Leadership & Management

9 minute read

6 Steps to Help Your Team Understand the Project Budget

Jessie Kwak

Jessie Kwak

As a project manager, one of your key responsibilities is acting as a bridge between the overall goals of the company and the individuals on your team. One aspect that becomes particularly challenging is explaining the budget. Often, team members not in financial roles have little interest or understanding of how the budget affects them.

However, it is crucial to change this perspective and help your team understand the full context of the project budget. When your team operates in the dark about budget restrictions, their daily actions can inadvertently damage the bottom line. For example, a sales representative may offer excessive discounts to close a deal, even when profit margins are already tight.

Similarly, a manager may restrict work hours to save money, disregarding the company's priority of having all hands on deck to boost production. When your team has a more holistic view of the budget and its impact, they develop a greater sense of responsibility for the company's financial health. 

Furthermore, helping employees understand budgets fosters trust and increases engagement by demonstrating transparency. Let's look at six practical ways you can help your staff understand project budgets.

GoSkills project budget

1. Give your team a crash course in finance

If your employees have never dealt with income reports and profit-and-loss sheets before, delving into the numbers can be intimidating for them. While only some need to be able to decipher a detailed financial statement, it is beneficial for everyone to possess basic financial literacy in a business context. Start by providing a quick training program that defines fundamental terms and concepts related to your department's budget.

Explain concepts such as revenue, expenses, profit, and cash flow. Help them understand how these elements interrelate and impact the company's overall financial health. Alternatively, encourage your team members to take video tutorial courses like Finance for Non-Finance Professionals, which gamify the learning process of finance fundamentals.

A course that presents the material in an engaging and accessible manner makes it easier for your team to grasp the essential concepts.

2. Dial down the jargon

Acronyms and accountant jargon can leave your team's eyes glazed, especially if they are not in a finance role, or if they are in a department that is not accustomed to discussing finances. Instead, adopt a user-friendly approach. Use plain language and avoid unnecessary technical terms.

Explain financial concepts in a relatable manner, using examples and analogies that resonate with your team's work. Use visuals and pie charts to communicate the story behind the budget rather than expecting your team to wade through complicated spreadsheets.

When discussing finance in general team settings, use plain language and avoid unnecessary technical terms.

Remember that in most cases, it is more important for your team to understand the meaning behind the numbers rather than the specific numerical values. Give them a clear, approachable, and jargon-free narrative they can quickly grasp.

3. Focus on the why

Maintain your team's attention by emphasizing why they need to understand the budget. Are there specific numbers or sets of numbers that directly impact vital resources or programs? When you connect the abstract budget to day-to-day activities, your team can better visualize why it matters to them. Start by explaining the purpose and objectives of the budget. Discuss how it aligns with the corporate budget, goals and strategy.

GoSkills project budget

Highlight the impact of financial decisions on their work and the organization. Approach the discussion by identifying your team's biggest concerns. How do you measure success? What outcomes are you trying to achieve? Does the budget impact project management phases? Which financial data or key performance indicators can help your team perform their jobs more effectively?

By linking the budget to their individual and team goals, you make it more relevant and meaningful to them.

4. Put your team in context

While zooming in on information specific to your project or department is crucial, you should also ensure that your team understands the broader context. Discuss and illustrate how their particular portion of the budget fits into the larger picture of the company. Help them see the interconnectedness between departments and how their work impacts others.

Explain the company's financial structure, including revenue sources, cost centers, and budget allocations. Explore the ripple effects of successes and failures within your department and highlight the external factors that can impact your team, such as decisions made by upper management or other departments.

An article in Forbes says, "Leadership is not the same as management, and people follow leaders who are big-picture thinkers and doers, who lead with a vision and by example." This broader perspective will help your team understand the importance of their role in the organization and how their financial choices can impact others.

GoSkills project budget

5. Get in the habit of talking about the budget

If you bring up the budget once and never mention it again, it will quickly overshadow new urgent tasks on your team's plate. Commit to spending regular time discussing the budget, whether sending out a weekly report or setting up regular stand up meetings with someone from the accounting department.

Create a safe and open environment where your team can ask questions, seek clarification, and discuss the budget without fear of judgment. As your team becomes more familiar with the basics, offer them opportunities to learn more, such as enrolling in a course on finance for project managers or attending workshops focused on budgeting and financial management.

These additional learning opportunities will deepen their understanding and empower them to contribute more effectively to the financial aspects of their work. Regular check-ins will make your team more comfortable with the numbers overall, but remember to stay consistent with the metrics you use. If you measure success by net assets one week and profit and loss the next, your team won't receive a consistent narrative of what's essential. 

6. Develop effective leadership skills

Helping your team see the bigger financial picture is not just something you ought to do; it is a crucial leadership skill you should develop for your success as a manager. You can only reach benchmarks and progress toward your goals and the company's mission if the people you work with understand where you lead them.

You are responsible for developing your financial insight and understanding as a leader. This will enable you to communicate effectively with your team about the budget, address their concerns, and make informed decisions that align with the company's financial goals. Expenses and revenue are the actual languages of business. The more your team can speak that language, the better they will understand the organization's inner workings.

GoSkills project budget

Key takeaways

As a manager, it is crucial to help your team understand the project and departmental budgets. Doing so empowers them to make informed decisions, align their actions with the company's financial goals, and take ownership of the organization's financial health.

Incorporating these strategies into your management approach fosters a stronger connection between your team's actions and the company's overall financial health. It cultivates a culture of financial responsibility, transparency, and engagement. Ultimately, empowering your team with financial knowledge is a win-win scenario.

It enhances their professional development while driving your department's and the organization's success. Remember, financial literacy is not just a skill but a powerful tool for building trust, achieving goals, and driving long-term success.

Are you ready to take your leadership skills to the next level? GoSkills' self-paced Leadership and Management Training courses offer the perfect opportunity to enhance your abilities as a manager. Developed by a knowledgeable industry expert, this comprehensive course is packed with valuable, practical information that will transform your approach to leadership.

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Jessie Kwak

Jessie Kwak

Jessie Kwak is a freelance writer specializing in content marketing for education, SaaS and technology companies.