North American Customer Service Management Association

Support for Contact Center Professionals

Phase 6 Strategy - Step 5 Management Team Development

The Whole is Greater than its Parts

The management team is responsible for creating the culture at the new contact center.

This is no easy task; it will take substantial effort over time. Leadership sets the tone of a company’s culture. This is where leading by example, clarity of purpose and core values are critically important. A new management team doesn’t work like a well-oiled machine out of the gate. Teamwork just doesn’t automatically happen when you put a new team of managers together.
The site leader needs to be skilled in developing a new management team. It will require time, energy and effort to build a successful team. Building a new management team is about how everyone comes together to work as a unified group. It’s how they engage in teamwork. Everyone is expected to get along yet rarely does in start-ups, hence a concerted effort is required.
New contact centers typically promote agents and team leads to floor supervisors and then on it goes from there. In brand-new centers, everyone wants to become the rock star manager. Some managers basically push and shove their way around trying to get involved in every decision that is to be made, and in doing so steps on a lot of toes and makes many enemies along the way.
It is natural for all new teams to move through the four stages of team development. Setting the expectation of team development and understanding the four stages helps the management team appreciate their role, why some days are challenging and why some days they just plain want to quit!
Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing

Forming
Takes place when the team first meets each other. Team members are introduced to one another. Everyone reviews their backgrounds, experience and how they made their way to this group. This is where each member forms a first impression. This is the “feel out” stage – where members are thinking can I work with that person? Does the person have credibility? Who will give me trouble? Who will be my allies?
It is critical that the site manager be very clear about roles and responsibilities and how those roles will work together. In a new contact center, process and procedure many not be the “same” as what managers are familiar with. Some members on the team come from another company location, others come from other companies. Many times, processes are modified for the new location. Determining areas of responsibility from the start is critical to the team’s development. The site manager’s role is to provide very clear team goals and provide clear direction.

Storming
It’s unavoidable and the most stressful as every new team advances to this stage. In a new contact center with a new management team that includes managers that have never worked together, it is especially true that team members compete for status and acceptance of their ideas. In a new environment, some managers want to be super heroes and will perform duties and functions that belong to others. Every manager has their own opinions and ideas of what should be done and how, which causes conflict within the team. Everyone wants to look good and perform. This is an uncomfortable stage for most.
A strong and experienced site leader needs to be proficient in facilitating the team as it progresses through this stage. With guidance, the team will learn how to solve problems together and learn how to function as a unit as well as independently. The team will settle into roles and responsibilities. The site leader’s role is to play referee and coach members who are too dominating and encourage others less assertive to speak up.
When team members begin accepting each other and learn to work together for the good of the team, the team is ready to move to the next stage.

Norming
Team members shift their focus from self to team and begin to work more effectively as a team. They respect each other’s opinions and value their differences. Working together feels more natural. The team has agreed on team rules; how they will share information and resolve conflict, and determined what tools and processes they will use to get the job done. Trust emerges and relationships begin to change as they look for ways to collaborate instead of compete with each other.
The site leader’s role in norming begins to step back as the team members take over decision-making, take on more responsibility and are now able to resolve conflict as a team. The site leader’s role changes to coach moving forward. Now the team is poised for the celebratory stage.

Performing
The performing stage is when the team is operating at a high level like a well-oiled machine. It is an exciting time because now the team is focused on results. Everyone at this point has gotten to know each other, now trusts each other and relies on each other. Performing teams operate without much oversight as the self-manage themselves. They are highly motivated to achieve results and will make decisions quickly and effectively. When a disagreement arises, they work through it and come to a consensus without disrupting progress. The site leader’s role now is to monitor the progress of the team. Celebrate all wins to build team camaraderie. Not all teams reach the performing stage but when they do it is a high time for the contact center.
Barriers to Creating a Rock Star Leadership Team

The “management team” can sound like an oxymoron. Turning managers into a team is challenging for several reasons.

Managers are typically people who are action-oriented and high on the need for control. Not everyone on a management team can be in control and some managers therefore struggle with relinquishing control to be an effective team member. There are some other obstacles as well.
Managers from different business units have competing interests. Business units that have conflicting goals, interests and needs can drive a team apart. Fortunately, the contact center team has similar if not the same interests, needs and goals in serving the customer and many times share similar metrics.
Management teams are unique in that to be effective, they must successfully manage relationships upward, downward and laterally. They are, many times entrenched in a complex network of relationships, which greatly impacts their ability to perform.
Effective managers are used to making decisions quickly and independently. When managers are on a team, they are now making group decisions instead of independent decisions and many times managers are challenged by the slower decision making process.
It’s not impossible to have a rock star management team. A strong team leader should be able to guide the team around the obstacles and guide it to the finish line.
Success Factors

Successful management teams need to understand their purpose.

Communicate clearly the goals they are hired to accomplish, to focus their activity and effort. Too many start-ups lack clear goals. These goals should address the organization’s critical strategic priorities. Repeat the message daily. Managers, just like subordinates, require repetition of the message before it sinks into their DNA. As managers get more acquainted with peers, the company, the site and their own team, clarity eventually comes. You can never over-communicate the goals of your new site.
Create opportunities for managers to meet other managers from other business units. The more relationships managers have, the more effective they can be. Plan professional networking sessions, hand out organizational charts and contact information for the management team. The site or senior manager can make personal introductions. Encourage managers to step out and introduce themselves to those above, below, and all peers. Go to lunch or pick up the phone and introduce yourself. “We are on the same team! How can we work together?” This will make new managers more resourceful to both their teams and the management team alike. It’s “who” you know.
Now that you are acquainted with everyone – get to know them! It’s collaborative relationships that produce results not silos! To achieve goals, management team members need to trust each other and trust comes from positive, supportive relationships. Create a culture that is safe for new manages to develop relationships, to make friends they can rely on and to collaborate for great success. Everyone is on the same team! Collaborate and get things done.
Communications

In a business environment, you can’t over communicate to your team, within your team or outside of your team.

The best decisions are made with the best data and that may come from many different sources around the organization. Communicating exactly what information you need to peers in other business units can provide quick data to make informed decisions. Keeping in touch with your network will make it easier to get what you need. If the only time you reach out is because you want something, that will get old and tired. Let your professional network know what you need, offer to help them. Ask “how can I help you?” People need and want communication.

Tips!

1. Understand the theory behind teams. There is value in reviewing the four stages, the leader’s role in each stage, and the team member’s role to understand the complexity of building brand new teams.
2. Don’t ignore any conflicts thinking they will go away on their own. Don’t tell the team “to just work it out”. Take a direct approach, but don’t take sides, and provide objective support to resolve conflict.

Take the Next Step!

Start-up management teams can be successful given the tools, guidance and opportunity. New management teams will go through the painful process of forming, storming and norming before finally performing. Strong, experienced site leadership is a must to develop and guide a new management team through the four stages of team development. Don’t minimize this process. Be patient, communicate constantly and correct and continue. High performing management teams are crystal clear on their purpose and mission. With collaboration, focus and goal alignment, managers make effective group decisions and execute plans for brilliant contact center results.

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