Money is a complicated topic. And it’s a constant in our lives, whether we’re worrying about how to get it, how to spend it or how to invest it.
There are very few places that are more apt to get messy when it comes to discussing money than in the workplace. Employees want it. Leaders have to manage their budget and distribute compensation fairly while maintaining the engagement of their team.
Getting this right is key for building a high performing team. We have to improve our relationship with our own money, as well as money in the workplace.
“What could a leader do to get a more healthy relationship with this money that’s actually, technically not theirs? But it is theirs to reward a team that’s at least theirs to care for?” - Anna Oakes
If you’re a leader, or would like to be at some point in your career journey, there are three things that you can do to improve the outcomes of money decisions and conversations.
Assess your own relationship with money
Leadership, if you’re really committed, is simply the process of working through your own crap to help other people with theirs. Yours. Then theirs.
I recently interviewed CPA and money expert, Selina Gray, for the Build High Performing Teams Podcast. Selina shared, “There is a societal norm that we should be amazing at money at all times. There is this inherent shame that we can’t say, ‘I don’t really understand how money influences my life. I don’t really understand why I feel shame around money. I don’t really get numbers.’ Because it’s not been something that has been safe to talk about.”
Many of your employees may have long-lasting tension or stress around money which can cost the company money. And as their leader, you are the primary source – or at the very least, the delivery person – of news related to money. So, establishing safety around the topic of money is paramount.
Given the tension that frequently arises around money and rewards in the workplace, your relationship with money should be at the top of a leaders’ “Crap To Work Through List.” You can’t provide safety for others around a topic until you feel safe yourself.
Not only will improving your relationship with money help you be a better leader, but your personal life will be better off too. You’ll be more likely to build wealth, attract more money with a positive mindset and relationship with it, and handle your career and negotiations in a more authentic, and ideally successful, way.
Reward your team creatively
You think you have issues around money? Wait until you sit down with your employees and they don’t see the compensation progress they wanted. You aren’t a therapist, therefore I don’t expect or encourage you to take on the task of helping your employees build more positive relationships with money. But there are many things you can influence positively:
Understanding what motivates your employees. (hint: it’s not always money!)
Consistent, open dialogue with each employee around what you could be doing better or differently to support their success (which includes rewards)
Being proactive in your communications
Setting realistic expectations
Getting creative around alternatives to money
How can you be creative? Determine their love language. I’m a huge fan of understanding the love languages of key people in your life, as well as your own. To help translate this approach to work, the author of the original book also came out with an approach for the 5 Languages of Appreciation In The Workplace. The key is discovering how employees like to be shown appreciation. This takes some time, but the benefits are great.
Creativity may also mean that you provide challenging assignments to them, exposure to people or ideas, mentorship from you or others, or implement personalized ways to show appreciation.
One of the biggest opportunities that leaders have is during year-end or mid-year conversations. I’ve seen far too many leaders approach these conversations ill-equipped and ill-prepared. - Anna Oakes
Practice makes progress
Although a leader can get creative, a list of ideas means nothing if you don’t implement them. This can be done at a reasonable pace. The key is to be consistent. This should include weekly reinforcement, and daily whenever possible.
One of the biggest opportunities that leaders have is during year-end or mid-year conversations. Although these are surely not the only times you should be discussing recognition and rewards, they are times where you absolutely should be talking about it together. I’ve seen far too many leaders approach these conversations ill-equipped and ill-prepared.
I suggest leaders prepare by reflecting on the personality and desires of each of their employees, seeking help from HR and other resources to understand the ins and outs of that year’s compensation changes and practice. And practice. And practice.
If you I were to say, “tomorrow you’ll be meeting with the head of your industry and they’ll be deciding whether or not your organization deserves to stay in business,” you’d practice the hell out of your speech in order to keep your business.
These money conversations aren’t going to cause you to lose your company in the moment. But, they may over time. The more the talk around money is dismissed as routine, standard, or even “this is just the way it has to be,” the more your high performers will leave.
Assess, commit, and practice
If you do your inner work to assess and improve your relationship with money, commit to rewarding your team creatively and practice these key conversations, you will not only improve your employees’ performance, but your own. You’ll be a better leader. Your confidence will grow. Your outcomes and deliverables will improve.
“Wherever you are, honor and celebrate it. My favorite thing about money is you can shift it. Everyday you wake up you can commit to having a more positive relationship with money.” - Selina Gray
Wishing you peace and progress on this sticky, complicated relationship with money. It’s not going anywhere, so you may as well make it better for you and your team!
3:50 How to accept where you’re at right now in your relationship with money and lean into why
7:04 Trauma and PTSD around money; understanding where you’ve been
12:03 A relationship with money should be a two-way street
14:00 Nailing conversations around bonuses and increases at year end (or not)
20:09 Setting clear expectations around compensation and rewards for employees
24:11 How employees can get aligned with leader expectations
27:06 The importance of support for entrepreneurs and start-ups
31:00 Build a personal Board of Directors
34:04 Money triggers
34:49 What leaders can do to improve money talks
40:10 “Connection is currency”