Orit Avital shares ten tips for being more courageous in your decision making, with the aim of improving contact center performance.
A person with courage is one who faces deterring situations and does not avoid them, in order to change reality.
Contact Center Managers with courage, will know how to:
Take a standpoint – In situations where risky decisions must be made, they will not shy away or allow the issue to fester.
Share their problems – They will not be afraid to tell the team what is going on, before listening to any criticism and acknowledging concerns.
Handle confrontation (even though they do not aim for it!) – Teams with a manager who is not afraid of confrontation will never say sentences like “there is no way to get through to him/her”. As long as the manager is always respectful, situations of conflict are an opportunity for growth.
Lead the implementation of hard decisions – They will not make a decision that maybe unpopular and ask someone else to do the “dirty work”. A courageous manager takes responsibility and explains why they had to make the decision.
Be a prominent presence within the contact center – Smiling and taking the time to have friendly small talk with people from every level of the contact center is great, it make the manager approachable. People will hold their heads high when you walk past, instead of flinching.
By facing up to difficult situations, managers can have a more transparent relationship with their team, which will strengthen advisor engagement, trust and loyalty.
But, simply going by each of the “criteria” above is much easier said than done.
With this in mind, here are our top ten tips for showing courage in your managerial decision making, which will – over time – help to improve contact center performance.
1. Do The Difficult Things First
It’s easy to stay focused on the here and now, but courageous people have ambition and will strive to reach their goals, despite all of the contact center firefighting.
So, schedule time into your diary to plan for the future and, when you make plans, try to do the most difficult things first, because the more we worry about these doing these things, the more time we waste (or spend on email!).
On this topic of email, we often spend too much time on handing them! Think about only checking them in designated periods of the day and don’t let them distract you from achieving your other goals – like contact center progression.
2. Challenge the Team to Do More Than Follow Instructions
When you put forward an idea forward, you want the team to share their honest opinions on that idea. Instead of just going along with it, you want them to be invested in it. The only way to do this is to give the team the chance to contribute to the creation of the idea.
So, when you form a hypothesis of how to move forward, you need to share that idea in a “safe-to-say” environment, so the team feel confident in sharing their thoughts.
To create this environment, you need to be courageous and lead the way by demonstrating constructive criticism, rewarding honest conversation and encouraging teamwork.
To offer constructive criticism, refrain from using negative language, point out opportunities and not faults, while you can also try to be emotionally intelligent.
3. Admit It When You Make Mistakes
It’s fine to say that you made mistake, because if you avoid mistakes all together it limits your professional growth.
If you can admit your mistakes to the team, you – as their manager – seem more “real” and approachable. But, also relay how you have learned from the error.
This comes down to leading from the top. By spreading the idea that it’s okay to make mistakes, the team may do more to push the boundaries and share suggestions that will ultimately lead to improved contact center performance.
4. Allow Your Team to Dictate Your Culture
Sometimes being courageous means loosening your grip on certain aspects of the contact center.
One of those aspects should include the culture and the atmosphere created on the contact center floor, as it’s good practice for advisors to have an influence over the area in which they work.
While it’s important to share organisational values, to ensure your service meets the image of your brand, how your culture links to those values is something that advisors should have a say in.
So, when you think it’s time to bring-in motivational games and incentives or if you want to redecorate some of your workspaces, let advisors lead you. This leads to greater engagement, which will provide the contact center with numerous benefits.
5. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
When managing a contact center, you’ll often run into the same issues and you will handle them in the same way, a way that has been proven to “numb” the problem in the past.
A courageous manager will look for new fixes, instead of reverting to those that have worked in the short-term before. They will strive to find longer-term solutions that – while they may be risky – will prevent the problem from cropping up time and time again.
So be daring and, while you’re at it, encourage your team to be too and find their own areas for development. In any role, you can only grow by leaving your comfort zone.
6. Identify How Big Decisions Will Impact Everyone and Open Discussion
Sometimes middle managers will be told to implement a new procedure that they know the team won’t take well to, so they “half-implement” it – in an attempt to keep both you and their advisors happy. Yet, the result is often that they please neither.
A courageous manager won’t put middle managers in this position, taking responsibility for new initiative and initiating a discussion with the team about how the change will impact them.
Then, make it clear to middle management that you expect them to follow your lead, to be courageous in the least popular places and open discussion with the team about how you can make things easier for them. Focus on being proactive instead of defensive.
7. Challenge Middle Managers to Come Up With Long-Terms Goals
Many managers become great at talking, but struggle when it comes to implementing. This is often why we focus on short-term targets, as opposed to far-reaching objectives, as it’s easier to prove our progress when we keep hitting those small targets.
A courageous manager is someone who makes big decisions, not only short terms ones. While it’s easy to “look busy” by have these small but timely impacts to certain metrics, a courageous manager will stick to their long terms aims and stress their goals for long term progression.
Keep in mind that without long-term strategies, development is restricted, so don’t let current affairs serve as an excuse for avoidance.
8. Encourage Independent Thinking
Certain middle managers will look for your advice at every opportunity and you give it to them, because it’s the nice thing to do. But, they will likely have more interaction with the team than you and, in some cases, this will mean that they know more than you.
As the manager, you cannot make every decision, but you should get to know your middle-management team and designate responsibilities to those based on your educated perceptions of their strengths.
So, if you believe that the middle manager can solve the matter on their own, quiz them and let them develop their own ideas through this consultation.
If you don’t give them your ideas when they ask, but do this instead, you’ll develop their independent thinking that they’ll grow more confidence in, so – over time – they’ll stop coming to you and trust in themselves. This allows you to “get on” with your other responsibilities, while middle managers better their development.
9. Reward Advisor Courage
Courageous ideas don’t have to come through managers, advisors are the people who customers share their greatest grievances with and may have ideas for contact center development. However, it takes courage for them to bring these ideas to the top.
So, how can we encourage advisors to come to us with their ideas? The most obvious method is to show our immediate gratitude to those who do.
But, remember to follow-up on their suggestions. Don’t just say thank you and leave it at that, discuss how you are going to move forward with their ideas.
10. Share Ownership of Other People’s Mistakes
As managers, we are obligated to lead and steer, in all various scenarios. This means that we often share the responsibility if a middle manager makes a mistakes.
When something goes wrong, it’s easy to go looking for someone to blame, but only through self-assessment can we develop our managerial skills.
A courageous manager will do more than just forgive the “guilty” manager, but will instead look at themselves and ask: did I give them too much responsibility too soon? Did I not offer an appropriate amount of support? Did I miss any key signals that the task was too much?
Managerial courage is an important skill as it fosters a transparent relationship with the rest of the team, which promotes honesty, engagement and trust within the contact center.
Also, in the contact center, courage will enable you to break new ground and achieve long-term goals, instead of just hitting short-term metrics.
If you follow the ten tips above, you will begin to train and develop courage within yourselves, as well as those who report to you.