KPI’s and Goals – Let’s Open the Discussion

?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1Industry regardless, business leaders start looking for the silver bullet and changing matrixes for measuring performance every year.  Except, too often, the goals are not SMART, and the KPI’s are disconnected from the goals, making the goals nothing more than good suggestions.  Worse, too many business leaders forget to make goals SMART, and the goals fail faster than New Year’s Resolutions.  It cannot be understated; KPI’s need to be made SMART and go hand-in-hand with SMART goals to build performers.

KPI’s

Key performance indicators (KPI’s) are actions that build behaviors and are reflected in data collected.  SMART KPI’s are specific, measurable, applicable, relevant, and task-oriented.  For call centers, a SMART KPI is designed with a specific and singular action that can be reliably measured, appropriately articulated as achievable, is relevant to the agent and relevant to the call centers strategic goals, and is based upon a task.

A typical KPI in call centers is After-Call Handling (ACH); this is time measured between hanging up with one customer and beginning a new call.  The tasks completed might include leaving call notes, faxing/emailing documents, completing paperwork for the customer, etc.  How do we create ACH as a SMART KPI; we follow the pattern below:

      • Specific – ACH ranges between 0 and 120 seconds.
      • Measurable – ACH can be anywhere in the 0-120 second range, faster being better.
      • Achievable – Do your processes for servicing customer requests support front-line agents quickly completing tasks?
      • Relevant – Does measuring ACH make sense as an integral part of the call center’s operations?
      • Task-Oriented – Do agents know how to manage their after-call handling to meet the maximum ACH?

What do I see too often in call centers where KPIs are concerned; dumb KPIs masquerading as SMART KPIs and leaving destruction and chaos as a consequence.  Why?  Because the KPI might be based upon a task, but it has not been reviewed as achievable, actionable, and relevant to the organization in more than a decade.  In discussing KPIs with a call center leadership team, a leader stated, quite proudly, “Our KPIs don’t need to be revised; they have served us well since 2000 when the company launched.”  For the record, if any process, procedure, or business action is not written down, with a single person responsible and revised at a maximum of every 18-months, your processes and procedures ARE THE PROBLEMS in your business!What Are SMART Goals and Why Are They Important? - Business 2 Community

After evaluating processes at a local hospital recently, some of their processes, standard work that protects patients from getting sick while in hospital, weren’t written down, and those written down were drafted in the 1980s!  Nurses running around claiming they were doing their job according to hospital policy could not find written standards for work; genetic knowledge was passed along and changed by the current leader in charge.  When asked why the processes were not written down, lawyers and the risk of litigation were the excuses.

In a warehouse, desperately struggling with improving performance to protect bottom-line health, claimed any changes to their standards of work had to be approved by HR.  HR uses the 70% rule; if 70% of the workers cannot meet the standard, the standard does not move or reduces until 70% of the workforce meets the standard.  What has the 70% rule bred; standards so low the company is losing money, hemorrhaging good and talented people for the dregs of society who have zero incentive to improve how they perform their jobs.  Raising the following issue with KPI’s, they should be designed to stretch the employee.How to Make Sure Your Goals Are High Impact - Business With Impact - Medium

Relevant KPI’s protect against measuring behaviors and punishing production.  KPI’s must change actions, and actions are a direct result of attitudes and behaviors shifting.  Thus, a SMART KPI is a growing experience where meeting the KPIs inspires individual growth and development.  However, a KPI is NOT a stick to browbeat, cajole, or destroy workers.  KPI’s are always a training device.  The discussion of KPI-centered goals should be a two-directional conversation between a manager and an employee where the manager shows the employee how to change behavior to meet the KPI.

GOALS

In goal setting, SMART changes slightly; however, the changes do not hinder KPIs from being included but promote KPIs being integral to SMART goals.  A goal is a method of grabbing opportunities and learning.  How does one learn; they change their behaviors into changeable actions, and learning is inspired.  SMART KPIs help to direct those actions, and a SMART goal is a goal that is:

      • Specific – A single action, simply stated.
      • Measurable – An action broken down into rates, times, or repetitions, producing a number.
      • Achievable – Can the goal setter bring the action into reality?
      • Realistic – How many people can make reality from goals, EVERYONE, provided we plan properly to take a desire and build a plan to achieve it.
      • Timely – What is the deadline, and can it be achieved?

A friend of mine has struggled with quitting smoking and losing weight.  Every year, the same New Years’ resolution, same goals, same failure shortly after starting.  Why the goal is never SMART, the goal is always, “I’m going to lose weight and quit smoking.”  When asked, my friend claims this is a SMART goal.  Here is how I suggested my friend restate his goal to become SMART:

      • Specific – I am going to quit smoking.
      • Measurable – Right now, I smoke 40-cigarettes a day; I want to cut back to 35 cigarettes, then 30, and drop by five cigarettes a month.
      • Achievable – My friend has proven he cannot “Cold-Turkey” from cigarettes, but he has proven he can cut back.
      • Realistic – My friend knows he can quit smoking, but how he quits remains the difficulty.
      • Timely – How fast will he quit?

The final SMART goal in 2018 was, “By the end of 2020, I will have quit smoking, by reducing my monthly intake by five cigarettes month-over-month until I am no longer smoking.”  While my friend has not quit smoking yet, the SMART goals have helped him mark progress towards his goal, and making progress in his KPIs keeps him motivated to achieve his goals.  What was his KPI; dropping five cigarettes a month of consumption.  Learning how to quit has been my friend’s biggest challenge, not the reality that he can quit, but how to markedly meet progress towards quitting.

Knowledge Check!Is it a problem that my friend has missed his annual goal; no, as he has had to learn to make progress.  The KPI is a target and a task; the goal is learning through applying effort, and together with the SMART KPI and the SMART goal, help achieve a new reality.  The SMART goal without KPIs is a cool aspiration.  The KPI without an overarching goal is wasted efforts, akin to a dog chasing his tail.  What happens when the dog catches his tail and bites down; the dog gets a pain in his rear for all the effort of chasing his tail.

Some practical advice for leaders as they SMARTen their KPIs and goals:

      1. The process is iterative. You are learning; allow yourself time to learn, make mistakes, and keep moving forward.
      2. Failure does not mean scrapping everything and trying something new. Failure means either the KPI or the goal were not SMART enough.  Hold an “After-Action Review,” these meetings are critical to improving the process of SMARTening your KPIs and goals.
      3. Know the why, share the why, lead the why! The “Why” is the most critical aspect in the KPI and Goal setting process; if a person does not know the why, they will never care about the how!
      4. When in doubt, explore the why for answers.
      5. Goals are like water, constantly changing, and cannot be contained and pressurized. You can use the pressure to lift others, but without creating a mess, you cannot stop it.
      6. Phones are digital, and computers are digital; people are analog. Expect people to amaze you, mystify you, and create new opportunities to change your goals and KPIs.
      7. If you think you need help, ask!

Asking for help is a sign of strength, and plenty of people are willing to help you develop; please ask.  I worked for an officer in the US Navy who refused to ask for help; his performance was impeccable because he wrote his evaluation which was then rubber-stamped by the commander.  On the day the charade ended, the cataclysmic disaster was epic.  This officer caved in like an old ashtray—a sad event producing painful consequences for everyone in the command and his leadership chain.  Use the SMARTening process of KPIs and goals as an exercise in growth and development, and the results will surprise you.

© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Leading the Call Center – An Invitation

QuestionThere is a question in all corporate training, all industries, every professional position, “What is the value of training?”  Generally followed by “How do I know there is value in training? and the incredibly astute question, “Where is the value in training?”

Leadership is looking sideways and helping those who follow climb up, thus empowering the leader to climb to the next level.  Yet, the lingering doubt remains, “How do I measure success in training?”  Long have I advocated that the leader is a teacher and a learner, which are fundamental to success.  Whether that teaching comes from delegating authority, empowering people to act, or directly teaching someone struggling, the leader is always learning through teaching so they may learn more perfectly.

As part of my research into call center training, it has been discovered that those who receive official training, and those who learn their duties on the fly, have precisely the same chance of being successful; this is an indication of not the power of training, but the motivation of the learning adult.  There is a difference between adults, and the difference is the individual propensity to learn, discover, dig deeper, ask questions, and apply the results pursuing why.  Thus, one would naturally ask, “What is the difference between a learning adult and an adult who actively chooses not to learn?”  I think I know the answer, I have anecdotal evidence that supports my conclusions, but I would like to test these conclusions.

The Invitation

As part of my doctoral degree program, I must conduct research and report the findings.  I am inviting your American-based, English-speaking call center to help me test the assumptions and conclusions for my research.  The business will not be named, the individuals participating will not be named, and the study will occur online and outside regular business hours.  I want to interview 10-15 of your call-taking/front-line contact center employees using online interviewing software.  I want to interview 10-15 call center trainers, also employing online interviewing software.  Finally, I would like to take the information gleaned from the first two groups, sit down in a focus group, discuss what was found with 5-7 senior call center leaders, and glean their information, conclusions, and ideas.

I would ask that those participating in the research have a LinkedIn profile as a tool to verify years of experience.  No single participant would be featured in more than one of the participating groups.  All names of individuals will be hidden behind a participation code, and any identifiable business information will be deleted from the transcripts.  All findings will be reported in aggregate to avoid any identifiable information from potentially leaking into the published research.

Call CenterAs a bonus, those who help through participation, if they are interested, can receive a copy of the finished dissertation via email or physical copy, depending upon their preference.  My purpose in researching the call center is to dynamically review the adult learner in the pressure-cooking learning environment of call centers.  I have worked as an agent and a leader of agents spanning formal education.  The degree does not make the person, nor does a degree make a leader.  What makes the leader is their commitment to learning and teaching.

Please, join my research. Entering the study is possible through emailing msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu.  If you would like to verify my credentials, don’t hesitate to contact my chair Professor Dr. Susan Miedzianowski in the College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University, via email: Susan.Miedzianowski@my.gcu.edu.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Circling Back to Compassion – Important Additional Information

MumbleAfter discussing compassion as a tool for the leader’s toolbox, it was pointed out that compassion has been plasticized in modern society, and further discussion on the topic is required.  The intent here is to help provide practical steps for building a compassionate team, making compassionate people, and soliciting compassion as the prime response in customer relations.  There are some truths requiring stress to ensure a clear understanding is provided.

Compassion

The dictionary declares that compassion means “to suffer together.”  Intimating that compassionate people feel motivated to relieve suffering for they have felt the pain of suffering in another.  But, compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism.  Empathy is all about taking the perspective of and feeling another person’s emotions.  The taking is dangerous, the feeling is dangerous, and combined empathy becomes all about the person’s selfishness taking and feeling, not the sufferer. Compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help, taking nothing, onboarding no selfish emotional entanglements for personal gain, simply a desire to help relieve suffering. Altruism, in turn, is the kind, selfless behavior often prompted by feelings of compassion, though one can feel compassion without acting on it, and altruism isn’t always motivated by compassion.

The focus of compassionate people is to help without personally benefiting a person or animal in pain.  Be that pain physical, emotional, mental, etc.; the focus is always on the other and on helping as able.  Interestingly, compassion is rooted deep in the brain, whereas empathy, sympathy, and altruism are not.  Compassion changes a person fundamentally for the better, whereas research supports that sympathy, empathy, and even altruistic actions do not.  Hence compassion can be a tool in a leader’s toolbox, whereas sympathy and empathy, more often than not, are useless in building people and teams.  It is clear that compassion is intentionality, a cognizant decision to act, and the purpose is always to help.  Sympathy, empathy, and altruism are unconscious emotional desires; unless the person showing these emotions is there for personal gain, deception is intentional and conscious.

  • Truth 1. It cannot be stated enough, or more strongly, emotions are a cognizant choice based upon social cues, learned social rules, and judgments to obtain a reward.  Several good references on this topic exist, but the best and easiest originates with Robert Solomon, “Not Passions Slave: Emotions and Choice.”
  • Truth 2. Emotions are active responses, not passive, and emotions do not happen to an individual sporadically or spontaneously.  Again, several good references on this topic exist, but the best and easiest originates with Robert Solomon, “Not Passions Slave: Emotions and Choice.”

Where compassion is concerned, especially the conscious use of compassion as a leadership tool, the leader must become aware of emotions’ role and social influence and be better prepared to improve people and build cohesion in teams.  Because of compassions intentionality to render help to others, understanding how emotions are a choice and why is like putting glasses on to clarify what is happening, why, and how to duplicate or eradicate the emotional influence.  Thus, the need to emphasize these two truths, even though they are similar, are distinct and need complete understanding to best position the leader in building people.Knowledge Check!

Plastic Words – Tyranny in Language!

  • Truth 3. Uwe Poerksen, “Plastic Words: The Tyranny of Modular Language,” remains an excellent source and cautionary tale on what we are experiencing in modern society where words are captured, bent, disconnected from common definitions, and then plasticized to stretch into what that word is not intended to be used for.  There are a host of plastic words, phrases, and entire twisted languages dedicated to exerting tyranny through communication using plastic words.

Consider the following, culled from APA’s junior website, “Psychology Today.”  Please note, the article linked is the author’s personal opinion; however, for understanding the plasticity in compassion found in modern language, a better example is difficult to find.  The author insists that compassion requires using both sympathy and empathy to be compassionate.  As discussed above, sympathy and empathy should not describe or define compassion. While the words are similar, the conscious intentionality of compassion means sympathy and empathy are not, and should not, be included with compassion.

Yet, the author still provides clear guidance on compassion, insisting that compassion be ruled with logic and wisdom.  Please note, showing compassion does not mean the compassionate person needs to go into debt, sacrifice themselves, or invest to the point of exhaustion in another person.  Logic and wisdom dictate that you are not less compassionate when you govern compassion with temperance, but the reverse.  A critical point of knowledge stumbled upon while trying to plasticize compassion as sympathy or empathy; compassion requires logic and wisdom, temperance, and judgment, all conscious, active, and involved decisions to be the most effective in building people.

Finally, compassion is a two-directional mode of building people.  Both parties in a compassionate relationship are choosing consciously to engage in compassion.  Hence, both will share in the consequences; sympathy and empathy are all one-directional from the giver to the receiver, with no reciprocation.  Thus, stretching compassion to include sympathy and empathy, or even altruism, disconnects the fundamental ties of compassion from logic, and chaos ensues; where chaos exists, tyranny occurs!

Using Compassion – Focusing Upon Potential

Opportunity is potential; potential is triumph waiting for an effort to be applied.” – Dave Salisbury

The above sentiment is one of my favorite truths because of what Mumble’s Dad Memphis said in Happy Feet, “The word triumph begins with try and it ends with a great big UMPH!”  What does the informed leader do to build people?  They recognize potential, both strengths and weaknesses, as a means to grow in themselves and others.  Compassion enters when an event occurs as the emotion of connecting and building relationships.  An analogy, compassion, could be compared to the mortar used in laying bricks.  Each person and event are bricks, and by using compassion, the bricks are organized into a wall of strength.  What is the potential of a single brick in a pile; hard to say.  Organize them with compassion, and the potential becomes visible to all.

Practical Activities for Building Compassion

The following are helpful suggestions for building compassion in yourself and others.

    1. Show genuine emotion; if you’re happy, smile! If you’re struggling, let people know.  Our society has been built upon hiding what has been going on for too long.  People begin a conversation with, “How are you doing?”  The expected answer is “fine,” good,” “okay,” etc. yet, when you know how you’re doing, these answers just spread lies.  Are you building an environment where people can be honest about how they are doing?
    2. Compliments are a big part of showing compassion. Yet, too often, we cannot compliment each other without problems of sexual harassment.  The giving and accepting of compliments build trust and comfort between people.  Open the environment for giving and receiving compliments.
    3. Praise and expressions of gratitude cannot be understated as needed tools for building people. Research supports that honest, sincere, and frequent praise is better than cash for brain health and motivation.  Again, open the environment for issuing praise and gratitude.
    4. Employ reflective listening; reflective listening is listening to understand the speaker and build a two-directional solution. Active listening is easily faked; the other listening methods do not include listening, hence the need for reflective listening.
    5. Curiosity reflects a genuine interest in someone else. Ask the other person’s interests, find common ground, and build from there.  Do not forget to share.  For example, what books have you read recently?  Got a hobby, share new skills.
    6. Invest time! You cannot build compassion without investing time in yourself and with your team!  Take the time, invest the time, and employ patience.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Build People – Compassion, a Tool For The Leadership Toolbox

A Theory About CompassionSympathy and empathy remain emotions quite dangerous, and I will include a caution to avoid these emotional entanglements.  Yet, in discussing sympathy and empathy, a question was raised regarding compassion, and I would speak to this tool.  Please note that sympathy and empathy are not compassion, and understanding the difference remains fundamental to using compassion correctly to build people.

Compassion

The dictionary declares that compassion means “to suffer together.”  Intimating that compassionate people feel motivated to relieve suffering for they have felt the pain of suffering in another.  But, compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism.  Empathy is all about taking the perspective of and feeling another person’s emotions.  The taking is dangerous, the feeling is dangerous, and combined empathy becomes all about the selfishness of the person taking and feeling, not the sufferer. Compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help, taking nothing, onboarding no selfish emotional entanglements for personal gain, simply a desire to help relieve suffering. Altruism, in turn, is the kind, selfless behavior often prompted by feelings of compassion, though one can feel compassion without acting on it, and altruism isn’t always motivated by compassion.

[Evolutionary roots for compassion] – Check this video out!  Well worth your time!

The focus of compassionate people is to help without benefiting personally a person or animal in pain.  Be that pain physical, emotional, mental, etc.; the focus is always on the other and on helping as able.  Interestingly, compassion is rooted deep in the brain, whereas empathy, sympathy, and altruism are not.  Compassion changes a person fundamentally for the better, whereas research supports that sympathy, empathy, and even altruistic actions do not.  Hence compassion can be a tool in a leader’s toolbox, whereas sympathy and empathy are more often than not useless in situations.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama

Compassion does not just happen. Pity does, but compassion is not pity. It’s not a feeling. Compassion is a viewpoint, a way of life, a perspective, a habit that becomes a discipline – and more than anything else.  Compassion is a choice we make that love is more important than comfort or convenience.” – Glennon Doyle Melton

It is clear that compassion is intentionality, a cognizant decision to act, and the purpose is always to help.  Sympathy, empathy, and altruism are simply unconscious emotional desires; unless the person showing these emotions is there for personal gain, for deception is intentional and conscious.

Please note, I am not delving into the various types of compassion.  Other researchers have done this, and frankly, I feel like Mark Twain’s quote has come to life, “We have studied something so much, we now know nothing about it.”  If you want a resource for diving deeper into compassion, check out Dr. Paul Eckman’s “Emotional Awareness” as a launch point.  Be advised, emotions are a choice made consciously, and too many researchers refuse this belief.  Passive emotional beliefs rob us of fundamental power and abilities for being human.

“Let our hearts be stretched out in compassion toward others, for everyone is walking his or her own difficult path.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Compassion as a Tool

Leadership, as a job, contains equal parts of teaching and exemplifying.  Compassion for self is observable through the words and actions of a leader.  Do you insult yourself by calling yourself “stupid,” “ignorant,” etc.?  If so, your followers will automatically presume you will do the same to them.  The tool compassion begins with relieving internal suffering, and compassion for others is nothing but an extension of compassion for self applied through action.

Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.” – Pema Chodron

It is a lack of love for ourselves that inhibits our compassion toward others. If we make friends with ourselves, then there is no obstacle to opening our hearts and minds to others.” – Anonymous

It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act.” – Dalai Lama

Consider the teacher you admire most; did they show compassion?  I guarantee they did, and their compassion is one of the most significant reasons you hail them so highly.  Compassion is not a weakness but, in fact, a strength and a motivating reason to be a better leader.  Through compassion, we train ourselves to become more tolerant of our own faults and then extend this kindness to others.

Leaders ask yourself:

    1. When was the last time you showed compassion to yourself?
    2. How much compassion do you practice daily, first on yourself, then upon your followers? – Inherent to note, you cannot be critical of yourself and compassionate to others. Compassion cannot be faked; treat yourself better.
    3. Do you build compassion and promote compassion? How often?
    4. What motivates you to develop and encourage compassion?

Using Compassion as a leader

Look for a way to lift someone up. And if that’s all you do, that’s enough.” Elizabeth Lesser

When we give ourselves compassion, we are opening our hearts in a way that can transform our lives.” – Kristin Neff

Compassion is so often the solution.” – Anonymous

Aesop has a fable about a lion with a thorn in his foot, removed by a shepherd.  M*A*S*H 4077th related this story with Aesop’s shepherd being Androcles, a Christian who was to be fed to the lions, but the lion remembering the kindness, refused to eat.  Other variations of this story exist, but the moral always comes back to support the truth, “Compassion is so often the solution” Anonymous.

In fourth grade, my second trip through this grade, I had the great privilege of witnessing the power of compassion by a principal.  The principal (Miss Murphy) told me a story of her youth where she had been a crossing guard and abused her power one day.  The child complained, and the following day her school principal called her in, but instead of punishing her, he offered praise, sincere, appropriate, and heartfelt praise.  Miss Murphy could see the complaint on the desk of her principal, knowing she should be getting punished, but instead, the compassion of the principal changed her life.  I was a third-generation extension of this principal’s compassion, through Miss Murphy, who knew I was busted for the umpteenth time, should have been expelled from school, and punished severely.  Yet, Miss Murphy had witnessed good and used this moment to express praise for the good witnessed.

NO FearI have tried not to let Miss Murphy’s compassion end with me and pass along her lesson often.  Compassion and praise remain instrumental tools in every leader’s toolbox.  Do not fear using these tools frequently, for then you also will change a life, even if that life is only your own.  I am a better person because others have provided me compassion; pass it along!

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.