Ferracone believes that women tend to underestimate the importance of being included in incentive plans. "It's important to be the subject of these processes," she says, because workplace leaders always measure the effectiveness of high-potential employees. That, in fact, is how those high-potentials move up: by converting "potential" into business-building results.
If you're not sure if you're included in a pay-for-performance plan, ask your supervisor how she assesses your performance and your potential. "In my career, I thought that if I did the job well, it would speak for itself. But it doesn't," Ferracone says. "Ask to be put on the management path. If you don't get recognized, get a straight answer as to why not, even if it takes you out of your comfort zone."
Ferracone's advice is informed not only by original research but by personal experience, as well. In 2001, she sold her boutique consulting firm to Mercer, a giant human resources services firm, and as new member of its executive team had to relearn everything she thought she knew about pay for performance. Shortly after joining Mercer, Ferracone found herself managing client relationships and engineering complex business-development efforts. It was an "influencer" role that didn't appear to directly drive business results. To build her case for being moved to a position with explicit profit-and-loss responsibility, she developed a method for quantifying the business results she and her team delivered -- even if somebody else "owned" the sale. She created a system for tracking how many sales emerged from the joint efforts she had put together. She also built a method for ensuring that others got bonuses based on their investment in her team's work. "That helped me build credibility and personal capital with people," she says. It worked: after a couple of years, she took the reins for a line of business.
Her final piece of advice is to tell your supervisor that you know you can do well in the areas that matter. Ask your supervisor to help you track your results and structure an incentive plan accordingly. "When you do that, you signal that you're thinking in terms of return to the company, not just in terms of what's good for you or the department," Ferracone says. "That's true alignment."