HR & Management

How to make people want to change

4 min read

17 September 2014

Ian Coyne lays out the concept of an 'emotional bank' in this guest post, and how to keep 'in credit' with your coworkers and employees.

It is often said that people act for two very simple reasons. One is for the love of doing something, the other is the fear of not doing it. Its the difference between compliance and desire to do something.

When making change happen, you can take specific actions to put you in a position to make people want to change rather than feeling like they have to. Together they make up the Emotional Bank Account.

How emotional bank accounts work

The emotional bank account is much like any other bank account. You have one with every person you interact with in your organisation. You can make deposits and gain credit, you can also make withdrawals. Finally, you can go overdrawn, and like in real life, you don’t want to be there long.

Why the emotional bank account is important

Three simple reasons:

  1. It’s the only difference between someone having to do something and wanting to do something;
  2. It allows you to borrow from people, and pay back later;
  3. It is the difference between someone giving you 100 per cent, and giving 120 per cent.

Gaining Credit

By thinking of someone or helping them, you put yourself in credit with them. This could be your manager, it could be the most junior member of staff, but help them and they owe you. 

The only two downsides to emotional credit are that it doesn’t last for ever, and there is a limit to the amount you can gain. People do remember you helped them 3 months ago, but the amount they feel they owe you diminishes significantly over time. 

Equally, attempting to build up too much credit feels disingenuous.

When taking gets you credit

There are occasions when asking someone for something actually gains you credit. Seeking peoples advice and guidance – as long as it does not absorb huge amounts of their time – can actually put you in credit. They are now vested in your success going forward

Making withdrawals

A withdrawal happens when someone has to do something for you which doesn’t benefit them, or does so indirectly. It could be an introduction to someone, it could be access to their network or borrowing a team member to help what you are trying to achieve. When you have credit, this is a pretty simple transaction – you are essentially calling in the credit you have with them. However borrowing when you have no credit is where you get into your emotional overdraft.

Being overdrawn

Being overdrawn is inevitable. But stay overdrawn and two things happen very quickly. Firstly the longer you are overdrawn, the more you are overdrawn – it gains interest in a negative way. Secondly it makes asking for a bigger emotional overdraft harder. If you are consistently overdrawn, there is also a danger of losing credit altogether.

Two rules to make the emotional bank account work for you

Rule 1. Start in credit. Be the first person to make the gesture or help someone else. The first deposit into the emotional bank account is the most important one. Showing you are prepared to do this without wanting something first will increase the likelihood of that being reciprocated

Rule 2. Stay in credit. Once you are in the mindset of thinking of others and helping them, you will be able to stay in credit easily. You will never know when you need to make a withdrawal and those conversations are a lot easier when you have good credit.

Make Change Happen: Get to grips with managing change in business’ by Ian Coyne is out now from Pearson, priced £14.99.

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