Investing in the Emotional Bank Accounts of Clients and Colleagues

If you were at last week’s District Faculty Retreat you may recall our friend Matt, in his Time Management workshop, addressed the concept of “emotional bank accounts.” Stephen Covey is credited with first developing the metaphor of the Emotional Bank Account.
Basically this means that anyone with whom we have a relationship with, we begin with a neutral balance. Just as with any other bank account, we can make deposits and withdrawals based on our actions and interactions with one another. The goal is to invest as much in possible in the accounts of others such that we build strong relationships, on which we may need to “cash in” on later.
Ways in which we can deposit into the Emotional Bank Accounts of others includes:
• Take time to understand the individual.
• Keep promises and commitments.
• Clarify expectations.
• Attending to the little things (courtesies, thank you notes, remembering special details about a person).
• Be open to feedback of others (even when you vehemently disagree, you can still listen).
• Apologizing sincerely when we make a withdrawal.

It is easier to lead those with whom you have a relationship with, and whom trust you. What happens when this is not the case? Let’s look at an example:
Agent A is a newly hired 4-H Extension Agent. Being fresh out of college, he has big plans and big ideas for his county. He immediately conducted a needs assessment and is ready to “change the world” with the world being the 4-H program of “County X.” He immediately sets about identifying problems and issues within the county program and sets about making changes to improve the program. Surely, this will prove his value and his worth to his new county clientele.

Instead, people get angry. They begin to ask- why is he changing everything that has been working for years? We’ve been here for 20-plus years as volunteers, why didn’t he ask our opinions?

Is Agent A wrong? Probably not. However, what he is guilty of is not taking the time to invest in the Emotional Bank Accounts of his volunteers. Rather than observing, interacting with, and LISTENING (yes, listening) to his clientele, he set about to work right away. Good work, without having built trust, is not always well received.


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