Cruzados, I love the way that sounds, sad it died a premature death. It was the currency of Brazil from 1986 – 1989. OK so perhaps its death was not premature. Actually at the time there was so little backing for the currency that people would rather be paid in milk than Cruzados. The people of Brazil did not even think of the Cruzado as their currency. As a result no one felt good getting paid in Cruzados because no one wants to be paid in a currency that is not their own. Imagine your friend borrowed $20 and then paid you back with 500 Ethiopian birr, sure you are getting a good deal but seriously? They do not even look cool, who puts a dam on a 50? At least our $50 has the capital on it.
Its no different at work, you have to pay people in their currency. Their are lots of currencies at work, Ryan’s is being liked, Russell’s is being respected, Lois’ is being in control, and mine is being the coach, being respected for my wisdom. I want to give you my thoughts and ideas, I want to contribute to solving your problem, your challenge. If you pay people in their currency you will see amazing results. Its not always as easy as it seems… Sure Ryan you simply have to tell him how much you like working with him and he is happy, Russell on the other hand wont believe a word you say, you have to ask him his opinion, ask for his input then he knows you respect him, Lois even harder, you have to let her make the decision even if it is not the decision you would have made, and me, you have to listen to my pedantic ramblings like this blog.
Paying people in their own currency is how you bond, build trust, motivate, create satisfaction, in short no matter what you want to accomplish you do it by paying people in their currency. So many people think everyone’s currency is money. Hell, even the individual often thinks their currency is money and it is, a little, but most people are not really that motivated by money. The number one motivator listed in survey after survey is meaning and individuals define meaning by their currency. Because paying them in their currency is saying “I see you”, “I acknowledge you”, “I respect who you are” All of these are the ultimate in recognition which, in the end, is the ultimate motivator.
Here are the most common currencies
- Appreciation/Acknowledgement/Gratitude – many people simply want to have you recognize their efforts, say thank you and let their boss know they added value. This should always be your bare minimum payment regardless of what is their currency. The good: its easy to pay them. The bad, often whiners.
- Credit – different than acknowledgement in that credit is all about visibility. People who want to be paid in credit want the whole world to know what they did and that it is amazing. Basically these people want to be famous for their accomplishments. The good: usually bold. The bad: prima donnas
- Control – We are not talking about control freaks here, that is not a currency that is an obsession, control is about the combination of responsibility, autonomy, and trust. It can be hard to pay these folks as it involves giving up control of your own destiny to someone else but these people are almost always hardworking and dependable so the payoff is good. The good: hardworking and dependable. The bad: difficult to control.
- Power – there are two types of power people, those that want influence and those that want subservience. If they want influence provide it, send partners to them, give them cross team roles and the like, if they want subservience then ship them out as they will be terribly Machiavellian. The good: wheeler dealers. The bad: unpredictable, et tu brute?
- Money – for people that see money is their ultimate motivator, recognize you will only have them for a short period of time because they are mercenaries. Use them for relatively short projects with incentives tied to the delivery and then let them move on. Don’t get in a bidding war for them no matter how good they are… The good: coin operated. The bad: coin operated
- Respect – these people want you to acknowledge their knowledge, skill, or wisdom. You do this by treating them as a subject matter expert and continually ask them to review work that fits their skill, or run project where their knowledge is critical to the success, etc… The good: takes pride in their work. The bad: often comes with a chip on their shoulder about not getting enough respect.
- Trust – these people really want autonomy, this can be fine as long as you work them up the trust curve, giving them a little more every step along the way. They long for you to give it all to them right out of the gate but often they are not yet ready to take it all on and by giving them so much rope you are really just setting them up for a hanging. The good: often self starters. The bad: can bite off more than they can chew.
- Being liked – most people want to be liked but these folks have their identity tied up in being liked. These folks are great as they really just want a little love and they will be loyal forever. A bit like my pooch but hey mans best friend;-) In truth I have found these people can be some of the best folks to help build a team culture around. One or two of these folks can often significantly increase the productivity of the whole team as they set a positive tone that cannot be beat. The good: often fun. The bad: can be sullen if they do not feel the love.
- Feeling important – Don’t make the mistake of thinking feeling important is always some self aggrandizing ego mania. In general this is code for feeling like you existence and effort make a difference. I had an employee recently who was working on vacation from Scotland. When I found out I emailed them to stop it, they did not. When I found that out I spent time thinking about the motivation behind their behavior and I realized their currency was importance. So I called them, yes in Scotland, and I let them know how important they were to our projects success and how if they did not unwind on vacation they would not have the impact we so sorely needed when they returned. They immediately unplugged and enjoyed their vacation. The Good: Hard Workers. The Bad: may not be a team player.
Dan Ariely has a ted talk about this topic here
Now lets completely undermine this concept. Up to this point we are talking about motivating employees. What really is motivation? Training employees to be driven and focused while exhibiting the daily behaviors that support a healthy team. Why does paying employees in their currency work? Its the standard concept of loss aversion and the endowment effect. You most hear about this related to investing but it is the same everywhere, loss is a negative emotion and we try hard to avoid it. In fact we try so hard to avoid it that we often miss the point of the negative reinforcement. Think about it, if my dog leaves a big old turd on the carpet and I grab a newspaper and swat him on the nose, what does he learn? Not that he should not shit inside, he learns to avoid me when I have a newspaper in my hand. Smart dog, but he missed the point, don’t go doo doo inside, and rather, only learned to be afraid of me.
The opposite works SOOOO much better, if, when he leaves a steaming pile outside, I given him a piece of rabbit jerky he quickly figures out that dumping outside gets wabbit! Really motivating your team, or your kids, or your spouse really is like training a dog.
—Side bar, Why do people find this so demeaning? Its not like using this technique means you have the intellect of a dog it just means both species have a pleasure center in their brain. And besides, dogs are the most loyal and loving of pets and although our dog Ace is not so smart, many dogs are smarter than some partners I work with on a daily basis. Actually, adults, well folks over 12, do a better job of processing negative feedback so it can work a little but don’t let that lull you into using punishment as the great motivator, its not, I postulate, rewards work better for every sentient being in the universe. From 12 years on you learn differently
When you reward behavior it immediately hits the pleasure center and the brain quickly ascertains how to get more pleasure. mmm, forbidden doughnut…
This is the same for every employee, swat them with no bonus and they quickly learn to avoid you as a manager or any project that might have the same outcome. They do not learn to avoid the mistake they made to cause the project to fail. On the other hand if every time they do something to help the team be successful, no matter how small, you pay them in their currency they will do more of those things and quickly. And as a side benefit, paying people in their currency will make the work place more fun and engaging! Failure to do so will have the same result as it did in Brazil in 1989, José Sarney got thrown out on his ass!