Stakeholder Management and Personal Leadership
Dream big, and spend your Money wisely!

Reading time: 5 minutes


Yesterday I got my daughter her first youth debit card. Need I tell you how proud she was? Smart as she is she immediately shared the details of her account with her closest family so all of us could transfer a small amount of money. She saw it all coming in in front of her. A big smile on her face. Financial freedom. Shopping with her friends. Buying some food at school when hungry (or forgotten lunch). Finally getting that pair of boots mom doesn’t like too much. And not to forget being able to pay with her own money, all wireless of course. Oh oh small girls getting all grown up. Up to mom next to explain that this card is no endless mountain of gold. That withdrawals are not possible if no deposit has been made before. That zero on the account means zero to buy. I guess all of us with growing up kids have had or will have this same talk somewhere around the first years of high school.

The emotional bank account (EBA), Steven R. Covey

This made me think about the principle of the emotional bank account (EBA) as described by Steven R. Covey in his book “The seven habits of highly effective people”. Not so much the theory in general (the EBA seen as the amount of trust that’s been built up between two persons) but the fact that in my personal life as well as in my career I have been depositing a lot of virtual money into accounts where no withdrawals could be made by me afterwards. And that I have allowed too many people to withdraw that same virtual money from my account without me receiving anything in return. And last but not least, by doing that, by spending my time and attention focusing on the wrong accounts, I was undoubtedly ignoring huge deposits from other people. Deposits made into my account. Deposits from people whose efforts I unintended didn’t even see, leaving them with zero virtual money in return. Nor trust in me.

It’s a two-way process

Don’t take my openness for granted here, even as an executive coach working on and talking about the topic of interpersonal behavior almost 24/7, it’s much easier when another person is the subject of understanding rather than myself. But for me just as for any of you, with age come insight and above all a better understanding of who I really am. Even more, a better understanding of the things that are important to me. A while ago, one of my clients completely lost the trust of an important stakeholder, in such a way that all his well meant actions and attempts to regain trust and understanding resulted in nothing more than unintended withdrawals from an already empty bank account (the stakeholders’ account in this case). Seeing this happen from a short distance, and following up on both their actions, I immediately told my client to close down the account if nothing changed. Without trust you have nothing. Nobody can walk on eggs. Especially not in a high level corporate environment. I have seen people do that and the only result is that they are getting unhappier each day, making more unintended mistakes than ever before. Zero money, zero to buy, remember.

Sometimes we áre happier after the break-up

In the example above, the stakeholder did, shortly after. Close the account. And the funny thing is, for my coaching client it positively ended the immense pressure of trying to fix something that was broken beyond repair. I’m sure, if not in work, we all have been in a position once in our private life where we really wanted to continue a romantic relationship even though we were further away from our own strengths and vibrant self than ever. Only to be happier after the break-up, thinking why on earth did I stay in this relationship for so long? As with everything, the beauty is, you always have the power to decide. You are in the driver seat when it comes down to your own life and career. You determine which emotional bank accounts you manage. Which accounts you close. Which ones you replace by other ones or reactivate if both parties are willing to do so.

Your true stakeholders and their current EBA

Assuming you have your goals clearly on your retina (if not, SWOT yourself). And knowing that a two-faced, insincere and deceitful approach brings you nowhere: Who are your true stakeholders (the ones that support and/or advance your career and wellbeing)? And what is the current status of those emotional bank accounts? Use following 6 questions to assess the EBA status of your most important stakeholder relationships!

  1. Do you respect each other as an individual and by consequence take the time and effort to really understand each other? Even if you are on different levels in the organization?
  2. How about attention to small gestures? E.g. my favorite Christmas card this year was handwritten on a casual piece of paper. No fancy card. But very personal. In relationships the small things are the biggest, even when your stakeholder might seem a pretty untouchable seasoned businessman
  3. Are you keeping your word? And vice versa?
  4. Are mutual expectations clear? With the emphasis on mutual, remember, you don’t want an account where you are the only one depositing
  5. Are you both acting from a position where honesty, loyalty and having strong moral principles is key? You don’t want to trust a person always gossiping, neither do you want to be that person yourself
  6. Are you able to sincerely apologize to each other? I do love this quote by Leo Roskin mentioned by Covey in the book: “It is the weak who are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong”

Spend your money wisely

The above based on the six major ways of making (and receiving) deposits on the emotional bank account Covey describes, are you putting all your money on one account without receiving any ROI? As in do you keep knocking on the same door even if you don’t get any response? Or are you focusing on enlarging your circle of influence if needed? Know that you can close loss-making accounts to make room for new and much more balanced ones.

If you want to take away one learning from all of this, take a closer look at who is currently making the deposits into your account, maybe without you even noticing. They may be your most important stakeholders for future career growth!

Just as I told my daughter yesterday: “Dream big, and spend your money wisely”

Good luck!

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About the author

Sofie Varrewaere is the founder of BigFish4.me and a certified Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coach. After studying a Master in Psychological and Pedagogical Sciences, she ogled into the magical world of Recruitment, Selection and HR Services. Working for the world leader in HR, she has always been in an advisory role in relation to the larger goals of several multinational organizations. In 2013 she started her own company in International executive Coaching. Doing what she is good at, challenging others as well as herself

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