“Sprinkle joy.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Jack, Bob’s seven year-old grandson and Gregg’s nephew, came home from school recently talking about buckets. In this metaphor, we all carry invisible buckets holding our feelings and sense of worth. When our buckets are full, we feel good. When empty, we feel sad.
A bucket filler fills the buckets of others with kindness and consideration. A bucket dipper does things that make others feel bad. (The metaphor of bucket fillers/dippers is based on the work of Dr. Donald O. Clifton, later enhanced for schools by Merrill Lundgren, the “bucket man.”
The concept is similar to the late Stephen R. Covey’s concept of “emotional bank accounts” from his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. According to Covey, we build up trust instead of money in an emotional bank account. We make deposits and build up a reserve through “courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping commitments.” We make withdrawals by showing disrespect, overreacting, ignoring, betraying trust, controlling, and more. After a while, our trust account becomes overdrawn. Our goal should be to build large reserves of trust and goodwill.
Covey related a story in his 7 Habits book:
“I have a friend whose son developed an avid interest in baseball. My friend wasn’t interested in baseball at all. But one summer, he took his son to see every major league team play one game. The trip took over six weeks and cost a great deal of money, but it became a powerful bonding experience in their relationship.
My friend was asked on his return, Do you like baseball that much?’
’No,’ he replied, ‘but I like my son that much.’”
Great bucket filling.
Covey outlined the major ways we can make deposits in emotional bank accounts:
1. Understanding the individual
2. Attending to the little things
3. Keeping commitments
4. Clarifying expectations
5. Showing personal integrity
6. Apologizing sincerely when you make a withdrawal
Bucket filling and emotional bank accounts both rely on the essential leadership skill of emotional intelligence. Life is a set of relationships. Business is a set of relationships. Triple crown leaders are bucket fillers. Thanks, Jack, for reminding us.
Are you a bucket filler or a bucket dipper?
Bob and Gregg Vanourek are co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards), based on interviews with 61 organizations in 11 countries.