hat&wandIt could be that there is no other industry that does a better job at promoting from within the ranks than call center. That sounds great on the surface but it's also an industry that tops the charts in turnover. We have all read the statistics on why people leave their job.. the number one reason never seems to change. People leave because of their direct supervisor.

Cindy gets an entry level job as a rep and she's a natural. She works well independently, doesn't need hand holding, has great attendance and plenty of compliment calls. She meets the goals then exceeds them and becomes a top agent. A supervisor position opens up and she applies. Management is so enamored with Cindy she's a shoo-in and gets the position. It's party time.

It should be fright fest. The same qualities that made her a stellar agent may in fact not make her a fit at all for a leadership role. Her high need to please people, focus on one call at a time, work independently and never deviate from a script are not desired leadership qualities. Cindy is being set up for failure not success unless before she jumps into her new role the company has an established training program for new leaders. Not only is she at risk, so is the staff that will report to her.

Leadership training in the call center world where billing is per hour (or call or minute) per body is rare. It's so fast paced most promotions occur due to a painful sudden vacancy or gap due to growth. The philosophy of hiring from within an organization that has few leadership positions is viewed as a huge benefit and keeps agents dangling and dreaming. Most new leaders spend a few days job shadowing another overworked underpaid colleague singing deja vu under their breath wishing the underling would go away so they could get some work done.

Call centers are just an example that stands out in my mind from personal experience of hand holding new supervisors and managers who don't know the first thing about managing people that are not on the other end of a phone line. Sadly, just like many of the agents they are dumped into managing, they often don't last very long and often they take people down with them. Sales organizations and retail are similarly prone to promoting top producers who lack administrative discipline (cool impressive qualification, huh?).

What if you find yourself in that position? I would suggest asking about professional development opportunity and training in the interview. However, if you know none exists you'll shoot yourself in the foot asking that. But do have a discussion with yourself and someone outside of work that you trust to weigh the pros and cons of jumping into a fire face first. Because you're going to accept the offer if extended to you, that was just an exercise in weighing pros and cons, mostly for posterity's sake.

Accept the offer and celebrate!

When you come down from cloud nine it's important to recognize your strengths in product knowledge, persuasiveness, patience and ability to learn new things and apply them quickly. It's even more important to recognize you have a lot to learn and have been given a significant opportunity to prove just how Houdini you are and surprise the masses.

  • Assemble a personal advisory board of professionals you trust that are willing to mentor you and be a sounding board
  • Bookmark and devote time daily to The Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA(SM)
  • Make a visit to your HR Manager and ask for a recurring weekly appointment to learn how to deal with employee relations issues and review company policy in detail until you're up to speed
  • Join the American Management Association's site for free and take advantage of as many free webinars as you possibly can
  • Take advantage of any tuition reimbursement available through your employer to take management and business classes at your local community college where the funds will go much further than at a 4 yr school
  • If not provided to you, ask for a development plan with specific SMART goals
  • Ensure you understand guidelines concerning employee / manager relationships and act accordingly

The road can be pretty bumpy and can affect your personal and home relationships if you allow it so use your personal advisory board and trusted friends you don't work with to guide and listen to you. Taking your job home with you will create a train wreck and so will confiding in your ex-peers. Ask for frequent feedback from your manager and request coaching sessions if they are not scheduled for you for at least the first year.

Becoming a successful leader can be like climbing the mountain in The Little Engine that Could. It's not for everyone and you just may find it's not your thing after all. You'll find out by giving it all you have and an honest chance. You just might find it's exhilarating, fulfilling and rewarding.

Good luck, here's to your success!


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