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I'm A Contact Center Manager, Now What?

black leaderThis month, we're featuring the contributions of the ICMI 2022 Thought Leaders and Featured Contributors. These leaders in the contact center industry regularly take time out to share knowledge to help their peers succeed. Here, Holly Terrill provides a frank discussion on taking the next step in a career based on their personal experience. 

Congratulations! You've recently gotten a promotion from agent or lead to manager — so, what now?

First, take a moment and catch your breath. When your merits lead to a promotion, it’s important to reflect on the path that led you there. Growth is rarely achieved single-handedly. Many people contributed to my success, both in and out of the workplace. The good advice and the bad helped me to be a strong, independent thinker and leader for my team.

If you're like me, you were very good at your previous role, so good that your boss or someone else in the company decided the management path was right for you. Being a good contact center manager, however, is about more than being a good agent. It's about creating an engaging, safe space for agents to learn and grow.

An undervalued skill among managers is the ability to help bring out the best in those around them, being a present mentor for team members as they navigate formative experiences throughout their careers. Not only does this empower them, but it also frees up the manager to learn and grow along with them. In the past two years, I've had the happy opportunity to assist in the development of several contact center teammates, three of whom are now in management roles, with two more well on their way should they choose that path.

Here are some other tips I can offer:

Be transparent in your decision-making and include your team, if possible.

Part of collaborating with a team is listening to what they are saying and what they aren't saying, and sharing relevant information when it's appropriate. A tricky part of transparency is being transparent with yourself — including about where you are meeting your goals and where you are falling short.

Understand that you are only one person.

It's a great idea to surround yourself with other reliable leaders with strengths different from yours to help create a well-rounded team. I was intentional about hiring teammates with strong analytical stills and high emotional intelligence. I am a unicorn in that I almost always see the positive; I specialize in making lemonade out of lemons, and my glass is usually brimming with lemonade. My teammates help ground me, asking questions that allow me to consider different perspectives and openly requesting elaboration to further their understanding of what I’m envisioning. During times when you feel stuck in your head, it's important to have a teammate who you can trust to sit you down and speak candidly with you.

Know when to step back and see a problem from a broader vantage point to support your organization's mission, vision, and purpose.

Often, as a manager or leader, our daily focuses can be broader than the day-to-day activities of others on the team, and it's easy to forget how one bad interaction could make or break a day for our agents. Connect with your people regularly to understand their situations, and be available to provide encouragement and guidance to help them achieve key goals.

Lastly, take pride in yourself; you've worked hard to earn this.

Some days will be easier than others and you will find yourself being asked for answers to questions you haven't yet begun to contemplate. Be bold in the face of uncertainty and heed the words of the late, great Carrie Fisher: "Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What's important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow."