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A recruitment agency shop window near Holborn,...

A recruitment agency shop window near Holborn, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Research shows senior managers believe that team leaders are the most important people in contact centres. However, in reality, team leaders often receive very little preparation for the role and hardly any development once they get started.

John Adair sets out a framework for team leader development in his book ‘How to Grow Leaders.’ The framework is discussed in my recent blog of 23 February 2013.

Adair discusses the selection of team leaders as a starting point.

Clearly careful selection of team leaders makes their subsequent development easier. Surprisingly many managers don’t give this the attention they should; appointing those with the most technical expertise or the ‘next in line.’

My preference is to select new team leaders from internal candidates. Internal candidates, who show leadership ability, should be given greater responsibilities. Positions such as ‘team coach,’ in-between agent and team leader, are useful. Making internal appointments is good for morale; it highlights the importance placed on career development and also creates movement for others to advance.

Adair agrees with this approach saying that ‘the natural or best way of selection, of course, is to know and observe the person over a period of time and in a variety of revealing if not testing situations.’

It is clear when appointing external candidates, contact centre managers have to find other ways of assessing leadership potential.

The common approach is to draw up a list of competencies and interview and test against them. Adair warns that any such lists should be kept ‘short and simple.’ He identifies:

  • Leadership and teamwork – including qualities such as energy, enthusiasm and initiative
  • Decision making  – problem solving and thinking skills
  • Communication skills – speaking, listening and writing
  • Self – management – including time management skills and the ability to organise oneself
  • Personal qualities – including enthusiasm and integrity.

Lists of competencies used in practice are often much longer and over-engineered than recommended by Adair. It makes you wonder if organisations have a clear understanding of the requirements of leadership. They are simply making the selection process harder.

Line managers and team leaders sometimes become involved in the selection process. However, there are examples where the people involved in selection are not adequately trained to do what is needed. It’s good practice to involve those who will be leading or working alongside the new person in their selection, but they need to understand fully how the process is supposed to work.

It’s no surprise that, with complicated competencies to assess against and assessors not totally clear on the process, the wrong selection decisions are made. This makes development of newly appointed team leaders harder.

Contact centre managers should think carefully about how they select new team leaders and how the process works in practice.