I just recently read a great book to my first grade son, How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer, based on the original How Full Is Your Bucket? The story centers on a simple metaphor that each of us has a dipper and a bucket and how even the smallest interactions we have with others every day profoundly affect our relationships, productivity, health, and longevity. We sometimes forget about these everyday interactions during our peak periods when it’s most important that we pay attention to our relationships. Reading How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids reminded me of the five strategies that we can easily apply when interacting with others when we most want to get work done instead.

The concept that we are either filling others’ buckets by saying or doing things to increase their positive emotions or dipping from it by saying or doing things that decrease their positive emotion (and makes us feel lousy, too). Every drop added to our buckets makes us stronger and more optimistic and dipping from others’ bucket poisons our outlook, saps our energy, and diminishes our perseverance.

We also know from many employee surveys that when people are appreciated, respected and enjoy their working relationships, they are more productive and happy and their organizations benefit, too. A Gallup poll of 4 million individuals on respect and praise found that individuals who receive regular recognition and praise:

  • Increase their individual productivity
  • Increase engagement among their colleagues
  • Have better safety records and fewer accidents on the job
  • Are more likely to stay with the organization longer
    Receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers

To fill the buckets of those with whom you interact throughout the day, practice these five simple strategies:

  1. Prevent Bucket Dipping: Start by asking yourself if you were adding to or taking from the other person’s bucket in each interaction. By catching yourself before uttering a negative comment – and making a more positive one instead – you will make yourself and the people around you feel better. Once you have successfully curtailed your own bucket dipping, encourage similar changes among those around you. Convince others that unwarranted negativity only makes matters worse. Consider “keeping score,” too, by reflecting on your last interactions with a person and assigning each a plus or a minus to determine whether you are mostly dipping or filling their bucket.
  2. Shine a Light on What’s Right: Find an opportunity to fill someone’s bucket in each interaction with them. It could be as simple as saying, “thank you,” complimenting them on something or acknowledging them for a job well done. You will also fill someone’s bucket when you apologize for a mistake or for hurting someone’s feelings, which can happen during peak periods when pressure is high and energy levels are low. This is a great way to reenergize others and often people will reciprocate and shine a light on what’s right with you, too!
  3. Make Best Friends: Relationships are one of the most important elements of our business and personal lives. While we may not be “BFFs” with everyone we meet or with whom we work, if we make the effort to learn about the people we work with, strive to create positive interactions in every conversation or meeting, and tell people when and why we appreciate them, you will develop great relationships that make work more fun and productive - and you may make a few friends along the way!
  4. Give Unexpectedly: It’s easier to be generous and give time, money, praise, etc. when we’re supposed to (like during performance and salary evaluations or during special holidays). However, the generous acts of kindness that occur randomly or out of the blue are often those that are most remembered and make the biggest difference. Giving can be simple and doesn’t have to be anything big or tangible to be successful. It can be a gift of trust or responsibility, a smile or something worthwhile you read that will help someone’s day.
  5. Reverse the Golden Rule: In the case of bucket filling, use a slight variation of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” This idea supports what we call “one-size-fits-one” at ConvergenceCoaching when it comes to building relationships, developing people and communicating. For example, some people like public praise while others would prefer it to be private. So find out how others would prefer you do to fill their buckets and then try to accommodate as much as possible.

If you want to learn more about how filling others’ buckets rather than dipping from them can enhance your relationships – and your own self-worth – read the kid’s version now during busy season for a simple story that demonstrates the idea. Then, make How Full Is Your Bucket? a must-read this summer!

How do you fill others’ buckets? What strategy will use today to build someone up and make your relationships, workplace and life better? I’d love to hear from you!