There was a time, early in my career, where I measured success strictly by the numbers. Number of overtime hours I worked per week; number of consumers I successfully contacted and collected from; the number of dollars I collected; and the number of times I assisted a fellow Collector collect.

Not too long after my career in Collections at American Profit Recovery began, my career in Collections management did too. As a young manager I knew the value of goal setting and leading by example, but I still assigned success to numeric performance outcomes alone. The number of quality Collectors I could recruit, interview, hire, train, and maintain in any given calendar year; the number of net monies my team could collect in any given month; the number of phone numbers we dialed, accounts we skip traced, and hours we were on the phone on any given day.

A year as a Collection manager will teach you many things: the importance of always recognizing contributions, of inspiring a shared vision, of challenging the current process to always be improving. Another lesson is the value of building relationships and putting your team above all else. Ahead of ancillary tasks and routine duties; ahead of your own calls; ahead of your own collections; ahead of anything else that may preoccupy your time. When you’re never too busy to field a question, never too busy to take a difficult transfer call, and never too busy to make it your responsibility to be genuinely interested in what kind of individuals make up your team, well, success follows by default.

After a few more years as a Collection manager there was another shift that occurred. The mark of success became determined by how many people I hired who become leaders in their own right. Leaders, not just those who have been promoted to management and now have the title, those too, but also those who are looked up to, those who are models of the way forward, those who go out of their way to help other Collectors succeed. The lesson is learning the difference and similarities between and within management and leadership; and learning the difference and similarities between and within training & development and coaching people up.

Two and a half years now as V.P., Collections and there are lessons to be learned still. I cannot quite pinpoint when it occurred, but there was a realization that hit me not that long ago. As important as the numbers are; as important as it is to lead by example and not expect from others anything you’re not willing to do yourself; as important as recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training & development, and goal setting are; as important as always recognizing contributions, of inspiring a shared vision, of challenging the current process in order to always be improving; as important as it is to never be too preoccupied; as important as it is to being genuinely interested in others and coaching individuals up is, what’s also tantamount to great leadership is service management. Service management extends from inter-office and intra-office communications, to conversations on the phone with Consumers, and to the clients whom those Consumers owe.

In my current position I have the advantage of exercising my service management skillsets by working with every department in the company: from IT and Admin, to Customer Service and Sales, to Collections and Compliance. This doesn’t mean everyone always gets the answer they necessarily wanted to, but it does mean working together to make decisions that make sense. The key being the willingness to make decisions and not being indecisive (this can paralyze a department, a company, a relationship). When you pledge to helping your fellow cohorts you find that it’s both rewarding and mutually beneficial. Service management, like a positive attitude, benefits everyone.