In The Money Line Part 1 we uncovered some possibly startling realities about why companies really exist, and how you can position yourself to benefit from that profit mission. In each company there is a proverbial main road or assembly line where most of the activities that generate money take place. For more information on how to find and join the money line have a look at part 1. In this edition, I will explore the money line from the company or management perspective. How can you make space on the line so more team members feel compelled to stay, perform and produce excellent work?
Why does making space matter?
Let’s start here. Companies that fail to monitor and actively engage what happens on the money line will see low motivation and high employee turnover. The leadership challenge in this area is figuring out ways to create a compelling future that gives the team a good enough reason to put their best energy toward the goal. When I speak to many young professionals their concerns are often more reasonable than one would expect. Yes, some are unrealistic and impatient, but so many more are frustrated by the inability to see a path toward better.
We must focus on making space for people on the money line and showing them how to earn a seat. Is this space infinite? Certainly not. In fact the scarcity is part of what makes it desirable to high performers. It’s the thrill of working toward a goal that you know many people will bypass completely, or give up along the way.
Who is in the game?
At this stage we have a very mixed workforce. On one side of the office there are people who are pillars of experience and wisdom from past generations, holding seasoned positions on the money line. They come from a time when getting a good job and working your way up the ladder over 20 to 30 years was a realistic plan. Retirement meant an actual stop to full time work and income. At least so they thought, but that’s another topic.
Meanwhile we have a young breed of professionals who would rather jump ship every 3-5 years for what seems like a better opportunity, than wait around on a career plateau for 15 years hoping someone with money line tenure retires or dies so they can have a slither of hope for promotion.
The internet created a connected world where alternative income streams, freelancing, and entrepreneurship are more accessible than ever. As a result, the young professional in your company has more options available to create their own money line, even if it’s risky and less profitable (initially) than the establishment. Despite these options, many of them recognise that making an entrepreneurial jump prematurely is difficult and possibly fatal. They recognise the value, for now at least, in being part of something huge, rather than owning all of something small.
A large section of young professionals want to learn, grow, and build a significant career within a company. Depending on the profession, being part of an established team may be more realistic and productive than launching out on your own just for the sake independence. A clearer path is what can keep them engaged.
What does making space look like?
It sounds a bit unrealistic right? This is business, not some utopian world where there is a direct path with concise steps on exactly how to be successful with a 100% guarantee. Understandable, but I don’t think this is what our young team members are looking for. More clarity yes, but not an exact prescription. You see just like we can sense when we are in a dead end job, we can also sense when the leaders in an organisation are actively working to make opportunities available. It shows in whether the company has a growth mindset, or a stability mindset.
Is the company looking for ways to increase the business that would not only make more space on the money line, but actually require more people on the money line for the new initiatives to be successful? The question young professionals are asking at times is whether their personal and professional growth is something required and desired by the leaders?
Making space looks like stating clear objectives, asking people if they have everything they need to succeed, and using informal feedback to increase the success rate rather than waiting around to discuss how things went. This is the communication challenge and it demands more from both sides. Leaders will have to spend more time designing what success looks like and sharing that vividly with the team. Team members will have to accept that clarity is a double edged sword. It can make you feel more entitled to reward if things go well, but also crushes excuses if the project does not meet the expectations. Since success is usually more profitable, informal feedback and real time coaching increases the sense that the company wants to move people toward the money line.
Making space also looks like linking compensation to performance. Yes, there is something to be said for longevity and commitment, but when compensation is linked to performance it raises the temperature across the board. How many times have we watched company performance slipping while executive compensation remained constant, or did not dip proportionately? To inspire young professionals, as leaders we have to create a culture where good work matters and is rewarded accordingly. This culture of excellence sheds serious light on the path to increased engagement.
Companies must be willing to remove, retrain or repurpose the longstanding money line season ticket holders if their performance is no longer able to drive the business forward. Now wait. Breathe. I’m not suggesting we simply get rid of all experienced persons and replace them with a set of energetic light bulbs who all have a point to prove to themselves and others. I am asking us to reimagine the work place. Create systems where the more experienced, and the recent arrivals don’t see each other as threats. Instead, let’s be intentional about inviting both groups to the table where they can sharpen and refine their ideas respectfully, all with a view to putting more money on the line.
The catch here is reprogramming our beliefs about who deserves a seat. Somewhere between “I have a new idea” and “We tried that before” there is gem waiting to be exposed. The way to make this happen is through collaboration and flexibility on all sides.
All this talk about making space on the money line and keeping young professionals engaged is great. However, it’s based on the presupposition that this is the type of organisation the leaders actual want to create. The truth is that this may or may not be the case, and that’s fine. We just need to recognise the dynamics of each position and be realistic about the type of company we are building. If the management decision is that they are not interested in making more space on the money line, then they also have to accept that the best talent will view the job as an incubator for a few years and move on to something better. If the attrition cost from losing that talent and having to retrain new people is a sustainable burden for the business model then carry on. I say this with no prejudice. Everyone isn’t trying to become the next Amazon, Apple or Google.
Young professionals also have to accept that if their dream is to become a millionaire, they will have a hard time getting there by working for “thousand-aires”. If your dreams and life aspirations extend beyond what your leaders imagine for themselves and the company, just know that at some point you will have to politely part ways. Even after moving on from various companies I’m able to maintain contact with the leaders and feel comfortable walking into the old office for a courtesy visit if I happen to be in the city. That comes from learning that when a place or person has nothing more to offer you, this doesn’t make them bad. It just means they have reached the limit of their goodness pertaining to your journey.
My recommendation for leaders seeking growth is to focus on making space on the money line and building a culture of excellence that will inspire the best talent to pursue a meaningful career in the organisation. For the young professionals, consider the points raised in The Money Line part 1 and 2, have a conversation with your leaders about where you fit in what they are building. That discussion should give insights on how far your career can travel in that company.
Question: What does making space on the money like look like to you?
Comment below or on twitter.
Dalan Vanterpool | Twitter: @dalanv
Dalan is a private banker and host of Focus The Fire podcast (focusthefire.com) sharing essential career advice for ambitious young professionals.