How did a Debt Collection Company change my personal behavioral patterns

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This might be just another clickbait title… or not? Just bare with me until the end of this story 🙂

It’s not much past the Christmas season and everybody is trying to be kinder … But this can be more than an intention, it can be a mindset first!

I’ve been raised by my parents in a mind-frame like “life is a jungle and the fittest will survive” but with a twist: “you will be deceived, harmed and you have to be careful”. This can be helpful to a point, and it surely helped me in my travels where I have experimented various scams and I knew how to handle them. Of course, Wikitravel … “helped” also. But this is definitely not the lifestyle I wish for. Being alert all the time, suspicious and untrustworthy whenever someone is approaching me is not an option. Especially in my world where survival is not anymore the main task but only a primitive perceptual bias.

The above mindset was challenged several times in my interactions but, as learning and behavioral shifts are happening, it needed several iterations to generate change. So be patient and work on yours and the results will come surprisingly and exponentially one day.

The first moment was at my Executive MBA in Paris when one of my favourite teachers, Issac Getz, the author of Freedom Inc. ( a book about liberated companies where freedom, autonomy, trust and responsibility are at their core culturally ) was asking some rhetorical questions…

One was: “How come that in an expensive world class MBA” they have chosen these type of anti theft clothes hangers?” (You know… the ones that they have in hotels where the hooks are attached to the bars and it’s useless to steal them. He continued: ” Who would pay 60k Eur to attend an executive program and leave with the clothes hangers?”. And if someone did, what would be the loss …?

And he was right … How many rules are imposed in companies for exceptions that are not even related to the intention or the flow of the processes ?

The second important moment was while in the Parliament settings where EU funds problems and solutions were debated. And an example given by a parliament member stuck with me. He was comparing the Romanian vs Polish strategic governmental approach in absorbing EU funds.

 The Romanian Government thinking pattern was like this : 

“Romanians are thieves… so we are at risk to pay fines to the European Commission for that. Therefore, we will instill a broad set of rules to prevent theft where we will ask more proofs for expenses, we will ask for additional explanations, we will be more careful in granting the funds and we will pursue more controls” 

The Polish Government thinking was:

” Polish people are thieves… so the above risk is the same. Therefore, we will block X Million Euros from the Government Reserve to pay for the fines if needed but we will keep the process as simple as possible in order for anybody who is willing to apply…”.

The difference in impact for the two approaches was huge: under 50% absorption for Romania vs over 90% absorption for Poland. And what happened operationally was that in Romania’s case very few people applied for the funds and the majority was still from those who knew “how to navigate the system”  while in Poland’s case more money went faster to the economy in the form of salaries, taxes and value added. As you can imagine, everybody was happy about that as this has an impact on consumption, infrastructure, competence etc …

This is a pragmatic example of how a shift in the thinking pattern can generate a very different result.

The third important moment was when I was visiting a potential client who happened to be a Debt Collection Company. That was a potential contract for training and coaching with a focus on communication, influencing skills and negotiation. 

Waiting there for the meeting, I had this internal conflict: “why should I teach these people what I know in terms of communication and influencing? After all they are chasing down and threatening people for money( in a harsh and soulless manner )”. 

And then I met their CTO who started telling me about how their company culture changed. I got curious and asked for details… He referred to a study they made in which the main conclusion was that under 1% of the people they were recovering money from, were actually not paying their debts on purpose ( or stealing ). So they asked themselves : “how come we are treating everybody  so poorly or even as if they were thieves?”. They decided to ignore metrics that every call should last for 5 minutes and recover X% of the sum at stake.

But the main paradigm shift was the following one: “Our people should call them with the intention to help them pay”. This is the thing that changed everything… from the dynamics of every discussion, to the business model and to the results. The people in this call-center had one of the lowest attrition in the sector ( and as we know it this is usually one of the highest amongst jobs ) had a huge increase in results and started receiving gifts from the very persons that they were calling to ask for money. It’s useless to mention the shift in well-being and meaning associated to the job that also translated into business KPIs achieved as this is close to a banking model ( redesigning installments would generate more interest ).

But how are all these business example related to a personal behavioral shift? 

Well… every business setting is related to behavioral patterns and habits.

Isn’t that the ultimate goal of learning ? 

Now, coming back to my pattern… I used to have my shields up as if everybody wants to cheat me. I would have questioned every intention and acted out of mistrust until proven otherwise. And then I have done the same mindset shift as above. If 2 out of 10 people will cheat me, why should I treat all 10 of them as such? And even if I let the 2 take advantage the value generated by the changed interactions with the other 8 will easily cover for that.  And when I opened up to everybody and acted out of trust and good deeds everything changed for me:my energy, my well-being and my results. 

Of course I always knew all the above rationally. This time what made the difference was that I deeply felt it. It was authentic and integrated as behavior.

Mihai ZANT

Mihai ZANT

Mihai ZANT is an Executive Coach, Trainer and Managing Partner at, and Having over 10 years of experience in leading teams and communities he concentrated his work in building Learning Organisations.

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