How to be the best call center team leader
This is a guest post from Carolyn Blunt, Managing Director at Real Results, a contact center training consultancy company. Real Results Training Consultancy operates in the world of Service Desks, Contact Centres and Customer Services, designing both front line and leadership programmes and huge culture change programmes. You can also find Carolyn’s writings at Call Center Helper.
Have you ever left the office with your head in a spin after a day of heavy fire fighting but without any feeling of real accomplishment?
Are you busy all the time but find it hard to know what you have achieved off your strategic to-do list? Have you got a strategic to-do list? Or do you mostly feel like your job is that of a glorified babysitter?
When I ask people to describe the great bosses they have had they say things like they were ‘down to earth’, ‘approachable’ but also ‘professional’.
My last great boss commanded respect. People wouldn’t dream of taking the same silly little quibbles and gripes to him over and over. He wouldn’t allow that. He would ask questions, make them recognize that they had the answer within themselves or knew where to go to get it. They would think twice before they approached him with lazy questions again.
By being considerate and helpful, you could be extending an invitation to drag petty quabbles into your lap. Really, such issues should be resolved without your micro-management.
Often, in our eagerness to please as a new manager, we take some of the mantras of leadership, (such as being approachable and demonstrating genuine interest) too far and allow the team to steal precious time and taken advantage if they are that way inclined.
So being the best team leader your agents have isn’t about bending over backwards every minute of the day. You’ll soon feel like you are being pulled in a million different directions. People will take advantage, and your boss will be disappointed when you don’t get through the other work you need to do.
Call center team leaders traits
- Be firm but fair with everyone
You don’t need to make a show of power or control. Rather, demonstrate that you put the organization and the team before yourself, but not at the expense of getting the job done.
If the answer to a request or idea is “no” then explain why. If you have to do some digging to get to the real ‘why’ then do it. Your team will still like to know that you tried for them and they appreciate knowing some facts and figures.
- Show respect, both for yourself and everyone else
Your values and how you behave are watched by everyone around you. If you abuse yourself by not getting enough sleep, being unhealthy or by being negative then this is really demoralising for your team. Why would they want to aspire to follow in your footsteps? Being a manager in this place is clearly not worth it. They may even feel sorry for you and carrying that sympathy is only taking their energy away from the customers that they need to serve on the phones.
So once you have your own head and heart in order, let’s think about your ability to raise the performance of your team. According to research we all have about 20% extra discretionary effort within us. Whether we chose to give it or not on a daily basis depends on a number of things.
Are your staff giving that discretionary effort or is cruising allowed?
As an effective manager you must give feedback –both positive and adjusting, so that your staff know the standards required. Positive feedback should be specific, public and genuine. Look for something to praise a member of your team every day and rotate the team member receiving the praise fairly.
You may have to go looking for things to praise but it is a good habit to get into. Ask their internal customers for feedback, earwig into conversations, and ask for ideas, opinions or volunteers. All of these create opportunities to praise.
Everyone likes to feel they are doing a good job so don’t hold back
This is the easiest and most cost effective solution to an immediate feel-good factor for your staff. It may seem a little strange to be discussing corrective feedback when we want to be motivating and inspiring our staff but ask yourself this question: If you don’t give corrective feedback what happens?
You may have a team member who cruises below standard and yet for whatever reason, you don’t address it. Your star performers pick up the slack but slowly and surely they become (quite rightly) disgruntled at having to do so.
Other team members start to think ‘if they can get away with it so will I’ and a culture permeates where it is okay to have longer lunches, arrive a little later, leave a little earlier, spend hours on social networking websites and make long personal phone calls. All of these erode productivity and ultimately the team, department and organisational performance.
If you dislike giving ‘criticism’ think of it as ‘adjusting feedback’
The team member has drifted slightly off course and you are going to adjust them back on track. Giving this feedback now will mean they have not deviated too far from the norm. Wait a while and you will have a bigger problem on your hands. For more insight and skills on how to give feedback there is a whole e-masterclass at www.catli.co.uk
Think about your team. Do you set standards of performance or standards of excellence?
Every manager has elements of their role that they like and elements that they like less or even hate!
Think about the three words: People, Task and Process. Which are you spending your time on?
If someone has a preference for ‘people’ they will be concerned with ‘helping’ others and would hate to come off as ‘cold’ or ‘unfeeling’. They will be empathetic but risk becoming totally immersed in people issues, neglecting the other points of the triangle.
If someone has a preference for ‘task’ they will focus on achieving results, have a strong sense of urgency and display assertiveness. However, others can see them as competitive, controlling and blunt. They might be so focused on getting things done that they overlook people and process elements.
Those with a preference for ‘process’ need to get things right. Their focus is on correctness, order, and logic. They and have a strong sense of fairness and personal integrity. However, they would rather be right than be popular! They run the risk of seeming overly unemotional, detailed, and cautious. They will go out of their way to minimize risk and conduct lengthy analysis if needed –even if the task and people elements suffer.
- Are you too focused on your natural preference? What could you be neglecting?
- How might your team’s performance be different if you changed your focus?
Do you overwhelmingly reward members of your team when they have the same focus as you? This misunderstanding encourage a ‘difficult performer’ perception, since we all like people who are similar to ourselves. Life is just easier that way.
It is not an infrequent occurrence that a manager oversees people of differing views. In such an instance, the manager must be particularly flexible in meeting the needs of the individual. Failing to value people in the way they expect can lead to higher levels of staff turnover.
Often managers fall into the trap of recruiting a team of ‘clones’. This can mean everyone gets along great, but serious ‘gaps’ in the skills matrix occur.
Investing time in developing self-awareness and wider skills in non-preferred areas for you and your team may stop the continuous cycle of recruiting and replacing people or sorting out squabbles.
This can leave you with less fire fighting to do and more time to focus on the strategic elements of your role that were the reason you became a manager in the first place.