The Box and the Bucket: Metaphors for Managing

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how many times a day I give positive feedback as opposed to negative. If you’ve ever tried to track the number of times a day you say or do something, you know how hard it is!

It’s bringing up memories of other times I’ve seriously taken a look at myself and examined my behaviors and communication.

One of the books that greatly impacted me and how I communicate to others is The Arbinger Institute’s Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box. In this story about ego, they describe “being in a box” whenever we respond to someone in ways that are self-protective. “Out of the box” is when we’re feeling self-less and of service to others.

Putting a rather profound concept about thinking patterns into a simple graphical image (in the box or out of the box) makes it easier to grasp the concept and to track how many times one engages in certain behaviors.

It reminds me of another book, How Full is Your Bucket in which psychologists Donald O. Clifton and Tom Rath propose a metaphor for looking at positive and negative interactions during the day.

Imagine we all have a bucket within us that needs to be filled with positive experiences, such as recognition or praise. When we’re negative toward others, we use a dipper to remove from their buckets and diminish their positive outlook. When we treat others in a positive manner, we fill not only their buckets, but ours as well.

Here are 5 strategies from these authors for increasing your magic ratio of positive to negative moments in any given day:

  • Prevent “Bucket Dipping.” Increase your own awareness of how often your comments are negative. Work toward a ratio of five positive comments to every one negative comment.
  • Shine a light on what’s right. Try focusing on what employees or peers do right rather than where they need improvement, and discover the power of reinforcing good behaviors.
  • Make best friends. People with best friends at work have better safety records, receive higher customer satisfaction scores, and increase workplace productivity.
  • Give unexpectedly. A recent poll showed that the vast majority of people prefer gifts that are unexpected.
  • Reverse the Golden Rule. Instead of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” you should “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” Individualization is key when filling others’ buckets.

Good stuff that makes it easier to track and pay attention to your behaviors, no? Are you in the box or out? Are you filling buckets, or dipping out of them?

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