“When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”

― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

In his brilliant book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Stephen Covey introduces the concept of the emotional bank account. You may wonder what is an emotional bank account? This theory is discussed in detail in his book, but put simply, the emotional bank account is a measure of the relationship between you and someone else. This could be with your friends and family in your everyday life but what I want to focus on is the powerful impact the emotional bank account holds within your client, team members and business partner relationships. The measure of the emotional bank account is determined and defined by the actions taken by both you and them, making deposits and withdrawals by each of you as you develop and continue to form ongoing relationships. The emotional bank account is your relationship, and the deposits and withdrawals are essentially the ‘give and take’ within it. As a result of these actions, trust is either built upon or gradually eroded, depending on how much each person deposits (gives) or withdraws (takes) from that account. At any point in time, you can measure your emotional bank account balance with somebody else simply by asking yourself the question, am I in credit or debt with this person? Your intuition will do the rest.

Building a positive emotional bank account for long-term success

Building a positive emotional bank account with your clients and team members is extremely important, particularly as someone within an influential role in your business, whether that be in a client meeting, solving a problem for a client or managing and leading people within your team. In order to make requests and demands, or potentially challenge your clients or team members, it’s essential to have a positive balance in the emotional bank account of that relationship. Without it, trust can be completely eroded, and your clients, and team members will be disengaged or worse, feel they are being taken advantage of. The easiest way to build a positive emotional bank account is to establish a series of regular activities that develop the relationship with your team and/or clients. There are lots of ways to do it by finding opportunities to help, support, communicate and encourage them. If you make a habit of this, you will continually strengthen and deepen your relationships.

Boosting your ‘credit score’ when leading a team

 One of the best ways to consider your emotional bank account, when leading a team, is to ask yourself these simple questions:

•     How much do you know about this team member?

•     What deposits have you made into your relationship?

•     Have you noticed AND acknowledged their good work?

•     Have you shown a genuine interest in them?

•     Have you had a development discussion with them?

•     Have you helped, supported and challenged them?

If you do this regularly, you’ll  avoid slipping into emotional bank account ‘debt’ with your team or clients alike.

Boosting your ‘credit score’ in a client meeting

 During a consultation, the emotional bank account theory encourages your client to want to be loyal to you. Similarly to the list above, if you are considering your emotional bank account with your client, you are making a conscious effort to get to know them beyond the business transaction. To find out more about what is going on in their life, to make intentional deposits into their emotional bank account, to show a genuine interest in them and to support them as they make purchasing decisions. You are starting to create real differentiation through your relationship. When your client starts to think about their own purchasing needs, your business, the service you’re providing and the solution you’re offering, the strength of your relationship and the trust you’ve built, outweighs any thoughts about your competition.

Avoiding a negative emotional bank account

 Sometimes, we can unintentionally make withdrawals from our relationships with other people. Withdrawals can come in many forms, for example, not replying to people, overlooking people, not listening when they are sharing important information and forgetting to follow up as arranged or promised. All these negative impacts in our relationships can start to erode the trust that we worked hard to build with our clients and within our teams.

The best way to overcome this is to put a system in place. Set up reminders using your task planning system, email or calendar reminders. Allow time before your client meetings to review your notes, so your client gets a seamless experience from one meeting to the next. Using a CRM system can ensure proactive follow up for every client. Discuss with your team how you can make sure every client receives an experience that strengthens your relationships with them. If these important activities are left to memory they will be forgotten, ensure you and your team understand the impact they make on your clients.

Providing constructive feedback without damaging the emotional bank account

If you are in a position of leadership, you will understand the importance of constructive feedback, it is likely to be a significant element of your role to develop positive, proactive, high performing teams. However, you need to ensure it’s done in a way that doesn’t damage the emotional bank account, you can do that by considering your approach.

 There are several ways this can be achieved and the first and most effective way is to have a strong positive emotional bank account balance in the first place. We have a five-step process that we work through that helps us to manage difficult conversations when giving constructive feedback. Here are the five steps:

 •     Step 1: Instigate the discussion, Schedule a 1:1 with your team member to have an important discussion.

•     Step 2: Agree on the situation. Explain to the team member objectively what you’re seeing and the impact of that behaviour on other team members, the business, and sometimes on you as the leader. Ask for their perspective, how do they see it?

•     Step 3: Agree on a resolution., Ask for their suggestions on how the situation can be improved. Agree on specific changes that will be made and how you can support them.

•     Step 4: Gain commitment.  Ask for their commitment to action the changes. Discuss the implications if those changes are not made and schedule a date that you will review the improvements.

•     Step 5: Future pace. This is the step that is often missed. Finally, discuss future situations where you  anticipate a recurrence of the behaviour and agree on proactive measures to address them in advance. The idea here is to avoid the issues reoccurring.

Many of our relationships have been developed without much thought or intention.

If you make a simple plan for specific deposits into your most important emotional bank accounts, it will pay you dividends. Without intentional actions, you may find yourself making inadvertent withdrawals from your relationships with clients and your business team. If you plan regular time slots to meet with key people and make proactive deposits into  those relationships,  you’ll increase your value and strengthen their trust.

As a leader, this proactive approach will help you to maintain high morale amongst your team. It is often the little things that count the most, your deposits don’t need to be lavish gestures, investing your time, showing interest and giving support is a great way to get started. The more regularly you do it, the healthier your emotional bank account balance will become.

 By using the emotional bank account theory combined with the five steps to dealing with under performance, you will start to strengthen your relationships with your clients, your team, and create a high-performance culture.

About the author

 Justin is the founder of Focus4growth Ltd, a Sales & Leadership Coaching company specialising in the dental market. He’s the best-selling author of Inspire, Influence, Sell. He has over 25 years’ experience in sales & leadership and is an accredited Executive Coach. Justin runs programs for dental leaders and teams to develop high performance, high growth teams. Justin is privileged to work with market leading companies including; Align Technology, NTT Data, Odeon Cinema Events, Septodont, Biohorizons, W&H, SDI, MiSmile Network and many more. 

 In 2023 Justin is privileged to be speaking for the Institute of Sales Professionals hosting quarterly webinars and roundtables for their members. Justin works with many market leading sales teams to accelerate performance and results using the proven INSPIRe consultative sales system. Justin speaks at many events and on behalf of many leading associations and at corporate events. If you’d like Justin to speak at your event, please get in touch.

Justin is on a mission to show business leaders and teams how they can achieve market leading growth. 

You can learn more about building a winning business team in the best-selling book ‘Inspire, Influence, Sell’. If you’re in a leadership role you will find ‘Coaching Leaders’ equally valuable. If you prefer a more hands on approach to learning, you can enrol on our Inspire Sales Academy or Coaching Leaders Academy courses. Find out more here: https://focus4growth.co.uk/inspire-sales-academy/


 If you’d like to contact Justin directly his email is [email protected].

You can connect with Justin and access some of the Focus4growth resources here: https://linktr.ee/JustinLeigh

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