Sticky Money



  • Where you’re losing money (1:05)

  • Where does the time go? (5:05)

  • These two steps will save you time and money (9:25)

  • Your turn… (12:05)

Sticky Money

I used to work under a Chief Financial Officer who said all the time, “We need to always be looking at how to increase margin because, when we do, that is the money that sticks in the business.”

He actually called it Sticky Money, and to him, Sticky Money was the money a company or nonprofit could invest back in their organization.

So, my question for you today is: Is your organization doing pretty well but struggling to have money to invest back in?

If so, it may be that you need to find more of that Sticky Money…

Where You’re Losing Money

I’m willing to bet you’ve looked under every rock, cut every expense you can, and even held back on raises and bonuses? Maybe even held off on bringing on a new employee? And yet you just can’t seem to come up with Sticky Money.

Well, I know where you can find it!

I’m also willing to bet that your single most expensive line item is labor costs and benefits – to attract and keep good employees, you have to be able to pay for them. Right?

But it’s in that labor expense line item that you’re going to find the most money leaking out – though not in the way you may be thinking about it now. Let me help you think about it differently…

When there’s miscommunication within your organization, it causes mistakes, conflicts, and drama that waste money.

Miscommunication causes:

  • People to take action in the wrong direction

  • Unnecessary arguing that results in conflict

  • Emotional interactions that destroy relationships – both internally and with customers, clients, and external stakeholders

  • Distraction due to drama

  • Hurt feelings and long-term grudges that prevent effective collaboration and support

Every second your employees spend in an activity that is the direct and negative result of miscommunication, actual dollars are leaking out of your organization, and they can never be recovered.

How is that?

Because time spent unraveling, solving, reacting to, or withdrawing from miscommunication or a challenging dialogue is time that’s been spent – spent as in permanently gone – and every minute has a dollar amount attached to it in labor costs and employee benefits.

So, how do you recapture this time? How do you prevent these leaks of the most valuable resource you have – your people’s time?

You invest in teaching your people what they won’t learn in any suitcase seminar or out of a book: support their understanding of how their emotional reactions to business decisions lead to and increase negative conflict.

Where Does the Time Go?

Humans spend a great deal of time engaged in two activities, both related to ego, and both leading to emotional hotspots or flare-ups —

  1. Trying to get as many positive strokes as possible so we feel good about ourselves, and

  2. Defending and protecting ourselves from negative strokes and feeling vulnerable.

These two ego-based activities happen inside of us, invisible to the outside world until they spark an action. And sometimes that action doesn’t take us forward or in the direction we want to go … sometimes it causes miscommunication and its many side effects that I listed earlier.

Here’s an example…

We worked with a nonprofit where the leader had a history of rarely giving out positive feedback. He held a belief that if you gave too much positive feedback, people would become lazy and not try their hardest; they would not strive as hard to do good work. So, he was quick with harsh feedback but rarely gave positive kudos.

The result was his team was constantly trying to avoid his wrath while competing for the tiny, infrequent doses of positive recognition. They were so hungry for his attention and so fearful of his scolding that they became competitive instead of collaborative.

You are probably wondering why people would continue working for such a leader? The answer is simple: They loved the mission, and they loved the work.

When the board called on me to work with this leader, I asked the board chair why they didn’t simply fire him and replace him. I was told, “Because he has kept the profit and loss statement in the black for the past 10 years.”

But the team was so busy trying to garner one of the scarce spots on the leader’s Positive List that they weren’t collaborating. In fact, they were actually looking for opportunities to make other team members look worse than them, so they could avoid the wrath of his displeasure.

The chemistry between the team members was horrible, and so much time was being wasted, so many resources were leaking out of the organization. Every minute spent on this nonsense meant the organization had less Sticky Money to reinvest, and the time lost on drama and chaos could never be recovered.

Being in the black was great, but they could have been so much further in the black if everyone who worked there could better manage their emotional hotspots.

These Two Steps Will Save You Time and Money

In the work that Beth Wonson & Company did there, STEP 1 was to simply educate the leader about the negative impact his “leadership style” – for lack of a better word – was having on the team.

He’d never had any training or coaching to help him look at himself, to help him think about and intentionally develop his leadership presence. In fact, the energy that he spent scolding and trying to hold this space of negativity was taking a significant toll on his own health and wellness.

All his previous training had been focused on a smorgasbord of quick-fix strategies designed to get others to be more productive, and the more those strategies failed in their execution, the more frustrated and bullying he became.

STEP 2 was to help the team rebuild a positive chemistry, which we did through Navigating Challenging Dialogue® Skills Training.

We had to take the team back to the core basics—

  • What are my tendencies under stress?

  • What behavior patterns do I depend on when I’m feeling vulnerable?

  • How does my brain try to protect me from vulnerability?

  • What strategies can I use to gain a deeper understanding of how best to collaborate with people who might think and communicate differently than I do?

  • How do I have empathy for and build positive relationships with those people?

The key messaging for this team – as with so many teams we work with – is that there are no bad people here, only people who have not yet been turned on to the truth about how we, as humans, show up when: 1) we are feeling at risk, 2) our egos are vulnerable, and 3) we are working in competition instead of collaboration.

Your Turn…

If your organization is doing pretty well, but you can’t seem to figure out how to get money to stick so you can invest in things that are important, I have a hunch that joining the Navigating Challenge Dialogue community and accessing our range of services could be exactly what you need to plug the leaks.

Reach out to us by email, find us on Facebook, or give us a call at (916) 436-5299.

- Beth