This is the second article in our miniseries on some of the nuances of the mental models held by top performers. In our first article, we talked about how the same hurdle can be seen either as a speed bump or a major barrier. Top performers, of course, see hurdles as mere speed bumps that barely hinder their progress. In this article, we’ll discuss the notion of relational bank accounts.
Stephen Covey introduced the metaphor of an emotional bank account in his seminal work The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. When you need to withdraw money from a bank, you must have first deposited the money. Obvious, right? That same inescapable logic also extends to relationships. If you want to build trusting relationships that may occasionally require withdrawals, you must first make some deposits. Top performers innately recognize this truth and proactively embrace this concept in their daily work by making deposits in the accounts of their various relationships immediately, well in advance of and irrespective of any future and yet unidentified needs on their part.
When the time for withdrawals comes, top performers have built the trust required to ask for an introduction or advice or even something as simple as a return call. They are acutely aware, however, that trying to make a withdrawal without first filling their relationship account with deposits puts a strain on any relationship.
In a straightforward example, a top performing sales professional we recently interviewed told us how she would arrive at a potential new client’s and immediately try to identify issues she and her company could help resolve. She didn’t wait to be asked, and she didn’t ask to be compensated in any way. She was simply making deposits into a relational account. Whether she ever would need to make any withdrawals was not part of her thinking process. But she knew the deposits were there if she ever needed to ask for help.
Question to ponder:
- How is your relational account balance with the people in your network?
Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has become a life-altering book for many. In that book, Covey advises prioritizing one’s time by balancing urgency and importance. He presents a grid with four quadrants. Items in quadrant I are important and urgent (crises, deadline-driven projects); items in II are important but not urgent (planning, relationship building); items in III are not important but urgent (interruptions, meetings, reports); and those in IV are not important and not urgent (busy work, time wasters).
Almost everyone agrees that Covey’s principle is sound. But people are often challenged with applying the principle in a practical way.
In Covey’s model, the urgency scale pretty much takes care of itself. Phones ringing, clients calling with problems, e-mails arriving from the boss almost by the minute— these are all easy mechanisms that help us define urgency. But what defines importance? That seems to be our biggest challenge.
We contend that role-based outcomes provide the answer to that challenge for the workplace. One of the key differentiators between top and average performers is that top performers know what to focus on; they implicitly use a few proven outcomes to determine what is important and what is not.
It seems that in today’s world everything is urgent. So urgency itself is not an adequate measure for the workplace. Again we can turn to top performers for a clearer meaning of urgent. A clear differentiator among top performers is that they focus the right amount of time and energy—attention—on what they deem important. We use the word attention deliberately and will explain our interpretation in more detail next week. We’ll also begin to draw on real scenarios to illustrate the balance between attention and importance and how understanding our role-based outcomes helps achieve the focus required for success today.
Question to ponder:
- How do you decide where to focus your attention?