have just completed reading, again, the book “The Seven Habits of Highly
Effective People” by author Stephen Covey.
Credit professionals, at
all levels, and in different companies and interests all share a common
trait. They have too many priorities, too few resources and more to
accomplish than time allows. The problem is how to balance priorities that
constantly change from day to day. Priorities, by definition, are generally
the first thing that needs to be done.
Many of us are faced
with multiple priorities and the challenge is to have a plan on how to
approach and put these priorities in order so the most important priorities
get accomplished first. The real challenge comes when a task that seems to
be a major priority is overshadowed by a new priority that takes precedence.
The majority of us who do organize our work are often interrupted by
constant “Chinese Fire Drills”.
have a more complicated problem than just setting daily priorities; we have
to deal with multiple constituents as well. There is the boss, and his/her
boss, sales, operations, customer service, billing, cash application, peers,
subordinates, and last but certainly not least, the customer.
In his book, author
Covey begins by stating that in the end, the only person we have complete
control over is ourselves. It is our responsibility to develop our
capabilities and exercise the habits necessary to become both effective and
successful. The perceptions we have of our workplace, supervisor,
subordinates and position determines how we approach our work and how we
appear to others. We have the ability to adjust these perceptions and in
doing so change our interpretation of our world. Covey calls it “changing
In order to “change
the paradigm’ Covey suggests that we focus on seven habits. The following
seven habits are the habits that he has found to be used consistently by
those that have demonstrated to be highly effective. Regardless of their
background, position, education or the industry they work in all possess
these same seven characteristics.
Take responsibility for our actions and make our choices on how to respond
to decisions and challenges based on our core values. We should never react
or be influenced by outside opinions that would override our values when
making our decisions. Too often we are influenced by the opinions of others
and lose sight not only of our values but our value to our company. As
credit professionals we must remind ourselves that we would not be in the
positions we hold if did not add value to our organization.
begin at the end: Everything
is created at least twice. Determine first, what you want to accomplish, and
then create the plan to get there. By focusing on what you want to
accomplish first you have a much better chances that you will not only be
effective but also successful. In his book, Five Lessons, The Modern
Fundamentals of Golf,” the legendary golfer, Ben Hogan wrote that before
ever swinging the golf club visualize the shot and where you want the golf
ball to go then make the shot. The
theory is that if you can see yourself accomplishing what you set out to do
then you know you are following the right plan. Covey uses a similar example
about a group whose task is to cut a new trail through a dense jungle. While
the majority of the group begins to cut through the dense brush one of the
group climbs a tree to survey the surroundings and then announces to the
group that they are in the wrong jungle. If we do not have a vision of what
we want to accomplish or if we are in the wrong jungle it does not matter
how long or hard we work.
We must constantly be
abreast of current business conditions and innovation in our professions
that can have an affect on our responsibilities.
Time Around Priorities: Develop
and practice time management skills. Determine what is truly important and
those priorities that are urgent and those that are not. Priorities can be
both important and urgent. However, some are important but not urgent while
others are urgent but not really important. We have to look at the work on
our desk and identify what we are spending our time on and whether it is
really urgent or important that we work on it now.
to Win: Success in any interaction, business or personal, should never be at
the cost of someone else’s success. Whether negotiating with a customer,
boss, subordinate or friend sometimes it is best for all too simply agree to
disagree. Always keep in mind that “beating” the other person does not
mean that you will be successful.
First, And then be Understood:
Always try to see the solution through the other person’s eyes. By doing
this we develop a new perspective about our views and will assist us in
effectively communicating with others. We should always listen with the
intent to understand the other party and not just try to sell them on our
ideas. We should never propose a solution until we fully understand what the
problem is. Listening provides
others to air their concerns and also creates an atmosphere of trust. This
is one of the crucial steps in prioritizing and also in negotiation.
Much has been written about synergy, creativity and cooperation, and how the
whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Creativity and cooperation is
the key to being a successful credit professional especially when confronted
with tough business situations. Using our training along with factual
information and creative alternatives will demonstrate to our company
leaders our net worth and contribution to the organization.
the Saw: This makes all the other six habits previously discussed possible.
Covey demonstrates the concept of “sharpening the saw” in the book by
using the example of a person spending several hours sawing a tree and
making very little progress. Finally, an observer suggests that the person
quit sawing and sharpen the saw to which the person sawing replies, “I
don’t have time to stop, I’m too busy sawing.”
In order to be effective
one has to have not only the proper tools but they have to be in good
condition and used daily. Covey identifies these tools in the book as
“dimensions” and explains that there are four of them that are
interrelated. All four must be used together to form a balance in our daily
routine and by practicing and using these four dimensions we will eventually
become highly effective. Not until we achieve this plane of effectiveness
will we experience complete success.
According to Covey the
four dimensions are:
It is important that we eat properly and exercise.
We need to keep our minds sharp and constantly strive to learn new things.
We need to read, take advantage of training opportunities, both formal and
informal, and be open to new ideas especially those brought to us by
subordinates. Change is a constant and we should never shy away from trying
Renew commitments to personal values and constantly re-evaluate principles
and goals both business and personal.
Take the time to understand others first, show empathy and strive for
The “Seven Habits of
Highly Successful People” is a reminder that to be effective we first must
be well informed, possess values and be true to our own principles.
Throughout history there are numerous stories of highly successful people,
Henry Ford, J. Cash Penny, Henry Brackenridge, who all failed, many times
more than once, but they had a plan, they had values, they had principles
and they never stopped trying. There are many highly ineffective people
among us but no-one ever writes books about them.
I wish you well.
The information provided above is for
educational purposes only and not provided as legal advice. Legal advice
should be obtained from a licensed attorney in good standing with the Bar
Association and preferably Board Certified in either Creditor Rights or