I was recently on a multi-city speaking tour with NICE Systems and had the pleasure of meeting Tequea “TQ” Batson, an operations manager at Sprint’s Denver contact center. She was a speaker with me at the Denver event.
TQ currently has about 185 direct reports at her contact center which has almost 600 employees overall. She has a track record of improving contact centers, and the Denver facility is one of the top performing sites across Sprint’s network. What’s her secret to success? Employee coaching. But not just any type of coaching. She practices what she calls Inspirational Coaching.
TQ has managed more than 2,000 contact center employees over her career and has never had to terminate any of them for performance issues. Her approach to Inspirational Coaching has reached every person. TQ’s story was so strong that I followed up with her to discuss her approach in more detail. Here’s what she told me…
What is Inspirational Coaching?
Here’s how TQ describes Inspirational Coaching:
“Other people coach to what the business needs, which can be motivational because people come to work and want to do a good job. For me, I coach from what the person needs and find how the business can help them get there. If I give people what they need, then they automatically give me what I need, which is what the business needs. I create an atmosphere and environment where a person feels empowered to reach his or her desired level of accomplishment. I don’t want to own it. When they are empowered to do it themselves, and things change, then they can adjust and won’t need me to do it for them.”
How is Inspirational Coaching different?
Here’s how TQ compares three different types of coaching:
- Intimidation: Employees temporarily meet minimum requirements.
- Motivational: Employees exceed minimum requirements until the environment or situation changes.
- Inspirational: Employees consistently excel and measure their performance against their best effort with no consideration to company requirements. They try and maintain their good results. They compete with themselves and want to be their best.
It’s All About Personal Accountability
TQ makes sure that people define their own plans. Since most people are not comfortable saying no, they may agree verbally to a goal that is given to them even if they are not mentally bought in. So nothing changes. If employees tell TQ that that they are going to do something, then they can’t get mad at her if it doesn’t happen. They can’t say that they don’t like the plan; they were the ones who said they were going to do it.
The Secret to Inspirational Coaching: Ask Rather Than Tell
TQ says that your job as a coach is to ask the questions that make the employee aware of how their actions are affecting their desired results. You don’t want the employee defending herself, because then she has to support her defensiveness and defend her behavior. TQ wants to get an employee to say (and recognize) how her behaviors are affecting her goals. She keeps asking those questions to keep employees from defending their behaviors. TQ was clear on this point: You can’t coach someone who’s defending her behavior.
When it comes to giving feedback, TQ focuses on what is observable and how it relates to the actions they said they would take. After employees develop a plan, TQ asks them how they think those actions will impact their performance. She doesn’t talk about the employees’ attitudes or her evaluations of them.
TQ believes that if you focus on results (instead of observable employee behaviors), then employees will look at all of the environmental issues as excuses for their actions. If you stay focuses on the actions, then none of the other issues come up and they don’t blame the situation. If an employee said that something would work for him, then TQ keeps the discussion focused solely on why it is or isn’t working or why the employee isn’t doing that he said he would.
Here’s my favorite quote from TQ: “I use corrective action as a tool, not a punishment. It’s not that TQ is being mean.”
Visit TQ’s new website for more information.
The bottom line: Engage employees with Inspirational Coaching