Developing your team managers’ leadership skills is critical to improving the contact centre.
George Dixon gives a few clues with this guide to team leader development…
Invest in soft skills
Nobody likes a difficult customer; even the most experienced of team leaders can find themselves helpless to defuse potentially harmful situations. But by investing in quarterly, comprehensive soft skills courses for each of your team managers, you’ll ensure that they lead by example when it comes to handling taxing escalations. Through observation, your agents will then learn how to resolve such crises for themselves, reducing the strain on your team leaders.
Imaginative monthly and quarterly targets
It’s not surprising that many team leaders lose inspiration because of the monotony of the goals they’re constantly set; hourly sales and resolution targets cannot, after all, be expected to excite your supervisors indefinitely. Besides, such goals are a given for any good team manager.
If you initiate clear-cut mid-to-long-term goals, on the other hand, your team leaders will begin to feel liberated of the short-sighted business perspective. Come up with a variety of imaginative monthly and quarterly objectives, designed in accordance both with the company’s business requirements and the supervisors’ stimulatory needs. A worthwhile goal, for example, may be the prevention of more than 666 repeat calls during the three weeks up to Halloween. The result might just be spookily impressive.
Be sure, however, to give your managers a detailed explanation of the actual significance of their targets; this will help them to maintain a strong sense of purpose – and before long, their new-found rejuvenation will become contagiously apparent to all.
It’s a fact that the more important your employees are made to feel, the more pride they’re likely to take in their daily duties and achievements. What’s more, if you consistently treat the team managers with the respect they are due, they’ll naturally accord their own subordinates a similar courtesy.
Get the ball rolling with these three quick rules:
- Always address the team managers by name – this will help to reinforce their self-perception as individual characters with their own unique talents.
- Try not to argue with the managers, even when their views run contrary to your own. Quarrelling will only undermine their opinions and leave their confidence shaken.
- Show that you value the managers’ opinions by asking their advice on a problem – even if you already have the solution.
Mix and match agents with Team Leaders
It’s important to remember that each of your team managers is an individual character, fully furnished with his or her own strengths and weaknesses. And if you’re able to identify the strongest points of each manager (whether through role-playing exercises, one-to-one interviews or simple, casual observation) you’ll be in a good position to maximise your contact centre’s cohesive productivity. By realigning your agents with the team leaders who best complement their own characteristics, you’ll find that the managers will begin to lead in a far more healthy, natural and respectful manner.
Many team leaders, particularly those new to the role, find themselves reluctant to ask for help. Such a request, they feel, would indicate weakness, and spell an immediate visit by a band of HR representatives, each fully equipped with a disciplinary form and a butterfly net.
Since a manager in this mindset will quite naturally be less open to assistance requests from his or her own team members, it’s important that you keep a keen eye on your leaders’ habits, particularly during the busier, more stressful times of the year. Proactively offer help when you first sense trouble, then spend a few minutes with the manager, explaining that a healthy company is built on effective communication and that asking for help is a crucial part of the learning process.
You should also highlight that you are as open to requests as he or she is expected to be with his or her own subordinates. This will not only reassure the manager of the support that’s available to them, it will set your expectations for their future leadership, too.
The right tools for the job
True, bad workmen sometimes blame their tools – but so too will good workmen when they’re not technologically empowered to perform the tasks at hand. And rightly so; whatever your reasons, delimiting your team leaders’ access to beneficial software will hamper their ability to lead.
So, ensure that all team managers are entrusted with up-to-date workforce management applications and a reliable call-monitoring program, along with the latest versions of Word and Excel.
Allow full internet access
Don’t go draconian when it comes to restricting the managers’ internet access; you’d be surprised how handy a simple Google search can prove in resolving an otherwise-bothersome complaint.
Incentivising your top leaders with tangible rewards is an honest and effective means of expressing your gratitude for the valuable service these individuals bring to the table. What’s more, incentives can help to introduce a healthy form of inter-team competition in the contact centre, further boosting your management’s quality of work.
The team leader is by far the biggest influence on your agents’ performance; the behaviour, work ethic and professional habits of any given agent are affected immensely by that of his or her manager. With this in mind, use your monthly team productivity results to measure each team manager’s quality of leadership. Then, just before announcing the month’s winner and prize, spare a few moments to privately and personally thank him or her for the continued dedication shown.
Even the darkest cloud has a silver lining, and if you can identify and communicate the silver lining to the managers under your command, you’ll enable them to maintain morale whilst continuing to set a positive example for the members of their team. Even if your cloud is of the mushroom variety, with no perceivable upshot in place, there’s nothing to stop you from creating the lining yourself.
If your sales are down, surely your latest and most innovative marketing campaign will get things back on track. No pay rise this year? The new incentive scheme will help make amends for that. Redundancies announced? Well, yes, but rest of the team is still in employment.
If nothing else, remember this: misfortune is in the eye of the beholder.
Once your team leaders’ standard of leadership is up to scratch, the last thing you’ll want is to lose them to a sticky-fingered competitor. Make sure your personnel don’t fall to temptation with our ten-tip guide to building loyalty amongst staff.
George Dixon is a regular contributor to Call Centre Helper.
Do you have any further ideas on how to develop leadership skills for your team managers? Leave your comments in an email to Call Centre Helper