What Do We Want Them to Feel?

Kathleen Peterson Rants & Raves by Kathleen Peterson

How many songs have we all heard with the word “feel” in the title and at the heart of the lyrics? Think about it for a minute … How Does It Feel? – Feel the Love – Feel the Beat – I Don’t Feel Like Dancing to name just a few. Well, I would like to explore whether or not grasping the importance of human emotions and feelings can improve our ability to lead and our people’s ability to perform.

Business leaders wield incredible power within an organization. How they feel impacts how others around them feel; feelings guide decision-making, happiness, creativity, enthusiasm, irritation, stress, etc.

The word “feel” has many definitions; I have selected those most applicable to this piece. Feel can be a verb, as in “to be persuaded of something on the basis of intuition, emotion, or other indefinite grounds.” In its noun form, it means “awareness of a specified kind or quality of physical, mental, or emotional state” and “the general atmosphere of a place or situation and the effect that it has on people” (www.thefreedictionary.com). Verb and noun have equal impact. The verb is the ability to integrate what data tells you and what your feelings tell you. The noun is the ongoing awareness of the “general atmosphere” and how it impacts people’s feelings about their job.

In the Performance and Learning side of our practice, we follow a simple approach that is built around a single question with three basic elements. What do learners need to Know, Do, and Feel?

I had my “skeptical” cap on when we began building around this framework. I thought … too touchy feely … and what does the question mean exactly? I kept thinking of the phrase that mocks the question therapists often ask: “Well, how does that make you feel?” I soon realized that perhaps this common mockery demonstrates the diminished capacity all of us must overcome to understand and reconnect with the powerful impact of managing and measuring how our people feel and how this relates to how they perform.

When we prepare Contact Center resources for frontline or leadership roles many words are used to describe competency requirements: dedication, pro-action, self-management, confidence, enthusiasm, brand ambassador, etc. Think for a moment about how many times we actually use a word that describes the way we want our teams to FEEL in order to deliver the required performance. Isn’t it only fair that we contribute to that feeling being possible?

When challenges arise in Contact Center operations (e.g., high turnover, poor performance, customer churn, social media assaults) I don’t see enough leaders evaluating how people feel about their job, their training, the manner in which information is communicated, and their value in the organization. Why is that?

My view is that we have been persuaded to diminish the impact of how people feel in favor of more explicit and less scary drivers: budget, technology, Human Resources, product issues, etc. These are things over which weak leaders proclaim they have no control. Hence, handling performance issues is simply the best we can do under the circumstances. This is nothing more than a feeling masquerading as a reality. It counts since the belief has been embedded through countless scenarios in which leaders are denied what is needed to meet objectives.

I think that perhaps some business leaders have reached “new lows” by chasing after the lowest paid positions to cut in order to protect profits with wanton disregard for the Customer’s Experience or anyone else’s for that matter. These “slash” assessments dismiss the possibility of funding process/technology/training improvements that may actually have a positive impact on Customer Experience, morale, retention, and loyalty. One might almost think that these leaders can’t feel a thing except the numbers that have been met for this or that quarter.

Short-term wins rarely yield long-term gains. Leaders that really “get” the power and impact of feeling, generally enjoy significantly richer intuitive experiences. This enables them to relate to conditions and people in a way that spurs forward motion and to enjoy sharper eyes toward ethical issues. They are able to integrate the requisites for enthusiasm, rapport building, excitement, and ambassadorships into Contact Center goals and objectives, training programs, day-to-day activities, and celebrations. All the things that surround daily transactions are laden with feeling!

As a consumer, how often have you felt that your Customer Experience was poor not because of the outcome but because of the feeling you experienced? As an example, the dealership where we once purchased a car will never be on our list for new car shopping! The one and only time I called the dealer’s service department, the service coordinator was hostile and condescending to me. It got worse when I emailed my salesman. He got back to me with this idiotic response: “I’m surprised since Jim is really one of our best people. There must be a misunderstanding.” Translation: “You stupid customer … blah, blah, blah.” Well, that was the end of what might have been repeat business and a positive word of mouth; sadly neither occurred. These staff disregarded how I was feeling about the encounter. Rather than feel that the right thing to do would be to apologize, they instead chose a defensive stance that resulted in the loss of repeat business.

What are the ways you want/need your staff to feel in order to achieve business objectives, retain customers and staff, overcome adversity, and enlarge wallet share with customers, households, and generations? What must your frontline managers feel to be effective?

We need to feel the brand, feel the customer’s response and subsequent experience, feel what is best in any given situation, and feel when it is time to speak up. We need to feel entitled to do a good job and be supported by all the tools necessary. We need to value the impact of having a feel for the work, for the customer, and for those served by leadership. If we spend just a little time on this, I believe that challenges will be not only easier to overcome but less frequent. Think about it … What do we want them to feel?

“Gifted leadership occurs when heart and head–feeling and thought–meet. These are the two winds that allow a leader to soar.” Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence Author