Want to improve your performance? I am always on the lookout for practices that will help me improve mine, so I will be on top of my game as often as possible. I recently reread The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, a book that shares ancient wisdom to help people gain personal freedom and ultimately lead happier lives. As an aside, Ruiz uses the word “Agreements” because we agreed with the information passed to us as children by the adults in our lives as well as by society whether or not they were right for us. Instead of identifying and getting rid of the old agreements that don’t serve you, Ruiz advocates adopting four new agreements.   During this rereading, it dawned on me that the Four Agreements are also keys to success for freight agents in their everyday work lives, so I want to share my spin on the Four Agreements with you:

  1. Be Impeccable with Your Word: In all your dealings with shippers, and carriers, speak with honesty and integrity. If your shippers and carriers know they can trust you to tell it like it is, whether it is good news or bad news, you will have a relationship built on trust. At One Horn, honesty is one of our core values. If a truck is late because of a breakdown, we call the shipper as soon as we find out and give them all the relevant information as well as a suggestion of how to remedy the situation. There are agents and carriers out there who have adopted lying as a way of life. Some do it because they are afraid of what will happen if they tell the truth: Will I get fired? Will my pay get docked? Others are just bad people. But in the end those who do not tell the truth end up hurting themselves and their shippers. Things happen in our industry. If something is not going as planned, call, confess, and create a win-win solution. You’ll feel good about it in the end.
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally: Here Ruiz’s point is that whatever anyone says or does to you has nothing to do with you, it all comes from inside them and the way they see the world. By not taking things personally, you can avoid a lot of needless suffering. So for freight agents, when a shipper yells at you or a prospect is not interested in your services, it’s not necessarily about you or what you did. The person could be having pressure from their boss or spouse. Maybe the person is dealing with an illness or a loved one’s illness. The person is under some kind of stress, their reaction is really a reflection on what they are feeling inside instead of what you may or may not have done. In the case of the shipper, try to get to the root of the business issue at hand that is not going the way they wanted and solve it to the best of your ability without getting your ego and emotions involved. Keep a cool head, fix the issue, and move on. If you are rejected by a prospect, don’t take it personally, just say, “Oh well, not a good fit here today,” and move on to the next. If you stop taking things personally, which admittedly is very hard to do, you will have a renewed sense of energy.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions: This agreement is all about communication. Lots of needless suffering comes because people misinterpret things. If they would only have the courage to ask and clarify things, this needless suffering could be avoided. For you as a freight agent, it means asking all the right questions of your shipper whether or not you think it might annoy the person. Product, dimensions, weight, purpose, urgency, loading preferences, unloading preferences, receiver peculiarities, all these data points can help you better server your shipper. In the end, knowledge is power, so if you know everything you can about the load to make it more successful, you will more successfully service the shipper. The same goes with the carrier you put on the load. Asking driver’s cell phone number, where the truck will be prior, how far, what time, when it will be unloaded, confirming trailer type, tarps, chains, straps if needed, all this information will also help you give better service to your shipper. Also, by communicating with your shipper and the driver, clearly stating expectations vs. assuming they know, you will be able to avoid potential issues due to misinterpretation. Adopting this agreement will enable you to work more efficiently in the long run.
  4. Always Do Your Best: Ruiz’s point here really hit home for me, that my best is not always the same level of performance. When I learned that my best changes when I am well-rested vs. tired, sick vs. healthy, happy vs. sad, I learned to adjust my expectations of myself and avoid self-judgment. You can avoid that little voice in your head telling you that you are not doing enough if you learn to recognize that your best changes. My best friend told me that if I can’t do the task that needs me to be at my best, to do something useful instead, and so I do, and so I feel better. I can get accounting out of the way because it’s easy, and then tackle the difficult task when I feel better. Some days are easier than other days. You may encounter problem after problem and get your energy sapped. This agreement encourages you to do your best and not to judge yourself if you have less energy than usual. Change your expectations of yourself for that day, and know that tomorrow will be a better day, and if not tomorrow, then the next day. Self-judgment is energy sapping: Self-acceptance is energizing and empowering. Adopt this agreement, and as you go about your day, try to recognize when you are at your best and attack your most difficult tasks at that time of day. In the end, you will achieve more of what you want to achieve and feel better about yourself.

It’s not easy to adopt all these agreements. If you read the book*, you will get a better understanding of where it all comes from and how it ties together. Adopting these agreements can also help you in your personal life dealing with family and friends. Ruiz writes that you must Be Impeccable with Your Word to yourself as well if you try and fail while adopting these agreements. Just try again, don’t beat yourself up over any lapses, because your best is not always the same every day or every moment of every day.

In my next blog I will share five Strategies for Balancing Seasonality in Your Shipper Portfolio.

– By Cheryl Biron, President

*Click through for full references on books that inspired us: http://onehorn.com/agents/get-inspired

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