How to Be the Best Call Center Team Leader

How to Be the Best Call Center Team Leader

Illustration of a person sitting on the ground talking on the phone with plants behind them
by
Miruna Mitranescu

This is a guest post from Carolyn Blunt, Managing Director at Real Results, a contact center training consultancy company. Real Results Training Consultancy operates in the world of Service Desks, Contact Centres, and Customer Services, designing both front-line and leadership programs and huge culture change programs. You can also find Carolyn’s writings at Call Center Helper.

Have you ever left the office with your head in a spin after a day of heavy firefighting without any feeling of real accomplishment?

Are you busy all the time but find it hard to know what you have achieved on your strategic to-do list? Do you have a strategic to-do list? Or do you mostly feel like your job is that of a glorified babysitter?

When I ask people to describe a great boss, they say things like “down to earth” and “approachable”, but they also talk about professionalism.

My last great boss commanded respect. People wouldn’t dream of taking the same silly little quibbles and gripes to him over and over. He wouldn’t allow that. He would ask questions and make them recognize that they had the answer within themselves or knew where to go to get it.

By being considerate and helpful, you could be extending an invitation to drag petty squabbles into your lap. Really, such issues should be resolved without your micro-management.

Often, in our eagerness to please as a new manager, we take some of the mantras of leadership, (such as being approachable and demonstrating genuine interest) too far and allow the team to steal precious time and take advantage if they are that way inclined.

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So being the best team leader your agents have isn’t about bending over backward. You’ll soon feel like you are being pulled in a million different directions. People will take advantage, and your boss will be disappointed when you don’t get through the other work you need to do.

Call center team leaders traits

  • Be firm but fair with everyone

You don’t need to make a show of power or control. Rather, demonstrate that you put the organization and the team before yourself, but not at the expense of getting the job done.

  • Be open and honest

If the answer to a request or idea is “no”, then explain why. If you have to do some digging to get to the real “why”, then do it. Your team wants to know you advocated for them and appreciate knowing some facts and figures.

  • Show respect—both for yourself and everyone else

Your values and how you behave are watched by everyone around you. If you abuse yourself by not getting enough sleep, being unhealthy, or by being negative, then it’s demoralizing for your team.

So once you have your own head and heart in order, let’s think about your ability to increase your team’s performance. According to research, we all have about 20% extra discretionary effort within us. Whether we chose to give it or not on a daily basis depends on a number of things.

Are your team members putting their best feet forward?

As an effective manager, you must give feedback—whether it’s positive or it covers things your team needs to work on so your staff knows what’s required. Positive feedback should be specific, public, and genuine. Look for opportunities to praise your team members every day and make sure to give praise fairly.

Don’t hold back

This is the easiest and most cost-effective solution to an immediate feel-good factor for your staff. It may seem a little strange to be discussing corrective feedback when we want to be motivational and inspiring, but ask yourself: If you don’t give corrective feedback, what happens?

You may have a team member who cruises below standard, but for whatever reason, you don’t address it. Your star performers pick up the slack, but they slowly and surely become (quite rightly) disgruntled for having to do so.

If you dislike giving criticism, think of it as constructive feedback

The team member has drifted slightly off course and you are going to adjust them back on track. Giving this feedback now will mean they have not deviated too far from the norm. Wait a while and you’ll have a bigger problem on your hands.

Think about the three words: people, task, and process. Which are you spending your time on?

If someone has a preference for “people”, they will be concerned with helping others and would hate to come off as cold or unfeeling. They will be empathetic but risk becoming totally immersed in people issues, neglecting the other points of the triangle.

If someone has a preference for “task”, they will focus on achieving results, have a strong sense of urgency, and display assertiveness. However, others can see them as competitive, controlling, and blunt. They might be so focused on getting things done that they overlook people and process elements.

Those with a preference for “process” need to get things right. Their focus is on correctness, order, and logic. They and have a strong sense of fairness and personal integrity. However, they would rather be right than be popular. They run the risk of seeming overly unemotional, detailed, and cautious. They will go out of their way to minimize risk and conduct lengthy analysis if needed—even if the task and people elements suffer.

  • Are you too focused on your natural preference? What could you be neglecting?
  • How might your team’s performance be different if you changed your focus?

Do you overwhelmingly reward members of your team when they have the same focus as you? It is not an infrequent occurrence that a manager oversees people of differing views. In such an instance, the manager must be flexible in meeting the needs of the individual. Failing to value people in the way they expect can lead to higher levels of staff turnover.

Investing time in developing self-awareness and wider skills in non-preferred areas for you and your team may stop the continuous cycle of recruiting and replacing people or sorting out squabbles.

This can leave you with less fire fighting to do and more time to focus on the strategic elements of your role that were the reason you became a manager in the first place.

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