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Keys to Success in 2014: Management vs. Leadership

As we move into the New Year and begin to execute the contact center’s strategic plans, which may include:

  • Determining what new channels to offer
  • Implementing a new channel
  • Increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • Mapping customer journeys
  • Keeping employees engaged

(and so on)

it seems appropriate to identify the keys to success.  While it is critical that we have a well-crafted, documented customer access strategy we also need strong individuals who can lead the charge, inspire, connect, champion and engage those doing the actual execution.   So to kick off the New Year, I thought we’d explore “leadership and management” a bit, since every topic we explore this year will require individual(s) who possess these skills.   That said, inevitably when you start a discussion on leadership and management, questions like these will come up – Is there a difference between the two?  Are good leaders born or can they be made?  Do organizations need leaders rather than managers?  And so on…and these questions often lead to healthy, lively discussions.  Try it in your own organization and see what ensues.

Disagreements generally come down to the definitions used for ‘leaders’ and ‘manager’…. 

Management is often defined by a set of responsibilities needed for the organization to achieve its objectives and goals. 

Leadership ability is a combination of the skills, knowledge and experience that an individual possesses, which can contribute to his or her effectiveness as a manager.  

In short, managers apply resources, leaders tap into the hearts and minds of employees at an emotional level.  That’s why we say leaders inspire others and managers guide and direct.

So do all contact center professionals, from supervisors to managers to directors to executives need to take on both roles?  Is it enough to be a great leader OR a great manager?  I would argue that perhaps in the past, when environments were more stable, when calls/contacts were simpler, when tasks were more routine, when customers weren’t as sophisticated, being a great manager might have been enough…

However, today’s world of constant change, demanding, global customers and complex contacts requires all contact center professionals to be both – great leaders and great managers.   They need to be leaders – meaning they need to be individuals who initiate change, take an active role in the change process, motivate their agents through personal example, think creatively, set goals and articulate them clearly and passionately.  And at the same time, it requires those same contact center professionals to be effective managers – meaning they need to be able to guide their team, remove obstacles and coach individuals on a day-to-day basis on how to reach the stated goals.

In other words, what we need today is the complete package…we need individuals who can inspire through their leadership, manage the processes – and use both sets of attributes to bring out the best in their people and   “get results.”   

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