In honor of April Fool’s Day, I thought I’d share some of the most foolish things I’ve seen center leaders do. I’ll also share the wonderful things since there are many who have what it takes.
EATING + COACHING = UNPROFESSIONAL: As I joined the supervisor for coaching, she told me the rep would be joining us shortly, and left to invite her to our coaching room. When the supervisor came back, she also brought her fast food, onion topped burger lunch bag, and set it on the table in front of us.
She spoke with the rep for a minute and then logged in to play some recorded calls. As the call played, the supervisor dug into her burger bag and began to eat with one hand while pausing the call with the other hand, attempting to chew and ask questions at the same time.
The incredulous look on the rep’s face (and I have no doubt mine) did not deter this multi-tasking leader from her food mission. After the session, I asked the supervisor if eating while a rep is there for a skills review and discussion was a good way to engage. She looked confused and responded, “Well I didn’t have time for a lunch break so I figured I’d save time bringing it here. Besides, I’m sure Suzie (rep) didn’t mind.”
The rep shared with me later that she thought it was very unprofessional and didn’t appreciate that the supervisor appeared more interested in eating than helping her improve.
POOR SCHEDULING = EMBARRASSED AGENT: Supervisors need to be quick on their feet since the only thing that’s constant in our centers is change. We also need to be good planners and schedulers to make sure that our time with agents, including coaching, is effective and uninterrupted.
My favorite “what not to do” story related to scheduling involves a supervisor who scheduled coaching with a struggling agent who could be very challenging. When I arrived to observe the coaching session, the supervisor told me that he had decided that morning to move the coaching into a large conference room since the smaller training room was booked.
During the coaching, the agent became very upset about her poor skills performance. As the supervisor attempted to discuss and calm the rep down, two employees from another department barged into the conference room without knocking or asking if they could enter. They began setting up a table with a cloth, napkins, plates and cups while the supervisor just continued to talk with the clearly upset agent as if nothing else was happening.
I interrupted and asked him what was going on. He said he had forgotten that a lunch meeting was planned in the same room we were using. He turned to the agent and simply said, “Well, we can continue this another day.”
Needless to say the agent being coached was not happy. His poor coaching planning and scheduling caused embarrassment and wasted time.
YOU CAN DISH IT OUT BUT YOU CAN’T TAKE IT: Coaching has to be 360 involvement by everyone including managers, supervisors, leads and agents. Some leaders love to do what they think is coaching (i.e. tell people what they are doing wrong) and can be extremely defensive when they are coached themselves.
One such manager worked at a bank and was responsible for coaching her team. When she was given coaching on her own phone skills and her coaching technique, the manager complained to her VP that we (the coaches) “didn’t like her” and that she was being picked on due to that dislike. The vice president later told us that the manager was a “very sensitive” person so we shouldn’t coach with her anymore.
Unfortunately, this whining manager was a terrible coach with her team but was protected due to her long time position with that bank. When the other branch managers were getting results from learning how to be great coaches, she finally admitted that she needed the long overdue skills help.
Now to some of the great leaders I’ve seen in action:
- The manager who logged in to take calls because she sent a rep home who was feeling ill and didn’t want her team or the customers to suffer from short staffing.
- The supervisor who booked time monthly with every rep on their team to find out what they needed help with, what their goals were, reviewed available training options inside and outside the company. This was in addition to skills coaching.
- The manager who saw her center as the training and development center of the corporation, welcoming those who were successful and wanted to grow within, also helping those who were successful but wanted to work in other areas of the business. Many great company managers got their start in that center as agents.
- The quality coach who came in early some days to do reports and administrative work so she could make sure each rep wasn’t rushed in coaching and had the role play and side by side time needed.
We all make mistakes as leaders but hopefully we learn and grow into better leaders and coaches. We do that by being open to feedback, looking at the full consequences of our daily actions and interactions and by leading by positive example.