Managing Emotional Bank Accounts

Invest Wisely…

Emotional Bank AccountsI want to be an influential person. But after starting my career as a computer programmer, I’ve recognized that people are much harder to influence than computers. Computers do exactly what you tell them to do – although that can be a problem when I don’t get my instructions exactly right. With people on the other hand…even precise instructions can go wrong if I don’t take emotions into account.

Don’t Think You’re Emotional?

You may be one of those very stoic individuals who doesn’t readily display your emotions. But you’re naïve if you think your intellect drives your actions and decisions without the influence of your emotions. There’s a difference between not being emotionally expressive and not being emotionally influenced. If you’re a healthy human, you are influenced by your emotions, like it or not.

The same thing is true of those you lead. Ignore their emotions to your own detriment and the detriment of your organization. Denying the power of emotions makes you a crippled leader.

Regular Deposits, Occasional Withdrawals

Emotions are complicated, and developing good emotional intelligence takes intentionality. Here’s just one suggestion for getting the emotions of those you lead to work for you instead of against. 

Imagine that you have opened emotional bank accounts with each person you lead. When you do or say something they interpret as positive, your account balance in their bank goes up. When what you say or do (or maybe how or when you say or do it) gets a negative emotional response, you’ve made a withdrawal.

Assuming you’re not a wimpy leader who hides from healthy confrontation, you know you will have to have some hard conversations at times. The secret is this: Make plenty of deposits so that when you need to make a withdrawal it won’t bankrupt you!

How do you make deposits? Gratitude goes a long way. Learn to listen more than you talk. People feel respected when they are genuinely listened to. Ask them for feedback. Ask what you could do to make their job better. A track record that shows you care about them and want them to succeed gives you the capacity to make a withdrawal when you need it.

But note that phrase, track record. It happens over time. You can’t walk into a hard conversation and try to build your deposits on the spot. That’s why the “sandwich approach” of giving good news then bad news then more good news doesn’t work as well as we like to think. People see through that.  Deposits over time earn interest by demonstrating that you care and aren’t just being manipulative.

Know Your Followers

Remember that others are not clones of you. Their expectations and responses won’t necessarily be the same as yours. You need to be a student of those you lead. Learn what they value and what energizes each of them. Make deposits according to their standards, not yours. You don’t always know when that next big withdrawal will need to happen. So keep healthy balances in your emotional bank accounts!

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