Authors Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton used research by the Gallup Organization to craft the bestseller How Full Is Your Bucket?  Their basic theory is that we start out every day with a bucket that is emptied or filled by what others say and do to us.

We each also have a dipper. We can use it to fill other people’s buckets by delivering positive messages, or we can dip from others’ buckets by delivering negative messages. When we fill others’ buckets, we replenish our own. And when we take from others’ buckets, we deplete our own.  The process is contagious. If you fill others’ buckets with positive messages, they will carry it forward. So, if you work for me and I build you up, you’re more likely to build up the people you come in contact with. If I drain your bucket, you’re more likely to dump on others.  The method has proven effective not only in the work place but in schools as well.

Case in point: Reuben rose through the ranks to lead a unit of his company.  He was extremely popular in part because he was so positive with people. He saw his ability to encourage people as a major focus of his life. He made it his mission. He wasn’t afraid to confront people when necessary, but he tried to be more positive than negative.  When there was an opening to move higher in the organization, Reuben was one of many candidates considered.  In the end, he got the job in part because of the trail of good feelings he had left behind him. Don’t misunderstand—Reuben wasn’t a flatterer. His weren’t empty gestures. He sincerely tried to make a difference, and in the end, he benefited as much as anyone.

The Playbook
→ People remember and respect those who make them feel special. If you can’t show appreciation, people won’t stick around. You really have only three choices when you respond to others: praise, ignore or criticize.
→ Keep track of the abundances of your day—the times when someone has been nice to you or when you’ve done someone a favor, when a meeting has gone particularly well or when you’ve offered someone praise or encouragement. Jot them down on your computer or in a notepad in your purse or wallet.
→ Be genuine about your praise. Don’t manufacture it for the sake of appearances.
→ Keep in mind research by psychologist John Gottman that shows healthy relationships have a ratio of five positive interactions for every negative one. So if you’re handing out more corrections than pats on the back, people are going to start feeling bad about themselves. When you come in the room, they’re going to want to duck, whether it’s your employees or your kids.
→ Be specific about what you praise. Highlight a report the person submitted or a comment they made in a meeting.
→ Turn a negative into a positive. If you notice someone seems out of sorts or is struggling, ask what’s wrong. Find out what kind of help they need or whether they have the resources to get the job done.
→ Keep track of your own daily achievements, however small.
→ Remember: Nine out of 10 people say they’re more productive when they’re around positive people.
→ Fill another’s bucket and you automatically fill your own.
→ Smile. Nothing gives as much happiness as the gift of awareness

Your action step: How will you choose to fill buckets today – yours and others’? Dr. Rob

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