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How Full Is Your Bucket?
By Thomas Shenk

How Full Is Your Bucket, a slim but enormously powerful book we use often at SSCA, reveals how even the briefest human interactions affect our relationships, productivity, health, and longevity. We all have a bucket, or said differently, we all have psychological needs. As a leader in our organization we have an impact upon people in every interaction we have. A full bucket is synonymous with energy. When you interact with subordinates, peers, and people you report to, what impact are you having? Are you a positive source of energy which will undoubtedly contribute to your value, or …not? Do you bring a full bucket to work?

  • The number-one reason people leave their jobs: They don't feel appreciated.

Research shows that individuals who receive regular recognition and praise:

  • Increase their individual productivity
  • Increase engagement among their colleagues
  • Have better safety records and fewer accidents on the job
  • Are more likely to stay with the organization longer
  • Receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers

Below you’ll find a brief overview of this scientifically proven phenomenon, as well as five strategies to achieve great results.

Power of positive psychology

The book's main concept uses the metaphor of a bucket and a dipper. For both ourselves and for others, we fill buckets by increasing positive emotions and empty buckets by decreasing positive emotions or by adding negativity. Each of us has an invisible bucket that stores our emotions. It is constantly being emptied or filled. While we are responsible for our own bucket, we are easily invited to affect those of others by what they say and do to us. Our responsibility is to store positives and let the negatives go on by. Much more can be said about “let them go by,” but suffice for this writing that it is our responsibility not to hold on to negatives. It is just a beautiful (read: ugly) way to empty our bucket. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it's empty, we feel awful.

Each of us also has an invisible dipper. When we use that dipper to fill other people's buckets -- by saying or doing things to others that invite their positive emotions -- we also fill our own bucket. But when we use that dipper to take from others' buckets -- by saying or doing things that diminish their positive outlook -- we diminish ourselves.

A full bucket gives us a positive outlook and renewed energy. Every drop in that bucket makes us stronger and more optimistic. But an empty bucket poisons our outlook, saps our energy, and undermines our will.

We face a choice every moment of every day: We can fill one another's buckets, or we can dip from them. It's an important choice -- one that profoundly influences our relationships, productivity, health, and happiness. As simplistic and commonsensical as it sounds, this concept is backed by extensive research.

Human lives are shaped by interactions and these are rarely neutral. Most of our interactions are either negative or positive. Positivity increases productivity, loyalty, engagement in social circles and better customer care; praise and recognition are the critical components of positivity.

Negativity kills. We live in a negative culture where praise and recognition are rare. However, it is critical to note that praise and recognition has to be personalized. For example, "employee of the month"-type of praise and recognition hardly works as it is impersonal and almost everybody in the end ends up getting one.

"Five Strategies for Increasing Positive Emotions"

* Strategy 1: Prevent Bucket Dipping. This can be achieved by becoming conscious, by always asking "Am I adding or dipping?" Be aware of your influence.

* Strategy 2: Shine a Light on What is Right. Focus on what's right instead of what's wrong. The optimal rule determined by extensive research is FIVE positive strokes to every ONE critical stroke. Don’t forget to acknowledge others when they fill your bucket, too.

* Strategy 3: Make Best Friends. Great relationships lead to increased satisfaction. It takes work to keep up your friendships. Take the time to honor your friends at work and outside the office.

* Strategy 4: Give Unexpectedly. Unexpected praise has an element of surprise. Seek chances to give; don’t wait to express gratitude or positive recognition. Seize the moment.

* Strategy 5: Reverse the Golden Rule. "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them". This one is tricky! Read it slowly….

Read this important book today!