A New Challenge

February 4, 2017

So, after years as a Credit Manager you have the job cased and things are working smoothly.  You have done things right, great job. So why are you dissatisfied? Why are you bored?

According to Psychology Today (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-new-resilience/201005/feeling-bored-work-three-reasons-why-and-what-can-free-you), workplace boredom is one of the biggest causes of workplace stress (especially in a tough economy), and in fact overworked employees rate workplace satisfaction higher than those who have not enough work to do.

The article suggests three reasons that you get bored: you feel like you do not fit in; like you have been “shelved” by the higher-ups, or like there is nowhere to grow at work. The article discusses each of these in more detail, but they mean just what you would think.

The Psychology Today article suggests that you not wallow in the feelings that can result from finding yourself in this situation. In fact the suggestion is to ignore the emotion of it all. This allows you to be more objective in dealing with the issue, so you can look for new stretch projects and plunge headfirst into that work.

The suggestions are as follows:

  • Think of past work or projects where you were at the top of your game: what were they about, who did you work with, what was the work environment like?
  • Talk to your boss about wanting a new challenge. Pay attention to his/her verbal and non-verbal reaction to your request.
  • Look inside or outside work for the kind of projects that interest you. If work cannot offer anything, consider volunteering somewhere.

When people get bored at work, they quite often, and unconsciously, create a little bit of drama just for some excitement. Maybe they let something get to them and then say or do something that creates a furor. Be warned, you may pay a hefty price for this bit of excitement: you may be seen as a trouble-maker, or worse, someone who can’t handle themselves.

Practically speaking you need to make a list of the things you like to do at work, and then see if you can do more of that sort of work. Charitable organizations are an option, and they always need more help than they have. But if you continue to be bored, do NOT play Farmville at your desk! You are not being paid to do that, and you worked too hard on your education to lose your job for surfing the net!

People change, organizations change, so it is no surprise that every number of years you may feel the need for something different. If you are bored, be glad you noticed! Now you can do something about it.

Most of us cannot afford to up and quit, but we can afford to spend a little brain-time to find a way to reinvigorate our work lives: no one else will do it for you, and it will make a difference to your health, your relationships and how you feel about you. Sounds pretty worthwhile!

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The Psychologist is In

February 10, 2016

There is a pretty solid foundation in credit procedures on how to collect debt. Call, remind them of their commitment, let them know that there are consequences that could include seizure of property, loss of reputation, etc.

If you think about it, there is some psychology at work. You appeal to the debtor’s sense of obligation or pride, or make them worry about consequences. It is not sophisticated psychology for sure, but the collection industry is built around these practices.

So what other psychology is out there that could be useful to the collector or credit manager? There is a surprising amount of psychology around debt, the accumulation of debt, and how to set things up in advance to facilitate collection.

There is a psychological phenomenon called “anchoring”, where peoples’ judgment is impacted by arbitrary numbers. The online journal Science Daily discusses the 2009 paper by Dr. Neil Stewart (of the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick, UK) called “The Cost of Anchoring on Credit–Card Minimum Repayments” where he examined the impact of minimum payment amounts in debtor’s decisions.

Stewart found that those who were planning to pay the entire balance were not impacted by the presence of a minimum payment amount, but those who were not intending to pay the full amount (38% of card holders, according to the study) more often than not opted to pay the minimum balance.

Furthermore, the lower the suggested minimum payment (which vary by credit card), the study found that the average actual payments were lower, even if the debtor could afford to pay more.

Do we as collectors employ this tactic? To a certain extent we do. When setting up a payment plan, best practices say to ask for a higher initial payment to establish commitment of the debtor. Essentially, we set a higher expectation for that first payment, and we do it because it works.

Another study called “Winning the Battle but Losing the War” published in the Journal of Marketing Research highlights consumers’ satisfaction with paying off small debts, even if there is larger or higher interest bearing debts in their portfolio. The psychology of why this happens is drawn from the psychology of decisions and goal pursuit – people are disproportionately impacted by small “losses”. When those “losses” are debts, people often elect to clear up small debts first, thereby creating a sense of progress.

While we as credit managers work to set a manageable credit limit that once reached the debtor can actually pay off ( hopefully all at once) it would be reaching to say we are taking advantage of the psychology around the preference for repayment of small debts. We are simply being practical, matching customer cash flow to expected debt. In fact the ‘Winning the Battle’ study suggests that this is a tactic that debtors will employ when they have multiple debts…and a credit manager would hopefully be able to identify and avoid those kind of customers in the first place!

Putting your mind to it, credit managers could come up with some clever ways to employ this information, and would do so differently for consumer customers than you would for commercial customers. The strategy on how to employ this psychology would flow from having a clear understanding of your customers, their cash flow and their business.

Ultimately this science suggests you make sure you set management credit limits that you enforce, and that when you set minimum payments or payment plans, don’t lowball.

It sounds like credit managers know their psychology!


Fallis Trophy Found!

November 29, 2015

It is amazing what you can find in your basement when you are cleaning out old boxes! Requesting anonymity, this former Chapter President and curler (whose name you just might see in these pictures) found the trophy in a bout of fall cleaning.

The Fallis Trophy just might be the oldest curling trophy in Manitoba, dated 1912 on the main cup, and was first awarded in 1914 (101 years ago), and last awarded in 2006.

The inscription on the cup reads

“The Fallis Trophy, Presented to the Canadian Credit Men’s Association by Mr. W.S. Fallis presented 1912 for Annual Competition”

The Fallis Trophy is now safely on display at National Leasing’s Winnipeg Office.

 


CCP OJT: OMG!

August 10, 2015

“When my 19-year-old called me to find out where the broiler was in our kitchen, I knew I’d let my kids down.” Sarah Willis

If you have ever been trained for a job (some people never get any training), you likely have some memories you would rather forget about a major mistake or embarrassment during that training. If the person training you was a poor trainer or resented the fact that they had to train, your experience was likely even less pleasant, and your memory of that person is likely not very flattering. Is that how you would like to be remembered as you train the next generation of credit staff for your company?

So what could a trade magazine for landscapers teach the desk-bound credit manager? Plenty, if we are to believe Sarah Willis of Landscape Trades magazine. Ms Willis suggests that training approaches, specifically On-the-Job Training (OJT), can be universal, and suggests that there is a 4-stage approach:

  • Keep it simple
    • Put them at ease (no one wants to look dumb). Create a culture where people are not afraid to ask questions, or ask for help, or to try something on their own
    • Show what to do, one step at a time, and explain the reason
    • Let them do it, correct mistakes right away
    • Follow-up, make sure they “got it”
  • Live in the moment
    • Teach one task at a time
    • Teach the task at hand
  • Real-life results
    • If you train in the classroom, ensure you also train in the environment where the work actually happens.
    • Ensure staff know why they are doing what they are doing
  • Invest in success
    • There is a time commitment for trainers, make sure the trainers have the resources to do it right
    • Staff tend to be more confident, and will train new staff in a similar way in which they were trained. Doing it right leads to a well trained work force

Likely the most important is the first step, as it sets the tone for the work to come. Good people do not want to mess up, and it is not fair for them to feel stupid for making rookie mistakes when they are in fact rookies. That experience, good or bad, will be how they treat the people they eventually train (see #4). You could end up with an office full of patient staff, or an office full of mean-spirited people who think humiliation is a good training technique.

When things get crazy at work and you can’t be involved in every decision, your staff will make decisions to get on with their day if you are not there to do it. The two things that will save your bacon will be good procedures and good training.

It is worth doing right!

 

(Source “Teaching quality, speed and efficiency on the job”, Page 4, 6,7, Landscape Trades, June 2012. http://www.landscapetrades.com/)


Membership Report June 2015

August 1, 2015

Below please find the membership reports to June 2015, based on payments and registrations to the end of June 2015 (click on the image to expand). Our overall total is up by two members and the CCP numbers are up by a total of 9 people.

Our student numbers have declined (our students have graduated to CCP), there is still a healthy number of students in the Manitoba Chapter.

June 2015 paid membership

June 2015 non-paid membership

 


The Biggest Sin

June 5, 2015

In my experience, the biggest issue I have seen is not fraud or evil, the biggest sin (in business) is incompetence.

That is not to say there are calamitously horrible decisions being made daily, everywhere, but there are some for sure, and small instances of incompetence add up.

Incompetence comes in many forms. Unskilled or stupid people will manifest incompetence in short order.

I think that we all face the risk of incompetence, and it is not from stupidity or lack of skill, it comes from complacency, and two kinds in particular: inattention, and failing to remember why you are there in the first place.

Inattention is a problem we all could face. Everyone is busy, and if you show even mediocre skills, you are often assigned more and more work. You eventually get so busy that you stop looking at some details…and you miss something. If it is big enough, you lose the confidence of management and you could lose your job. Is it fair to call that incompetence? Is it fair to blame you? Well, incompetence is often judged by the outcome, and blame is usually attached to those immediately involved, which could very well be you, and the underlying cause is likely never examined.

The second type of complacency, failing to remember why you are there in the first place, is a form of arrogance. People focus on their awesomeness based on past successes, and forget that they are there to do a job – whether it is to monitor quality of products or services or watch some set of numbers, sometimes people think that their presence is enough to keep the big machine working smoothly. Something gets missed and you have a “situation”.

The fix for both of these is really hard to pin down. You could say “better management” is the solution, and you would be right. Except that is where incompetence usually appears. As an underling, what can you do?

There may not be a lot you can do, but you can do your job, do it well. Maybe try to do a bit of their job too, if you can. You might spot an issue that would otherwise get missed and at the same time rise in the estimation of your superiors. It is a tough situation to be in when you are not in the driver’s seat…you may just have to keep your eyes open for “other employment opportunities”. You wouldn’t be the first!


Service Culture, Please?

April 5, 2015

Perhaps this falls into the category “what is wrong with people today”, but that is not my intent. But I have a beef. Best to explain with an example:

As part of a review of internal procedures, I asked a consultant to send me a list of penalties for violations of certain regulations. He send me an 8-page excerpt from the law (in 8-point font) and provides no direction on where I can find information on the one issue we had discussed.

What was the impact of his action? Well, first, I questioned the “consulting” part of abilities, and second, fearing more of the same, we plan not to engage his services for the work we were tendering. Note that we have not told him this yet, and after 6 weeks, he has not even called once to follow up. Not the guy for the job.

Imagine asking for a set of financial statements and being presented with a printed copy of all general ledger transactions. The message is: here it is, you sort it out because I can’t be bothered.

I am not a high-maintenance manager that demands customized service. I am, however, someone who tries to add value, and most of the time that means serving others, and that means going the extra mile.

Whether we are in credit or not, if we sit at a desk, we are information/knowledge workers. In order to add value you need to provide information and not just data.

Let me rephrase: we need to provide usable information.

The best employee I ever worked with, Julie, was great at this. Not only would she prepare everything accurately and clearly, when she ran into something she did not understand, she studied it, found a solution, and brought the solution to me and asked if she was right. And she almost always was right.

As a result of my and others’ increased confidence in her, she was given greater and greater responsibilities. We treated each other as equals out of mutual respect, and we knew we had each others’ back. Our work lives were easier and more enjoyable as a result.

What I have learned is that when asked to provide information, if I do not know what the end use of that info is, I ask. If I cannot ask, I make a guess and then provide context to the recipient of what I did and why.

Even if my guess is wrong, I have communicated two things to my boss:

  • I could provide more value if I have better information
  • I serve notice that my brain is on when I work

A wise person told me: people are the way they are for a reason. You do not have to fix that problem, but you may have to give them a reason to be something different.

Twenty percent of staff take eighty percent of your time, likely because they need it. Invest that time and show them how to add value.