How to fill someone’s bucket

In research for their book, “How Full is Your Bucket?” authors Tom Rath and Donald Clifton surveyed more than 4 million employees in more than 10,000 business units. Their research revealed that recognition and praise are significant contributors to the success of a workgroup.

Managers and supervisors who were generous with recognition and praise saw an increase in individual productivity. When employees feel noticed and appreciated they are also more engaged with their co-workers, are more loyal and have fewer accidents on the job. Customers notice the difference too. Companies that promote recognition programs see a corresponding link to customer satisfaction.

The authors use the analogy of filling a person’s invisible bucket. Everyone has one and it is constantly being emptied or filled depending on what others say or do. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it’s empty, we feel awful. When we say or do things to increase a person’s positive emotions, we add to their bucket. If we say or do things that decrease their positive emotions we remove from their bucket and we diminish ourselves.

An empty bucket poisons a person’s outlook, saps their energy and undermines their will. So we face a choice every moment of every day: We can fill one another’s buckets, or we can dip from them. It’s an important choice—one that profoundly influences our relationships, productivity, health, and happiness.

The next time you conclude a conversation with an employee, ask yourself, “Did my conversation add to, or take away from his/her bucket?”

Before you begin a conversation with an employee, think of at least one thing you can recognize or praise about their character or performance. It doesn’t have to wait for earth-shattering results. Small, simple compliments for behaviors you would like to see repeated are all that’s needed to drop something in a person’s bucket.

During the conversation, refrain from anything negative and observe the change in attitude and behavior and how the tension and barriers seem to melt away.

Genuine recognition and praise doesn’t have to cost anything. Take the time to make daily bucket deposits and watch your workgroup transform into a positive, productive team. Try this with your family and friends to deepen and enrich your relationships.

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