Many years ago I had the privilege of attending a course on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People offered by the American Management Association.  I also read the book by Stephen Covey.

The premise of the book and course is that there are 7 habits that make a person highly effective in their work and daily life. I will review all the habits and you can decide if you are highly effective or not. This pertains to all people but I am writing it geared toward docketing professionals.

Here are 7 habits of highly effective docketing professionals:

Be Proactive

You must be in charge of your own work. When you let the status quo dictate your docketing support, you find that you are not in control of your effectiveness. In order to be effective you must be proactive.

Reactive people, on the other hand, believe that the world is happening to them. They say things like “There’s nothing I can do,” or “That’s just the way things are around here.”

They know there is a problem with the workflow, support, or acceptance but they do nothing about it. However, being proactive means that you do something about it and make it happen. You have a responsibility to choose how you will respond to a given situation and change it. For example, when you have a rogue attorney that refuses to use the docketing department for calendaring and calculating the deadlines, you need to prove to him/her how important it is to use the system and support.

Begin with the End in Mind

Covey says that you should “use your imagination to develop a vision of what you want to become and use your conscience to decide what values will guide you.” We are all too often busy with our work and forget about our self-awareness. We work hard to achieve victories (i.e. promotions, higher income, and more recognition.) But we don’t often stop to evaluate the meaning behind being busy, behind these victories. We don’t ask ourselves if these things that we focus on so intently are what really matter to us.

Start with a clear target. Make sure the steps you are taking are in the right direction. Being a manager is about optimizing efficiency. Being a leader is about setting the right strategic vision for your organization in the first place. You ask yourself  “What are we trying to accomplish?”

Begin with the end in mind. For example, visualize what an effective department looks like. Are you and your staff doing everything possible to support your attorneys in an effective manner? Are you automating some of the support to better position the team for efficiency?

Put First Things First

In order to be effective in our work, we have to put first things first. According to Covey, that means we have to handle the important things first and not so much the urgent things. We have to prioritize our work.

We need to stay focused and on track toward our goals and have the willpower to do something when we don’t want to do it. We need to act according to our values rather than our desires or impulses at any given moment. Many times, we get requests to do something right away because the requester thinks it is urgent, when in fact it is probably not as important as other requests.

Think Win-Win

In order to establish effective relationships with the people we support, we must think Win-Win. That means that both parties get what they want and when they want it. Solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying to each party.

For example, if you receive a request to docket something right away, and there are many more requests in the queue ahead of that one, you need to communicate with that requester that their deadlines will get docketed in the next hour or so to accommodate the ones ahead of it. This goes back to prioritization. Both parties get what they want. To achieve Win-Win, keep the focus on results and not the methods; on the problems and not the people.

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Before we can offer advice, suggest solutions, or interact with others, we need to understand them with effective listening. Sometimes we offer a solution before we actually diagnose the problem.

For example, if an attorney asks you a procedural question and you quickly provide an answer and include “We’ve always done it that way,” and it works out poorly, s/he will probably not seek your advice any more. The problem is that you did not listen carefully and responded too quickly.

If we practice empathic listening, we will see dramatic results and improved communication.

“You have to build the skills of empathic listening on a base of character that inspires openness and trust.” – Stephen Covey

Synergize

If we understand and value the differences in another person’s perspective, we have the opportunity to create synergy, which allows us to uncover openness and creativity. By working together, we allow ourselves to uncover new possibilities through openness and creativity.

In the docketing profession, synergy is important. Without it, we will not be able to accomplish much. With synergy, you’re not on opposite sides of the problem but rather on one side, looking at the problem, understanding all the needs, and working to create a third alternative that will meet in between. Think win-win.

“The key to valuing differences is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are.” – Stephen Covey

Sharpen the Saw

This last habit is focused around renewal, or taking time to “sharpen the saw.” It surrounds all of the other habits and makes each one possible by preserving and enhancing your greatest asset, yourself.

To be effective, we must devote the time to renewing ourselves physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially. Continuous renewal allows us to synergistically increase our ability to practice each habit.

To be successful and highly effective, we need to practice these 7 habits of highly effective people. As managers and specialists alike, our responsibility is to support the attorneys and staff and find ways to understand their issues and remedy them.