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Why the state of your Goodwill Accounts affects the impact of your leadership style

Mar 04, 2024

Oiling the wheels

I put it to you that we live in an interdependent society- yes, we can do things and get places without anyone’s help, but very often, do we not achieve more when we work in collaboration with others? 

Teamwork, in all facets of life, is important in order to achieve what we want to achieve and therefore, is it worth us considering what those helpful behaviours and social skills might be which oil the wheels of communication and build more effective, and authentic relationships? During The Winning Edge course, we have an exercise which explores those very things.

We ask participants to discuss in groups what characteristics, traits and behaviours, if we practice frequently and sincerely, would help us get on better with people in an interdependent society and enhance the chance of better relationships. Everyone then reconvenes and we draw a list up. The Facilitator adds ‘cooperative’ as a starter for ten. Then the fun begins…

We ask everyone to score themselves out of 10 for each individual behaviour on the list. 1 is shocking, 10 is walking on water; it’s always interesting when people are asked to do some self-reflection. They might never have given too much deep thought as to how they fare as an active listener, or whether they see themselves as someone who easily collaborates, is supportive or who is authentic. Sure, they might describe themselves as such however, scoring yourself is slightly different and requires more thought. Plus, by this stage of the 3-day course, there is a lot of self-honesty and deep reflection going on, so many come out of this exercise realising that maybe, there are some areas they could be working on. Some participants even suggest they should have two separate lists- one for home, one for work. Maybe even a third list for queueing at the supermarket!

What is the benefit of giving conscious thought to and working on any of these areas to increase the score? How might it have an impact on the relationships in your life– both personally and professionally? What would be the cumulative effect of increasing the score by say, 5%? If a salesperson thought more consciously about working on these behaviours, an upgrade of 5% could have a huge impact on the results they generate. Who gets the biggest benefit from you working on those behaviours which you might not score so highly on? You do! Is there anything on the list you couldn’t improve on? If you think not, maybe some more self-awareness then..?!

It’s interesting to note that if you do have two lists, what are the differences between home and work? Is it easier to be patient at home, or at work? And here’s a challenge- if you gave the same list to someone who knows you well and asked them to rate you on each behaviour, do you think you’d get different results? Maybe they’d score you higher. Maybe lower…

We ask participants that if they did the exercise again in six months’ time, could there be a shift? Once you know this Winning Edge stuff, you can’t unknow it and as mindset should always be a work in progress, it’s about recognising that there can always be some self-improvement.

Goodwill to all others

A Goodwill Account is a very useful way to think about your relationships. You have a Goodwill Account with everyone you know- your partner, children, parents, siblings, friends, neighbours, colleagues, clients and customers you deal with. A Goodwill Account is like your bank account and what happens in your bank account? You get to make withdrawals and deposits. You get credits when you strengthen relationships, when you pay attention, when you remember things that are important to others, when you take an interest, when you help them out. The withdrawals to the accounts take place when you ask for favours, when you’re late for a date or a meeting, when you say you’ll do something but don’t. What happens when we take out more than we put in? We go overdrawn. How do we keep the balance in the black and keep deposits going in? When you keep doing the good stuff with no expectation of anything in return.

Building a rapport with someone means you’re making deposits into your Goodwill Account – it’s not about ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ – it’s genuine. Making deposits in your Goodwill Account is very different to scoring brownie points– that’s when we do something because we plan to get something in return e.g. ‘If I offer to help Alan out with his new sales pitch, I can then ask him to do some research for me on that new biz opportunity…’

How does knowing about the state of your Goodwill Account help you as a leader and a manager? It’s about managing, leading or influencing by stature versus status. Stature is something others give you, status is something you give yourself. If you are overdrawn in your Goodwill Account, then the temptation is to borrow from your status. People feel like they ‘have to’ do things for you, whereas if you are in credit, you manage by stature and people will do things because they they want to.

Everyone’s a winner.

One participant on a Winning Edge course told of a colleague who had won the colleague care survey for five years running in their organisation. It took her 45 minutes to get to her desk every morning because she would check in with her team, find out how they were, how their evening/weekend had been, remembered their partner and/or children’s names and asked about anything significant that was happening in her colleagues’ lives at the time. By their own admission, the course participant did say that if ever the colleague needed to ask her team last minute to help with reaching a deadline on a project, or to stay late to prep for a business pitch, the immediate response was to assist- she had built such a genuine authentic rapport with them that they didn’t need to think twice. It was never about doing it to get something back- it wasn’t about scoring brownie points. We should maintain Goodwill Accounts with others because we trust and care for them, not because we want something in return.

If you lead by stature then you get discretionary effort from others: i.e., they’ll work later, come up with ideas on how they can help you or the situation, they’ll go the extra mile for a client or customer; they’ll be more resourceful and solution-orientated, meaning increased creativity and productivity.

A Goodwill account in the black is absolutely vital for building and maintaining authentic relationships with those around you and in the workplace; when those accounts are in the black, those you work with want to help you with your goals, and they know the part they play and feel valued when it comes to achieving team and company goals. It’s a two-way street but by fostering a culture whereby you lead by stature rather than status, more often than not, people want to be part of something which feels like a positive force for good. I wonder how many businesses are managed through stature as opposed to status.

Scores on the doors

Have you heard of the Golden Rule? Treat others as you would like to be treated.

A great way to think about enhancing relationships however, who does that make it about? It focuses on what we as the individual would like, not the person themselves. On The Winning Edge course, we talk about the Platinum Rule: Treat others as they would like to be treated.

Several years ago, a participant on one of our courses perfectly illustrated this when she said she had worked really hard on a project and her manager wanted to acknowledge her contribution and reward her to say thank you. His gift- a bottle of champagne which he proudly announced was quite expensive and one of his favourites. The trouble is, the recipient didn't drink alcohol because of her religious beliefs. Whilst the recipient was grateful that her manager had acknowledged her efforts, wouldn't it have been even more thoughtful if he had stepped into her world to think about what she might have liked...?

It goes back to the helpful social skills and behaviours which help to enhance relationships. Being interested in what others are interested in shows them how valued they are, that you are genuinely interested in them and what they say and do. If you are not genuinely interested in people, don’t be a leader and don’t expect to influence others!

I once heard that on Oprah Winfrey’s last talk show, she said: “I've talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They want to know: 'Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?”

When we think about the part we play in relationships, we can understand how improving active listening skills, collaboration, communication, empathy, patience and support, can be a real gamechanger.

Perhaps you could draw up a list of those helpful traits, characteristics and behaviours that improve and enhance authentic and effective relationships and score yourself. There may be areas you feel you could improve upon. Maybe not but as Ray Kroc once said:

“When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you rot.”

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