Leader Pragmatips #008

Confrontation. This word has gotten a bad rap over the years and it really shouldn’t have, it is often confused that confrontation has to be done in a contentious manner. There’s no rule that says it has to be. When something needs fixing, when a change needs to happen, when there’s a difference between the results you actually have versus the one that you actually need, then it’s high time for a confrontation. A structured, methodical and one that’s geared towards measurable actions and step changes.

 

What you don’t ever want to do is side step the issues, hoping they’ll get fixed. Remain stubborn with what you think is right even if the constant results are not showing it. The absolute worst is the cowards way of posting anonymously or sharing vague quips and anecdotes in the hopes that you’re making your point across. You may think that’s what’s happening but it’s really not and your just doing more harm than good.

 

Just like in other popular credos and slogans e.g. face your fears, own up to your past mistakes, take responsibility for your actions, it can all be done in the positive frame of mind, but the first step is the confrontation.

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The Law of Averages – Part 1

The law that a particular outcome is inevitable simply because it is statistically possible. The principle that supposes most future events are likely to balance any past deviation from a presumed average.

This is something that I don’t believe when it comes to KPI, stats or metric performance.

My perspective in this is nothing new, even if you check various sources – from this perspective, this is nothing but wishful thinking, misunderstanding probability and a false notion of common sense that just because you see something as the “average” outcome, this means it’s repeatable. This is simply not true if you don’t take into account underlying factors and drivers that affected the average aka empirical evidence that influenced the distribution.

The most critical thing this doesn’t account for is behavior – which is a primary influencer of the KPI results. Consider the example: When a planning team decides what handle time to use for AHT, the standard (read: outdated) method to use is the Average Handle time of the entire population. This worked in the past for basic transactional tasks, e.g. directory assistance, human IVR and other lines of business already obsolete today.

 

In any LOB that aims to deliver customer centric metrics as part of answering a technical query, billing inquiry or tech support service, the recommended baseline (there are others) to use is the CXQ1 Formula.

This is where you use the Customer Experience metric (NPS, CSAT, etc.) score of your Quartile 1 (aka Top Performers) and assess where their AHT sit. This is the first step to ensuring that what you’re using is directly connected to the customer outcomes you want to achieve.

This is why I don’t believe in the Law of Averages… unless, it is about Behavior

 

One of the best quotes from Jim Rohn fully emphasizes this for me – “You’re The Average of the Five People You Spend the Most Time With”

Think about it, when you were growing up, your opinions, demeanor and world views are based on the people you hang around most – Your Parents.
In your teens when you started wearing weird clothes, sporting weird hairstyles, doing things you laugh at today, was because of the influence of – Your Friends.

The list goes on.

Whether consciously or unconsciously regardless of whether you like it or not, we are influenced by the people closest to us. There’s actual data and research that prove that while we have our own personalities and quirks, our decisions, our way of thinking and even our self-esteem is affected by our interactions and our constant environment.

The lesson – Never ever spend time with negative, self-obsessed, victim mindset type of people as these types are the most toxic, vile, detestable bunch that will just put you in an endless cycle of woe, despair and inaction. Hang out instead with positive, productive, and progressive people. The people who are always looking towards solutions, things that can be done in-spite of the challenges.

Over the last decade, I have learned some of the best lessons, best in class action plans, critical and creative thinking, innovative and groundbreaking ideas not through some overpriced, branded and overhyped training sessions (some designed for the manufacturing industry) and other fancy online courses but from simply hanging out and observing people way smarter than I am. I have actually asked my own team to mirror this action that I call “skill and values learning by proximity” because I have seen it work many times over.

Let me close with 2 great quotes to emphasize my point here:

The least successful people in the world are also the ones who complain the most – Anthony Pangilinan

If you’re the smartest person in the room, find another roomMichael Dell

 

Speaking of spending time with smarter people, one of the many things I enjoy about my job is I get to hang out with people who normally you’d need security clearance or would need to pay a fee and attend their speaking engagements or something. I am talking about business leaders and CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies.

A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of hosting the CEO and a few other senior leaders from one of the top consumer electronics company in Europe and during the tail end of the dinner conversations, the CEO shared (not sure how we got to that part, it was a long day and I was really tired) his thoughts about saving your money in the bank. He quipped;

  • The best thing you can do is invest in stocks, markets and companies that you really believe in. Regardless of what the experts say. There’s no exact science here.
  • The next best thing you can do is start a business. A business that you really believe in and enjoy. Ignore what the naysayers will tell you. The small to medium business enterprise is the backbone of most growing economies.
  • The 3rd thing you can do, not exactly best or ideal but definitely better than the worst thing is to Spend it – Go traveling with your family. Expose your kids to new countries, cultures that has better lessons than you’ll find in a classroom. Buy that next house, condo, car, gadget (preferably our brand 🙂 ) and just have fun and invest in life experiences.

  • The Absolute worst thing you can do with your money is sticking them inside a bank and thinking this is a good idea. This is completely foolish and has and never will yield anything positive for your future.

Is he right? Does he have a point? Maybe, maybe not. But his thoughts does inspire a different way of thinking that challenges some of the norms we’re used to which again, is kind of the whole point of why you want to hang out with people that are smarter or more experienced than you are.

Leader Pragmatips #007

Never underestimate the power of the whiteboard! Some of the best, most practical actions I have seen inside and out of my immediate team has been developed, mapped out and finalized, face to face, in a discussion (not a lecture) and in front of a white board. With a variety of technology options available, it is very easy to forget that these things were created to AUGMENT the way we communicate with our people and was never meant to REPLACE the personal interactions we’re supposed to have that cultivate authentic relationships.

Besides, there’s just something very powerful and inspiring in the kinetic and genuine activity of writing down your challenges, root causes and solutions. So, the practical and pragmatic lesson this week is to rally your Team: Get in a room together (with a whiteboard) make sure everyone including mid level managers join, participate in the discussions that encourage both comprehension and buy in.

When creating action plans, as you define it further and further, focus on your “Elephants” the ones that will get you the biggest return.
Not less than 3, not more than 5. Discuss the progress weekly. Adjust and tweak where needed.

Check Yourself

A newbie manager recently asked me for tips on how to ensure she keeps a pulse on the ground and on her teams. This is the gist of what I shared.

A good list to check yourself against from time to time when it comes to your direct reports and the teams you manage:

  • When was the last time you led a Leadership session with them?
  • When was the last time you hung out outside the office for fun and R&R?
  • When was the last time you took an escalation call?
  • When was the last time you finished a book, created a module or ELP out of it and shared it with them?
  • When was the last time you did a floor audit for coaching and monitoring?
  • When was the last time you checked if all your teams down to the Supervisor level know the proper engagement and retention best practices?
  • When was the last time you discussed your start of year business plans and provided them progress/updates?

 

If the answer to any of these are in the “months” column, then we have some urgent things that need fixing.

Is this an all encompassing list? Not by a longshot. A great and simple place to start by any means.

 

Some key points to remember:

 

  1. A great culture beats strategy every single time. But it doesn’t come overnight.
  2. Being “too busy” to go into development sessions is a misnomer. You have to stop and sharpen the axe if you expect to cut down more trees.
  3. Consistency beats intensity every single time. (kind of like visiting the dentist twice a year won’t save your teeth if you don’t brush every day. The same applies with daily coaching and mentoring versus twice a year offsite workshops)
  4. Be the leader you wish you had
  5. Create the company/team you want to work for

Leader Pragmatips #006

Recognize and accept when you’ve failed. Past Success and Stubborn Pride are bad bedfellows if unchecked. If all the signs, metrics, data and all the feedback being given to you points towards a failure, do not make the mistake and be in denial that you’re still doing well, just because you’ve done well in the past.

You’re past successes brought you to this point, but what matters is today and the future. If you can’t take criticism, feedback or refuse to ask for help, you are setting yourself up and your team for more failure. Do not confuse perseverance for stubbornness. The former is accepting the failure and making the immediate changes to recover. The latter is the persistence to stick to what you’re used to even if it no longer works.

If you refuse to change, the world will change around you and you will either be ostracized or be deemed unnecessary. Recognize the failure, accept that change is needed, the blame is irrelevant. Failure is ok if you learn from it. Use the pain and the learning as motivation to move forward and recover.

You don’t have all the answers? That’s ok. No one expects you to. Ask for and Accept help. There is absolutely no shame in that.

Leader Pragmatips #005

Empathy, the most underrated Leadership Quality today. We all know the textbook definition. But what does empathy actually look like? Mr Sinek has the best, most practical example:

“Your numbers have been down for 3 quarters in a row, you have to pick up your numbers otherwise I can’t guarantee what the future will look like” How inspired do you think that person is coming to work the next day? This is a lack of Empathy.

Empathy from a Leadership lens is this “Your numbers have been down for 3 quarters in a row… are you ok?… I am worried about you… What’s going on?

We all have performance issues. Maybe someone’s kid is sick, maybe one of their parents is dying. We don’t know what’s going on in their lives and of course it will affect performance at work. Empathy is being concerned about the human being and not just their output.

Leader Pragmatips #004

I’ve had several conversations recently with direct and indirect reports about how there’s “too much work” and “lack of bandwidth” and while in some cases there is indeed a challenge, in most cases it is never beyond solving or fixing.

Leadership in the BPO space is categorized as one of the most difficult because of the variety of maturity levels coupled with the fast paced environment that we have to deal with. My advice has and will always be centered around Drowning out the Noise.

Make a list, use measurable or observable data, with baselines when possible. Forget all the drama, the unquantified perceptions coming from various sources. Stop talking about how much work there is to be done, how much broken things need fixing and just start. Guide your team to FOCUS ON ACTIONABLE ITEMS. You need to be the voice of reason, cheerleader and guiding force for your team who is absolutely feeling the same pressures you have now if not greater.

The Adaptability Criticality

Are you reading this on your phone? Which phone? It doesn’t matter. If you’re holding a modern day smartphone that has an open faced, capacitive touch flat or curved screen, whether it’s running iOS, Android or something in between, as long as it has Apps, Rubber band scrolling, Pinch and Zoom gestures… Whether it’s an iPhone, a Samsung phone, Google, and every other phone up to Huawei and more… this is the guy you owe that amazing User Interface you have now.

 

The guy who led the team that successfully lived up to the challenge from Steve who said, let’s use Mac OS and shrink it, let’s make it fit on the palm of your hand. When 90% of the engineers at the time said, it was impossible, that it couldn’t be done, this guy led his team and found a way.

To be fair, there were touchscreens in existence before this time, but some of you may not remember how clunky, obtrusive and what a burden they were to use. Under Steve’s vision, this guy led his team and broke all the expectations that gave you that joyful experience that today has extended to tablets, laptop hybrids and pretty much any touchscreen UI you can think of. His and his team’s digital fingerprints are all in there somewhere. Who is he?

 

He is Scott Forstall.

Some of you may know who he is, some of you may not and you’re probably asking, why have I not heard of him? Or more importantly, how come he’s not with Apple anymore?

Some of you may or may not know that he was actually one of Steve’s protégés (the other one being Jony Ive, a story for another day 🙂 ) Some even call him the “Mini-Steve Jobs because they have a lot of similarities. One of which is an unyielding and almost bullish way about what he wants to do and when, the refusal to work harmoniously with anyone that he disagrees with and a very unapologetic nature about him when he makes mistakes. Not unlike Steve in many respects but what he failed to do is Adapt. After Steve’s passing, the company culture shifted somewhat under Tim Cook’s leadership. The mess they encountered late 2013 launching Apple Maps, where he was directly responsible but refused to take responsibility for (by signing Apple’s public apology letter) further pushed Tim Cook to let him go.

 

How can such an influential and extremely talented individual experience such a setback? The answer is simple in my opinion, it’s because he refused to adapt to the new environment. And when there is a disconnect between the environment versus the individual, for better or worse the environment wins.

The lessons I’d like to leave here are simple:

  1. Leave a legacy as groundbreaking as Scott Forstall’s and your place in history is set.
  2. To be continuously successful, you have to adapt, and adapt quickly to your environment.

In our Super Awesome Leadership Summit in that same year (2013), our guest speaker remarked;
A Roadmap is only useful if the terrain doesn’t change. You also need a compass.”
And Adaptability is a central cog (there are others) in that compass and is exactly why Adaptability is crucial. How often does the landscape stay the same? Not very often.

I have shared before that adapting is very different from compromise (for those of you who are self-righteous) You can change your methods, without changing your values. And as long as you’re clear about what you want to achieve, the methods are changeable. It is the outcome that is important.

Leader Pragmatips #003

In our recent Leadership Summit a question was asked; beyond technology and any automated solutions, what can we do to protect ourselves and our environment from people driven fraudulent activities? The answer I shared in our table is that Fraud happens when we chase the number, when we put pressure around hitting a number, when we say “hit the number or else, or hit the metric no matter what” without providing support on training, resources and behavior coaching.

People will (by way of self preservation) chase the number, and a message that has emphasis on the number “no matter what” is why you have people giving in to Fraud.

99% of the population don’t wake up saying “how can I cheat the system today?” Everyone wants to do a good job, to learn more, give value and be appreciated for it. As Leaders, it’s our job to remove the roadblocks and provide the guard rails to ensure they do.

18 and Awesome!

Without consulting Mr. Google (or any other search engines) I challenge you to name the recipients of some of the most prestigious awards in the world today and why they got them: Please name the last 4:

  • Nobel Prize Winners
  • Academy Award Winners
  • Pulitzer Prize Winners
  • Grammy Award Winners

I bet you were able to come up with a name or two, but not all of them. You probably named a few “honorable mentions” but not the actual winners? It’s not that easy to identify is it?

What if I asked you to name the last 4 Leaders that made a significant positive impact in your life?

People who made you feel special but at the same time challenged your humility as well. Who didn’t make it easy for you but instead made you better so things became easier in a more sustainable manner. The people who built the right kind of connection with you, connections that are genuine and not done for any other purpose than to improve you in the best way possible. I wager coming up with that list would be super easy right?

Think about the award shows and the “thank you” speeches where everyone thanks the people that helped them, the people that made it possible for them to win, the moment when they say, I could not have done this without YOU!

These have commonality in the point I am trying to make – you remember the people that matter. This privilege should not be limited to award shows but should actually be quite applicable to someone’s career.

Make it a goal to have a positive impact in someone’s life, so whether it’s them receiving an award or just plain celebrating their years in the business, they will continue to carry with them the lessons and impact you’ve made in their lives.

 

This week I celebrate my 18th year in the BPO space and as my own personal tradition every year (you can check the archives 🙂 ), make it a point to thank the people who made it possible for me to be where I am today.

 

Some honorable mentions:

  • Randy Redden, for my very 1st promotion ever from Agent to Trainer.
  • Albert Gan, for convincing me to switch from Training to Ops.
  • Brian Johnson, for the best quote ever that I still carry with me today “Leadership is about results, not efforts”.
  • Travis Coates for believing I am ready to be a VP.
  • Hero de Jesus and Jojo Pacis, you’re in here somewhere. I struggle to pinpoint why but you’re here 🙂

I didn’t get to work with you gents as much as I would have liked but grateful to have worked with you indirectly.

 

And of course my top 4:

Mirelle Reyes, for believing that I can take on an Asst. Training Manager role back when all I ever wanted to be was a Trainer. For teaching me that presentations (of all forms) need to be in the version they need to be in the eyes of your target audience.

 

Mike Lazo, for showing me what true Leadership behavior and unforgiving discipline looks like. The epitome of fighting for your people even if sometimes, it puts you at risk yourself. A true leader and mentor in every sense of the word.

 

Kevin Urrutia, the living, breathing, example of what it means to continuously improve your skillsets. You’d always challenge us that if you’re not part of the top 25% (or higher) of your peers, you have no business being in that group. Not many people can pull off being a boss and a friend at the same time, you showed us how easy it was.

 

Mike Lytle, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? Brainiac, BFA, the Whiz Kid. Thank you for the unending patience and unapologetic stance for Solutions Orientation and a clear Vision of the way forward. The last 6 years of learning and development for me (and many of us) are because of you. Thank you.

 

And so 18 years, 73 programs, 11 sites, 9 verticals and over 6000 FTE later, here I am.

 

As the trope goes; Thank you to all of you, I could not have done this without you!

As always I commit to making you guys proud, paying it forward and making sure your lessons and legacies live on through the next line of leaders in years to come.

 

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How about you? Who are the leaders that significantly impacted your lives positively? Any honorable mentions? Will your name come up in someone else’s list?

 

Whatever happens, always pay it forward.