Dr Stephen Covey talks about "The Emotional Bank Account" in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The emotional bank account is simply a metaphor for defining the amount of trust that has been built up in a relationship. Project managers need to be trusted in order to be effective.
An emotional bank account works just like a regular bank account. There are deposits and withdrawals. Deposits are made through acts of kindness, keeping your word, meeting commitments, being truthful, trustworthy, etc. When the emotional bank account has a positive balance, communication is much easier because trust is high. If on the other hand you show negative behaviors like disrespect, threatening words, being judgmental, harsh, or distant and detached the trust level (account balance) becomes overdrawn. This overdrawn account severely limits your options to communicate effectively.
If a positive balance isn't maintained in your emotional bank accounts your relationships will deteriorate. Remember, you have many different emotional bank accounts. One for everyone you deal with. Do you know which accounts are overdrawn?
Some quick concepts from Dr. Covey's book when talking about major deposits to the emotional bank account are:
Understand the Individual
Really seek to understand. What is important to them? Make that thing important to you.
Attend to the Little Things
Perform small acts of courtesy and kindness.
Keeping them is a major deposit. Breaking them is a major withdrawal. People put hope in promises.
Ensure understanding takes place when dealing with expectations. This takes time and good listening skills to accomplish.
Show Personal Integrity
This generates trust. Trust is the basis of good relations. Having integrity doesn't just mean telling the truth, it means keeping our promises and meeting expectations. It also means "respect for the absent". Defend the absent and gain the respect of those present.
Apologize Sincerely When You Make a Withdrawal
Apologize from the heart. Be sincere and let the other person know how bad you feel.
Steven, I read your post on emotional bank accounts with interest (no pun intended). I am a big fan of Steven Covey, but an even bigger fan of applying emotional intelligence concepts to project management. It is the people side of things that often trips up project managers that are otherwise great with technical or project management issues. It's all about the relationships.
If you have a chance, check out some of my writing at the EQ for PM Blog:
Keep up the good work!
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