Managers often struggle to gain and maintain the respect of their subordinates. This is a particularly important issue for those who manage customer service agents, as respect towards managers directly translates into respect towards the customers with whom the agent interacts.
However, securing the respect of your agents often proves elusive, even for those managers who have the innate leadership skills and who avoid obvious pitfalls such as ruling by fear or aiming to please team members at the expense of the company’s interest.
What makes earning the respect of your agents so difficult is that the challenges that you will face as a manager are often not understood or appreciated by your superiors – or your subordinates. Accordingly, your employees might not understand the reasons for the decisions you take- and yet, these decisions impact the work and lives of your agents.
Character is key
So how do you earn the respect you deserve when you are forced to make decisions you cannot always explain to your agents? The key words here are “deserve” and “earn”. You need to realize that you will not automatically be awarded respect upon promotion or due to seniority. Internalizing this, and demonstrating trustworthiness, credibility and humanity. In other words – character. Character is a constant your agents can rely on, even when you are forced to make unpopular decisions, or commit newbie faux pas.
What most employees want to see, at the end of the day, is fairness, consistency, a chance to be heard, clear direction, adequate support, and manager responsibility ownership of his or her own decisions, good and bod. Your agents want to know that you are realistic about the situation within, and without the organization, and that you are forthright about communicating this information to their agents. At the same time, you also need to provide your agents with a hopeful vision of the future, even when times are tough.
How can you meet these basic needs? Every company and every position are different but below is a basic checklist of do’s and do not’s:
1.Show respect to your agents before you demand it from them
This is a must. Acknowledging the contributions of your agents, both privately and publicly, both to their colleagues and higher up, is the way to provide your agents with a yardstick for their performance and a motivation to excel, while demonstrating that you will always give them credit for their achievements.
2.Lead by example, not merely by words
Setting high standards for yourself is the only way to motivate your agents to do the same.
3.Don’t be afraid to take risks – but take responsibility if things go sour
Nobody respects a manager who constantly plays it safe. A respected leader is one who is bold enough to change the way things are done for the betterment of the organization. The flip side of this, however, is that you must be prepared to own risks that do not pan out. It is your decision – so that makes it your responsibility. Passing blame down to your subordinates is the swiftest and surest way to lose their respect.
4.Sponsor the advancement of high-potential agents
Some of your agents lack the ambition or the drive to advance higher. That’s fine, your organization can always use people with long experience at their current position. But those are not the people who make the organization shine – those who do are the highly motivated, and ambitious agents who seek to go above and beyond the call of duty in the hope of being recognized and advanced. They are waiting for you to recognize their potential and sponsor their rise. Give them the sponsorship they need to rise in your organization and you will win their loyalty. But if you profit from their extra efforts without giving them the boost they deserve then you will lose their respect -and quite possibly your best agents.