Sports + Contact Centers = Leadership Insight

Right now the seasons of four major professional team sports overlap – football, baseball, hockey, and basketball. (And let’s not forget collegiate athletics.) What does this have to do with contact centers? More than you might think.

With people across the country rooting for their favorite teams, conversations inevitably turn to whether or not the coach made a good call. You've probably done it yourself (or seen others do it) – nodding in agreement with a phenomenal coach or shaking your head in disgust because the team is losing under the direction of a poor coach.

Wouldn't you say there are many, many similarities between the coach of your favorite team and a contact center manager? In my mind there are, and the same qualities that make for a good coach also make for a good contact center manager.

Qualities Possessed by Great Coaches and Great Contact Center Managers

1. Trust

A good coach understands that trust is the foundation of a connection to his/her players. With trust, players will give full commitment to their coach and the game. A great coach builds and maintains that foundation – he or she strengthens the connection with each team member by sharing credit, expressing sincere, appreciation, and recognizing excellent team performance.

2. Understanding

With connection comes understanding. A coach knows the players’ strengths, weaknesses, personalities, styles as well as how to utilize their abilities – in concert with other players – for the success of the team. A contact center manager does this by understanding employees’ skills and making assignments appropriately. E.g. If an agent has strong written skills, they are going to be excellent at responding to emails or communicating with customers via chat.

3. Preparation

A great coach is unquestionably well-prepared; he understands the competition/challenge ahead. A great coach has a specific, precise game plan and understands what the team needs to accomplish. The vision of the coach becomes a common goal/vision. A great contact center manager understands the competitive landscape: what challenges lie ahead and what plays need to be made so business goals can be achieved.

4. Execution

A great coach is demanding and expects results. The coach knows players well enough to motivate and encourage each individual in a way that inspires confidence to perform at a high level. The team executes the game plan. A great contact center manager drives for results, and sets challenging goals for individuals that align with business goals. The manager then provides guidance and support as agents strive to meet those goals. Throughout the process, a good manager will help with performance through teaching, coaching, and extra “practice time” as needed.

5. Determination

A great coach will utilize the first 3 qualities in all circumstances – win or lose, during the season and out of the season. He or she continually strives for improvement and recognizes greatness requires constant effort and focus, while taking the necessary steps to get there. It’s a marathon not a sprint.

What if you re-read the above descriptions using the word leader or contact center manager instead of coach? I believe there are many examples of coaches demonstrating strong leadership skills that we can apply to our own work, and our own career development.

The ideal role model for leadership might just be standing on the sideline of your favorite team this weekend. Just hope you don’t find him on the opposing team instead.

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