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Leadership Lesson 14 – It’s About the Money

By: Curt Stowers

Cold, hard, fact: Business is about making money. Yes, you should be working in a profession that you enjoy, and ideally, you should never feel like you have a job. However, that does not change the fact that business is about making a dollar. Some folks think that it is "evil" or in some sense less "noble" if you even mention the topic of dollars. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jacob Needelman, in his book Money and the Meaning of Life, actually comes right out and states that the biggest issue most folks have is that they do not put enough importance on money. I could not agree more . . .

The key here is that the statement is "importance of money" and not "importance of more money." Go back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. At the base are the physiological needs (e.g., food) and then comes safety (e.g., home). Last time I checked each of these requires money. Furthermore, as you move up the hierarchy to love, esteem, and self-actualization, you must consciously decide on how much importance you place on money versus experiences. Again, money is part of the equation. Most people don't take the time to focus on their relationship with "the almighty dollar" and just let things happen. That's not healthy.

Now change your frame of reference ever so slightly. Put yourself in the position of the CEO or senior manager of your organization. Do you think that he/she is a little bit focused on the bottom-line profit number? If not, make sure you resume is up to date as it's only a matter of time until your current ship finds the ocean floor! Remember WIIFM (what's in it for me?) back in step 3? Same thing here. That senior manager wants his/her bottom-line results. That’s why they’re the senior manager of the business—a business that must perform financially to keep the shareholders happy.

The easiest way to gain the latitude to pursue your passions and dreams in the workplace is by delivering the results.


Rule #14 - You gain freedom by delivering the numbers.


I actually developed a simple, three step framework that I use with great success again and again:

  • Get Your Numbers.
  • Market Your Numbers.
  • Keep Your Boss Off Your Back.

Some might find step three amusing, but it's critical! Let's take each step in order:

Get Your Numbers: Back in step 6, we talked about SMART goals. You absolutely must deliver on your goals if you want the latitude to lead at work. Failure to get the numbers results in poor reviews, a poor reputation, and limited opportunity to have a larger influence.

Market Your Numbers: Getting the numbers is not enough. It's simply the price of admission. You will not have the opportunity for larger influence unless the organization knows you can and do deliver. You must take the requisite time to ensure that the organization recognizes your contributions. While you don't need to be obnoxious/overbearing on this topic, you had darn well better make sure that the key decision makers are aware of what you are doing. Network, network, network.

Keep Your Boss Off Your Back: You just increased productivity by 37% and told the entire organization about it! Great news, right? Wrong. Your boss’s number one goal is to improve quality. Guess who's about to climb all over your back? Think about it. You just trumpeted your success to the entire organization and did nothing for his/her primary goal. How's that make him/her look? You had better be darn sure that the numbers you are getting and promoting are aligned with the organization’s broader goals.

Now for the purists out there who are shuddering at reading the above three rules, get over it. The reality is many of us do and will work inside an environment where politics exist. I believe that we each should pursue our passions as much as possible. Furthermore, I believe that we all have an obligation to lead to the best of our ability—I'm writing this book to help other achieve that goal.

However, I'm also acutely aware that politics exist everywhere. Our job is to find the most efficient way to navigate them that allows us to pursue our passions and help other people in the process. As I share often, "I don't make the rules, I simply exploit them." My one boss hated it whenever I said this. She then encouraged me to keep following my framework.


ACTION ITEM 14 - Get a copy of your boss' SMART goals. Review all of your accomplishments for alignment with his/her objectives. Sit down with him/her and share the findings. During the meeting, ask, "What else can I do to make you more successful?"



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