Whether you are the CEO of an organization, a supervisor of a group of collectors, the president of a trade organization or a den mother for a local scouting pack, the topic of leadership is an important one. The success of any firm or department is contingent upon having the right staff members in the right seats and the best person leading the charge. Effective leadership is critical to our success. Are you a good leader?
Astronaut Chris Hadfield nicely outlined the importance of good leadership when he said, “Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine.”
Does your team shine? Everyone in the collections space is keenly aware that today the stakes are high and the consequences of the daily activities on our collection floors really matter relative to the viability and success of our organizations. Without the right leadership team, your leader ship will float aimlessly.
Years ago I was doing a substantial amount of leadership training and found some great material in a book by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, “The Leadership Challenge.” If you are striving to be the most effective and respected leader you can be in any setting there are five fundamental traits you must develop. According to Kouzes and Posner you must:
1. Model the Way
If you want your staff to act or react in a certain way, then YOU must set the example. You have to find your voice, clarify your personal values, and then regularly set the example. You must align your personal actions with the culture that has been established within your organization. In other words, you must proverbially, “talk the talk and walk the walk” within your department/organization.
2. Inspire a Shared Vision
Sometimes the challenges that face us daily dampen our vision for the future of our organizations. A good leader is inspirational and helps those they lead to envision the future positively by focusing on the exciting and hopeful dynamics of the business. You must rally the staff members and enlist them in sharing the same forward-thinking sentiments.
3. Challenge the Process
One of my favorite quotes is, “Change is inevitable. Growth is Optional.” We absolutely have to accept that change is a constant in the collections industry and we will perpetually be challenging our comfort levels. Just as we learn a new process or rule, someone will change it. It is endless. An effective leader will continually search for new opportunities by seeking innovative ways to manage change and creating safe environments for staff to embrace the unexpected turns in the road.
4. Enable Others to Act
On an average day in any collections office there are thousands of moving targets: letters, voicemails, phone calls, emails, faxes and attorney letters. As a leader you cannot possibly, personally, manage and oversee every aspect of the office. Through effective training and oversight we must cultivate a team that can act quickly, nimbly and confidently. We must build trust and ultimately share power and discretion regularly.
5. Encourage the Heart
We spend a large percentage of our lives at work. And we encounter all types of emotions and life challenges. An effective leader sets their sights on significant and important goals for the organization but is continually cognizant that the team must have a personal as well as a professional balance. Make a point to regularly recognize staff contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence. Create a spirit of community within the office and celebrate significant milestones.
Leadership in the collections space today is a tremendous challenge. In the midst of great industry adversity, the leader must wear the optimistic face and fearlessly plod forward while setting an example for those that follow. Henry David Thoreau once noted, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” What you see as a leader, that vision, is what creates a strong foundation for any organization. If you have the respect and admiration of those that follow you, your team will eventually see what you see and move in successful, positive and forward directions. And, if the leadership challenges start to get the best of you, then listen to the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, “Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.”
We encourage our readers to submit a “best practice” idea for inclusion in this column. Until next time, I’m in a collection office near you!