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Balancing your emotional bank accounts – practical activities for managers and leaders

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.

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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…
  1. 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.
  2. 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”.
  3. 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.
  4. Know you are sometimes wrong and that you sometimes make mistakes – and admit this.
  5. Take responsibility for what you do and don’t do.
  6. Put the needs of others before your own.
  7. 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

  1. Write down the names of 5 team members that are important to your team’s success.
  2. 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.
  3. Now put the paper down / close the document and go and do something.
  4. 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?
  5. Almost there … now
    1. Look at your evidence of deposit and withdrawals (step 2) and ask yourself hwo you feel about the balance
    2. 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.
  6. 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 ??
  7. 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.

More about our leadership and management training solutions

If you are interested in learning more about how we integrate emotional intelligence into our leadership and management training solutions, please contact us.

Why managers should care about their emotional bank accounts

In our Practical Toolbox for managers training program, we often hear that the time spent on giving feedback is one of the highlights, and implementing DESC frequently makes it onto the manager’s transfer plan. One of the key points they take away is that the success of your feedback/feedforward rests upon your broader relationship with your partner. Put simply, if you have invested in them as a human being then feedback conversations are far more likely to go well.  To look at it from the other side, if you haven’t invested in somebody, if you haven’t built trust, and if you haven’t built a meaningful professional relationship with them … well don’t be surprised when thing go pear-shaped.  If you are managing others, you need your emotional bank account with your staff to be healthy.
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What is an “emotional bank account”?

The term “emotional bank account” appears in Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In Covey’s own words:

An emotional bank account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship.  It’s the feeling of safeness you have with another human being.  When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”.

Covey made the term popular, but the concept behind the “emotional bank account” is not new.  When we take more than we give from a relationship over the long-term, then we shouldn’t be surprised if the relationship suffers.  This holds true in all our relationships, from those with our partners, kids, friends, colleagues, clients, and suppliers.

The metaphor took off within the business training world because it is immediately understandable. You make deposits, save up money, and when you need that money later, you withdraw it. An emotional bank account is an account of trust instead of money. We all know how a bank account works … plus bank account sounds more business-like which helps a certain time of person accept the idea.

Every time a manager says something supportive, shows respect, invests in somebody as an individual, helps somebody with a difficult situation, makes time for them etc they make a deposit in that person’s emotional bank account.  Over time, the effects of these deposits will help to transform that relationship. And conversely, every time they criticize, blame, defend, ignore, lie, intimidate, threaten, etc they make a withdrawal.

We are all human and there are times when we are making more withdrawals than deposits.  Just like a bank, we can go in the red and then come out of it. The trick is to be in in the healthy green zone over the longer term.

Why should managers care about emotional bank accounts?

It is rare to hear managers dismissing the concept.  Almost all managers we work with in our management and leadership solutions want positive, productive, rewarding, trust-based relationships with their staff and teams. Concepts such as authenticity, credibility and trust are valued by the vast majority of organizations, and books such as “Servant leadership in Action”  and Goffee & Jones’“Why should anyone be led by you?”  and have captured this.

A personal sense of self-worth and respect is important, but meaningful and strong relationships in the workplace also lead directly to tangible results.  As a manager, your success is largely is dependent on your staff. Leaders who build strong and meaningful relationships within and beyond their organization give their business a competitive advantage. Emotional bank accounts are not just about the “soft stuff”. They are about delivering results through performance.

Healthy emotional bank accounts play a role in practically all of a manager’s day-to-day tasks.  When a manager tasks, delegates, motivates, influences, leads meetings, communicates, reviews, resolves conflicts, gives feedback, navigates difficult discussions etc., the relationships impact the success. All of these are moments where a manager can deposit or withdraw, and each of them has a range of potential for success or failure.

To summarize: If a manager cares about their emotional bank accounts they are more likely to succeed in the short, medium and long-term. If a manager doesn’t take care of relationships and withdraws more than they deposit, then they can’t expect to see a highly motivated team delivering outstanding results.

Check your emotional bank accounts – a practical activity for managers

  1. Write down the names of 3+ people that are important to your team’s success. Ideally try and identify a range e.g. team member, manager in another department, customer, supplier etc …
  2. Then ask them if they have time for a meeting to reflect on your working relationship. Make sure they understand that this is truly the reason, that nothing is wrong per se, that there isn’t a second goal to the conversation.
  3. Start the meeting by reiterating that you would like to strengthen the relationship. Ask them to share things that you have done/not done which will/can/would build trust.
  4. Listen and ask exploratory questions to understand. Do not reframe what they say into what you wish they had said. Do not defend. Just listen.
  5. Thank them and let things settle.
  6. Finally, identify specifics and patterns amongst the people you’ve spoken too, and identify next steps.

More about emotional bank accounts

In our next blog post we’ll go deeper into the behaviours related to  “how you build emotional bank accounts” and share another practical exercise.

Training storytelling in business –behind the scenes with two trainers

What challenges do professionals have when they join a training session on storytelling in business?

Gary: Typically its people feeling that they aren’t creative enough and wish they were. They like the idea of using stories in a work context, and are interested in the training, but they feel that either they don’t have a story in them, or they don’t have a story that matters.  They’ve seen others use stories effectively and they’d like to learn how to do that – but they just don’t know where to start.

Scott: I completely agree. Most participants do see the value and in many ways we are working with the converted. Generally, participants are looking to use stories in a presentation or at an upcoming event, but the biggest challenge they face is where to start.  I often hear “I don’t have a story “or “I have a cool story but it’s not really for our regional sales teams”.  So how have you approached that from a training perspective? In the training, how do you get people to find their stories?

Gary: When we train storytelling skills my very first goal is to show them that they are surrounded by stories and that everyone can tell a story. One of the ways I start is by asking the participants to share something that has changed them or others.  This could be a simple business experience that made a difference to them or shaped them. It could also be something from their private life. I’ve found it is easier with participants who have stronger emotional intelligence, but everyone can find something.  The challenge then is getting them to slow down and see it as they tell it.  It’s not unusual to see people rushing through their story and speaking in bullet points.  This has a lot to do with nerves, but is also connected to wrongly believing that the others won’t be interested in listening to them. When we model the activity it always helps.

Stories are at their most powerful when they get inside people and either connect with an emotion or trigger an emotion.  This is the starting point – at the end of the story how will your audience feel? And what will they know and do?

Scott: I do something similar, “tell us about a moment you are proud of” or “tell us about a moment you regretted”. Anything that taps right into a feelings dimension rather than just narrating factual events.

Gary: When I first started training storytelling in business, I was concerned that when people talked about a moment that shaped them that they would be a little bit light emotionally.  I was expecting people would gloss over it or “present” it.  But I find that this isn’t true and that people tend to really dive in and quickly tap into their emotional memory. This then impacts the listeners.   They leave this activity with a few big wins – firstly that they can actually tell a story, secondly that they have stories to tell, thirdly that they can convey emotion without having to explicitly talk about it and finally,  and perhaps this motivates them the most,  that people want to listen and do quickly connect.

Scott: I think if the storyteller tries to obviously connect their story to the listeners experiences it doesn’t always work that well. The audience is often put off if you try to get too personal too soon. Pulling people into your story beats pushing a message.  Every time we train storytelling skills there is always one person who, in the first 30 minutes of the day, will share an experience that unexpectedly hooks the other participants.

Recently we were delivering training a ½ day session on “Storytelling skills for internal trainers”  in a European investment institution. The first warm-up task of the training was to share a story with your table about something that impacted you in a way you had never anticipated.  One French lady shared a story about her family going to lay a “stolperstein” at the weekend in front of the house where her great-grandparents had lived.  Obviously, the context of the story had everyone paying respectful attention, but it was the unexpected joy and warmth in her story, and the way she described her family reconnecting,  that had the room in silence and actually grinning. She pulled people into her story by telling it naturally, not over-structuring it, and tapping into her emotional memory. When we started looking at their organizations greatest learning moments and the managers practiced telling stories aimed at reinforcing their culture, we reinforced 3 key points from her first story – tell it naturally, tell it simply and see it as you tell.

Gary: Once we’ve shown participants that they do actually have stories, the next challenge is finding the right story for the situation.  There’s a simple and effective model we use with 3 concentric circles, and the key is to start with the emotion. The central point of this circle is “By the end of story what do you want them to feel, know or do?” Occasionally we need to help out by sharing a list of emotions to get people thinking. Feel comes first, and then comes what do you want them to know and what you want them to do. We train our clients to build stories from the inside out.

It’s worth highlighting that sometimes that feeling isn’t going to be a positive feeling … and that is okay. There is a place for warning, shocking, etc. as long as the intention is positive.  I remember a CFO wanting to shake his peers up and confront the arrogance he saw within his organization head on. He knew he wanted his listeners to leave with a sense of humility.  Once he had identified this, he quickly found his story. I still remember his presentation years later. He showed an actual cutting from a newspaper with the photo of a farmer saying, “If they’d asked us locals, we would have told them that this area floods heavily every few years. So why did they build a motorway here?”. Once he had got their attention, he could then talk more about how he wanted things to be going forward.

I often use this “farmer” story when training storytelling because it really does reinforce the importance of starting with the emotion, and being honest with yourself about which emotion you want, when you are choosing and building a story.

So what do you do if somebody can’t think of a story?  In every training group there’ll often be a few participants still struggling.

Gary: Yes, this can be tricky because there are some people who feel that they just don’t have it in them. If that’s the case, we have prepared training aids with “classic stories” that managers need in their pockets. For example, you need the story of when you overestimated yourself, when you failed to prepare, what you stand for, what is important to you when working with new hires, a story of vulnerability, a story  of learning from your mistakes etc etc.  There are similar “templates” for sales professionals, service desks, L&D managers etc.  I find that this “cookie-cutter” approach helps people get going, but I also find that very quickly they begin to leave the “template” and they make things real and personal.  The aid just gets them going.  Stories that follow a template are a safe place to start and then we push people to tap into their own experiences …. And everything becomes far more powerful.

Scott: Absolutely, “typical stories that you need in your pocket”  help get people past staring at a blank piece of paper. Even the process of just asking “What about this one? Have you got that one?” gets them thinking.  And then its all about delivery, and here is where we bring in LOTS, which means “language of the senses”. Using plenty of language of the senses such as “heard, saw, sensed, touched, felt” brings your listeners into your story. Speed and pace is important too. Getting them to slow down, speed up, use pauses for effect.  But the key is to live the story and see the story as you tell it. To tap into your emotional memory. We’ll expand on this in another blog post.

For more information: Storytelling in business

 

 

What makes an effective communicator in Project Management?

Would you risk 56%?

The Project Management Institute’s 2013 report Pulse of the Profession revealed that US$135 million is at risk for every US$1 billion spent on a project. Of that, a shocking 56 percent of is at risk due to ineffective communications. 56% of $135 million = $75 million dollars!

As a project manager, how can you ‘make effective communication happen’?

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Let’s look at some simple things you can do to focus your team:

Talk the Talk

You know how important it is to know what’s happening in your organization. Now, stress to your project team how valuable it is too. In project meetings, make sure your message is understood. Check in with your team, especially if it appears there may be confusion. They may not solve all your communication issues but they do convey how valuable good communication is to you:

  • Is everyone clear on this?
  • I want to make sure there is no misunderstanding.
  • What is not clear?

Admittedly, all three of the tips are too often reduced to clichés. But there is truth in them. Back in my theatre days, I, and many other actors I knew, often worried about playing stereotypes and clichés. A very good acting teacher used to tell me, “Embrace the cliché. It’s there for a reason. Find the truth in it!”

Walk the Walk

Keep language as uncomplicated as possible. Be polite but be clear.

A German manager, who worked internationally and used English in Live Meetings, once told me, “the challenge is that we are sometimes not strong enough in English to understand these problems, or sometimes we don’t realize that there ARE problems.” And therein lies the risk. Not only might you miss the complexity of problem, you might miss that a problem even exists.

Recognize that not everyone is at the same level when working in a foreign language. Different project management methodologies use some different terminology. You might be come from a PMP background but your colleagues might mostly understand the language of PRINCE2. Or your organization might use its own language to discuss projects. While using different terminology may be necessary (more in the 3rd point below), try to keep ‘jargon’ to a minimum.

Get Everyone on the Same Page

Although different project management methodologies boast unique language, it’s a good idea to be able to adapt in such a way that you are able to communicate with all stakeholders.

Have a standardized communications plan. 

The Pulse reports that high performers are almost three times more likely than low-performing organizations to use standardized practices through the organization. As a result, they achieve better project outcomes. Making sure your language is standardized defines outcomes, invites trust, manages conflict, invites commitment, and embraces accountability.

Embrace the cliché!

Any good project manager will tell you that project outcomes are never guaranteed. No project manager can control everything. But keep these tips in mind and you will be ensuring that one of the most important aspects of project work which is under your control – communication – helps make your project, you and your team be as successful as it can be.