You cannot have a best-in-class call center without a rock star director.

This may sound extreme, but I assure you it isn’t. I’ve seen centers with solid potential downsized and closed far to often when they could have been salvaged with better leadership. I’ve also seen the amazing turnarounds happen in just a few months when the only dynamic that changed was the leader.

If you’re serious about results, invest in finding and developing the very best center leader you can and then have her work tirelessly to build a strong bench of leaders underneath her who could step in at any time.

Signs your leader is not ready for prime time

Before we get into the definition of “rock star” let’s start with signs of trouble. Perhaps you’ll recognize a few of these characters.

  • Cara is deeply invested and extremely stressed. You’re pretty sure she’s sleeping at the center. You see toothpaste and mascara hidden behind the toilet paper in the bathroom.
  • (read more…)

SmartBrief is talking directly with small and medium-sized businesses to discover their journeys, challenges and lessons. Today’s post is a Q-and-A with Erik Severinghaus of SimpleRelevance, which works with companies to “pull in and normalize your current data, then use predictive analytics to recommend the best email marketing approach for each customer. ”

Are you a small-business owner and would like to share your story? E-mail me jdasilva [at] smartbrief.com.

View the Small Biz Q-and-A series, and sign up for our free e-mail newsletters on small business and entrepreneurialism.

What does SimpleRelevance do, and what led you in 2011 to say, “I need to start this”?

SimpleRelevance is the first true machine-learning platform for digital marketers. We take in tremendous amounts of data and leverage predictive analytics to significantly improve the efficacy of digital marketing campaigns. For instance, if we’re optimizing a company’s e-mail program, we will automatically ensure that e-mail is sent with the best subject line, content, and at the right time of day to each individual customer. (read more…)

When I was young and new to a corporate position, my manager, Karen, gave me an assignment that involved translating a confusing government regulation into a benefit that would be available for our employees. She was expecting a proposal from me that would detail what needed to be done and then to lead the implementation of the benefit.

At first, I struggled to understand the regulation and had difficulty grasping how this could be put to use in our company. Karen refused to let me off the hook by giving me the answers (that I was pretty sure she had); she simply trusted that I would figure it out. She checked in from time to time to see how I was doing, spoke encouraging words, and left me alone to work out the details. Her tactics eventually resulted in a proposal and the implementation of a significant benefit for our workforce. (read more…)

Is there ever a time when a senior leader can hedge a bit on a core company value? What if he or she is making a genuine effort to live that value, but consistently falls short? And, what if that employee is a key player with deep expertise in a much-needed area? When is the right time to say, “This just isn’t working out”?

These are all questions that the general manager of a growing midsized business faced recently. By many measures, things were going well — revenues were on the rise for the third straight year, employee and customer satisfaction was solid — yet the GM couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off-kilter with his leadership team.

After individual meetings with each of the GM’s six direct reports, it became clear that one team member (“George”) was out of alignment with a core company value. George wasn’t doing anything unethical; in fact, he was an upstanding guy who was smart and dedicated to his team and to the company. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 190,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: How transparent are you in sharing information with your team?

  • Completely — they know everything I know: 14.47%
  • Very — they know most things, but I hold some things back: 74.47%
  • Somewhat — they know the things I think they need to know: 8.3%
  • Not very — I share on a need-to-know basis: 1.91%
  • Not at all — I rarely share information with them: .85%

Transparency rules. The more you share, the more they trust you. Even if you’re in the “very transparent” camp, you can probably share more information. Don’t just think about sharing “final” or confirmed information – giving people transparency into information in real time can quell rumors and strengthen bonds. While you may think you’re being transparent, by waiting to share information until it’s final, you’re actually promoting unhealthy dynamics on your team. (read more…)