If you are currently in a call center leadership position or seeking to be in a call center leadership position, you MUST read this article! Most front-line call center agents I work with have a very strong desire to move “up” from their agent position into a leadership position. One of the most discouraging experiences an agent can have is to be passed over for a leadership promotion especially when they feel they deserve it or are burned-out as an agent. I have been very out-spoken regarding the (in general) poor management that dominates the call center landscape. The cause for such incompetent leadership, in my opinion, is the “perpetual-pitiful-progression” (3P) of call center leadership. By this I am referring to how leadership is appointed in the first place. By the way, I have seen this first hand over much of my 30 year career working with call centers. A fresh leader, appointed to run a team of call center agents, often only has their colleagues as examples for how to lead a team. And though, it may not be vocally admitted, that newly appointed leader didn’t much care for their current examples of how to lead. However, in most cases, whether the newly appointed leader liked or disliked those who served as their examples, they undoubtedly picked up very bad leadership habits. When bad habits perpetuate, that is a recipe for call center disaster and that can spread company wide! How do I know this is a wide spread problem? I attend every year the largest conference for call center professionals in the world. This last year I paid close attention to a display the conference organizers placed in the reception area just before entering the hall. Attendees placed a post-it note on the display-board noting their biggest challenge with their call center. The most dominate response (by far) was leadership. This is a serious trend that must be corrected. I have stated on many occasions, including in many of my articles that Universities and Colleges need to offer, as a degree, Call Center Management. More on that at another time.
For the sake of this article, I wish to offer 5 Key Elements to being a LEGENDARY LEADER. However, before I get into the 5 Key’s, I need to note, that you first must be mindful that Leadership is about how to be, more than what to do. The approach to becoming a “Legendary Leader” is to recognize you are called to serve others and not to be served of. Also, in addition to your preparation and development of your leadership personality, I talk a lot about three terms of obligation to leadership. I won’t go into details in this article, but I point them out so you can be aware for future reference. The first thing is to see things how they really are and not better or worse. Second, see situations better than they are – that is what a leader brings to the table. Once you see things better than they are you work to make them that way.
The 5 key’s:
1. INFLUENCE – A competent leader solves problems and maximizes resources and you need to get others to help you do it and that requires influence. There may be no more important skill to leadership than influence. If you can’t influence you can’t lead, but if you can lead powerfully, intelligently and with integrity, there is no limit to what you can achieve as a leader. Manipulation as a leadership tactic is over. Integrity, truth and value will never go out of style. Leading with facts and figures and stories will not influence, but weaving those elements in a way that shifts the emotions of your team will influence them to rally around you. Emotion affects our intellect. To influence other people you have to already be influenced, to motivate others you have to be motivated, to persuade other people you have to be persuaded. You can’t give someone else what you don’t have. The game is won or lost with the energy you approach your team with. Become a master of your own moods and you will be a master of influence.
2. DECISION – There is only one force that can change the direction of a business and that is decision making. The top corporations of the world are where they are because of specific decisions that where made during their journey. Many of us are becoming more and more familiar with the stories and can recognize the key decisions that were made. By the same principle, many companies we’ll never hear of also made decisions that led to their demise. Good decision making is what creates a Legendary Leader. There are 3 decision that competent leaders have to make every day. 1) What are you going to focus on? Whatever you focus on, you are going to feel. 2) Give your decisions meaning, the moment you give your decision a meaning you get a feeling. 3) What are you going to do now? Taking action is what gives your decisions power.
3. ACCOUNTABILITY – I have found that the most misunderstood and misused element of leadership is accountability. A quality leader understands accountability to his/her superior and likewise to their team. In leadership roles, accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to REPORT, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences. If you take an “Oh Well”, or “Blaming”, or “Excuses” approach to a leadership position; YOU ARE NOT A LEADER – plain and simple!
4. LEADING PEOPLE – People will instinctively and willingly follow a competent leader. Getting people to buy into your ideas and give their efforts to your cause is a rare skill among leaders. What many leaders fail to recognize is that their people give the impression of following them out of obedience, fear or order. None of those reasons will get the full support of the people as a resource to achieve goals. Leading people begins with understanding what drives emotions and what drives emotions is rapport or connectivity. Rapport is a cousin to empathy and empathy is the essence of trust. Trust is the ultimate emotion that rally’s the troops and motivates them to follow the leader into battle, so to speak. What your team wants from their leader includes these 6 emotional elements; 1-Certainty, 2-Variety, 3-Significance, 4-Connection, 5-Growth and 6-Contribution. I will breakdown each element at another time.
5. RESULTS – A Legendary Leader utilizes their resources to produce positive results. In call center operations management, results is the name of the game and it is incumbent upon leadership to measure the progress of each member of their team and to tactfully understand how to manage the productivity of positive results. Every team member must understand that in all activity, personal or professional, we are all asked to make measurable progress in reasonable time. I have seen cultures destroyed by incompetent leadership who failed to understand and properly execute this simple phrase. A Legendary Leader is a master in the art of applying “legitimate pressure.” Quality leaders, measure the statistical performance of each team member and understands how to appropriately interpret those numbers. The statistics will tell a leader everything about an individuals PHILOSOPHY, ATTITUDE and DISCIPLINE. The numbers will direct whether you celebrate performance or fix the philosophy, attitude or discipline of the individuals on your team. Please adhere to these principles and be the leader that makes a difference in this leadership plagued field. Feel free to contact me if you desire more guidance with developing your leadership skills.