Money Matters, aka Money Doesn’t Matter (Much)

Money Matters, aka Money Doesn’t Matter (Much)

By Christian Fuller
Co-Founder and Chief Relationship Officer, Search Optics
Client of Bill Munn Management Coaching

A year or so ago, an emerging leader within our company got a nice offer from a huge agency—a $30,000 increase, which was a significant raise for him.

But he turned it down.

Why? Because he believes that he’s learning within our organization, and he’s growing into the leader he wants to be. That was more valuable to him than the increase.

Meanwhile, we made a great offer to another team member in order to keep him on staff. He had come to us, with honesty, and explained that he was looking for another job. But he was an important contributor, and we wanted to keep him with the company. So we came back to him offering a 20% raise and a title change.

But 3 months later, he left the company.

What’s happening here? Why isn’t money making the difference? Because money doesn’t keep people, and it’s not the ultimate motivator.

Sure, compensation is an ingredient in the cookie dough, but it’s not the entire recipe. A person’s long-term vision—where he or she wants to end up—is what will ultimately make the difference.

Whether you’re a leader in your organization or brand new to the working world, it’s time to accept the importance of vision—both your own vision and the career vision of the people you manage.

The Value of the Vision

In a study, Princeton economist Angus Deaton and famed psychologist Daniel Kahneman analyzed Gallup surveys of 450,000 Americans in order to better understand the connection between money and happiness. They discovered that after $75,000, a person’s income has no measurable effect on day-to-day happiness.

Both as a business leader and a person, I find this very interesting.

Sure, money can buy a lot of great things. It can even buy you time. But how many people are making a lot of money, but not using it to buy themselves time or get themselves closer to a vision?

Before my wife and I were married, I remember her asking me where I wanted to be when I was 80. And it was a staggering moment. Because I realized that

  1. I actually knew the answer to her question
  2. I wasn’t headed in that direction at all

That’s when I read one of Bill’s books, Lead or Be Led, which had been on my nightstand but never been opened. Soon after, we started working through the vision process with him. And it was a game changer.

Let’s just get really practical with an example:

If you think that your goal—or your employee’s goal—is greater compensation, ask this question: What are you going to do with that money? What are you going to get with it?

Because money is a means to an end.

Let’s say the answer is, “I need to make an extra $50,000 so that I can start really saving for a down payment on a cottage up north.”

Okay, now you’re working toward something specific, and you can back that up into next steps.

So you ask, “How am I going to get $50,000 more in my bank account?”

Maybe the answer is getting a raise today, but maybe it’s not. It could be as simple as switching your brand of vodka. The point is, now you’re focused on the goal instead of distracted by a way of achieving it.

So to start this in your own life, look at that spot in your life where you think you’re stuck or restricted by money, and examine the bigger picture of your personal vision and where you want to go.

Career Vision = Opportunity for Smaller Businesses

Search Optics is considered a medium-sized business. We have 9 offices globally, and with the economy starting to pickup in many areas, the hiring market is becoming more and more competitive across the board.

So we’re familiar with the following experience, as are many SMBs:

  1. We hire an entry-level person with no experience in our field.
  2. We train them up for 6 – 12 months.
  3. They get plucked by a huge company for twice the salary.

Okay, we’re not going to try to compete with that. Not only for the health of our company, but also because if we made it all about money—if we just poured dollars in and churned and burned through people—it would be out of sync with the culture we’re building.

Here’s what we can do instead: We can provide a career path. We can provide people with a real future. And 5, 7, or 10 years from now, the entry-level employee can grow to be a director or vice president. Whereas if they moved to one of the big agencies, in 5 years, they’re looking at their first raise.

So the smaller business can really stand out by focusing on employees’ long-term vision.

Managing for Career Vision

So if money is just a Band-Aid, how does this change the way we manage people? If we want a great outcome, we need to help our people create a career vision—help them figure out where they want to go in the first place.

How? By asking.

If you work with Bill, you probably get this instinctively, because he does it all the time. When he’s coaching people, he asks questions. Tons of questions. Especially why questions.

That’s a valuable lesson for managers. When working with a young associate or coordinator who’s trying to figure out his or her own life, ask why.

If I have one piece of advice after 20 some years of managing people through organizations, it’s this: when you’re sitting with your people, talking about their careers, find out what’s important to them.

Don’t assume. Ask them, point blank, where they want to be in 5 years—and why.

Once you know what’s important, you can help them work toward those goals.

If they respond with, “I want to be making X,” ask them why. What are they going to do with the extra money?

If they’re concerned about getting an extra 5% or 10% or 20% in salary, have they even considered whether or not they’re in the right role? Because if not, none of it will matter anyway.

They don’t teach this in schools. Most parents don’t teach it to their kids. Very few people even talk about it in friend groups.

I know so many people who are constantly searching because they haven’t defined their vision. And if they make a million dollars, they’re spending a million and 1. But business leaders can actually help people avoid this trap from early on in their careers.

One of our managers who oversees a lot of entry-level folks has struggled in recent years as he confronts ongoing requests for relatively small salary increases, which he knows won’t really make a life impact or change long-term motivation. So now, he asks his people questions like “Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10? What is your life vision? What matters to you?”

From there, we can help them map out a path to success that’s far more powerful than an extra $5000 a year.

I remember when Bill suggested that we think in terms of what a refugee from Syria would say is valuable in his or her life. This kind of thinking changes your perspective.

Consider the stats about lottery winners, 70% of whom are now bankrupt, according to the national endowment for financial education. We’re not talking about $5000 a year in those cases, but hundreds of millions of dollars. And the fact is, it didn’t last.

Because the quick dollars burn very quickly. But the planned vision is a true way to live a life and a career.

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