Chris Taylor gives his insights on gaining skills to, and through, leadership.
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Charlotte Ward 0:13
Hello, and welcome to Episode 19 of the customer support leaders podcast. I’m Charlotte Ward. The topic for this week is transitioning to leadership with some personal perspectives. So let’s listen to five leaders talking about that very topic. I’d like to welcome to the podcast today Chris Taylor. Chris, would you like to introduce yourself?
Chris Taylor 0:38
Hi, Charlotte. Thanks for having me. My name is Chris Taylor. I am the Customer Support Manager for tyk.io, the API management platform and I’ve been in customer support about 10 years now working in various industries.
Charlotte Ward 0:52
Thanks, Chris. The topic for this week is transitioning to leadership and I’m particularly interested in your own personal story there.
Chris Taylor 1:00
Yeah, I mean, I’m I initially started in the world of customer support as a call centre agent on the phone dealing with motor insurance claims. So I had people calling through to me who had had pretty bad accidents. And I had to deal with that manager to make sure that cars were alright. They were alright. Kind of from there, I knew I wanted to go down the leadership route. In a contact centre you can be a team manager, you can look at operational leadership or quality management, where I ended up going with into resource management. This is an area that essentially plans all of the staff shifts and forecasts the calls, and just make sure that the operations running smoothly. I initially thought I wanted to be a team leader. I went for that job eight times and never got it. Because they quickly identified I didn’t have a certain set of skills. I’m the most fluffy, coachy-type person, I’m more data-driven. So I think transitioning into leadership, it’s about knowing where you want to go, really and what your skills lend themselves to
Charlotte Ward 1:58
What was that real impetus to make that move for you?
Chris Taylor 2:02
I mean, I’m quite driven individually. So I like to progress and do better and do new things. There was a drive to do something better, become a manager. But I didn’t really have any direction when I started out. So I was like, I can be a team manager, I can coach these agents, I can improve their performance. And then when I really started digging into the skills, it became apparent that that’s not me. I’m very data-driven. I like looking at the reporting and sort of going into this resource management role helped me really diversify and broaden that skill set. So now, even though I joined a really technical area where I wasn’t directly managing people, I’ve been able to transition into a coach and more of a people leader, just due to the exposure to that management level.
Charlotte Ward 2:45
Was there anything else you feel you could have done at that point? Or did it just totally make sense?
Chris Taylor 2:50
It made sense at the time, but to be honest, I would have probably should have sat down and sort of looked at all of these roles and said, Look, where do I want to go where what am I most passionate about? Here, if I’d sat down and had a better understanding of the different aspects of customers support, like in the contact centre, there’s massive departments for quality. There’s massive departments for resources, or just team managers. There’s so many routes, you can go down in so many different specialisms that, knowing more of that upfront would have definitely helped to inform my decision. From that, I then moved to Tyk because the Customer Support Manager, which is a completely different industry. So it was a very, very challenging initial step and a different sphere than I wanted to go. But I’ve essentially made it to my end goal.
Charlotte Ward 3:33
Yeah. And those skills that you learned early on, presumably have continued to serve you well, in your current role.
Chris Taylor 3:40
Absolutely. I think they’re some of the most valuable ones I’ve gotten. I think, regardless of whether you’re just starting out as an agent, or you’re just looking at that first step is management, all of the skills you pick up will help you if you eventually become an operations manager or a director.
Charlotte Ward 3:55
It is a continual journey, isn’t it? You don’t just move from agent to manager, and that’s it: “you are now a fully-fledged manager.”
Chris Taylor 4:04
Absolutely. I mean, even as a manager, a leader, you’re constantly developing yourself. And I think if you’re not, you’re not managing right? Because there’s always something to learn a new way of coaching your team or looking at the data or myriad of trends that come out about customer experience every year, what’s coming up in 2020? How do we adapt to that? I think one of the key skills for a manager is to be receptive to change. And not only that, to be able to communicate change effectively to their team and get that buy-in.
Charlotte Ward 4:30
I think that’s really important to be continually receptive to change. I’m with you on that one.It’s hard enough when you’re an agent being told what things are going to look like tomorrow and how different they’re going to be three weeks from now as well, which we know is how it can be sometimes. How you communicate that to your team when you are the leader is really important. Do you think there have been significant changes in your working style as you move from agent to leader because you see both sides of that you see, in the case of communicating change, you see what it is like receiving that news as well as imparting that news now? Has that affected how you perceive leadership this far down the line?
Chris Taylor 5:11
Absolutely. I mean, you’ve got stakeholders upwards and downwards. And they both have different communication needs. So if you’re managing a pool of agents, and you’re managing a big change, having the perspective of being an agent is definitely beneficial. Because you can be like, oh, when they change, this, it landed this way for me. So I know that I’m not going to bulldoze this change through. The other way, it gives you more of a business acumen, so that you can start looking at things from a commercial perspective. Essentially, when you start as an agent, you’re very much in your box, you do your thing, get your tasks done, you do your calls, and then you leave. When you move into management, you’re seeing how all of these different metrics you were previously targeted on actually affect business performance. I wouldn’t be the manager I am today if I hadn’t been an agent first. Definitely.
Charlotte Ward 5:56
How important you think it is to keep in touch with what your agents are doing right now? Do you need distance or do you need to be in the trenches?
Chris Taylor 6:03
I think it’s a fine balance to strike. I really hate micromanaging. So I don’t want to be breathing down my teams. Next, I want to have the trust and the faith that my team are knowledgeable enough to handle the tickets and can do that without them feeling like I’m standing over their shoulder the whole time. Basically, you don’t want to detach yourself from what’s going on on the ground operationally. I do make a habit of checking in looking at the tickets every day. You don’t want to completely detach yourself from the reality of what’s happening on the ground. Otherwise, you just turn around one day and you’ve lost control of everything essentially.
Charlotte Ward 6:40
That’s it for today. Go to customersupportleaders.com/19 for the show notes, and I’ll see you next time.
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