Is Your Relational Bank Account Empty?

Ever have the scenario where you need to influence someone and realize you are relationally bankrupt?

Ever try to motivate your team to go the “second mile” or give above and beyond only to face resistance and pushback?

Maybe your relational back account is empty and you have no currency to exchange for your “ask”.

Think about what currency actually represents.

Currency is a generally accepted medium of exchange. It’s what you exchange to get something of perceived value. If you don’t have currency, you don’t have the means to make the exchange. So, all of us spend a lot of time working to build up our monetary currency but do we also spend a lot of time investing time in building up our relational currency?

Relational currency is the output of investing in developing authentic relationships with those we seek to influence. It’s the result to relating to others as a fellow human beings and understanding their story so you can truly understand them and lead them effectively. It’s not contrived, microwaved or manufactured, but it is intentional.

This exchange is facilitated by deposits and withdrawals. As a leader, we are constantly making relational deposits and withdrawals in those around us. There are times when we need to ask our teams to give a little more or we need to have a difficult feedback conversation or we need to push our teams harder towards a goal. For us to be effective at doing this we need to be intentionally building up our relational currency with those we are leading.

The #1 currency a leader has and needs to obtain is Relational Currency.

Drive it to Action: Here are a few tips on how to build relational currency with your teams and teammates:

Get To Know Their Story: Everyone has a story and their story will give you valuable insight into who they are, what drives them and why they work the way they do. I love this quote from Mr. Rogers and use it with my team all the time when we share our stories.

Mr. Rogers said, “Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.”

Be intentional to ask each your teammates to share their story and learn from it.

Actively Listen and Ask Questions: When you listen do you actively listen? Are you engaged or just hearing what they are saying? Relational currency is built by demonstrating a real interest in the other person. This is done by asking questions and truly listening to what the other person is saying. You will get great insight on how to appropriately lead someone when you actively listen and ask good questions.

Simply Be With Them: To build relational currency we have to get into the world of those we are trying to impact. There is no impact without contact and no commitment without connection. Do you only spend formal time with your team or do you also create informal opportunities to invest in the relationship?

There needs to be a good balance between time spent together in formal and informal environments. A formal environment could be a weekly staff meeting, a monthly performance meeting or another meeting you have formally established in your calendar. An informal meeting is less structured but not less intentional. This could be going to lunch or for coffee, stopping by their desk or office unexpectedly or other time you create spontaneously.

The key to informal time is to make it intentional. You can build significant relational currency during this time. Ideally you would spend a large % of your time in informal contexts vs. formal contexts.

Practice Empathy: Empathy is feeling what the other person is feeling. Practicing empathy will help you as a leader understand better where others are coming from. It provides context and will help you build relational currency.

This is an investment that is well worth the time and effort required. Leadership boils down to influencing those around us and your relational currency is an invaluable asset you can build up to make your leadership influence more effective.

At the end of the day, leadership is about leading humans and it’s hard to build a relationship when you need it. Invest today in developing relational currency.

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