Tuesday, December 14, 2004

My Many Hats... (Strange mood about logic, work, and life)

This post is pretty much a ramble about thoughts and things from my day.

Speaking non-literally here, I have many hats that I wear each day. Yes, this is corporate lingo and annoying, however, I like the analogy.

This evening at work was an interesting, yet fulfilling one. I'd like to explain what happened this evening and why I feel that life cannot be a plug that fits into one defined hole. Adaptability and different roles play such a key part of one's day.

What was required of me tonight at work (this was my to do list when I walked in):
1) Finish some paper work (called exceptions) - low priority
2) Prep numbers for a meeting - medium priority
3) Rove and answer questions - high priority but able to be delegated
4) Deliver quality assurance feedback - medium priority - needs to be done, but no set deadline

I did accomplish #2 and some of #4. I did delegate #3. So what did I do for eight hours?

I guess I'm defining what I think my job tends to consist of here. I have some responsibilities, but my main task is to make the bankers feel valued, coached, and make them better performers. Retention is a huge part of my supervisor's review and I help him be a better manager. We try to have a top performing team (sales, talk time, quality assurance) and try to make the atmosphere one that people LIKE coming to work. I never shy away from admitting that the job is repetitious and can be tedious. You won't catch me telling someone, "But the customers are all happy and wonderful! You'll love it for years!" It's a customer service job and customer service representatives (bankers) take the grunt of every customer complaint. How does one make this job fun?

Part of our customer service training involves something called the human/business model. It talks about acknowledgement and moving to business. It helps people feel valued and that their time is important. It also helps customers feel that they are dealing with more than just the corporate liaison.

Back to my day, because I think this might be the best to describe what I'm talking about. When I got to work, I checked my email and chatted with my supervisor for about a half hour. He asked me to get the numbers ready for our meeting later and I started to do this. (He had another meeting and I helped him out.) I took my first break (which I tend to go on this break early, mainly because otherwise I won't get it). During this entire time, I walked around, talking to bankers, asking them about their weekends, what was new, and then moved to what they planned to do that day. Starting on the human level and showing that you really care helps an employee feel better about their day. I greeted each banker without even thinking about how a human interaction makes them feel. We talked about the pot luck that our team had to throw for another team (a challenge and our team lost. I am so proud of all the members of our team, each pulled through and gave an AMAZING dinner to the other team. Really, really wonderful and sportsmanship losers. They're terrific!)

After my break, I came in to see another banker just starting her shift. She was upset and asked if we could go talk. We did. I sat and talked with her for 50 minutes, being a listening ear and just letting her cry. There are some problems in her personal life and they are problems that she needs to learn how to deal with. (Pending divorce and then the new problem - finding out about child molestation - not good.) She came to work, unable to talk due to the worries she has, and she was at a breaking point. She has been the strong one outside of work, the one that everyone dumps on in her personal life and she just needed to vent. I can't provide an answer to her at all, but just listening to her, being a sounding board if you will, helped her cope with the problems. She let me read a poem that her child wrote about the situation and I have got to say, for someone who had that happen to them, her child has an amazing talent in writing. The girl has a way with words and though I've never met her, I understood exactly what she meant and I could feel the emotions that must be running through her head. I feel so bad for her. The banker told me she appreciated the time I took to sit with her, to listen to her. Then she went out to the floor with a smile on her face and was able to make it through her day. I do admire her. She has a strong personality and does tend to focus on the bad, but I think she does it to release what she can't at home. She puts on a different "hat" when she's at work. And sometimes that hat needs to be changed. Sometimes she just needs to let something out. I get that. This was the "counselor" hat.

After that chat, I finally got the numbers ready for our meeting. Then we had our meeting and we did coaching on sales behaviors. I put on the "happy" hat and the "positive energy" hat to help promote the new performance criteria for next year. I will admit, it's hard to be excited when telling people that the company is looking for more production, but being positive and optimistic does help.

When the meeting was over, a few of the bankers on our team helped us set up the pot luck. Here was the "organized" hat. The pot luck went off flawlessly and I got tons of compliments on the meatballs I brought in. Everyone wanted the recipe. I gave it to them. (Go to Super America by my house, buy a bag of meatballs and a bottle of BBQ sauce. Put them in a crock pot on high for an hour. Then eat. I love this simple recipe.)

I then took my lunch (seems like I get tons of breaks, doesn't it?) When I got back, it was time for me to rove. Roving means I walk around, answering questions and take escalated calls. This usually involves an "authoritative" hat and a "sympathetic" hat and a "knowledgeable" hat. Tonight I used my "delegative" hat and let a few top performing, knowledgeable bankers test out their skills. It also frees up my time. Yes, it's a little like slacking, however I can use this to develop bankers to better performers. It helps their confidence level and forces them to find the answers, rather than being given the answers. It is a good thing.

During my freed up time, I decided to give quality feedback. This includes a few different functions. First, I need to listen to the scored calls to see if they are scored correctly. I do many disputes for our team and have a pretty decent success rate. I received a dispute back tonight that I sent in wearing my "logical" and my "technical" hat.

I do have to brag here a little. I turned a call that was at 0% to a 71% call. Now, it is really easy for a banker to lose points, but quick difficult for them to gain points. Doing something correctly may be worth 4 points out of 40, but doing it wrong could cause a loss of 22 points. One minor mistake can lower a call 50% instantly. For example, saying that our company is done updating at 8 AM versus saying we're done updating between 5 and 8 AM can cause a banker to fail a call. I don't agree with all the aspects of our quality assurance criteria, but I do understand that we're in a highly regulated business. I don't have a solution on how to correct the conflict between bankers and the quality assurance team, I just get to be the liaison between them. When there are points that I can get back, I do. I will go to bat for any banker on our team and dispute anything that I think can improve their call. My success rate is about 80%. I get a little too passionate about quality and I'm seen as the quality "expert" at work. I'm not, but I do end up on projects involving quality and I do get many questions about quality.

The fact that I'm seen as the quality person does bother me a little. Not that I don't like helping with quality, but some of the upper management seem to think that's all my job entails. I am pleased that my manager does help clarify when comments are made about this. He is pretty great about explaining that my quality feedback sessions are quite different than those of the other team leaders.

What do I do for a feedback session?

First off, I don't sit at the banker's desk or my desk to do the session. We find a private room, where no one has to worry about what the people around them are doing or hearing. Quality feedback is usually not great news and people don't like sharing their mistakes with everyone. I also bring them to another room NO MATTER what the feedback is because I want them to realize that privacy does not mean bad. This has helped for other situations. If there is a large problem, bringing someone to a room doesn't prompt the gossip anymore. People just figure there is feedback going on.

Secondly, we don't start with the feedback right away. We usually talk about anything and everything. This is probably the best part of my job, hands down. I get to KNOW the people I work with. I can see what's going on in their lives that make them come to work in whatever mood they are in. Sometimes the bankers are excited and sometimes they are a little depressed or sometimes they just want to share something.

There is a banker on our team who is very professional and very business. She tends to be quick and to the point. She doesn't open up often and I was thrilled last week when she actually allowed our feedback session go more than 10 minutes (it went 45 minutes and this is the first time in almost 2 years that she allowed it to go this long). I like to take at least a half hour with each banker. We don't just talk quality and I'll get to some of that here in a moment, but the most important part is that human aspect. It really makes people feel they are part of a team, part of the company, not just a number. And I love it.

After touching the human parts of our lives, we tend to get to business and go through the feedback. This involves discussing the calls that were monitored and going over the procedural information. I help the banker by coaching around correct procedure and what could have gone better or what was done fantastically on their calls. We do commitments and the banker usually takes the information back and I rarely have to go through the same thing with a person over and over. (Quality just finds other stuff to complain about. Those blasted quality monitors!)

Then we go through overall pictures of how a banker is performing. This is the numbers, the nitty-gritty of their performance. We talk about where they want to be and how they will get there. This is usually a pretty open part of the session and I'll admit, I'm easily side-tracked here. The side-tracks usually come in the form of a banker having a question about something work related and we go in depth into that question. I don't mind.

Then we usually come back to a human level at the end of the session. I've talked about movies with bankers, music, families, friends, sports (yes, shoot me now for this one), relationship problems, food, pregnancies, career aspirations, schooling, children, medical problems (I don't bring these ones up but people seem to like to tell me these things), and just feelings. In the two sessions I did tonight, I talked to one banker about food and relationships. She has told me about her medical conditions before and we've talked about her career path. She doesn't want to be a banker anymore, but she still enjoys coming to work. The other banker I spoke to discussed her pregnancies with me tonight and her husband's holiday shopping patterns. She was upset about how he remembered a gift for the baby-sitter but couldn't decide what to get her for her birthday. We talked about how easy it is to shop for an acquaintance, but when it comes to the "love of your life", how does one define the perfect gift? There's so much more pressure here. I can say, she wasn't mad at him by the end of the session. I wasn't trying to just fix a pending fight, all I was doing was offering an opinion and asking her to give him fair treatment. She looked at the situation with him again and realized that she wasn't being objective about it. This sounds robotic and that's not the point here. The point is that looking at one's emotions helps. Remembering that others have emotions too will help one figure out why someone does something one way or another.

About motives, I'm brought back to the conversation with the banker about her daughter and what happened to her daughter. This banker is upset because the wife of the man who did this seemed to know but never said anything. We talked about the relationship between that woman (W) and her husband (H). W never witnessed anything but may have suspected something. We talked about how denial is a powerful emotion. It's a blinder. And W still loves H. It's hard to admit that you love someone who does something so horrible. It is a blow to one's self-esteem to think that they can care for someone who can do something like that. The denial is a defense mechanism. The banker started looking at the motives and the emotions that would be common for someone in each position to feel and this helped her to understand why she hurts and why she is angry. It's helping her learn to deal with the problem, not just avoid it. The banker also doesn't feel as betrayed by her friend, W. She still doesn't accept what her friend didn't say, but she understands that she doesn't KNOW exactly what her friend was thinking. This sounds pompous. I don't know how to explain it. I may have been able to explain it if I'd kept a transcript. All I can say is that asking questions helped her. It helped her know someone was listening and taking in the information she had given.

After the quality feedback sessions, I went back to my desk to do a couple of minor things. I never did do the exceptions (darn - they're BORING, ok? Got a problem with that?) I'll do them tomorrow. This would be my "procrastinating" hat.

I ended up pulled in one direction to help another banker with a problem in his life. He's having some relationship problems and we talked about them. (Can you believe that the company pays me for this stuff?) The relationship problems came up because he's looking at other jobs. He wants more money and we discussed career development. One of the factors in his life causing his search for another job is the relationship problems in his life. It was a good talk and he left work with a smile on his face.

And that's what it all boils down to. In each interaction, there was a problem at hand (or in the back of the mind) that someone just needed to talk about. Today was my "listening" hat day. I did put on some other hats, but it really was a human level day. There are other days when I have more business interactions and spend more time going through procedures and human resource junk (having the conversation with someone about proper usage of English and not using racial slurs at work was not a fun business conversation). I just feel good when people are able to leave work with a smile and that smile is not just because they no longer have to do work. I like it when they leave feeling good inside. I do love my job. I love where I work and I feel grateful to have the opportunity to talk to people and develop them and help them, even if I just listen.

And even if I did talk about THE BOY, I did accomplish other things! (And he hasn't called yet, but there is that rule about calling too soon. I hate it, but there is that dumb rule.)


At 7:50 AM, The Lioness said...

It doesn't sound robotic, it doesn't sound pompous, these people are lucky that they can have you with your empathy-objectivity-humanity combo, I am sure you make evryone's lives easier and the work much smoother. I've told you before that you're brilliant but I'd never realised just how professionally brilliant you are as well.

It is very true, we can decide how to look upon a given situation in many ways. And it may sound redundant but it's not bcs, take me, I have no lack of empathy but when emotionally invested in something (good grief and hell, do i sound American, scaring myself a bit)(no offense, you know what I mean)(I hope) am very quick to project my doubts and anxieties and make myself misarable in the process. THE BOY thing - I do hope he calls. But from wehere I'm sitting, removed from it, it's very easy to see why he may be afraid to, especially if he fancies you that much. He's had time enough to make a move and hasn't ever trusted himself to. Your giving him your phone number is an obvious sign of interest but he may still go home and think "She's just being nice" or "I'll call her and show her I fancy her and then I'll say something really stupid and she'll hate me" or even "She's so smart and funny and pretty, how the hell will I talk to her?". We may not have it easy but in our society men carry the burden of acting, being the first, taking the initiative and we're more than happy to let them. So what I'm trying to say is, again, I do so hope he gets his shit together and calls but even if he didn't it need not be seen as a rejection, procrastination does fend off sorrow. Also heaps of good things but those we're less fast to believe in. ;)

At 9:13 AM, Matt said...

Little sister,

Even though you were never my teamlead, you were still a part of the overall team, and believe I miss that. Above everything else about NABABNA that I miss, knowing that you were there when I was is the biggest thing that I miss about working there. You are an inceredible team lead, and I feel that you deserve to be more than that, but good things to those who wait I guess.

As for the Lioness, she is so awesome it is amazing. She is all the way across the world from us and yet she is able to pinpoint exactly everything you are. In all the time that I have known you, not once have I ever thought your actions or words ever sounded robotic. You are an incredible listener, a fantastic conversationalist, and the best friend a person can ever have. (I am lucky and I get to have you as a LIttle Sister-so HA HA to anyone that doesn't. Just kidding to everyone that doesn't, I can be mean but not that mean. But it still rocks that Beth is my Little Sister, so again HA HA) Also I would like to share with the Lioness, and with you Little Sister, it does suck for the men in society, but nearly as much as it does for women.

Let's thinnk about that for just a second, society does not make men worry about anything women are told to worry about. For instance, men do not have to wear make up to feel like they are beautiful. Women are bombarded by commercials and ads in magazines all the time about that, not to mention men do not have to worry about the size of their breasts (although some of them should, because man boobs are just gross), nor do they have to worry about their bodies nearly as much as women are told to worry about them. Just because someone does not look like a model does not mean that they are ugly people, and I wish that advertisers would get that. I am off my soapbox about that right now I will try to get some posting done today, if possible, otehrwise I will talk to you later.

Big Brother-Matt

At 11:02 AM, The Lioness said...

(Pretend here was a v hilarious sentence abt Matt's rant - bcs we all know I'm hysterically funny and, er, awesome ;) - that i don't trust myself to write bcs it may be too much) Matt, you're right, society does demand more from us physically, so very annoying and unfair. And yes, man's boobs are very gross, as are v jiggly bellies. And thanks dahling but I AM crazy abt Beth and it's immediately obvious how fabulous she is. And you all, you lot of amazing freaks.

At 8:29 AM, CarpeDM said...

You are not a robot. Knock it off. A Vulcan, yes. Not a robot. Vulcans are capable of having feelings, they just hide them behind all of the freakin' logic.

Good post. Made me almost, almost mind you, miss being a team lead.