"The Four Biggest Mistakes A Supervisor Can Make"

 In the fifteen years I have been working in call centers (as well as in other industries), I have been able to see first hand the mistakes most often made by new and seasoned supervisors, managers, and others who lead employees. 

 Over time, I have consolidated these common errors into four major mistakes.  See if you or someone in your center is making these mistakes needlessly by reviewing the following list:


 Sometimes called the "halo or horns" effect, this phenomenon is seen when a management member tries to turn everyone on the team into a "mini me".  Certain his or her personality type or style is the best, this supervisor offers advice, counseling, feedback and even disciplinary action based on style or personality traits instead of on data, numbers, observed behaviors and other objective criteria.


 The single most important component when giving someone corrective feedback is to ensure that person can walk away with dignity.  When two people are in conflict or getting defensive (which is the main theme to most one-on-ones) this becomes increasingly difficult.  In an attempt to appear in charge and in control, the supervisor may try to "win" by demeaning the employee with veiled insults, overheard gossip about the employee, or using statements like "everyone agrees with me". 


 Note that this mistake says "EVERY RESULT".  This is a very hard shift for many new management members. The new manager is no longer an individual contributor, and is now responsible for every person' s performance.  This is a contradiction in the "real world". No one can control or change another.  And yet, in management, you are expected to take responsibility for your team's performance, especially when it is lacking (and frankly, to NOT take credit when the performance is good!). The supervisor must determine what isn't working and why and correct that; and when things are working, he/she must continue these processes while ensuring everyone stays challenged, motivated and recognized.  Thank God for stock options!


 Anyone who has had a moody boss knows that the tone of the day was set by this person's mood.  To fail to show your "best face" regardless of the circumstances encourages similar behavior in your employees.  This supervisor often doesn't see the correlation between his/her example and the team's mimicking behavior. Accusations of being "unprofessional" when employees arrive "just a little late", or when they begin to snap at co-workers often come from this very supervisor.  This inevitably leads to a lack of trust and performance that only follows the "just enough to not get fired" standard.

 How does someone making these mistakes turn these around?  By doing just that—turn around or reverse these mistakes and make them positives.  Here’s what this would look like:


  1. Focus on facts, not personalities.  Before talking with an employee gather the data that supports your concerns.  If your data doesn’t support your pending constructive feedback, it’s time to consider that you are judging this employee based on your own subjective criteria.  This isn’t just a bad management technique, but it could land you in court.  In addition, when giving someone a “pat on the back” reinforce this recognition with the data that earned it.


  1. Ensure Dignity.  Ensuring another’s dignity is possibly your biggest obligation as a management member.  This may be why managers were invented.  If someone feels they are being treated unfairly or have been wronged, it is the management member that is looked to as a corrective liaison.  Another important factor in this step, is to ensure YOUR OWN dignity in every situation.  To ensure another’s dignity does not mean you sacrifice your own values or objectives.  It also does not mean that you ignore your personal life or accept extra responsibility without a future pay-off. 


  1. Accept Responsibility for Results.  This is still the same advice as with the #3 mistake above.  You have got to get your “arms around” this concept and deal with it.  It is unfair and unreasonable, but it is the reality of management.  Learning to work with others, especially those that are different from you (or that you don’t like) are the first step.  Learning conflict management techniques, listening skills and all the other “soft” skills you have no doubt heard about, are the tools needed to accomplish this.  Your parents and your school system did not teach you these skills, so it is up to you to learn them and USE them.


  1. Demonstrate Your Idea of Excellence.  This is another version of “lead by example”.  The difference is that it is about demonstrating YOUR IDEA of excellence.  This means that instead of mimicking your boss or reading about leadership in a book, you decide what a leader does and says and stick to that.  Aristotle said that excellence is a choice we make every day and is therefore not an outcome, so much as a habit.  Expect to make mistakes, but also look to remedy these errors.  This is also demonstrating excellence (which is different from being perfect).


Note on the Author : Stephanie Goddard Davidson is the author of “101 Ways to Have a Great Day at Work” (Sourcebooks Publishing, 1998) and the accompanying workbook “The 102nd Way”.  Both are available through www.Amazon.com.

 Stephanie is CEO of Workforce Management Solutions and its subsidiary Call Center Solutions.  An instructor with the American Management Association, Ms. Davidson is also a nationally-certified trainer for many acclaimed business programs including “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”’ “People Skills for Managers” and master certified in Zenger Miller/Achieve Global Management Programs.


Back to People Management or The Call Centre Files or Home Page.