reached at lvalant@valantco.com or at 303-589-3840. If you want more information or would like to order a copy of “Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance,” please visit www.valantco.com.

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