In our previous blog we explained what an emotional bank account is and why managers need to care about building them . To quickly recap, an emotional bank account is a metaphor coined by Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship, and when trust is high, communication is easy and effective. Every time a manager says something supportive, shows respect, helps somebody with a difficult situation, etc., they make a deposit in that person’s emotional bank account. Every time they criticize, blame, lie, intimidate, etc., they make a withdrawal. Over time, the effects of these deposits will help transform that relationship. This post goes deeper into how to build your emotional bank accounts.
How do you build a healthy emotional bank account with your team?
Every manager and team are different, and culture can play a part, but at the end of the day it comes back to our relationships and how we behave. Covey identified six ways to make deposits (or reduce withdrawals):
1) Understand the individual
You need to know what the individual wants and what constitutes a deposit and withdrawal for them. Whereas one employee might be exhilarated by presenting their project results to the board another may prefer to be in the background and their contribution acknowledged privately. Ask yourself what drives them? How do they want recognition? What makes their eyes light up?
2) Keeping commitments
We have all broken a promise and let somebody down, and when we do this, we are making a withdrawal. Keeping commitments is about doing what we say we’ll do, keeping our promises, delivering what we said we’d deliver, being on time, being where we should be, fulfilling our promises. If you consistently keep your commitments, you build healthy emotional bank accounts with people.
3) Clarifying expectations
Each of us have different backgrounds, experiences and expectations. We see the world differently. Clarifying understanding and expectations is essential if you’d like to minimize misunderstanding and wrong assumptions. By proactively investing time in clarifying expectations and building a mutual understanding of what you need, don’t need, want, don’t want etc you can minimize the “ I thought that..”, “I’d assumed ..”, “To me it was obvious that …”. And keep in mind that if you are leading people and teams virtually, then the risk of false assumptions and misunderstanding does increase, and formalizing things with communication charters does help.
4) Attending to the little things
Relationships aren’t only built by big moments but by the little things too. These are the smiles in the corridor, holding the door open, short thank you emails, remembering their daughter has just started school, not heading straight to your office but spending a moment walking through the open office to be seen. Kind words, smiles, courtesies, warmth. Human interest, and taking time when you don’t have to.
5) Showing personal integrity
Relationships are built on trust and integrity. What does integrity mean? The word “integrity” comes from the Latin integritatem, meaning “soundness” or “wholeness.” Integrity is not situational – it is a state of mind. In Covey’s words…
“ Integrity is conforming reality to our words … keeping promises and fulfilling expectations.”
What does this look like in practice? Here are 7 musts to start with…
- Do the right thing for the right reasons and because it’s the right thing to do – even if it is going to be unpopular with some people.
- Face the truth and talk about it. This is the reality principle of “seeing the world as it really is, and not as you wish it is”.
- Be upfront in your communication. People want to know where they stand and what is going on. People won’t always like what they hear but they will value the adult-adult relationship.
- Know you are sometimes wrong and that you sometimes make mistakes – and admit this.
- Take responsibility for what you do and don’t do.
- Put the needs of others before your own.
- Be loyal to those not present – confront gossiping, complaining and bad mouthing about people who aren’t in the room.
6) Apologizing when we make a withdrawal
we are all human, and we all make mistakes and get things wrong. Know when you’ve made a mistake, admit it and apologize with sincerity. Admitting you’ve made a mistake doesn’t necessarily mean it is acceptable but it’s a start, and can be healing to a relationship. Avoid the temptation of wanting to discuss why you made it before you discuss and show understanding of the impact it had on others. And understand that if you are continually making the same type of withdrawal, trust will erode. It’s the smaller things that kill relationships in the long run. Finally, don’t try and lighten withdrawals with banter, humour or a “shit sandwich”– this is rarely appreciated.
To add to the list above , tolerance and forgiveness are also powerful deposits, as is appreciative inquiry and holding back judgment and sweeping statements.
A 10-minute practical activity for managers
- Write down the names of 5 team members that are important to your team’s success.
- Now look back at your calendar over the last 2 weeks and use this, plus your memory, to find evidence of deposits and withdrawals. A meeting went poorly and they left frustrated – that’s a withdrawal. They bent your ear and you listened and gave them your attention – a deposit. Build a simple balance sheet (name at the top, left column is deposits, right column is withdrawals.
- Now put the paper down / close the document and go and do something.
- A few hours later (or even the next day) come back and for each of the 5 team members write down what you believe motivates and drives them? What gives them energy and what takes it? How do they like to communicate? And what do they see as recognition?
- Almost there … now
- Look at your evidence of deposit and withdrawals (step 2) and ask yourself hwo you feel about the balance
- Look at the types of deposits and withdrawals and ask yourself does this tie in with what they need? Not everyone will see public recognition as a deposit And not everyone will see direct feedback and getting straight to it as a withdrawal. Deposits and withdrawals are personal.
- And now the final step. Ask yourself what can you do in the coming month differently? If possible, plan them into your calendar by finding tangible moments e.g.. You can’t enter “Tuesday 14:00-14:30 listen” but you can set up a meeting to discuss a project and make a conscious effort to listen first. https://www.targettraining.eu/listening-skills-10-areas-to-improve/ @brenda – was there an ALF download ??
- And if you are keen to make more deposits then why not use a regular catch up meeting or a chat over lunch to learn from them more about what is actually important to them, what would increase their trust in you and your relationship , and what you could do more/less of.
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