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7 Habits

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Expediters

By Sean M. Lyden - Staff Writer
Posted Dec 4th 2017 9:00AM

The great American miler and Olympian put it best when he said, “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”

The challenge, however, is knowing which habits are most productive to help keep you consistently working toward your goals in expedited trucking, especially when the initial excitement wears off.

So, what habits should you develop to get everything you want out of your business in expediting—whether you’re a driver, owner-operator, or fleet owner?

A good starting point is to dig into Stephen Covey’s classic, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Although the book was first published nearly three decades ago, it continues to be a bestseller. And these “7 Habits” by Covey offer powerful and practical lessons for expediters today.

Habit #1: Be Proactive
“[Being proactive] means more than merely taking initiative. It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and responsibility to make things happen.”

Lesson for Expediters:
There are many things in expediting that you can’t control—whether the freight market is strong or soft, whether there’s management turnover at your carrier, or your truck breaks down unexpectedly. But you can control what decisions you make to put yourself in the best position for long-term success, no matter what external challenges come your way.

For example, if freight is good today, are you proactively building cash reserves for a “rainy day” tomorrow? Are you learning how to choose loads that are consistently profitable and minimize downtime or deadhead miles? Are you managing your costs in a way where you could still pay the bills and sustain your business even when freight is soft? Are you diligent with performing preventive maintenance on your truck to minimize the risk of unplanned downtime?

When you’re “being proactive,” you understand that your success depends on you—the decisions you make and actions you take.

Habit #2: Begin with the End in Mind
“To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so the steps you take are always in the right direction.”

Lesson for Expediters:
What do you want to achieve in the expedite business?

If you’re a driver for a fleet owner, do you want to become an owner-operator? If you’re an owner-operator, do you want to buy another truck to become a fleet owner? If you’re a fleet owner, how big do you want to grow your fleet?

At whatever level you’re shooting for, WHY do you want to do it? What is it you really want from your hard work?

Your answers to these questions help define your target destination—the “end in mind.” In expediting, when you accept a load, you have a clear idea of the destination—where you will deliver the freight—and then you plan your course to get there as quickly and safely as possible. The same goes with your life and business. When you’re clear on where you want to go, you can be much more effective at determining the best route to get there.

Habit #3: Put First Things First
“Effective management is putting first things first. While leadership decides what ‘first things’ are, it is management that puts them first, day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Management is discipline, carrying it out … [and] if you are an effective manager of yourself, your discipline comes from within; it is a function of your independent will.”

Lesson for Expediters:
If your “destination” is to become a fleet owner, for example, what are your highest priority tasks you should be doing today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or even next year to continue moving your business in that direction?

The point here is that it’s easy to get distracted by tasks that can take you “off course.” But when you “put first things first,” you’re consistently focusing on those action items that drive you closer to your “destination.”

Habit #4: Think Win/ Win
“Win/Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win/Win means that agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial, mutually satisfying. With a Win/Win solution, all parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan. … Win/Win is a belief in the Third Alternative. It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.”

Lesson for Expediters:
A quote by bestselling author and sales guru Zig Ziglar captures the essence of Win/Win thinking: “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

Let that sink in for a moment. The first three habits focused on determining on where you want to take your business and what steps you should take to get there. Now, with the fourth habit, you realize that you need to work well with other people to help you along that journey.

And an effective way to motivate people to want to help you is to look for ways you can bring value to them, too. This can apply to all your relationships in the business, including those with your carrier, vendors, mentors, drivers, employees, and so forth. The key point here is to make a habit of thinking about not only what you want from other people but also what you could do for them.

Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
“‘Seek first to understand’ involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak … When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air. And after that vital need is met, you can then focus on influencing or problem solving.”

Lesson for Expediters:
As you interact with people along your expedited trucking “journey,” you’ll inevitably encounter conflicts. For example, even when you’ve done your homework and selected a carrier that you think best fits your business at that time, there are still going to be misunderstandings and mistakes that can strain the relationship. That’s where the fifth habit comes in—to help you resolve those conflicts in a productive manner.

The idea here is to take a step back and listen to the other person first, trying to understand their point of view, even when you’re convinced they’re completely off base. This takes a lot of discipline because your instinct is to want to prove them wrong. But your goal is to solve a problem. And when you respect the other person and give them space to talk, they’ll be more inclined to reciprocate and listen to you—and be influenced by you.

Habit #6: Synergize
“What is synergy? Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It means that the relationship which the parts have to each other is a part in and of itself. It is not only a part, but the most catalytic, the most empowering, the most unifying, and the most exciting part.”

Lesson for Expediters:
I’ve interviewed several fleet owners the past few years, and a recurring theme I hear from them is this: “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my team—my drivers, managers, support staff, and so forth.”

That’s the spirit behind the sixth habit—where you realize that the degree of your success depends on your team’s success. And you can accomplish so much more with and through other people than you could ever achieve on your own.

Habit #7: Sharpen the Saw
“This is the single most powerful investment we can ever make in life—investment in ourselves, in the only instrument we have with which to deal with life and to contribute. We are the instruments of our own performance, and to be effective, we need to recognize the importance of taking time regularly to sharpen the saw in all four ways [physically, socially/ emotionally, spiritually, and mentally].”

Lesson for Expediters:
You could have big goals, knowing where you want to go in the expedited trucking business and working hard to get there. But if you don’t consistently invest time for personal recovery and renewal, you’ll risk burnout and health issues that ultimately prevent you from reaching your destination. So, think of the seventh habit as “preventive maintenance” for yourself-—so that you can minimize unplanned downtime and stay on the road to your goals.

The Bottom Line
Remember, your habits can make or break your business in expediting—and you have the power to choose which habits you adopt. So, develop these seven habits to boost your odds of success of reaching your destination.

 

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