One of the concepts Daniel Pink writes about in his books is a new term he has coined called the “Conceptual Age.” According to Pink, three catalysts are responsible for the era change into the Conceptual Age: Asian outsourcing, automation, and abundance. For the Western workforce to compete with inexpensive overseas labor, automated computers, and technology, and demand for products that move beyond function to enhance the meaning of our lives, we must develop right-brain skills. This got me thinking about how the contact center must move forward into this Conceptual Age as well. What exactly are these right-brain skills? Do we have to develop our professionals to obtain these skills? Are they already out there? Are these new skills, or are they just new terms for old words?
Upon further research, I found a book by author Lisa Bodell who is also inspired by Daniel Pink. In Bodell’s book Kill the Company, she takes this idea of the Conceptual Age and defines five critical right-brain skills that this new age workforce needs:
These five right-brain skills are so vital not only in life and business, but also working in a contact center. Agents, supervisors, and managers who are working with customers, vendors, partners, peers, and upper management—essentially all stakeholders—must employ these skills for success.
How can you use these right-brain skills in the contact center to impact performance, efficiency, and even effectiveness? They could become part of a skills assessment used to conduct a skills gap analysis on a current team. They could become a part of your knowledge, skills, and abilities assessment during the hiring process. They could become part of a mission statement for the support center or even part of setting goals. They can benefit a contact center in so many different ways. Before utilizing these right-brain skills in any one of the processes mentioned, think about the following:
There are many ways you could define, assess, and measure each skill. Let’s take a look at some different ideas that will hopefully inspire you and your support center.
This skill focuses on thinking outside of typical roles and tasks that are performed on a daily basis. An essential part of developing a strategic imagination for a contact center is first to have a strategic vision from which to draw. A vision communicates what an organization wants to become, where it is heading, and goals for the future. These goals are sometimes called BHAGS (big, hairy, audacious goals) or stretch goals. The term stretch is applicable here for strategic imagination. How can you stretch your team’s way of thinking and get them to think beyond the present to the future? As an organization, you have to encourage this way of thinking and also look for team members who can think strategically. Strategic thinking for the support center is looking at more efficient ways of doing things. What can you do to operate more efficiently and effectively? Here are three fundamental questions related to creating a strategic vision:
Ideas for inspiration:
This skill focuses on asking the right questions that may shake things up in an organization. This isn’t about asking questions just to ask them; the focus is on how you can improve. What can you do to make things better? In his book, The Question Behind the Question, John G. Miller focuses on asking the right questions and taking personal accountability. You need to move away from asking why, who, and when questions and focus specifically on what and how questions. As a support organization, you must foster a culture of personal accountability and create a culture where it is not only acceptable to ask these what and how questions, it is constantly encouraged!
Ideas for inspiration:
This skill focuses on how can we use best practices to effectively and creatively problem solve. Areas of development include questioning skills, finding ways to think creatively, and learning how to employ specific problem-solving approaches. Using best practice problem-solving approaches encourages the team to use a consistent format and think creatively.
This skill focuses on how quickly an agent can think on their feet and adapt to a changing environment, situation, or task. This skill is vital to the success of a contact center as it relates to being able to handle and adapt to changes with skill, ease, and a customer service mindset. How quickly and adeptly can your team handle change and unplanned situations? Are they encouraged and empowered to prioritize appropriately? How does an individual react to stress and pressure?
This last, but oh so not least, skill is extremely vital for the Conceptual Age and moving forward into a new era of right brain thinking skills. Resilience is the ability to pick up and move on after a failed change or implementation. Perhaps the ball was dropped, and an honest mistake happened in the support center. Instead of dwelling, blaming, and pointing fingers, resilient employees learn, take accountability, and move forward. What obstacles does the current team face? Are there specific areas or roadblocks? Building a resilient team can require directing a particular focus and making a strategic effort. Finding individuals who are resilient has become a key focus for many organizations.
Ideas for inspiration:
These five right-brain skills represent the skills that can move us into the next era. Does your current team have these skills, or do they need to be built and taught? What is your plan to assess the skills of future employees? These skills should inspire us to take a long hard look at these questions and our current teams as we move forward to the Conceptual Age.
If you're looking to bolster your skills as a contact center manager, check out ICMI's wide range of training courses, including Essential Skills and Knowledge, which is now offered in three different formats.
Fancy Mills is the Group Training and Content Director for HDI & ICMI. She has 20 years of experience specializing in training, consulting, recruiting, and workforce management.
Fancy's experience is focused in the technical support and contact center industries. As a Certified Workforce Manager, she has assisted companies in developing staffing and workforce management best practices and standard operating procedures. As a corporate trainer since 2000, she has certified thousands of support professionals, managers, directors, and corporate trainers around the world in virtual and classroom environments. In addition to training, she has developed and facilitated customized curriculum and training for Fortune 500 companies in the areas of process improvement, quality management, customer service, presentation, communication, and time management skills. Fancy has also served as a session speaker for various industry conferences and events such as Fusion, HDI, and ATD, and was also a speaker for the 2016 TEDx TAMU, speaking on The XYZ Strategies for Succeeding in a Multi-Generational World.
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