Examining Leadership in Context Introduction and Background Jeff Smith is upper middle management of a multiple client call center. He is responsiblefor the smooth operation of the local center for a large company which owns multiple call centers and has been with the company for six years, having started as a training manager. The call center handles both incoming and outgoing calls for customer service, account management and sales and collections for major clients. Each of these are done in a separate department by agents with specialized in house training. While he must adhere to corporate policy and follow corporate philosophy, how he runs his call center is his decision.
The company mission is friendly and efficient service to clients` customers. One of the major goals is to maintain service level. This is a combination of answering calls within three minutes, averaging 15 minutes or less per call to resolution and successfully resolving the reason for the call. Service level is tracked for each department and an overall average for the center is also computed and reported to corporate.
For each client a contract with the center sets the service level expected and identifies the percentage of the time expected for maintenance of service level. Jeff fits the corporate profile for middle to upper management. He is mid-thirties, married and owns his home. His compensation package includes salary, comprehensive health and retirement benefits, an excellent vacation plan, corporate car, profit sharing and bonuses. Jeff`s budget is governed by the profit of his particular center and his discretionary spending depends upon the profits of his center. Internal departments include management, sales, training, accounting, IT, maintenance, cleaning, commissary, administration, HR and research.
All the offices are situated on the outside walls. The center typically has eight to ten ongoing contracts or projects. Internal structures in the large building can be modified as needs dictate to isolate departments to diminish noise levels. Of his team of managers, Jeff selects those who will manage each project and they select their floor and training managers. If the number of clients or projects falls below the number of project managers available some will work as floor managers until more contract are acquired.
When more project managers are needed floor managers are promoted. Promotion is based upon management assessment and performance, but demotion when contracts end is based upon seniority. The company believes in ongoing training and research and promotion from within. The installation operates 24/7, but not all projects are 24/7. Interview Transcript After thanking him for his time and accepting coffee the interview was conducted in Jeff’s office. 1. So Jeff, I understand that your center is mostly autonomous. Is this a comfortable setup for you? a. Oh yes, I can pretty much run it like I want so I can be very involved hands-on without getting permission or worrying about hierarchy.
As long as we make a profit and keeps our clients happy, corporate is happy. 2. So how do you insure that? a. Ah, I don’t. I have a team. They do all the work. I just provide guidance, motivation, a role model, if you will, management of the team and last stop for the buck. If there are problems with any project we discuss them at our morning meeting and try to help that project manager to resolve them.
Mostly wee meet so they can meet. I try to just be there. I might ask questions and sometimes I make suggestions if no one else does. If decisions cannot be come to via consensus, then I make the decision. I meet with project managers every morning. They all work days shift unless there is a need for them to be here at other times. They are paid salaries and bonuses, based upon their service level and our profits. 3.
What about you, when are you here? a. Oh I am strictly day shift. I never need to be here any other time. That is for my team to do. I manage them and they manage their projects or departments. 4. So what is your usual day like? a. Well, I get here pretty early. Usually only the night crew, my receptionist and IT are here. I start with coffee, and read the reports from the previous day. These include things like service level, call analytics, training schedules, special events schedules and problem reports. Then I check my email and discuss my day with my assistant.
My project managers arrive for our meeting about nine and we break at ten or earlier if everything is covered. Sometimes I have a short meeting with one manager if requested. I try to be accessible. When you have a daily meeting it should not drag on. I take care of morning chores and then meet with sales at eleven. I have lunch and meet department with large clients or prospective clients in the early to mid afternoon. 4 PM is when I see my training managers and that usually ends by 4:30.
If there is nothing more I leave before 5. 5. That sounds like a full day. So what is the biggest problem over all in this center? a. Retention, mostly at the lower levels, but there is a constant turnover. It was nearly 35% when I became the director. Now it’s down to 22%, but that is still significant. Part of it is cleaning staff but we lose at least 15% of our trained call agents on a regular basis.
That represents a loss of investment in their training. We are constantly trying new ways of retaining more staff. The guys. ..and gals, came up with good ideas for ongoing motivation and we promote from within, so agents feel that they have a future here. When I started in this job we didn’t have a research department. That has turned out to be my best decision. They help everyone, from project managers to HR and even training. They come up with new ideas for projects for our sales team too.
We have three researchers now. 6. So how would you describe your management style? a. Well I think you would call it active, but I don’t micromanage. Each department is run by its manager, and I never tell any of my team what to do. I just advise. As long as it works that is all I will do. 7. So I assume it is working so far. (Jeff nodded, ) Why do you think that is? a. Ah, that’s easy. First you select good people, you provide them with incentives and authority and you stay accessible for whenever they have problems.
I take care of the big stuff. They take care of the details. I provide ongoing guidance and training, and a sounding board. And I keep corporate happy. 8. How do you do that? a. I solve our problems and keep profits rolling in. I keep the clients happy and my sales team gets us new projects. I keep my teams happy. 9. So what is the best part of your job? a. Well, I am my own boss, I earn a good living and I am happy.
I could be promoted to corporate, but I do not have to take it. I can happily stay here. My coworkers like me and my team works well. Yeah, I’m happy. 10. So what is your definition and philosophy of leadership and management. What makes an effective leader? a. Well, I think a good leader leads and the team does. The leader cannot do everything and he or she should not try. A good leader helps his team make decisions and is available whenever needed.
Like I said earlier, you have to pick good people and then let them work. I am just a friendly referee and a coach. Manager, now they are my team. And they manage their teams. They have to be a little more hands-on and be prepared to step in whenever necessary, because they have to fill in the spaces. An effective leader knows people, picks one who are right for the job and then inspires them to excellence. Conclusions from the Interview Jeff seems to be a combination of a participative and servant leader with some useful attributes from other styles.
. Visionary leaders inspire commitment and cooperation, because they set and also follow their own standards. (Bennis, W., 1992, p. 29) He delegates authority and manages the top team. He never tells them what to do, but he is available to help whenever needed. He provides a framework within which everyone has access to him and he creates a time and place for them to share. He sees himself as a guide and a trainer of leaders. He sees himself as hands-on, but he does not interfere or make decisions for his managers.
He does make things easy for them and provides a buffer between them and corporate. He also deals with clients for them. Jeff trusts his team and motivates them, and he gives them the credit for success. He also seems to be quite happy to stay in his current position and not be promoted to corporate. So he works at making this job as good as it can be. He believes that hiring good people is the most important thing for success, and then giving them the room to succeed.
He checks the statistics every morning, so he knows exactly how things are going. Then he meets with his team of project managers, mostly in order for them to meet and share. He is a successful manager and will probably stay that way, because he avoids the major stress which causes burnout. He does not micromanage, but he provides guidance. He is happy with his job and seems to have no ambition to move up. That probably means he will work to make sure his position says secure and comfortable. References Bennis, W., Visionary Leadership, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, 1992, p.