The year is coming to an end and this is a time to reflect
on successes of the past
year and areas
of opportunity for the year ahead.
Personal improvements are often the focus of New Year’s resolutions, but it is
important to not overlook changes that can be made to increase productivity and
profitability in your firm.
The 7 Habits of Highly
Effective People, by Stephen Covey, is filled with practical suggestions
for making changes that will result in a better lifestyle. While the principles
have personal applications, they are also relevant in your firm. The following
habits can be implemented to achieve a higher level of effectiveness in your
Habit 1: Be Proactive
"Proactive people do more than take initiative. Proactive
people are agents of change.” – Stephen Covey
Change is inevitable, and being reactive to change usually
causes feelings of chaos and lack of control. When this happens in a firm it
can result in decreased profitability and productivity. Taking the initiative
to evaluate your firm’s dangers, opportunities and strengths (D.O.S) is an excellent
way to identify areas where the firm can be proactive. This will create awareness
of dangers to avoid, take advantage of opportunities, and maximize strengths. A
tool that will help define these areas in your firm. The findings can then be
used to put together a plan instead of handling challenges and opportunities as
For increased proactivity, team members can complete a D.O.S
assessment for their role in the firm. Knowing the collective D.O.S of the
members of the firm combined with the D.O.S for the firm as a whole will give a
clear guideline of how to stay ahead of the curve. This approach will allow
change to be driven by the firm instead of having a firm driven by change.
Habit 2: Begin with
the End in Mind
"Begin with the End in Mind is based on imagination – the
ability to envision, see the potential, create with our minds what we cannot at
present see with our eyes and conscience.” - Stephen Covey
Having clearly defined goals is an important element for
being a highly effective firm. A strategic plan is essential an essential
roadmap for firm success. It should include firm strategies and objectives with
deadlines and responsibilities assigned. L. Gary Boomer says the following
about the importance and benefits of documented strategic planning: "In order
to maximize your profitability, you need a written plan detailing your firm’s
strategy. This will reduce the time required, build consensus, provide
consistent communications, and insure accountability.”
Once the plan is in place it should be shared with the
entire team to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals. The plan
should be reviewed throughout the year to help the firm stay on track, and
adjustments should be made as needed.
Habit 3: Put First
"Highly effective people do not really manage time – they
manage themselves. They are planning and executing according to their highest
priorities.” - Stephen Covey
Once a strategic plan is in place and goals and responsibilities
are clear, the challenge to stay on track begins. It is easy to be distracted
by daily tasks and projects that may arise beyond the strategic plan. The key
is to use the firms goals as a guide to prioritize and make sure that even your
daily tasks are in line with the firm’s plan.
is a tool that can be used to define projects and goals for a
shorter time frame. Each team member should create a Game Plan at the beginning
of each quarter with goals that are in line with the strategic plan. At the end of the quarter Game Plans should
be reviewed with coaching and recognition as needed.
Habit 4: Think
"Win-Win sees life as a cooperative arena, not a competitive
one. Win-Win means agreements or solutions that are mutually beneficial and
satisfying.” – Stephen Covey
A culture of cooperation instead of competition is essential
to making your firm operate at the highest level. In a Win-Win environment,
everyone is working together to achieve the strategic goals for the firm, and each
individual’s successes contribute to the success of the firm. This requires
dedication to the firm’s value system, a commitment to clear communication, and
respect for each person on the team.
Habit 5: Seek first
to Understand Then To Be Understood
"In order to have influcence with other people, they must first feel that you understand them. And once they feel understood, they are open to hearing your ideas, your counsel and your point of view." - Stephen Covey
Understanding your clients is an important part of being a highly effective firm. When you are working with clients with needs that are aligned with your firm’s strengths, you are likely to be more profitable and productive. In order to select the right clients, you must first understand their needs. If you ask the right questions to new and existing clients, you can maintain the good relationships and identify those that are not a good fit.
The next step is to use what you have learned from your
clients to build strategies to find and retain clients, as well as how to end
relationships that are not mutually beneficial. In addition, understanding your
client’s needs will help to manage both internal and external expectations and
keep the firm operating at a high level.
Habit 6: Synergize
"Synergy is celebrating differences, teamwork,
open-mindedness and finding new and better ways together.” – Stephen Covey
Each person in your firm has a unique ability that makes
them a valuable member of the team. When people are allowed to use their
talents in their job, they are more likely to enjoy their work and be high
performers. No one should expect to spend all of their time working in their
unique ability, but finding opportunities for team members to integrate their
best skills into the job will have a positive effect on the firm. Unique ability combined with teamwork will
accelerate your firm to the next level.
Habit 7: Sharpen the
"Just remember that every day provides a new opportunity for
renewal – a new opportunity to recharge yourself instead of hitting the wall.
All it takes is the desire, knowledge and skill.” – Stephen Covey
Be mindful to never stop learning. Make sure that your firm supports and
encourages a learning environment. This can be done by creating training and learning
plans for everyone in the firm and for the firm as a whole. Continual learning
will help to keep your firm and team members ahead of the curve.
When the principles listed above become habits for the firm,
the level of effectiveness will increase as a result. Remember that creating
new habits take time, commitment and patience but the results in firm
profitability and productivity will be long lasting.