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Wisdom for Contact Center Leaders

mikeAs customer service leaders we often fall into the trap that wisdom must come from formal training and during work hours. However, wisdom can be found in the most unexpected of places: a book we’re reading, a television show or movie we’re watching, or a friend, co-worker or family member. Wisdom can be helpful, inspirational, and in some circumstances, cautionary.

Below are pieces of wisdom I’ve gleaned from various places that have really stuck with me — these are sayings that I know help make me a better person and leader.


1. Wil Wheaton is well-known for coining the phrase that equates to “Don’t be a jerk.”

I first heard his phrase when I watched him speak at a comic convention in Kansas City, Missouri. These words ring true whether I am at work, at home, or in a drive-thru picking up dinner for my family. Every person deserves dignity and respect.

By being kind (or not being a jerk, as it were) I have the opportunity to positively impact those I come into contact with every day. It’s a choice to choose kindness.

2. On the subject of confidence, Carrie Fisher once said, “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.”

In every role, there has been potential each day for new situations to arise for my team and I, ones in which we’re obligated to make decisions that best support our customers while also ensuring the integrity of our organization. These decisions must be made with confidence, even if we aren’t yet confident in our decision.

To be a leader worth following, I must acknowledge that I don’t know everything, but as long as I’m willing to learn from my mistakes and help my teammates do the same, I’m on the right path.

3. “It’s hard to do anything alone.”

Those words were spoken by the late, great former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and they are some of the truest words I’ve ever heard. No one succeeds in a vacuum; we all need our community in one way or another and I am no exception. My success is thanks to those who’ve stood up for me and stood up with me, even if only in spirit.

Fictional Characters

1. Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn said to his apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, in Star Wars Episode 1, “Your focus determines your reality.”

In the contact center industry, I believe this translates into inspecting the expected, what gets measured gets done, and what gets rewarded gets repeated. Our employees are the hub for information and they have many expectations, so we must show them appreciation and recognition for focusing on what helps our organization and the customers be successful.

2. There’s a quote from my all-time favorite television show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I think about any time I stop to reflect on the concept of passion (which is often). The quote is narrated by the character Angel, a vampire who is occasionally vexed with possessing a soul. In the episode, Angel describes passion as a dangerous, undesired yet unavoidable character trait. It’s a powerful quote that constructs powerful imagery. I recommend you Google it.

3. Jonathan Livingston Seagull, from the novella of the same title, says in a short passage in the fable, “…there’s a reason to live! We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!”

This quote frames much of what I believe when I contemplate the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in work and in the community.

People in my Professional life

1. After a particularly difficult encounter with an angry customer, Michael W., one of my managers early in my career, told me, “Don’t ever accept someone’s disrespectful behavior.” He helped me to re-affirm that I mustn’t ever sacrifice my self-worth, at my job or in my personal life.

How I use this advice in my professional life as a contact center leader is by ensuring I stand up for my people and support an environment that promotes psychological safety.

2. Wendy M., my first contact center leader, gave me a piece of advice that helped frame what we do in contact centers. She said, “We must be masters of everything, but experts of nothing.”

Our goal is to answer the questions that customers ask and to help resolve their conflicts. We don’t need to know the ins and outs of everything within our organization, but we do need to know enough to be helpful.

3. I am a locally elected official in my community, and I had the opportunity to attend a professional training for elected and appointed officials earlier this year. One of the instructors, Sam S., an individual who was asked to participate in the course due to his experience as an appointed official in local community government, said something of significance during a discussion about winning elections. He said, “Win to play again instead of playing to win at any cost.”

I appreciate this sentiment and believe in the virtue of both running kind campaigns and focusing on being a kind human.

I’ve been the recipient of much advice, feedback, quotes, and helpful passages over my life that have shaped me, challenged me, and grown me into the leader-learner I am today. I’m eager for the wisdom I will receive in the future and to the new experiences that will continue to shape me.