Your people make the difference.

Of course you know that. It’s probably in posters all throughout your call centers, your break rooms, everywhere.  And you believe it.

Which is why you invest money and time in them. You have online training they can take to improve their knowledge. You regularly pull them off the phones to attend classes to build up their soft skills. Your supervisors regularly coach them to ensure they stay fresh and continue to engage your customers.

That’s terrific. You should be congratulated for your support for your people.

But what about you?

What I’ve found is that most leaders are adamant about training their people – yet, they rarely get the education they need. Especially in the skills it takes to lead your people.

I gave a keynote speech to 400 Operations and IT leaders. I asked everyone to stand up if they’ve taken any training in the last year. About 350 did so. Then I told them to remain standing if that training was to become a better manager or leader.

Whoop! About 300 sat down.

It’s ironic. We tell ourselves that our people are our differentiators, and it’s true. But you don’t keep great people with mediocre, untrained leaders. As Steve Jobs reportedly said, A-level people won’t work for B-level managers. And you don’t need the latest management thinking to realize that this is true.

In their research into call centers in financial services, Ann Evenson, Patrick Harker and Frances Frei found three primary drivers of effective service delivery. Of course, #1 was effective people (the other two were effective internal processes and effective information technology).

Two of the important factors impacting effective people were empowered employees and turnover. Of course, management skill has a huge impact on both of these. Ineffective managers have a difficult time empowering people. Especially because most managers hire the best person on the phones to be a supervisor. Since they were so effective, the most efficient method is to tell everyone to do it the way she did it. Which is the exact opposite of empowerment.  She needs to learn a new way.

Poor management also creates turnover. As Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman shared in First, Break All the Rules, employees don’t leave companies. They leave managers.

If you have a turnover issue, look at the management skill of your supervisors and managers. If they seem to be effective, then look to yourself.

We act as if management is intuitive. If you’re not engaging your people, you just need to try harder. Spend a little money on a free lunch. Say hi more often. But it’s not this simple.  Management does not come naturally. It requires deliberate efforts – and training – to be effective.

So make sure your supervisors and managers – new or seasoned – get the training they need. Over time, skills start to slip. We get busy, and forget about the fundamentals. So keep it up with regular refreshers.

And while we’re at it, let’s return to our previous question:  What about you?

Maybe it’s time to lead by example and invest in your own education.  Your employees will thank you.

And so will your customers.