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The Daily Paradox

The Daily Paradox: Money & Purpose

A well-known management magazine recently published an article claiming that employees were seeking money before purpose. Not all of them. We have lots of clients who realise the importance of purpose in order to make money. But for many, I’m afraid the management magazine may be right. The stupidity of the fact is not just that they should be seeking purpose in order to make money. If they understood why, they would. But why put the two in competition? We don’t do it for products, why do it for people?

Well spent money is power. Well paid employees are powerful.

A recent example of this is a client, intelligent, diligent, able and willing to learn, who found himself in an unusual position. Working for a private company in a high-level infotech exchange business, he was already well paid. He wasn’t a director but his job was company-embracing. He reported to two people – the Chairman and the CEO – on a much broader spectrum of issues than his rather vague title suggested. If he had been working this way in my business I would have at least called him General Manager.

His domestic life had got into the same rhythm as his commercial life. Plenty of influence in practice, little recognition of it in position. We got him to take a bold step in his private life. It didn’t give him the answer he was hoping for – it gave him something better. It taught him, for the first time for several years, exactly where he stood and that allowed him to move on with confidence and purpose.

What could do the same for him in his commercial life? Another bold step? Certainly.

We suggested he set about getting more money. At first he didn’t understand the bold step properly. After an initial, brief, flash of “I’m OK as I am” the green light of greed lit up and he gave himself away. He declared that he could, indeed, do with more money. He was mentally spending it before we had agreed the amount. That’s when we got cross with him!

We refocused him on his career, not his wage packet.

The purpose of more money was not to indulge his wish to become rich but to establish his position as an even more valuable member of the business that employed him. His innate intelligence helped him see the sense of the strategy and he and we began working on the tactics. So now we could concentrate on how to get more money in such a way that made it clear to his employers that, in the process of doing so, he would become more valuable.

There is a down side to such a strategy. He might lose his job if either of the two senior people he reported to became unnerved by his new, powerful position. Every strategy involves risk. He and we assessed it and judged the risk to be small. They might refuse him more money, in the process effectively declaring that his value was not what he thought. He would be in a strong position to get a job with a rival firm on two grounds, experience and customer knowledge.

However, the upside is encouraging. If he got his salary increase he would be promoted to a new level under the company’s bizarre but quite common classification of jobs. That itself would add to his power. And it would probably move him to the position of attending Board meetings even if he wasn’t on the Board. It is a short step from there to Director.

Purpose & Money. Of course, it makes for a better structured and more rapid progress career to have purpose first. But don’t think they aren’t connected. You may become more vulnerable to competition, criticism and mistakes as you become more expensive.

You will certainly become more powerful.

Good morning

John Bittleston

Have you experienced the power your wages have in shaping your career? We’d love to hear about it. Sometimes people don’t even recognise the implications of a wage increase, let alone the absence of one. Please drop us a line at [email protected].

5 January 2024