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What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?

“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

This quote has been making its way around social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest lately (what? I need a break sometimes, too!). Whenever I see it, I tend to think it’s meant for people who dream of somehow shedding their office jobs and moving to Tahiti. It doesn’t apply to you or me - regular people with sometimes-interesting-but-non-glamorous jobs in contact centers - right?

Or does it? Work is about work. You’re there to do a job, be professional and get results, not to express yourself, take risks, or explore your passions and creativity.

Or are you? If there’s any doubt that there’s a link between employee engagement and business results, and a quick Google search will dispel them. Ongoing studies of employee engagement hint that when we stash away our true selves at work and when we stifle our imagination and risky ideas, then our organization’s progress, innovation and, yes, results, suffer. And, the connection between engagement and employees’ desire to personally grow and develop, take risks, and express their passion and creativity at work is illustrated is also validated in industry surveys (such as Gallup’s Q-12 Employee Engagement Instrument). However, this article isn’t about how to increase your employees’ engagement, though. This article is for the Contact Center Manager, Agent or Quality or WFM Analyst who wants to rediscover their passion, boost their engagement and craft their own response to the question, "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?"

Six Tips for Regaining Inspiration

What keeps us from taking risks that truly excite and inspire us? Sometimes it’s because the hard data isn’t there or we can’t unequivocally prove the case for what we believe is the right course of action. Like many of my peers, I advocate data-driven decision making and evaluating contact center programs against an objective yardstick. But I’ve also noticed that when we only value hard data, we start to believe there is one right answer to everything and that only the things we can measure with a yardstick are valuable and worthwhile. And that just isn’t true.

How can you recapture your mojo? How can you reignite your passion for taking risks and engaging in your work in a meaningful way – and inspire your colleagues to do the same? Try these 6 suggestions:

1. Take a hard look at your company culture. Is your culture vibrant and engaged? Or do employees – maybe you? - look for ways to fly under the radar and skate by with the minimum effort? What would it take to change that? At all levels of the organization, employees should consider the concept of workplace cultures and evaluate their individual role in contributing to the company culture. If you look at customer-focused companies like Zappos, renowned in the industry for their engaged culture (and their results), you’ll find they encourage their employees to find tap into their passion for their work and take risks in the pursuit of innovation. While you don’t want to copy someone else’s blueprint, there are plenty of outside-the-box examples.

2. Try something risky and counterintuitive. Contact center directors have become obsessed with benchmarking and best practices. But what’s right for one organization isn’t right for all organizations. Put your ear to the ground and listen. What is right for your organization, your contact center, your team, right now? For example, using a standard, checklist-driven quality monitoring form to evaluate recorded calls can drive interactions that are technical accurate, but devoid of authenticity and human connection. And yet, this is the norm in our industry. Why not mix it up by listening to live calls and offering immediate feedback to your agents without using the standard form? Or organize your form around broad categories, such as “customer connection” and “understanding customer needs”, to inspire interactive conversations with agents about their strengths and abilities and how these impact their interactions with customers. What could you do differently tomorrow that may kick of a chain reaction of questions around “how we’ve always done things?”

3. Face down obstacles. The question “What would you do if you could not fail?” is easy to answer until you start ticking off the obstacles. How often do you avoid obstacles rather than facing them head on? I’ve unfortunately encountered this myself, when it was easier to document an employee out the door and wash my hands of the situation rather than having an honest and uncomfortable conversation about the real reasons driving their lack of performance, the possibility of my role in the problem, and the looming consequences. While you can’t always predict the results and it doesn’t always turn out how you’d like, taking the easy way out often leads to the well-tread ground, while facing down obstacles and inviting conflict can result in different, unexpected outcomes.

4. Don’t value agreement above conflict. Everyone enjoys harmony and likes being around people who agree with us. But surrounding yourself with those who question and challenge you is far more valuable than blind allegiance, which can keep you speeding obliviously down the wrong road. When contact center leadership teams are comprised of employees who want to minimize conflict and agree with the boss, the result is a contact center that runs on tradition, not innovation and creativity. This means, of course, that you’ve got to be ok with employees voicing disagreement or, from your perspective, making mistakes. Mistakes and differences of opinion are essential elements of a vibrant, engaged workforce.

5. Loosen your (figurative) tie. The most fruitful, collaborative relationships form and the best ideas rise to the surface when your employees are comfortable floating ideas that might be crazy or might be brilliant. And it can be hard to tell which is which, sometimes. When employees loosen up and have opportunities to interact and socialize, amazing things can happen. The question what would you do if you could not fail?” becomes less scary when employees see they aren’t alone – that employees can trust each other and will support each other. You have to create an environment for relationships to form and grow to create this.

6. Learn how to make a business case. You’re engaged, you’re passionate, and you have innovative out-of-the box ideas. Make sure you have the ability to make the case to others by mastering the art of presenting a persuasive business argument. Watch and critique others to learn more about the characteristics of persuasive arguments. Check out Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion for a classic take on the psychology behind why people say “yes.” Ask for input and feedback to help improve your ideas and your ability to present them.

Whether you’ve lost steam and are looking to get it back, or you want to inspire others to become more engaged and act from their deepest passions, now is the time to ask yourself: What’s holding me back? What would I do if I could not fail?