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Relational Leadership: Employee Engagement Equals Employee Retention

We get a lot of interest from the ICMI Community on agent retention, and we all know that engagement is a key part of that, but what is there to do beyond rewards and incentives and contests? Is there a deeper level of engagement that can be achieved and that managers and even supervisors should be looking at?

Bob Furniss, president of the consultancy Touchpoint Associates and an ICMI-Certified Training Associate, says relational leadership is a good place to start.

To define relational leadership, he points to John Maxwell, internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and New York Times bestselling author, who says leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.  "If we take that definition as the basis, we are talking about relational influence.  John has a personal goal to provide positive feedback to every person within the first 30 seconds of the conversation.  I believe it is easier to influence people if YOU are relationally connected to their values in life.  We will talk about how to use this connection to inspire them instead of motivating them –- because there is a difference," says Furniss.

"I think we have all stayed with a company where the job was tough but the relationship with the people (especially your manager) made you think twice about leaving," says Furniss. "On the other hand, we have all left good companies because we worked for someone that did not care about our personal success. I think that is the key: Research shows that recognition of a job well-done is more important than money. Don’t get me wrong, we do a poor job sometimes in our industry in paying people what they are worth, but I have been in call centers all over the world and successful companies understand people want to feel valued in their job.  

Furniss says higher management in the call center/customer care can set an example for managers and supervisors, and even agents on employee engagement. "The best way to improve engagement is to MODEL engagement.  I read something recently that said that coaching at the second level is often worse than what happens at the frontline." He says he's seen this in other companies, where a second-level or mid-level manager is asking for more coaching but can't find an hour a month to spend with their direct-reports. "I recommend that leaders ask themselves the tough question: How much time did I really spend in the last week developing specific people?  Not meetings and memos, but true one-on-one discussions about success."

Of course, the best way to know what's working and what isn't is to ask the employee, Furniss says. "Employee satisfaction surveys are a must!"

Relational Leadership in the Contact Center
Find out more about how relational leadership can improve agent engagement and retention at ACCE 2010 during Bob Furniss's session "Relational Leadership - Employee Engagement Equals Employee Retention," where he'll share:

* Concepts that his firm, Touchpoint Associates uses to create employee satisfaction surveys.
* A simple five-question test for frontline leaders -- do they really know their team members?
* Common challenges around engagement and retention, including some of the best solutions Furniss has seen and recommends.

Bob Furniss is president of Touchpoint Associates. [email protected]