Effective leaders take time to get input from their employees
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
One of my goals when I ran an answering service was to provide the best possible headsets for my staff. After all, they spend all day on the phone, so voice quality, ease-of-use, and comfort are critical.
To pursue this, I always looked for a better headset. When a new model came out that boasted better technology or results, I wanted to test it. In most cases these trial headsets were as good as what we already had, so they ended up in a box in my closet, which I later moved to the trash. However, I would snag the least objectionable of them for my own use.
Since I used the phone sporadically during the day, headset comfort wasn’t a priority. And less-than-ideal voice quality wasn’t an issue either. What mattered was that my employees had the best.
However, after a couple years I discovered my staff had made their own conclusion about why my headset differed from theirs. They reasoned that I kept the best for myself and forced them to languish with old, subpar units.
Don’t Make Decisions in Isolation
At first this upset me. Then I figured out how to set the record straight. I asked one of our senior operators if we could swap headsets for the day. I wanted her opinion about which one was best.
With a smirk she handed me hers and put on mine. Leaving a smiling operator to do her work, I returned to my office. During her next break, she poked her head inside my doorway. She wasn’t smiling anymore. “I don’t like this headset—not at all.” She shook her head. “The audio’s lousy, and the band hurts my head.”
“Do you want to switch back?” I asked.
“Yes.” She nodded in enthusiasm.
Now it was my turn to smile. “My goal is for you and your coworkers to have the best headsets. It doesn’t matter what I use, because my work isn’t as important as yours.” I paused for dramatic effect. “So, do you think your headset is better?”
She nodded, and I handed her headset back to her. Beaming, she bounced out of my office.
From then on, whenever I tested a new headset, I made sure to check with an operator before making a final decision. If they liked it, they could use it. And if they didn’t, then I would. That stopped the grumblings about me having a better headset.
As an answering service owner or manager, it doesn’t matter if we make the right decisions for the right reasons, because if our staff doesn’t know what we’re thinking, they’ll likely assume the worst.
Effective managers communicate with their staff and seek their input.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader, covering the telephone answering service industry. Check out his books How to Start a Telephone Answering Service and Sticky Customer Service.