Dave Salisbury explains why promoting a “Spirit of Entrepreneurism” is key to great leadership in the call centre.
As a call centre leader, you have the opportunity to see some of the best minds in action on a daily basis.
Watching people support customers in human interactions requires artistry not found in museums, skilled use of tools not seen outside a sculpting studio, and the mental acuity of graduate students not seen in many engineering courses.
A question asked many times is “What good is a manager?” especially when leadership is required.
The Spirit of Entrepreneurism
The call centre leader is a crucial role in promoting a “Spirit of Entrepreneurism” throughout the organisation. This spirit already exists in the minds and hearts of “engaged employees”; they want to help the customer, and they generate the solution.
All the organisation has to do is remove the bureaucracy that keeps the solution from generating customer loyalty.
The “Spirit of Entrepreneurism” also exists as the answer to supporting both of the above-mentioned problems into solutions. Thus, before an organisation reaches for some new management tool, business gimmick, or incentive plan, look to supporting, promoting, and developing the “Spirit of Entrepreneurism” in your organisation.
The manager in a call centre, for the most part, does not possess the following traits that entrepreneurial employees, engaged employees, possess in vast amounts. The following lists, quoted from Hadzima and Pilla (n.d.), represent the “Spirit of Entrepreneurism”, and, best of all, these traits are trainable.
1. “Ability to deal with risk”
Call centre employees risk their reputation on every call. They risk money, time, energy, and, for the most part, are successful in their risks. The call centre employee is not a gambler, but they are risk takers. Enhancing risk taking in a supportive environment remains key to reducing employee churn and increasing harmony in the organisation.
2. “Results oriented”
Risk produces results; the evaluation of those results and training the employee to take more calculated risks remains a leadership function. Since the employee is already generating results, why not improve performance through training that values the individual risks already being taken?
The energy output in a call centre is enormous. Harnessing this energy, directing this energy, and maintaining this energy is never accomplished through management. Leadership is the only power that can turn this energy into a productive force.
4. “Growth potential”
Call centres remain one of the last bastions destroying human potential to grow through the mind-numbing repetition of daily handling calls. Lead people, help them grow personally and professionally, and then more potential energy is released to gain and develop market share.
Harnessing the potential power in growth potential remains both a leadership function and an organisational challenge. Embrace the challenge!
5. “Team player”
Answer the questions “What team?” “What role?” “How directed?” and “Where playing?” and you have provided support to a person already engaged in being a team member. You also begin to release human potential and energy. Before you can have a “Team”, you must first answer these questions.
Team players automatically possess a “Me At Play” mentality, combining honesty, forthrightness, accountability, respect, and a good sense of fun, into a power for action. Thus, professional work is an extension of the “Me At Play” mentality. This mentality produces and influences environmental change, drawing like-minded people into a society where leadership action is nothing more than providing general guidelines and then standing back to watch how “Me At Play” produces work almost effortlessly.
A corporate example of this “Me At Play” mentality resides at Quicken Loans. To an uninitiated observer, the call centre is the epitome of unprofessional. What at first appears to be disjointed noise and confusion quickly becomes the focused efforts of thousands of “Me At Play” mentalities being self-directed, led, and encouraged. The work that brings them together is the focused effort to which they struggle. The results are incredible to behold and speak for themselves. Quicken Loans has proved that “Me At Play” is nothing but “Team” who first answered the questions, and then went to work applying the lessons of releasing human potential.
6. “Multi-tasking ability”
I detest this phrase for two reasons. One is the scientific research reporting that multi-tasking is a myth. The human brain can and should only focus upon one task at a time. Two, ability is potential. I included this point in this article to raise awareness. Yes, many people can listen and type at the same time. Many can listen to a customer in one ear, their colleagues in another, and type call notes. Yet, improvements in service levels require attention directed towards and homed in on the customer. Do one task, do it well, move on to another task quickly, and then you have an environment where focused work is harnessed.
7. “Improvement oriented”
The only employees I have seen in call centres not focused upon improvement were those walking out after having their life-force sucked out of them. The employees in call centres want to improve. Lead them. The call centre employee desires furtherance of their goals to help you meet your organisational goals. Harness this desire and focus it upon organisational constraints; the answers that are generated will surprise you.
To embrace entrepreneurial employees, the organisation must first decide: leader or manager? If manager, much of this article is not for you and your organisation. The reason remains simple: managers cannot allow employee freedom, which is the “Spirit of Entrepreneurism”, to flourish. If leader, first embrace “Spirit of Entrepreneurism” and become familiar with the power of human potential in you. Then, find aspects of this article you can embrace as you lead your call centre. Some of the best leaders began as examples for others to follow; so, the thoughts contained in this series are for anyone working in a call centre who wants to lead a call centre and who wants to dominate their industry.
The “Spirit of Entrepreneurism” supports the energy being generated in a call centre through focus and harnessing. More importantly, embracing a “Spirit of Entrepreneurism” in the organisation allows freedom to think, act, and do to enter into the daily actions and functions of the call centre employee.
Consider the seven points mentioned above. These points remain as action items, functions to interweave into the business structure and design, which activate an environment for nurturing new ideas while providing support to the business as a whole instead of only affecting the call centre.
Bringing the “Spirit of Entrepreneurism”, as detailed in the points above, into power for maintaining the structure and hierarchy of the organisation will allow the “Spirit of Entrepreneurism” to permeate into the thinking of those employed.
People, as a mass, are comparable to a herd of dairy cows. The dairy cow after milking receives release to graze. Upon being released, the dairy cow runs to the farthest point in the field, leans against the fence, and if the fence holds, returns to the centre of the field to graze peacefully.
If the fence does not hold, the cow will not graze but roam. In roaming, the cow is then in trouble and great danger. The same is true for employees, especially employees in call centres; strong boundaries and hierarchy are required, but freedom is also needed inside those boundaries to act in a manner sufficient to support organisational goals. The Yin-Yang of any business relies upon the careful balance between strong guiding principles and freedom to work out customer-centred solutions.
Keeping balance does not imply a static environment free from change but the exact opposite. When the “Spirit of Entrepreneurism” is present, the give and take between freedom and strong guiding principles exists more fully to the betterment of all. The call centre leader is charged with setting the balancing act and moving the call centre and the business forward.
With thanks to Dave Salisbury, Operations and Customer Relations Specialist
Hadzima, J., & Pilla, G. (n.d.). Seven Characteristics of Highly Effective Entrepreneurial Employees. Retrieved July 26, 2015, from http://www.mitef.org/s/1314/interior-2-col.aspx?sid=1314&gid=5&pgid=5789