Fill those buckets.
My grandson answered very matter-of-factly when I asked him what he did on his first day of kindergarten. My mind visualized a group of five-year-olds filling buckets with blocks, small toys, sand, or water and then discussing the differences they noticed. Right when I was telling myself no teacher would turn a group of kids loose with sand and water, my grandson elaborated on his short answer.
“My teacher said everyone has a bucket, and we get to fill it with good things like helping people, being nice to them, and asking if they want to play with us. But we can also take a scoop out of someone’s bucket if we decide not to do those things. We get to decide, and I decided I want to fill buckets, not empty them.”
My daughter gave me a knowing glance because she’s well-aware this kind of lesson lights me up.
Make those deposits.
The bucket-filling story is a variation of a metaphor introduced by Stephen Covey. Rather than filling or scooping from a bucket, Mr. Covey offers the idea of an Emotional Bank Account.
With traditional bank accounts, of course, deposits grow and withdrawals deplete the account balance.
Similarly, an Emotional Bank Account tracks emotional deposits and withdrawals that enhance or diminish our relationships. It’s an account of trust, not money.
Make it happen like this.
Mr. Covey includes six actions one can take so deposits happen far more frequently than withdrawals, and I’ve added some ideas to help leaders take advantage of his recommendations:
- Understand the individual. In your leadership role, you’ve likely become a master at spinning many plates—or priorities—simultaneously. For consistent deposits to happen in someone’s Emotional Bank Account, it’s important to stop the spinning. Be present with your team members. Listen to what they have to share, and ask questions to gain clarity. Be so interested they can hear the ‘cha ching’ of those Emotional Bank Account deposits.
- Attend to the little things. You may think the little things go unnoticed. A genuine smile when you pass by team members. A specific acknowledgement of appreciation for consistently showing up and doing good work. A reply to someone’s request even on the busiest days. The small things? They’re the little deposits that compound over time.
- Keep commitments. Simply put, do what you say you will do. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. Next month. When you say you’ll do XYZ, do it. Then watch those deposits in your team members’ Emotional Bank Accounts add up.
- Clarify expectations. If you’re like most leaders, you’ve likely asked a team member to take on a responsibility or task and been disappointed when that completed task is done incorrectly. Make it a habit to ask questions rather than assume the other fully understands your request. Best-seller questions from the leaders I work with include: What questions do you have for me before you get started? How do you think you’ll get the ball rolling with this? What obstacles might get in your way? What will you do if that obstacle does happen? Questions like these add clarity to the task at hand which means less room for error and more room for additional trust between you and your team member.
- Show integrity. Admit your mistakes. Take responsibility when your plan doesn’t work out. Be transparent. Know your core values and don’t compromise them. Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one’s watching. Be that leader others want to follow. Be that leader with whom they learn, grow, and trust.
- Apologize when you make a withdrawal. You- and every other leader on the face of the earth- are human. There will be days that don’t go well. Instances when you don’t respond in a way that makes you proud of yourself. Times that you allow the chaos of the situation to get the better of you. Emotional Bank Account withdrawals will happen. No need to wallow in the ‘Why did I just do that?’ energy. Instead, remind yourself that no one’s perfect. Then apologize. Genuinely. Honestly. And commit to doing better.
Reap the rewards of those deposits.
Financial wealth grows when deposits happen more often and in greater quantities than withdrawals.
The same holds true for Emotional Bank Accounts although this wealth isn’t measured in money.
Instead, it’s measured in stronger relationships, greater trust, higher emotional intelligence, expanded self-confidence, and of course, fuller buckets. Seems like the kind of wealth we could all use, right?
Kudos to Miss Barnes, the kindergarten teacher who inspired this post.