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Advice on management

#1 | Posted: 28 Dec 2006 19:10 
I was offered the role of CSM of which I have worked in my company for quite some time and worked my way up to which they offered the job to me. I have been on the job for 3 months. Before I was promoted I did key account work and had 4 really big accounts out of the 10 for the company I work for, so in getting this promotion, here is what I gave up, kept and aquired. 4 biggest accts in the company, an entire new division and all the account base domestic, our entire regional account group and our website consumer group. So I am managing 11 people and have not one bit of experience in doing so, sorta trial by error. So in these 3 months of not knowing and not able to be trained in doing, I became overwhelmed with all that was given to me. I had to focus on my key accounts as they could break the company, I had to be a manager and take angry customer calls during the day which scared the hell out of me, I had to try to answer questions from my regional group and not know if the answer I was giving them was a good response or not even though I felt I knew the answer, but could of been wrong. See key accounts and regional accounts are handled differenly, I never worked in the regional accts so for me these were not the type of questions I asked or my accounts ask, I was strictly witin our polices. These accounts are the mom and pop shops so they are handled differently and with different requests. So I have 9 from the regional acct group. I just feel bad as I was not able to get out there and rally them up as I was always working on my key accounts in my office w/the door closed, so this did not reflect good for my boss. Then there are the consumer division, these girls work on the phones answering everyday people calls, taking care of web purchases, returns, and credits for our website. When a customer becomes angry for what ever reason, they always want to speak to a manager....me. I cringe everytime I get one of those calls. And lastly, I have other division, that at this moment its pretty low maintenance so I don't stress over them. So in looking at what my responsibilites are in my life and what I have a head of me each and every day i am at work.... I am just a bit overwhelmed. I have since been called into my bosses office as she is seeing all of this and things are slipping out of my control that I have now been taken off management roll and just to stay focused on just my 4 big accounts. My heart felt heavy and as I was sitting there, I felt like a failure and it hurt me so much and it still does. I don't know how to get back into the groove, i felt the wind come out of my sail and still feel this way, next week she will be discussing with the department these changes and I don't want to be in the room when she does. It will hurt too much. That is how I look at it, some of my peers look at it as a blessing as they thought too this was way to much for me to handle with no experience and still really none learned. So I am mixed with these feelings of how to deal with it. What do you all think? Am I blessed or screwed?

Author KarenSB
#2 | Posted: 29 Dec 2006 08:11 
For what it's worth, you are a victim of the typical corporate grind. "We" don't promote people for the right reasons. We promote people because they are good at what they do, they stand out...never once factoring into the equation that an entirely different skill set is required for management.

You soared as an account rep, taking care of the customers, working as a "lone wolf," right? Suddenly, you are thrust into having to manage 11 people, take care of all customers, and needing to be a "team player."

Lone wolves are not team players. And vice versa.

What do YOU want? If you want to work management you'll need to learn the skills to succeed. Take classes, go to seminars, read, read, read, practice, practice, practice. Your organization should support you in these efforts (note I say "should"...not all do).

Finally, for what it's worth, if it's a choice between blessed or screwed, from my humble perspective, it's blessed. You received a rare opportunity to step outside of your role and try something else. It's not failure...it's a learning opportunity. Now you have the experience to know what is right for you, what it is you really want to do.

Good luck to you,

Author sbdavies
#3 | Posted: 5 Jan 2007 09:09 
Karen is quite right. I have worked in IT for a large part of my career in a service related role and I have worked with people who really excel in their technical job but put them in a team leading or management role and they are a fish out of water. It looks like your workload was far too much, you must let go of your previous responsibilities and take on different ones. You must also delegate. It's not easy and companies who think that they can just pile more and more onto people are not worth working for.

One other comment on customer complaints is that an annoyed customer will always ask to speak to a manager. it is up to the company to ensure that the CS operators are able to resolve customers' problems without always haveing to refer to a manager.

Author cedennis
#4 | Posted: 9 Jan 2007 09:44 
Wow, I feel your pain! I think most of us who have had careers in customer service management have gone through similar situations - the transition between being a "doer" and a "manager." The sign of a mature senior management is that they would recognize the challenges of this transition, and help you prepare for it. To set you up to succeed, as it were. On the other hand, an inexperienced senior management would just throw a person into the deep end of the pool, and expect them to figure out how to swim. So what I am saying here is, don't beat yourself up.

I think the previous two posts have some good advice, and I would like to throw in a little more. Businesses succeed or fail based on their customers - the cusotmers' perception of the company's product or service, and the customer's perception of how well they are treated. Therefore, it is imperative that the people who serve the customers be well-trained, capable, friendly, courteous, and articulate.

It sounds like, in your previous role as an account manager, you excelled at these things. Your senior management was hoping that you could magically impart these skills to your customer service team. This, as both previous posts mention, is a common assumption of senior management everywhere. Just because a person can DO something well does not mean they can teach others to do it well, let alone manage the performance of others, without specific training on how this is done.

I was thrown into a similar situation about 20 years ago, and was lucky enough to have been given a book called "Managing By Influence" by Ken Schatz. A year or two later, I was lucky enough to attend a training program delivered by Mr. Schatz that fully explained and utilized the concepts in the book. I can honestly say that these things changed my life, as a manager. It taught me how to delegate, how to handle internal matters between employees, how to get my boss to give me the resources I needed to get the job done. This book is out of print, but is still available in used book stores, and occasionally on amazon.com. It's worth seeking out.

One more comment for you, about the angry customers. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, as I have written extensively about them, and positioned my consulting practive around them. Yes, angry customers are hard to deal with, and can make you feel like crap. HOWEVER... they are great if you are trying to figure out how to improve your business and / or department. Think of it this way... small, trivial issues rarely make customer ANGRY. If a customer is that mad, it has to be about something important. To paint with broad strokes here, I would say that the anger is about one of two things. 1) Your company (or team) dropped the ball on some service or product issue. This is where training or product improvement will remedy the situation, and make you a stronger business. 2) The customer has misunderstood what he / she was supposed to get, and even though your company / team has delivered as they promised, something in the company's sales or marketing communication led that customer to believe he/she was going to get something more, or different. This is where you try to get the customer to help you identify where the message got garbled and the confusion was born.

Best of luck to you, and hang in there!!!

Chuck Dennis
Angry Customer Strategist
Knowledgence Associates

Author Michele Eby
#5 | Posted: 16 Jan 2007 08:03 
Since it's been a few weeks since your original post, I am wondering how you are feeling today. Did your boss discuss the changes with your department?

I hope you have begun to see -- based on the above advice and your well-meaning friends -- that you are not a failure. It sounds to me like the management of your company set you up to fail. Not purposefully. You were a standout in your previous position and perhaps they wanted to recognize you and offer you the chance to do more. But, unwittingly they set you up to fail because they didn't give you the training or support to be successful in your new role.

I also wondered if the responsibilities for your new position were just too much for any one manager -- experienced or not -- to do well. It's one things to keep all the balls in the air. It's another thing to do it well. Happy employees mean happy customers. And 11 employees are a lot to support and develop when one also has significant account responsibilities.

Don't give up on yourself though! Think about what you want, what you most like about your job, and what you might like about management. Then, if you want to do more, talk to your boss about training and the responsibilities of the job. And think about a mentor within the company, Who was successful in that position prior to your promotion?

As for angry customers, I agree with the previous comments about looking at a disgruntled customers as a gift. It's better they call and complain than just stop doing business with you. Try to keep them and figure out what the problem is to prevent it from happening again.

Good luck. I am sure everything will work out for you.

Michele Eby
Writer and Training Advisor
Media Partners Corporation

#6 | Posted: 2 Mar 2007 22:29 
Well again another bomb dropped last week 2/24, I have had this feeling of fears harboring in my mind for so long that I started to lose my self confidence and had serious fears of failure . I felt like I was walking on eggshells around my boss and felt that i was falling fast, no matter what I was doing, I felt like it wasn't good enough. I had made some bad judgement calls mostly because I wasn't thinking clearly, that my boss finally pulled me in her office and talked to me again. My boss said to me that I needed to do some serious soul searching to find out what is going on in my head. In doing so, I found myself with lack of confidence and fear of failure. All the stuff that "fell through the cracks" in my first 4 months on the job (learning and doing) was coming into play, basically unseen mistakes. I was finding myself having to justify it and work with the accounts and reps to fix it. I was feeling more of "like how could this have happened", it sparked many fears within me, making me feel like more of a failure, as I was experiencing something every week (it seemed). I was stressing so bad on so many unseen issues that i would try to avoid her as I was afraid that something would be up that I might of done wrong. This is where my self worth was lacking and my confidence in myself was dwindling.

Well we had a discussion about it the following Monday, even though it was extremely emotional for me, we talked about all of what was bothering me and what I felt and how I felt toward the decisions that were made about my role in the managing the dept and some of the current situations I was experiecing (the unforseen mistakes). She said I had to toughen up, that I don't show the girls I am in charge of "the ra ra" and the consumer calls that get passed to me puts me into a CSR roll and not a management roll as they should not be passing calls of sort onto me and I was letting them, (this is where I wasn't sure on why I was getting them and how to handle them since I was still learning the ropes), i feel she is a good boss, instead of yelling and carrying on, she calmly discussed and listened to me which made me feel so much better in having to talk about it. I am understanding my fears and working through them. Its going to take some time for me to get her confidence in me again, but I am working hard at where I was months ago and feeling more confident in myself each day and trying to overcome it. I am feeling better about myself each day and surviving (even though its been a week, this fear is lifting off my shoulders with each passing day). All this wonderful feed back is enlightening to me because I can see I am not the only one going /gone through it and I appreciate all of your feedback. It helps me alot to read your comments and learn from them. thank you all for your support. I will keep you posted... thank you again.

Author ayaree
#7 | Posted: 3 Mar 2007 08:40 
SKX, there's a lot of good replies to you already but now that you're back a couple of months later, I'll chime in.

Number one: you're still there, into a good 6 months of this, and your boss didn't pull you out. She has placed some faith in you. See if you can pay her back for that trust by eliminating the feelings of under-confidence. You owe confidence to yourself more than anybody as the owner of this new job, but thinking of it in terms of paying your boss back might get your head in the right confident place sooner than you think, without realizing it.

Number two: she's right. You should not be absorbing work from your staff through calls that are kicked to you and by taking the baton and running the rest of the mile. This is one of the toughest things I remember figuring out when I was "thrown" into a supervisor role almost 10 years ago (a few short lives ago). Some of us want to hang on to the ability to "do" as opposed to "direct." It didn't help that I was thrown the messiest area, but something I was lacking when I started was understanding that I cannot be effective in the role of leader by bearing the "doing" I knew how to accomplish as well as being accountable for the performance of the staff. It's OK to be hands-on to the extent that you are maintaining a presence with your team, but you can't be a hands-on doer in your role now. If you're taking on a lot of the things that your staff are doing, that means the amount of time you are not being a leader will add up, and the team does not have a leader. As virtuous as it is to want to lend a hand (for your people AND your customers), you have to turn this situation around. You're not there to help some "complete" their job; you're there to enable your people to do their job through guidance, recognition, reaffirmation, enlisting of support from others in the team, coaxing the team members to enlist support from each other on their own. You can't work on your old job in the new one. Your people work for you with an aim of success for the clients. There is only one sense in which YOU work for your team, and that is by making them feel like their performance matters to you. That's the bridge you have to cross

Some specific on the other side of the bridge that should be different: you will have let go of some details in the work your people do; in fact, they will begin to be the experts that you used to be. You won't be an ignorant person in the company, you will be the leader of performers that have consistently seen you support their requests for help from their peers (not) when appropriate, that have consistently heard your tanks and congratulations for those "We made it" times, that see these things reflected on their reviews. There is a life cycle to this other side of the bridge and it's not about more cycles of you making sure you can do the job of your staff; it's you watching your people perform, grow, collaborate, excel (or be coached on needed improvements, reminded, dismissed on the negative side).

I am not 58, I'm 38, but I can tell you "time" is a big factor in how I understand life. It takes time to adjust. When you think you are on the other side of the bridge, you will have noticed it took a lot longer to figure out how to do your job than you thought it would. I have advised people that it can easily take 6 months just for people to begin to listen to you or respect you. On another level, it can take a year, because not everybody learns how to be a leader vs a doer overnight! But it's not just "time" but "timing." You have to time when you say certain things, hold meetings to regroup over a crisis, to just stay in touch, you have to find a way to make time for someone for a heart to heart like the one with your boss. You have to learn how to be 1 step ahead of your people not by doing their work or by working double the hours, but by having a solution or a reaction to a potential problem (absence, quitting, some crisis) if it ever occurs.

It's good that you are letting go of fear, let me encourage you to stay on track!

One more thing about my metaphor getting to the other side of the bridge: on that other side you will be looking upon your people as stars or potential stars in their own right and you will be learning something from them. You will have let go of being a star in the old sense that was familiar to you. People really do want to work for their boss, and eventually I came to internalize that and I shifted: I was there to let them do it!

Author KarenSB
#8 | Posted: 3 Mar 2007 10:08 

Thank you for posting an update on how you are and how things are going in the position. I'm glad to hear that you are still moving forward, learning and growing. I've been thinking about you.

I'm DELIGHTED to hear about your boss. She sounds like a keeper. It seems she has confidence in you, supports you, and wants to mentor you.

For what it's worth, my advice is to leverage and strengthen that relationship. The door has been opened...don't shut it. Feedback is (arguably) the most important facet in any position...in both delivery and receipt. We cannot possibly know how we are *really* doing unless someone tells us. And we have to be receptive, both to asking for feedback and accepting that which is given to us. Denial is a long and lonely river.

Oftentimes TRUTH does not matter. Perception is what it's all about. You can say that I am ______ (fill in the blank). Whether I am or not is moot. What matters is that you hold that perception of me. If it is positive...wonderful. But if that perception is negative...ah!!! Therein lies the core of our issue. You see? Once I understand how others perceive me to be, then I can address the situation however I see fit. Most people won't tell you what they think of you unless you directly ask them for feedback. So many of us are afraid to ask for that feedback...afraid of what the response may be.

Your boss is not a person to fear. Please know that I'm not at all trying to bash you here, but it seems as though you may have viewed her in that manner. Rather like the fear we feel when we look in the rearview mirror and see a police car. Bottom line, you both have the same goals...to serve the organization, the staff and the customers to the best of your ability. And when a dynamic team is built, sometimes through hard work, hurt feelings, and lots of missteps, the results can truly be a thing of beauty.

My advice is to keep her informed, seek out her guidance, ask for feedback from her, from your staff, from your peers and from the customers. But bear in mind that asking is not simply enough. You may also have to accept and action what you hear. If feedback is continually sought, but nothing comes of it, soon it because a useless exercise.

Finally, from my perspective, she does have confidence in you. If she didn't, you would no longer have that position. So I don't think you need to "earn back" any trust...you just need to action the feedback received and show her what you are capable of. Show her that her confidence is not misplaced.

Remember, being in management does not mean that you need to babysit the staff and win any popularity contests. It means that you now need to guide your staff, and mold and develop them just as your boss is molding and developing you. When those unhappy customer calls come in, your staff needs to handle them. And if they do not know how to do so properly, guide them through it. Now that you've been there and done it, you can show them the way!

Wishing you continued success,

#9 | Posted: 13 Mar 2007 21:42 
I appreciate everyones feedback , I have been keeping on track, staying ahead of the game. It's tough, but I am working on raising above it. I really appreciate all the good advice and will learn from it and take it to heart. I see this is how I am wanting to feel and where my mind set should be, so thank you all.

Author patilint
#10 | Posted: 14 Mar 2007 06:24 
I am glad you hung in there. I admire you....I myself have always been the lead customer service rep and have been asked to consider management but never wanted to do it. It is difficult to go from doer to manager...alot of things to consider. Its not always worth the financial gain.
Now that you are there, take advantage of your boss's talk and see what you can do to better yourself while handling the day to day challenges. Take some courses that relate to 'people'skills- management, listening, delegating etc.
Hopefully your company will pay for these and allow you the time, if necessary, to obtain this training.
Also, get the book mentioned above and of course ask for feedback along the way.
Best of luck- follow your heart and you can do anything you set your mind to.

Author ayaree
#11 | Posted: 1 Apr 2007 15:44 
SKX, has there been any change recently? any news?

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