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Developing effective team leaders

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By Martin Conboy

How important are the Team Leaders and supervisors within your organisation? For BPO providers they are vital. It does not always follow that an agent who was successful at their job isn’t necessarily going to cut it as a team leader.

Team Leader. It is a challenging role, balancing the needs of the people against the needs of the business. Team Leaders can be called upon to be coach, mentor, motivator, boss, friend, schedular, analyst and reporter to name a few. There are indeed a wide variety of skills needed to shine in a Team Leader role but often it is a role with little training and even less recognition.

Recruitment

How do we recruit Team Leaders? There are definite advantages to promoting Team Leaders from within an existing team. Former agents understand the business, customers and culture of the organisation.

Promoting a member from the current team can be an ideal way to fill the position- if it’s the right person. They need to have been a natural leader in the team, someone the team appreciated and looked to for help.

So what qualities should a team leader have?

  • Passion for service delivery, proactive, positive Can Do attitude, a people person and strength of character – will stand up for what they believe
  • A Team Leader has to display the behaviours you want your team to give to the customers.
  • Cultural fit, ‘classic’ team leader experience with metric measures, emotional intelligence, flexible, critical thinker

However, even selecting the right agent for the job doesn’t inevitably guarantee success. Even those agents who possess all the necessary skills for a Team Leader position can nosedive without further support. Many Team Leaders need guidance and support just making the transition into their new role, as they will likely flounder without it. It is a real challenge to supervise people who used to be peers, but for any new Team Leader gaining the respect of their team can take time.  For some the new authority can be a bit rich for the blood as the power goes to their head.

Leadership Skills Training

Settling in, getting through the initial teething issues and feeling comfortable in their new team leader role is just the beginning, not the end, of the support that is needed. It is absolutely critical to provide additional leadership training, which focuses on both managing tasks and people.

Any Team Leader training programme, formal or informal, should include the following:

  • Leadership skills
  • People focus
  • Handling multiple and often conflicting priorities
  • Communication skills – at a number of levels
  • Decision making skills
  • Organisational skills
  • Delegate effectively
  • Time management
  • Conflict management
  • Monitoring
  • Coaching
  • Fostering team motivation
  • Negotiation skills
  • Ability to see and do things outside the box
  • Initiative

Ongoing learning opportunities should also be sought. Additional skills and knowledge can be gained through industry events and publications.

Define Job role

In addition to training and other learning and growth opportunities, managers can ensure the success of new Team Leaders by developing clear, measurable and consistent guidelines. Making sure new Team Leaders understand exactly what is expected of them is important

Team Leaders and Managers need to be on the same page through constant reinforcement and role clarity. That means having clearly defined PD’s with KPI’s and outcomes that are integrated with the organisations objectives is important.

Stating a clear purpose and outcome of the role provides everyone with a clear understanding the importance of each and everyone of the team and how they fit in to the ‘big wheel’”.  Recognition of the achievement, when objectives are met, is also very important.

Define priorities

Without their expectations being defined, new Team Leaders can feel swamped and de-motivated pretty quickly. New Team Leaders often feel they are given a huge workload with little guidance on prioritising and delegating.

Realistically, there is a lot to take on initially and time management is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone.

Successful BPO providers need great team leaders. Without direction, training and recognition someone with great skills can still disappoint in their Team Leader role. Good communication between the organisation, managers and leaders is the place to start according to the call centre managers we spoke to.
November 21, 2014
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