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Here’s how “emotional bank account” deposits help great leaders develop healthy relationships.

I have read numerous books about relationships and attended several relationship classes. Therein, I found one reoccurring metaphor: the emotional bank account. I first learned about this concept from one of my favorite authors, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, so this is an exciting topic for me! Before we dive too deep, let’s quickly define the “emotional bank account” for those who don’t know.

What is the emotional bank account?

Dr. Covey, the author of several great books to include The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, creates a beautiful metaphor that aligns an emotional bank account to our relationship with others. He explains it like this: “By proactively doing things that build trust in a relationship, one makes ‘deposits.’ Conversely, by reactively doing things that decrease trust, one makes ‘withdrawals.’ The current ‘balance’ in the emotional bank account, will determine how well two people can communicate and problem-solve together.”

There is so much we can learn from this metaphor, so it will serve as the foundation of our discussion today. We’ll build upon this foundation by discussing how leaders can make deposits into others’ emotional bank accounts to build healthy relationships.

Whether we are leading a tumbling toddler, a superstar athlete, a company of marines, a church, or any other person or group of people, we all share one common imperative: we need to build healthy relationships to be effective leaders. I submit to you that the way to build those healthy relationships is to liberally deposit into the emotional bank account of those you lead. I’m going to break that account down into seven categories: love, compassion, peace, patience, knowledge, values, and redemption+restoration.

How great leaders apply the “emotional bank account” metaphor to their relationships.

Let’s start with “why.”

Why is it important for leaders to make daily deposits into others’ emotional bank accounts? Simply put, by overfilling the accounts of those we lead, we give them an abundance to share with others. These liberal deposits create a ripple affect; one healthy relationship begets another which begets another (and so on). This aligns with my belief that each of us can and should make a significant positive impact and leave a lasting legacy on the world around us. Our impact and legacy begins with our direct interaction with others, and it transcends generations as those we lead apply what they learn from us.

Now, let’s break down those categories.

1. Love.

“Love” is such a broad yet sublime virtue. It is also the root of the other six categories. Even so, love is often hard to define. In fact, Oxford languages defines love as, “an intense feeling of deep affection.” But what does that really mean? In my humble opinion, that definition does not truly encapsulate the powerful meaning of love. Since love often invokes a strong physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual response, I believe we need a more thorough definition.

Regardless of our theological belief, the Holy Bible provides one of the most universally accepted definitions of love.:

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7 NLT

The foundation of “love” as described above highlights one’s willingness to sacrifice his or her life (time, service, ego, and emotional responses) for another. A continual, selfless sacrifice (love) for another is the most important daily deposit we can make as leaders! It is the foundational virtue from which all other categories stem.

2. Compassion.

I shared my thoughts on compassion in another great blog post “The Three Day Mental Health Guide: Major Payne Edition.” Here’s what I said: Compassion requires you to validate and value others’ thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Do not fall into the trap of saying, “it’s really not that big a deal.” Instead, allow others to share their feelings with you, so you become empathetic enough to have a strong desire to help. Don’t try to be “Mr. (or Mrs.) Fix It,” but at least express the desire to help! For example, someone once stole a very rare unicorn from my oldest daughter in an online game that she enjoyed playing. It seemed silly at first, but I realized this really hurt her feelings. So first, I had to verbally validate her feelings and emotions. Then, I shared the moment with her until she felt better. Simple but effective! 

Liberally depositing compassion instills confidence and a sense of loyalty in those you lead.

3. Peace.

Albert Einstein said it best, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” The “understanding” that Einstein is referring to is driven by the empathetic listening (compassion) that I mentioned above. Hopefully, you are starting to see how all of these categories intertwine. Without compassion, we are unable to maintain a peaceful environment. A peaceful environment begets a productive environment. This productivity leads to loyalty, confidence, and positive mental attitudes. Ultimately, a peaceful environment is one of the major keys to developing the synergy we require for relationships to thrive. That’s why we will park on this topic for a moment.

I personally view peace as “harmonious living.” Some view “harmonious living” as the absence of arguments and violence. With that in mind, we can deposit peace by simply avoiding the other person, right?! 👍🏾 Wrong! 👎🏾👎🏾 This passive method will only appear to work until you cross paths. Then the “peace” you thought you had will quickly disappear. Depositing peace into your relationships requires action.

Your overall objective is to create a culture of mutual respect and dignity. Here are a few tips:
  • Actively listen to understand, not to respond.
  • Become genuinely intrigued with the other person’s thoughts, interests, emotions, and hobbies.
  • Eliminate judgement (express a negative opinion from a moral high ground) while extending grace (undeserved kindness).
  • Be forgiving (seriously, let it go).
  • Enjoy the other person’s company and find a common ground (common interests).
  • Identify the value the other person brings to the table and create a safe/secure environment for them to grow, develop, and thrive.

4. Patience.

Here’s a little known fact about me and my brothers (and our close friends growing up): we all wanted to be music producers from Middle School through High School. We would go into our computer room, hop on the music studio software that came with the Windows 98 and XP Operating Systems, and record our own albums. I have been searching for some of our old work. It would be great blackmail material 😂. In one of the most infamous/hilarious songs that our buddies AJ and Nick created, they said, “Patience is a virtue. What you can’t wait on may hurt you.” At the time, they thought they created a hit… We thought they created a comical jingle. I never knew that little jingle would give me a profound revelation almost 20 years later. I subconsciously learned a lesson about the importance of patience. That lesson greatly contributes to my own philosophy.

I discussed that philosophy a bit in a previous great blog post “How to shift your perspective and live a better life TODAY!” Therein I asserted that similar to peace, patience requires action and we build our capacity to accept delay/troubles without frustration (patience) by hoping and anticipating that life’s situations will turn out just fine. That’s great for life in general, but how do we develop patience with others?

First, we must internalize this fact: we are all flawed human beings. We all make mistakes. Once we digest that, we must realize patience requires practice.

How to practice patience.:
  • Be attentive and avoid jumping to conclusions.
  • Practice waiting on others without getting frustrated.
  • Practice relaxation and breathing exercises when you feel like you are growing impatient.
  • Be more optimistic in any given circumstance. Identify the opportunities and progress instead of focusing on the “failures” and regression (although the latter may appear more blatant).

AJ and Nick had it right! Failure to deposit patience into our relationships can be detrimental or hurtful. Contrarily, patience deposits will help grow the healthy relationships we all want and need.

5. Knowledge.

I love the word “knowledge” because it describes the information we gain from both experience and education. Thereby, our job as leaders is to create an environment where those we lead have an opportunity to gain relevant experience and continued education.

Examples: For a parent, this may look like showing your child how to maintain a car while systematically teaching them the mechanics of a car. For a corporate leader, this may look like appointing a worker as “team lead” and sending him or her to certification training that will make them better at their job.

Creating this environment will pay dividends in the long run because it encourages critical thinking and problem solving, instills confidence to take action, and promotes continual growth and development. This all leads to a positive culture and an overall successful household, classroom, or organization.

6. Values.

Shared values are some of the most valuable currency we can deposit. See what I did there? Values are defined as, “a person’s principles or standards of behavior.” I believe our values guide our moral compass (i.e. a person’s determination of and subsequent action on what they deem right and wrong).

Here are some questions to think about:
  • What are your values? What do you stand for and/or believe in?
  • How do you decipher between right and wrong?
  • What values do you clearly and concisely teach?
  • What values do you consistently demonstrate?
  • How do you incorporate and enforce a shared value system?

Answering these questions and–more importantly–applying what you learn will help you develop shared values with those you lead which creates a collaborative spirit and informs daily decisions.

7. Redemption + Restoration.

One day, I was so disappointed. My oldest daughter did something (can’t remember what she did) that utterly frustrated and disappointed me. Accordingly, I administered the punishment I felt her wrongful act deserved. I believe I grounded her and restricted her electronic time for two weeks! She was heartbroken yet unapologetic, but I immediately mumbled to myself, “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time!” Then, I probably beat on my chest and celebrated being a firm dad/leader.

Of course that celebratory moment was cut short. My dad/leader, who has an uncanny way of sensing when I have made or will make a mistake, contacted me. I gave him my version of what happened. He responded with a calmness that did not match my high emotions in that moment. He simply told me, “Ok. Make sure you give her an opportunity to redeem herself.”

I initially neither comprehended nor appreciated how profound his advice was. As time progressed and my emotions waned, my dad’s words began to sink in. I went back to my daughter and gave her an opportunity to correct her mistake. She was immediately remorseful and understood why what she did was wrong. That’s when it hit me.

She learned more from her restoration than my condemnation of her.

I’m proud to admit she’s always been a “daddy’s girl,” but that’s when I feel our relationship (and my relationship with my other two children) became even closer. That day, I learned a much-needed lesson as a father and leader, and all of the other categories began to make more sense. I had to sacrifice my previous beliefs, ego, and judgement to truly understand my daughter and provide her the leadership she needed in that moment. I accepted that she (and people in general) will make mistakes, and my dad helped me adjust my perspective to view each mistake as a learning opportunity and an opportunity to make decisions based upon a shared value system. As a result, my patience has grown, and I have made a concerted effort to create an environment of respect that allows those I lead to constantly grow and develop. I truly learned that liberal deposits produce healthy relationships.

Conclusion

Though it may seem like a daunting task at times, we have an obligation to invest in the emotional accounts of those we lead. Those investments will pay dividends as those we lead become leaders themselves and develop their own healthy relationships. Ultimately, our emotional deposits will create a lasting legacy for generations to come! Will you start depositing today?

Olaolu Ogunyemi: U.S. Marine Officer | Mentor | Best-selling Author
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Talk is Cheap: 8 ways healthy couples set the example for their children

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“Talk is Cheap: 8 ways healthy couples set the example for their children” audio

I remember my dad used to tell us, “Talk is cheap, but it costs money to buy land.” I’m sure I was too young to initially comprehend what my dad meant, but as I got older, I responded, “well duh. That’s obvious.” Of course that response was under my breath… ten minutes after he walked away, but it was my response nonetheless.

So why did he feel the need to regurgitate such an obvious analogy? It’s simple. Regardless of how pure our intentions were, our actions did not align with what we said we were going to do. Furthermore, our actions did not align with what we knew we should do. Yep, we talked a good game, but we did not set the example with our actions.

What’s even more interesting is though our parents repetitively reminded us to set the example through our actions, I still often find myself selling some of that “cheap talk” without applying any action. If you’re honest, you probably do it too. If that’s you, just keep reading and we’ll dive into some practical advice I have to help you set the example for your children.

Here’s what triggered my thoughts.

I posted this on Twitter a few days ago:

"😘 'I love you.': what my wife feels/hears daily before I leave. Sometimes, a little infiltrator peeks in and yells at me if she doesn't feel/hear the same. 🥴 Reminder: our children are learning from our actions and inaction. Take heed and use that to your advantage."
Originally posted on my Twitter account on August 12, 2022

I was so proud of myself! “You’re setting a great example brotha,” I told myself. That’s when my own reminder smacked me. I asked myself, “do you truly ‘take heed’ and set the example daily?” Well, the obvious answer was, “no.” There I was selling that cheap talk again. Only this time, I decided to make a list of ways I could set the example. Here’s that list of eight ways healthy couples can set the example daily for their children:

Eight ways healthy couples can set the example.

1. Affection.

“I don’t want my children–especially my daughters–trying to copy us with their friends!” That was my fear when it came to being affectionate in front of my children. Seems rational right? Maybe not. Either way, that was my excuse. I know I’m not the only one.

Trust me, I understand. However, this is one of the best examples we can set for our children. Showing affection to your significant other is demonstrating that you care. You are creating a physical and emotional safe place for him or her. Affection is the outward expression of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual connection, and it gives the receiver a feeling of adoration. To deprive your children of this example is to allow them to inaccurately develop their own understanding of how love is outwardly expressed based upon societal norms. This is the first and arguably the most important example of all.

2. Respect.

What you want, baby, I got it
What you need, do you know I got it?
All I’m askin’ is for a little respect when you get home

Man, Aretha Franklin rocked that song! Of course this song came out loooong before I was born, but it has always been one of my favorites. I mean, really… who doesn’t like a little respect?!

Respect is easy to define but hard to demonstrate because it often has a negative connotation. Somehow, we have managed to create the illusion that to respect someone is to become inferior to them. Instead, to respect someone is to value their words, opinions, and contributions regardless of the circumstance. It is to admire them for who they are and how much they mean to you.

So lay it on thick! Look your significant other in the eyes and tell them, “I want to know what you think before I make this decision.” Tell them, “Thank you so much for what you do for our home.” Speak very highly of your significant other… especially in front of others. Public praise goes a long way! Give genuine compliments without expecting anything in return. Say things we learned in elementary like, “please” and “thank you.” Last but not least, find out how your significant other wants to be respected and do that!

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me

3. Organization skills.

I am a huge advocate for being organized. My wife and I try to do simple things like keep our room clean and orderly to teach the children how to take pride in and ownership of their belongings. However, my favorite thing we do is keep a joint scheduler. We try to put everything on the schedule from birthdays to bill dates to girls’ night out. Why? Because it allows us to plan ahead. It is a simple way to demonstrate a life lesson that our children can use throughout their personal and professional endeavors.

Some will argue that this kind of organization will hamper their relationship because their relationship thrives on spontaneousness. On one hand, I agree that if your schedule is so rigid that it doesn’t allow fun or spontaneous activities or chance encounters, your relationship will likely become stale and mundane. On the other hand, I submit that you should use your scheduler to plan for these opportunities. Many times, we aren’t as spontaneous as we think anyway because our disorganization causes us to lack the focus we need to make the best out of the moment.

I recommend you read the book Deep Work by Cal Newport. You’ll be surprised how much distractions caused by disorganization keep us from accomplishing individual and couple goals.

4. Patience.

This one gets me every time. I believe that patience is like any other muscle; if you don’t intentionally build it, it will fail when it’s tested. Like most parents, my children taught me a lesson about patience with the old “are we there yet” question. They challenged me to ask myself, “why are you getting mad over something so simple?” I admit that my ego didn’t allow me to answer the question maturely the first few times. “Because it’s a stupid question to ask every five minutes!” I would say to myself.

But I eventually stopped acting like a pouty child and decided to answer the question honestly, “I have no reason to be mad.” So if I can handle such a frustrating question without becoming frustrated, there is no reason I should become impatient with my wife. At least that’s my theory and nobody can tell me otherwise! Ok, I’m kidding (kinda). The point is that we have to intentionally build our patience to ensure we set the example for our children.

5. Forgiveness.

Forgiveness and patience go hand-in-hand. In fact, I believe that forgiveness enables patience. True forgiveness requires us to release all traces of bitterness, negative emotions, and desire to get revenge. Sounds pretty easy right? Not even close. Just like patience, we have to practice forgiveness if we want to set a consistent example. This requires us to do a few things:

  1. Acknowledge your emotions. You won’t be able to move on if you pretend everything is ok.
  2. Take some time to gather your thoughts. Don’t sulk and dwell on the negative. Just take some time to journal about how you feel and why you feel this way. Try not to even mention your significant other.
  3. Avoid saying things like, “he (or she) should’ve known better!” Though it may be true, this is inflammatory and will only cause your emotions to spiral.
  4. Understand your emotions and refrain from blaming yourself or your significant other for your emotions. I know, that’s easier said than done!
  5. Confront to restore and strengthen your relationship, not to point out deficiencies or “hold accountable.” I know; you caught him or her red-handed, and this is your proverbial slam dunk! You’ll call them out, they’ll feel convicted, and you will feel a lot better!… Except that rarely happens. Shift your perspective from appeasing your own feelings and emotions to restorating and further developing a healthy relationship.
  6. Now for the hard part–time to have the conversation (you knew you couldn’t avoid it forever). Prepare for every response. In a perfect world, your significant other will just say, “I am so sorry, and I will do anything to make it up.” We don’t live in a perfect world though! Be patient and continue to focus on resolution and forgiveness.
  7. Regardless of how your significant other responded, let it go. It’ll be hard and may take a little time, but it is important for your relationship. Continue to be kind and work together towards a solution. Forgiveness may take time, but you both can do it and continue to grow together!

6. Confidence and Trust.

“Pull over and ask for directions.” “Nah, I got it.” I think this is one of the most common conversations couples have had over the years. I know we have the GPS now, but that doesn’t matter to me because I can figure it out for myself! It’s so bad that I even find myself looking for ways to prove the GLOBAL Positioning System (GPS) wrong. I put “global” in all caps because I wanted to point out that this handheld computer has a perspective that spans far beyond my own; yet, I am only using it as a reference instead of a guide.

We often do the same thing to our significant other, and in turn, our children do the same to us and others. Be confident in your significant other’s perspective and trust in their integrity and abilities.

7. Kindness.

When we demonstrate kindness in front of our children, we are teaching them an extremely valuable lesson. Kindness is all about being generous, friendly, and considerate. Ironically, the longer we are in a relationship, the more we tend to lose sight of this category. It’s easy to become comfortable in a relationship and assume our kindness is implied. Guess what? It’s not!

Put down the phone and offer to cook for the evening. Place the book on your night stand and rub your partner’s back. Add a little money in the budget to send your significant other to the barber shop. Whatever you do, make a daily practice out of putting your significant other’s needs and desires above your own. Strive to make them smile and feel good. Kindness is a key component to a healthy relationship.

8. Harmony and complementary strength.

As a musician, there is nothing more pleasing than a harmonious sound. That means every musical instrument or voice is fulfilling its role by hitting the perfect tone and note to create a melodious chord. In relationships, this kind of euphony can only be replicated when both parties intentionally work towards complementing the other. This is why it is important to connect with someone who complements your strengths and improves your weaknesses.

We tend to naturally attract to those who have those characteristics we lack. That’s why we have to be comfortable enough around our significant other to be vulnerable. This is the only way to truly demonstrate our need for and dependency on our significant other.

It’s time to buy the land

Setting an example for your children requires focus and intentionality. In other words, it won’t happen without a little work. So let’s put some action behind our words and set the example!

Thanks for reading!

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Quick Parent Tip: Build Your [Child’s] Life in Reverse

Hello great people! Recently, I was watching a movie called “Arrival” on Hulu. Here is a brief description I found on Google:

“Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) leads an elite team of investigators when gigantic spaceships touch down in 12 locations around the world. As nations teeter on the verge of global war, Banks and her crew must race against time to find a way to communicate with the extraterrestrial visitors. Hoping to unravel the mystery, she takes a chance that could threaten her life and quite possibly all of mankind.”

I will not give my opinion on the movie (because it is irrelevant for today’s topic). However, there was one quote at the end that got my wheels turning. 🤔

“If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?”

-Actor Amy Adams playing as Louise Banks (Arrival)

I started to pontificate on this slightly modified thought, “What if I could see ‘the end?’ Would I change what I am presently doing?” The easy answer is YES! But how?

1. Start Imagining

In “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey said, “begin with the end in mind.” This requires foresight, imagination, and vision.

Our [your] ability to imagine in high definition is our [your] super power!

Try this: Close your eyes and see your children in the future. What kind of personality do they have? Do you know what brings them joy and fulfillment? What opportunities exist for them? Keep imagining! This is a high definition imagination moment (e.g. if you cannot taste the coffee that future you is sharing with your child[ren], just keep letting your mind wander!)

I’ll give an example. Brea and I imagine that our children will create healthy relationships, maintain a positive mental attitude, and be financially stable/free. That’s “the end,” but how do we get there??

2. Start Building (in reverse)!

Ok, so now that you have a clear picture of “the end” what do you do? You start building… in reverse!

Let’s take financial stability/freedom for example. We asked ourselves, “what does financial stability look like for our children later in life?” We imagined our children comfortably traversing through three key areas of finance: giving, saving/investing, and enjoying.

1. Giving: We truly believe Acts 20:35 that says, “…it is more blessed to give than to receive.” So not only are we extremely transparent with our giving, we encourage our children to do for others! Give their time and their talents. Give [donate] a percentage (at least 10%) of the money they earn. We want them to feel and understand the value of promoting the welfare of others.

2. Saving/Investing: I admit, this is a tough skill that requires discipline and practice, but if mastered at a young age, our children can ensure their future financial stability while building a legacy for future generations.

Currently, we are teaching our children to save using a couple of different “baskets.”

Basket (A) is call “short term savings.” The short term savings basket is used to get things that require them to save for less than ~30 days. For example, my 7 year old would work for a couple of weeks to earn enough money to purchase a $15 toy.

Basket (B) is called “long term savings.” The long term savings basket is used for things that take longer than ~30 days to save for. This is a little harder for the younger ones, but my 11 year old would work hard for a few weeks to purchase some brand new shoes…… Yea, she’s at that phase in her life. Bring back the little cute puzzles from Dollar Tree!! 😬🙄🥴… I digress.

You get the point, right? We are teaching them to consistently put money aside vice constantly working the “instant gratification” muscle (we will get to that in a second).

Lastly, we introduced my oldest to the concept of investing in mutual funds, and thanks to the Financial Literacy Flashcards by the Finance Doctor (shameless plug 🔌⚡), we have been able to teach her some valuable financial literacy terms! In the future, we will likely open a custodial Roth IRA, show her how we consistently invest for her college expenses, etc. But for now, we are slowly exposing her to the concept of long-term investing at a pace that we feel is appropriate.

3. Enjoying: This one came natural for our children–nobody had to teach them how to spend/enjoy money. And guess what? There’s nothing wrong with that! By mastering the other two key areas, our children will be able to reap the benefits of their hard work. We are not flashy people, but there are a few luxuries that we indulge in as a family so our children understand that there is nothing wrong with treating yourself! In fact, it is a must for a healthy lifestyle. Work hard, play hard!

And that’s it! That is just one of many examples of how we are building our lives in reverse. See how easy that was?!

Now it’s your turn. Give me an example of how you are (or will start) living your life in reverse!