I was sitting at my desk looking at my Outlook calendar. Four meetings, two of them overlapping, and literally only a break of about 15 minutes for a bite to eat. On my desk, stacks of papers, notes and folders reminded me of the two major projects I was running behind on. And I still needed to sit down with Jim to talk about issues with his recent tone with a customer. The thing is, this day wasn’t unusual. This was pretty much everyday life for me. I was overwhelmed.
Looking at the two meetings that overlapped, I thought, “What if I sent someone to the second meeting in my place?” The second meeting was a task force to look for ways to increase customer loyalty. I needed to be there, yes, but my budget meeting took priority.
I called George into my office. George was a bright, energetic, proactive frontline customer service representative. “George, I have an opportunity for you,” I said. “ At 2:30 I have a customer loyalty task force meeting. I can’t attend due to a budget meeting and I’d like you to stand in for me.” George jumped at the chance to get out of the call center and sit in on a meeting with managers and directors.
The next day George came to my office to brief me on the meeting. He was beaming with excitement. He had so many creative ideas for how to help our company build and strengthen customer relationships. I knew he added more value to that meeting than I would have, especially given that my priority was on the budget meeting. George offered to continue going to the task force meetings in my place going forward. I didn’t even have to think about it, “Yes, George, you will be great at this!”
Delegating a meeting to an employee lightened my load and empowered him to exercise untapped skills. Months later I could see George beginning to blossom in the areas of leadership, public speaking and championing ideas. I had truly motivated him in a very unique way. What if, I wondered, I could give all of my employees a similar experience? I began to seek out tasks for delegation, opportunities that would not only make life easier for me, but would truly empower and motivate my employees. I found the opportunities and in the process, I relieved my stress and created a culture of empowered and motivated employees. Here are 3 things being an overwhelmed manager taught me about motivating my call center employees.
1. When All Else Fails, Go to Your Employees for Solutions
When I first took over the call center at this company, I inherited big problems – with everything from employee morale to delivering a quality customer experience. New to the position and still very much learning as a young manager, I really didn’t know how to tackle the myriad challenges. Fresh out of graduate school, I turned to one of my textbooks for help. In my Human Relations textbook I found something known as the “Quality Circle.”
In a Quality Circle, managers go to employees for solutions to problems. Following the text to the letter, I assembled a group of call center employees who volunteered to be part of the quality circle. We met once weekly for about 10 weeks. The first week I put a problem on the table and said, “Here’s the deal. This is a problem that we must fix and I have no idea how to do that. You guys are the experts. What ideas do you have?” Continue reading