Relationship Banking - Are You Overdrawn?

Karen Benz

June 4, 2018

When working with companies and organizations on issues important to them, relationships rank at the top of the “problems” heap. Relationship issues are what keep managers and leaders up at night. These issues can certainly impact the bottom line since an organization is only as strong as its weakest link. For example, if there is a schism between the CFO and the COO (a common area for tension), that tension is felt throughout the organization in a rippling effect. One way to guard against this building tension is to create a new paradigm for building relationships – that is, Relationship Banking.

In the new paradigm, think of your work relationships as bank accounts. You make deposits into those relationship accounts, hopefully every day. Examples of relationship deposits include such simple things as acknowledging the other person; sincere compliments; an act of kindness; being honest and doing what you say you will do, etc. These deposits build trust, confidence, individual integrity and respect. The key is that the deposits create a cushion against which relationship withdrawals are made.

Relationship withdrawals are less obvious but equally important to discuss. Maybe we forget to include someone on an informational memo, or don’t acknowledge someone when they enter the room, or don’t offer to help a co-worker when they are clearly struggling. These withdrawals need to be offset by the cushion of multiple deposits. If not, trust and respect is never developed, confidence and integrity bruised. These relationship “bruises” can manifest into full-blown conflicts between people.

Do you walk into a room telling someone what you need without concern or regard for what they are doing in that moment? Do you get “right to business” when meeting with others, thinking that asking the other person about how their weekend went is just a waste of time – besides, you really don’t care. These relationship withdrawals are difficult to bear without the buffer of the deposits.

To guard against the bruising, we tell our clients to think about what is important to the other person. For example, being included in activities may be a need someone has. Another may be to “lead.” Finding opportunities to reinforce these needs puts you in the deposit column. You might complement them after observing behavior connected to those needs. Using DISC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance – an observable behavioral and emotional assessment system) as the foundation for these explorations is often very helpful.

The take-away? Make sure you have ample deposits before needing to make a relationship withdrawal!


Karen A. Benz, M.S., is Head Coach and DISC Program Facilitator for BetterManager located in San Francisco, CA. In addition to her work with BetterManager, Karen is on the faculty in the Gabelli School of Business at Roger Williams University.

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June 4, 2018