10 Secrets to Becoming the Highest-Paid Staff Member

10 Secrets to Becoming the Highest-Paid Staff Member


As a business owner for almost 20 years, I am often perplexed about why people don’t strive to become the highest-paid employee in my company. After all, if you’re going to work, why not be one of the highest paid? Isn’t it all about making money? Besides, the more money a company makes, the more it can pay out in wages. Becoming one of the highest-paid staff members not only makes you feel good about yourself, it helps you take care of your family better and have more money to give to people who need it.


Before I became a business owner, I was always the boss’s favorite and one of the highest-paid earners in the companies where I worked, starting with my first job at a fruit market when I was 15 years old. At the other end of the spectrum, I meet people all the time who complain or say they quit their job because they weren’t appreciated or their boss was “mean.” Now, I’m not saying there aren’t bad bosses out there. In fact, I was one of them. As I’ve shared many times, I’ve made some terrible mistakes (and still do from time to time) as a leader and lost a lot of great people.


So … as both a great employee and a sometimes-terrible boss, I’ve had a lot of experience on both sides of this issue. As a result, I consider myself an expert on this topic and I can’t wait to unveil my secrets.


Most of the material I gathered for you comes from my personal experience. I’ve also collected incredible information from Paul Mitchell Schools, author and speaker John Maxwell, Chris Robinson (a John Maxwell coach and speaker), and the following article, which is a great read:





Secret #1 – Get to Know Your Leader(s)


Most of you know that I’m on the John Maxwell team. One of the greatest messages John gave at one of our meetings was how to coach new employees on becoming top executives within their first few years of employment in an organization. John actually gave this advice to his son-in-law and, sure enough, he became a top-paid employee within a few years. As I heard the advice, I couldn’t help thinking of what I’ve always intuitively done in places where I was employed and of the traits possessed by the top employees in my companies.


John’s advice, and the first secret to becoming the highest-paid staff member, is “Get to know your leader.”


Within the first week of being employed (or even if you’ve been employed for many years – it’s not too late), ask your leader or leaders if you can have five minutes of their


time. Ask questions about them, especially their professional dreams and goals, and how you can best help them reach those goals. Ask them which top three focuses you should have. Let them know you are available 24/7 and you can be counted on.


I have one piece of advice to add to John’s powerful message. Part of the culture we teach students and staff in our Paul Mitchell Schools is called “creative love,” which we define as “Love what you do, love who you do it for, and love who you do it with.” To be brutally honest, I have no patience for staff members who don’t possess all three, because instead of loving what they do, who they do it for, and who they do it with, they basically despise what they do, who they do it for (me, the owner), and who they do it with (the team). Since these people eventually quit or get fired anyway, I honestly recommend that they do themselves and everyone else a favor and find a place to work where they can love all three.


Now go ahead and schedule those five minutes with your leader(s) and let me know what you find out!



Secret #2 – Ask Questions


There is nothing more alarming or disturbing to me than having a new staff member who starts a position and doesn’t have any questions. That can only mean two things:


  1. They’re too scared to ask and have low self-esteem (which is not good for my business), or
  2. They are only there for a paycheck and have a “barely get by”


This may sound harsh and scary to some of you who rarely ask questions, but it’s TRUE. While it might not be a conversation your boss will have with you, trust me, he or she is already looking for your replacement.


It’s not too late! Schedule a five-minute meeting each week with your leader(s). Bring a notebook and three questions. Find out what your leader likes and stop guessing.


One other thing I want to mention is something I learned from my coach and mentor Kelly Cardenas, a salon owner, coach, and speaker. Kelly says to train your team to have “constant, uninhibited communication that breaks down walls.” Meaning, train your team to never hold back a comment, suggestion, or question. That one idea could change the course of your business.


Now go ahead and do it. Start asking questions, and let me know your victories!


Secret #3 – Keep Score


Whenever I speak to a group, or to my own staff members during their annual evaluations, I often ask them to rate their job performance on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. When I ask how they arrived at their number, I find it very interesting that they often say, “Well, I work hard. I do a good job.” Blah blah blah. Some staff members have even asked for a raise based on abstract reasons like those.


You know how I respond? I ask, “When you watch a football game, how do you know if the players are doing a good job?”


The answer is always the same: “You know because they win!” Then I ask, “How do you know they won?”

“By the score, of course.”


Well, wouldn’t it make sense if it worked the same way for you and me?


I rate myself on my performance—my bottom line. I look at the stats and individual line items on my profit and loss statements. The net profit percentage is my score. Doesn’t it make sense that you need some type of scoring system, too?


The illustration below is an example of a scorecard we use for our school directors and learning leaders (instructors). We set goals vs. actuals and our team turns them in daily, weekly, or quarterly, depending on their position. No matter what business you’re in, you can develop your own scorecards.




Could you imagine what could happen if you walked into your next evaluation and showed your boss a similar scorecard? I can assure you that your boss’s mouth would drop and he or she would ask, “How’d you think of this?” (And you’d say, “Tina Black taught me this,” of course!)


Let’s say your actual results turned out higher than your goals. You could then tell your leader that for the next quarter you’re going to set stretch goals. Then if your actuals turn out lower than your goals, you’ll have the solutions in writing.


You might be thinking, “But Tina, I don’t know the solutions.” And I say yes you do! The answers are in your written job description. (If you don’t have one, make one!)


Many of my leaders often say, “I wish my teammates would just do their job.” What they really mean is they wish their teammates would follow through on their job descriptions, but it’s our job as leaders to hold our teams accountable to the details of their jobs.

When we do, we become unstoppable and we easily hit our goals.


So check yourself. Do your own evaluation daily and watch your personal bottom line (income) soar. You’ve got this. Now keep score and let me know what you find out. (I hope you’re a 5!)



Secret #4 – Be Present


Nothing frustrates me more than attending a staff meeting or training and seeing staff members who aren’t focused. They’re having side conversations, texting, checking email, and doing everything but paying attention. They carry their phones around like a vital organ — in a bra, back pocket, and anywhere else they will fit. You can tell they’re not engaged or present because they rarely ask questions, they rarely offer solutions, and they’re really quiet.


I often say to my team in meetings, “You have a voice. I need you to use it.” But they don’t speak up because their minds are elsewhere … on their kids, their bills, their friends, etc.


Now don’t get me wrong. I know life happens. But some staff members seem to constantly have “life happening” … they have nonstop issues.


When you’re at work, be at work. Be present. When you walk in the door, it’s show time. Be all in. Give everything you have to your position and then some.


Which brings me to another point: manage your time wisely. Do you often wonder why some people accomplish more tasks than others? It’s because they excel at time management. They’re focused. They’re present. To manage your time well, consistently use a time management tool that works for you.


Listen, I get it. I have the same problems on occasion. My staff members often tell me I’m a poor listener, and they’re right. But what they really mean is they need me to be present with them. I always think I’m a great multitasker and I can do two or three things at once, but who am I kidding? Of course I can’t. And neither can you. We can only focus on one thing at a time, so it’s important to schedule time wisely, be fully present in the moment, and put other distractions and job tasks on our time management forms, knowing we’ll address them at the proper time.


Here are some examples of the time management forms I use. If you don’t have a system you love, I’ll be happy to share these with you. Message me if you’d like me to email some blank ones you can print out.





Now go work on secret #4, and by all means, BE PRESENT!



Secret #5 – Make Your Boss Look Good


I should have written this as Secret #1…. your number-one job is to make your boss look good (publicly and privately).


This is a written system in our Paul Mitchell Schools, and one that I implemented a long time ago in my schools …. and let me tell you, it should be a written system and talked about a lot in everyone’s business.


Making your boss look good is imperative in protecting your brand. Whether you realize it or not, people are your brand, not the sign on your building!


I can’t even begin to tell you the staff I’ve had who have spoken behind my back publicly and privately about my downfalls. Were their comments true? Probably every one of them. I’m human, after all, and I’m going to make mistakes.


As a leader, first and foremost, it’s important to admit your weaknesses to your team. They already know them so you might as well admit them so your team won’t have to talk about them to each other. Second, it’s important to set up a culture of “constant uninhibited communication that breaks down walls.” If you’re an employee and your leader is not doing either of these things, then YOU go first.


I can tell you this: staff members who have held me accountable to my challenges are the staff members I’ve promoted and made a part of my inner circle. Why? Because if they can hold me accountable, they can hold anyone accountable and they truly care


about my business.


Making your leader look good is not “brown-nosing,” it’s just plain RIGHT. When you make your leader look good publicly AND privately, you protect the brand. Is it important to protect the brand? Of course it is! You work there, don’t you? The better the reputation, the more business your organization will do. And more business equals more money. In your paycheck? Yep! You’ll have so much money you’ll have to give it away.


So go ahead. Hold your leader accountable. Will it be hard? Yes, of course! Will it be worth it? Yep … watch your paycheck soar! Trust me on this one.


Now, go do the right thing and make your boss(es) look good!



Secret #6 – Go the Extra Mile


Are you ready for secret #6? How are you doing with the first 5? Have you tried them on? I hope so! Your paycheck depends on it.


I’ve never understood how someone would take a job and not go the extra mile. Average people don’t work average hours. John Maxwell suggested this to his nephew when he taught him how to get a promotion in the first year at his new employment.

John told his nephew to show up early, stay late, and work during lunch. In fact, he suggested bringing a bag lunch.


This is something I always did as an employee. In fact, I always did all three things because I loved my jobs! I couldn’t wait to get there and I hated to leave because I always loved what I did. Whether it was the fruit market where I was first employed, the restaurants I served in, the library I worked at, or the dental offices, I always loved what I did.


Trust me, when you leave “right at 5:00,” your boss notices. And when you show up “right on time” your boss notices that, too. Here’s what we say to ourselves: “Unengaged. Not promotable. Just another follower. Start looking to replace.”


Studies show that 87% of people in the workplace today are “unengaged” in their workplace. Yep, we have a global problem. No wonder unemployment is always at an

all-time high. I’m always surprised by my ex-staff members who apply for unemployment. If they had just gone the extra mile, they’d still be employed. I know that most of the problem stems from poor leaders and poor managers who fail to have the uninhibited communication I’m having with you right now, but now you don’t have an excuse.


If you’re saying, “Wow, Tina’s right. I never thought of it that way,” it’s not too late for you. Make a shift. Show up early and stay late. Get engaged. Get your job description out, master it, and then do more.


Do you want to get noticed? Are you frustrated that your boss never notices you? Then go the extra mile and you’ll be promoted in no time!



Secret #7 – Delegate


I am very blessed to have brilliant leaders in my four businesses; in fact, I chose each one of them to lead my companies because of their strengths in the areas for which they’re responsible. They all have the gift of taking tasks I give them and following through … and they are much smarter than me. I have always chosen leaders who are better than me and I know it’s one of the best secrets to my success.


Unfortunately, as the saying goes, sometimes our greatest strength can be our biggest weakness. Since my leaders are so brilliant, it’s harder for them to delegate—not because they’re perfectionists but because they know they are ultimately responsible for the outcome. They think it’s easier to do it themselves, but by doing that, they’re holding back their own leadership growth.


The biggest challenge I see with my team is not that they won’t delegate; it’s that I haven’t taught them HOW to delegate. It’s like teaching your kids to ride a bike: would you just point at the bike and say, “Okay, there’s the bike, son. Now go pedal away.” Heck no! He could lose all his teeth on the first ride!


Instead, you’d hold onto the bike the first few times and watch closely when your child starts to solo. The same is true in delegating. With an employee, you want to hold their hand, check in often, and stay with them until they do the task better than you.


What happens if you do all of that and they still can’t do the task? Move on and delegate to someone else!


It’s important for leaders to stay in their strength zones. As leaders, we need to do the tasks that give us the most energy, the tasks that don’t drain us. We need to focus on areas that no one else is doing, keep delegating tasks, and move on to the next.

Leaders must stop holding onto mundane tasks that a lesser paid staff member can do and give those staff members the ability to shine.


Trust me, delegating is fun. This is an area in which I excel greatly. I call myself an expert delegator, so if you need more advice on delegating, please reach out to me any time!


Here’s a challenge I always give my leaders and now I’m giving it to you:


  1. Make a list of all your tasks and start writing the names of people you can delegate them


  1. Ask your leader(s) which tasks they’d like you to (You can’t see the picture when you’re in the frame.) Do this quarterly.


  1. Now support the heck out of the people you delegate to and watch your joy expand!



Secret #8 – Create Magic


Secret #8 might just be my favorite. You might be asking, “What in the world is create magic?” Part of our Paul Mitchell Schools’ culture systems is to create magic for everyone around you. Bottom line: it means, “make people around you feel important.”


Leadership expert John Maxwell teaches his new employees that the quickest way to gain influence among their peers and be able to lead them without resistance is to do something for them that’s not your job. Every day, intentionally look for something your coworkers do on a day-to-day basis and do it for them. Always be on the lookout for ways to add value to your coworkers! It might be taking the trash out of their office, offering to write a report for them that’s due, offering to pick up their lunch, getting them coffee. In addition, you could also look for ways to praise your coworkers publicly and often, and write them appreciate “love notes” often.


When people see that you’re their biggest cheerleader, they have every reason to trust you and allow you to speak into their lives. Don’t do it for just one or two people and form a clique, though. That will actually eventually bite you in the                                                                       . (Trust me on that one.) I’ve seen cliques destroy a company. And your boss KNOWS when you favor certain employees over others, which makes your employer trust you less. Be inclusive. Create magic for everyone on the team.


Can I add something else? Stop coming to your boss when you have a minor personality challenge with a fellow staff member. Instead, take time out to create magic for that person (love on them). If that still doesn’t work, “go in asking” with them (which means, seek to understand the person or situation better). If that still doesn’t work, then go to your leaders and they will mediate.


So there you have secret #8: Create magic! I’d love to hear some fresh ideas about how YOU do just that … who knows, I might share your tip on one of my leadership messages!



Secret #9 – Stay Balanced


I recently read something profound in John Maxwell’s book, Put Your Dream to the Test:

“A healthy self-worth creates a wealthy net worth.”


I lead many masterminds and the question I get most often is, “How do I stay balanced?”


After years and years of studying balance and trying to get balanced myself, I feel like I’m an expert in this area and the first thing I want to say is … it’s not easy! It takes discipline and a lot of energy. Period.


I’ve had many, many staff members leave or get fired from my places of business, and I can honestly tell you that 99% of them were not balanced. In fact, when I looked at their “balance wheels” they were empty. (You can see one of my favorite balance wheels below.)


Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that it wasn’t really balance I was searching for all those years; it was self-worth. How do I love myself enough to want to take care of myself? How do I put value on myself?


These past couple of years since writing my book and getting to know myself through journaling and asking others to tell me my strengths and weaknesses, I’ve realized more and more what a miracle I am. That there is no other person who can live out my purpose. That God loves me unconditionally and there is nothing I can ever do

to make him love me less. I might impress or depress people around me but I can never impress or depress God. His love remains unchanged. So you see, I don’t need to perform to have self-worth … and if that’s not balance I don’t know what is!


You might say, “Tina, I don’t have faith like you or believe like that.” Then honestly, like me, you’ll struggle to find balance your whole life. Or you might say, “Yeah, I have faith in God but that’s easier said than done.” Yep, that’s true, especially if you say it is.


You have to keep your mind set. You have to love yourself enough and repeat it over and over. Develop mantras and affirmations. Hang around people who live this way (unfortunately there aren’t many). Better yet, join one of my online masterminds. I lead several of them; check them out on my website at www.tinablack.net.


Your spiritual life is that important. Trust me. When you “feel” loved by the most important “being” in this world, you will value yourself and never become unbalanced again.


Secret #10 – Show Gratitude!


Honestly, I should have made this #1, because with healthy gratitude everything flows. I’ve never, ever, ever had a grateful staff member who failed in his or her position. On the other hand, I’ve never, ever promoted a team member financially who wasn’t grateful.


Quite frankly, if you’re not grateful you possess the opposite quality and that is the ugly word we hear on the news and everywhere: entitlement. Meaning you feel like no one gives you any credit for all you do. No one acknowledges or thanks you for all the sweat, blood, and hours you work. Really? Are you serious?


Come on, who are you kidding? If you’re not being acknowledged, it might because no one wants to approach you. Because you’re angry. Because you’re hard to address; you’re not coachable. No one wants to invest time and money in an unhappy, ungrateful person. Trust me on this one. Your leaders know you’ve already quit … and you just haven’t left yet.


You might say, “Tina, aren’t you being harsh?” Yeah, maybe. But guess what? You can turn this around!


Make a quick 5-minute appointment with your leader(s) and tell them how grateful you are for your job. How grateful you are that they allow you and not someone else to fill your position. Believe me, a little gratitude goes a long way. And consistent gratitude goes even farther!


Before we wrap up the 10 secrets, let’s recap them one more time …




You can see that all 10 secrets are interrelated. Master all 10 and you’re on your way to the top of your game. You’ll have more money than you ever envisioned in your job. Will it happen overnight? Of course not. Your leaders are watching to see if this is a passing fancy or a real change worth investing more of their energy, money, and training in you. Show them that you’re worth it!