Money seems to be a very touchy subject in polite conversation. How much do you make, what does this job pay, what does that thing cost, can I buy a new pair of shoes? In our personal lives, and in our business communications, money does not need to be a sensitive subject. In my role at work, I coach church leaders about money frequently. Most often that includes how to communicate about money with the staff and congregation.
Talking about money at home
In my experience with business and church leaders, if they are not comfortable talking about money at home, they won’t be comfortable talking about it at work. I was once taught, “money is the primary cause of conflict in marriage.” At home, it is important to talk about money to ensure both husband and wife are clear about the situation and results of income and expenses. Although I could go into detail about this, I want to focus on money discussions at work.
Talking about money at work
Money is what makes business run, whether it be a “regular” business, or a non-profit. To quote a great leader I know, “Money is like blood…it is not why we work, but it makes work possible.” So, if it is so important, how does a leader learn to discuss money?
- Learn the lingo. Learn the basics of accounting vocabulary. You can get this from your accountant, or an online course pretty easily. Take the time to understand terms like revenue, expense, COGS, profitability, net income, fixed costs, variable costs, and most of all – learn to read a simple P&L statement.
- Get over the fear. People think about money a lot, so it is ok if some of that is out loud. Feel free to mention money and how you need it, how you use it, and how you give it away. I recommend starting in a safe relationship and discussing something on your mind. If you initiate a discussion about money, the other person is often relieved, not panicked. This is especially true when you are hiring people.
- Define your boundaries. In your business, what about money is discussable and what is not. Is it ok to talk about what the company makes and profits? How about what you take home, or what we pay Julie? Then, feel free to declare those boundaries out loud. Just recently, we had a staff member ask about monthly profit and what appeared to be abnormally high expenses. As it turns out that particular expense was out of bounds, and they were told clearly, “Yes, we had a single extra expense this month but I can’t share with you what it was.” Perfect answer. Much better than dancing around it avoiding the conversation.
Your Next Move
Next time you find yourself dancing around the money subject, dive in. Break the ice with something like, “I want to discuss the financials of this situation. Would that be ok?” Have faith – it gets easier over time!