When the first call center opened, in my home town in 1999, I applied and was hired as one of four team leads. Prior to this, I had worked in retail management, had done some outside sales management, and was even a bartender. Dealing with people was right in my wheelhouse. Little did I know how much this industry would teach me.
I had a team of 18 people and as with most teams, all areas on the performance scale was represented. I had a few exceptional performers, a majority of average (which is not a bad thing) performers, and a couple of performers that really struggled. That’s where Mandy comes in. (Name has been changed to protect the innocent).
Oh yes, Mandy is a real person. A real person that gave me a few grey hairs and taught me one of the most important lessons in my career.
About all that Mandy was doing right was asking questions…and not different questions, but the same questions over and over and over. Despite my hours, days, weeks, and months of coaching, nothing ever changed. I literally began to feel like Sisyphus, of Greek mythology. Every time I’d get that boulder to the top of the hill, it would come rolling right back down. I even moved her seat right next to mine, so that I could hear her calls and give her instantaneous help, all to no avail. We had our weekly one on ones, our daily “chats” and there was nothing I could do to move her numbers. Her handle time was high and quality was poor.
You see, during all of this coaching, I was expecting Mandy to understand me because, after all, I was her manager. How dare she not put into practice the things I was telling her and when she tried to implement them, she failed.
And that’s when it hit me….I was expecting HER to understand me when I really needed to be the one that did the understanding. I needed to hear her and understand her needs. So I listened and once I did, I heard someone that not only wanted to solve the problem, but she wanted to be involved in creating the solution.
So I sat down with Mandy and helped her create her own action plan. All I needed to do was guide her through the thought processes and help her develop solutions in her own language. I did this through open ended and sometimes guiding questions. As the conversation flowed, I could see the light bulb getting brighter.
In the beginning, we would review her performance daily. I would give her the previous day’s stats and she would point out her areas of opportunity to me. Eventually, her performance improved to where she was a little better than average, but I love average and was proud of her improvement and drive.
Ultimately, what Mandy taught me was that when something goes wrong or doesn’t work right look within, first, for the problem. See if there’s something you can change with your approach or methodology. You may just save time and find the source of the problem. As leaders, it’s our privilege to give the nudge that could change the world and sometimes that means nudging ourselves…right over the top of that hill!