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.

Build People – Focus on Potential, a Leadership Task

ToolsWhile walking through Home Depot, my favorite aisles are those aisles with tools, power tools, hand tools, and so forth.  My mind always goes on imaginative wanderings, thinking about what those tools will go out into the world and do.  Will an inexperienced hand learn on those tools?  Will they build grand buildings?  Will they destroy?  What will those tools help accomplish?  The potential held in a tool is as much a mystery as looking at a babe in arms and thinking, what will that soul go forward and do?  I never become bored thinking about the potential held in a tool as part of the ongoing saga of humanity.

Without hands, a tool is useless; the tool cannot act independently.  Guns do not shoot themselves; hammers do not strike anything alone; thus, we can see that tools need someone to fulfill the measure of their creation.  For good or ill, the tool is only ever a force multiplier and requires intention through another party to act.  A critical point to understand is the person’s intention of holding the tool, who decides whether that tool will build or destroy, and the value to the owner.

Knowledge Check!But, this article is about people’s potential; why begin discussing tools?  To a leader, each person is a tool requiring training, delegation, trust, and motivation to achieve the measure of their creation.  Have you ever witnessed an unskilled manager use, or abuse, their people?  My first officer in the US Army National Guard was one of these unskilled managers.  The stories and experiences from this manager are legion, fraught with examples of what not to do and the hubris of a person placed into a position of power above their competence level.  I have long wondered, what did this officer’s boss think about this officer’s performance?

The first lesson in building people is this; everyone has someone they report to.  Do your people know who they report to, and are they comfortable talking to this person?  Consider the following:

Leadership is solving problems.  The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.  They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care.  Either case is a failure of leadership.” – General Colin Powell

In more than nine years of Military Service, I can count on one hand the number of officers I trusted enough and were approachable sufficient to bring problems to, and I won’t even need the pinky and thumb.  In talking to friends and family about this issue, their experiences are similar.  Worse, the same problem exists with the non-commissioned officer corps.  In my professional pursuits outside military service, I have worked with precisely one boss to whom I felt comfortable bringing issues.

While I strive to be the leader I wish I could take problems to, there is a realization that to my teams, I am being measured, weighed, and if found wanting, will never know I failed to be the leader to whom I would bring problems.  Consider this for a moment.  A leader could be solving problems and thinking, “My people bring their problems to me QED: I am a good leader.”  While never realizing they are detestable and hated by their people.  All because their people only bring work-related problems, and then only rarely.  In the US Navy, I experienced this exact issue more than once, and the officers all thought they were “God’s gift to their people.” Massive egos, compensating for being vile and despicable.

Leaders, take note:

    1. What are the preferred names of the members of your teams?
    2. When was the last time you shared problems and asked for input from your followers?
    3. What are you learning daily, and who is teaching you?
    4. Do you know your followers sufficiently to advise?
    5. What quirks, talents, skills, or abilities do your people possess that you appreciate?

How you answer these questions determines more than your destiny as a leader and your team’s productivity in achieving business goals.  When I begin a new project and select tools, I review what I know about my tools.  My hammer has a loose head, but I will not change it out because it has the smoothness of age and is the best hammer for finishing work.  This wrench has scratches in the head and a chisel mark in the handle that is exactly 6” and is handy in a pinch.  Thus, when used on soft brass, the head will leave marks in the metal on which it is used.  All this and more is reviewed, strengths and weaknesses, quirks and peculiarities, all known before engaging in a new project.  When you know your tools, their potential is declared, and in communicating their potential, how and where they can be best used becomes common knowledge.

Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character.  But if you must be without one, be without strategy.” – General Schwarzkopf

Ninety-Nine present of leadership failures are failures of character.” – General Schwarzkopf

Several of the worst people I have ever worked for had the moral integrity of a used car salesperson.  They could not be trusted, except to be trusted to stab you in the back.  No honesty, never forthright, always acting for the downfall of anyone they deemed was competition, and constantly engaged in stealing glory while meting out the worst punishments.  While the experiences fulfilled another axiom from General Schwarzkopf, the education was brutal to suffer through.

You learn far more from negative leadership than from positive leadership.  Because you learn how not to do it, and, therefore, you learn how to do it.” – General Schwarzkopf

These experiences alone would qualify me to write this article; however, through a multitude of academic classes and degrees, I have gained more fundamental qualifications to justify what I am about to declare.  If you think a title makes you a leader, you are the problem in your organization’s leadership!  In working with newly minted, freshly commissioned, officers in the US Army and the US Navy, I have learned through sad experience too many consider the rank and titles their “Golden Ticket” to being abusers of people through “leadership.”  One particular example stands out more clearly from the others.

While serving in the US Navy, my first Chief Engineer was book smart and common sense inept!  This man was more dangerous with tools in his hand, even though he could verbatim quote pages from maintenance manuals.  Shortly before I arrived on the ship, the Chief Engineer had started a fire on board the vessel in multiple engine and auxiliary rooms by applying shaft brakes to an operating shaft instead of to the shaft that had been locked out and tagged out.  The Chief Engineer then compounded his errors by blaming the engineers who had properly locked out/tagged out the shaft needing maintenance.  This was a major issue that proved cream rises and trash sinks, and this leader was absolute trash!

The bitter cherry on this crap sundae, the example of the Chief Engineer, was a symptom of a greater sickness and moral desert in the Engineering Department.  Chiefs were force-multiplying the Chief Engineers example, and the senior non-commissioned officers were force-multiplying the chiefs example.  Who suffered, the lowest enlisted, and the rest of the ship.  Maintenace was rarely done properly, watchstanding was hit or miss, and the example plagued the Engineering Department for years after the Chief Engineer was summarily dismissed.

The only redeeming factor from this experience, I learned the lessons of what negative leadership does well.  Leaders take note:

    1. If character problems lead to poor performance or behaviors detestable in your teams, look no further than the reflection in the mirror for both an answer and a root cause.
    2. Your followers will observe what you do more than what you say. How are you acting?
    3. Stop looking up, you are a leader, and your first vision should be to look sideways and make sure your people are on the same level before you look up.
    4. Before embracing new strategies, first review character!

The following is critical to building people and promoting potential:

To be an effective leader, you have to have a manipulative streak – you have to figure out the people working for you and give each tasks that will take advantage of their strengths.” – General Schwarzkopf

Leadership is a balancing act between helping people take advantage of their strengths and training them to overcome individual weaknesses.  Yet, leaders often act like managers, never training, and always micro-managing to shave strengths preventing competition with the leader.  Which are the actions of neither a leader nor a manager, but a tyrant!  Petty authoritarians acting the role of tyrants produce more harm than war, poverty, and disease combined.

What actions are needed?  We conclude with the following:

TRUE courage is being afraid, and going ahead and doing your job.” – General Schwarzkopf

The job of a leader begins with being a good follower; even if to be a good follower, you must be the loyal opposition standing like a rock doing the right thing in the face of adversity.  Moral integrity is critical to being a good leader and is foundational to building people.  Leaders take special note and act accordingly:

    1. What is your moral code?
    2. Why do you embrace those morals?
    3. Do you understand integrity is doing what is right, especially when you think nobody is watching? Do you have moral integrity?
    4. Do you know your identity, and are you comfortable with your identity?
    5. What character do you possess, and is that character tied to your morality and integrity?Exclamation Mark

When you are placed to influence people, build potential by first knowing, and then doing that which is the harder right, than the easier wrong.

© 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:  Going the Extra Mile in Customer Service

Bobblehead DollIt is no secret; I am a doctoral candidate.  On Facebook, I advertised my dissertation to find participants to engage in my dissertation data collection.  My dissertation is all about the role of the trainer in call center training.  I am looking to answer some specific questions about what a trainer does, their role in training, and flush out details about the role of the call center trainer in establishing genetic memory.  My first ad on Facebook, believe it or not, received more direct respondents than my second or third attempts.  That the respondents accused me of being fake, a troll, and committing several bodily functions on their timelines bothered me greatly.

When mentioned to representatives from Facebook, who could see the comments and the original ad, the representatives reflected less care than I would have ever imagined.  Yet, Facebook claims to be “customer-centric,” “customer-driven,” and “customer-obsessed.”  LinkedIn, AT&T, Sprint/T-Mobile, Bank of America, Navy Federal Credit Union, and many other companies make similar claims and act similarly, where the professed policies are disconnected from reality, and the only person who suffers is oddly the customer.  Then, the agents representing these companies are then asked to “go the extra mile for the customer.”Pin by N D on Jokes | Dilbert comics, Work humor, Funny picture quotes

When going the extra mile was first addressed, leadership, training, business processes, and organizational communication all were aspects to the foundation to helping an agent “go the extra mile.”  More needs to be discussed on “going the extra mile” and delivering upon the promises made by leadership.  However, the discussion is useless unless followed swiftly by concerted action; thus, this article asks for and directly inspires action.

Compounded Leadership Failure

Let’s begin with reality and address the 300# gorilla.  To the leaders of companies, customers are listening, and they are not stupid!  Whether you believe this or not, your customers do, and they do not like what they see.  AT&T, LinkedIn, and Facebook regularly inundate me with the voice of the customer surveys, new products, performance surveys, surveys, surveys, surveys.  These are not the only companies demanding answers and resources from customers, but these companies are especially egregious at this practice.  Tell me, why does nothing ever change in customer approach, customer service, customer care, and the voice-of-the-customer always appears to fall on deaf ears?Colin Powell quote: Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you...

Leadership never collects qualitative and quantitative data and then uses this information to make change, drive visible customer affecting policy shifts, or even act like the customer is worthy of being listened to.  How do we, the customers know we are not being heard; the agents do not have the ability to affect change.  I called Xfinity/Comcast; I have an issue, I get nowhere with the agents, but I am still expected and offered multiple times the voice-of-the-customer survey to help improve customer relations.  I invest my time in completing the survey; I even indicate a return call to discuss the scores is acceptable, only later do I discover that the voice-of-the-customer data is never worked, customers are not called, and the company does not care.

Poor Leadership #inspirational #motivational #quotes | Bad leadership quotes, Leadership quotes ...If you are sending a survey out, you need to address the survey results.  Publicly with your agents, transparently with your shareholders and investors, and clearly and openly with your customers.  By refusing to do these things, the leadership failures in demanding customer resources to complete surveys are wasted, compounded, and the customer is listening!  Worse, the customer is sharing this information with other customers and is openly looking for options to replace you and your company!  By publicly claiming “customer-obsession,” “customer-centricity,” and “customer-first” propaganda (e.g., marketing promises), you are making a commitment.  Failure to honor that commitment delivers a “Used Car Sales” pitch, and lawyers and politicians become more trustworthy than you and your company.  Customers are tired of “Lemons” when paying for cherries; is this clear enough?

Who is your first customer?

To every person claiming the first customer is a service or product purchaser, you are WRONG!  Your first customer is your employees.  Yet, employee abuse remains central to employee churn.  Asking your employees to “go the extra mile” for an external customer and not seeing the business first go the extra mile for them is disheartening at best to your employees.

I am intimately familiar with a well-known company, its operations, and its customer commitment.  The company does an excellent job in employee relations, which leads to year-over-year success with external customers.  But the company has some deep-seated problems they are working on, and because they are honestly working on these issues, I am willing to give them anonymity for their efforts.  One of the most fundamental issues this company has is in product delivery; the operations in the warehouse prioritize outbound (customer shipping of products ordered) to the exclusion of quality.  The products are more important than the people, which is a growing pain for this company.Tiger Team

By forgetting that the first customer is the employees, this group churns at phenomenal rates compared to other business units.  Why?  Because of the insanity of being left out of customer service.  Company benefits, time-off, vacation policies, “swag,” free merchandise, etc., none of this compensates for irrational operations that fundamentally treat the employee poorly and in a confused manner.  If your company is “customer-focused,” then employees are top priority, and in making them top priority, they look after your external customers more efficiently, more expertly, and they will build a fatter bottom-line through “going the extra mile.”

When was the last time your employees were honestly engaged in voice-of-the-customer surveys and results?  When was the last time the employees knew they were the top priority in your business?  When was the last time operational policies and procedures were adjusted to remove confusion about employee worth and value?  Tell me, are your shareholders and investors treated better than your number one investor, your employees?  If so, your shareholders should be raking the current leadership over the coals for robbery and theft.  Reduced bottom lines because of employee treatment should be a significant issue of discussion by the shareholders and investors, for this is nothing short of robbery. You are compounding another leadership failure through employee abuse, which increases costs and lowers bottom-line performance, e.g., robbing the investor and shareholder because you have refused to provide your first customer simple customer recognition, let alone service.

Going the Extra Mile

Before a supervisor, team leader, director, or other leaders in your business organization asks for an employee to “go the extra mile,” rate that leader on this question, “Have they already walked two miles with the employee?”  If not, that person is asking for the impossible.  No extra efforts can or ought to be sought when leadership fails to first show and do what it takes to walk two miles with an employee.

Call Center BeansWant to know a secret?  When the leader first walks two miles with the employee, that leader never has to ask anyone to “go the extra mile,” EVER!  Your best leaders, your followers, are the people who, instead of looking forward first, make it a priority to look sideways.  These leaders are experts at lifting the talent needed to look forward to a higher level.  Looking sideways includes value-added training programs, professional paths to progression, recognizing and praising efforts honestly and frequently, delegating assignments and tasks, and being actively engaged in delivering “customer-centricity” to the employees.  As a supervisor, team lead, director, etc., your first customer is those who follow you; what have you done lately to prove customer obsession to them?

By the way, your first customer is listening, awake, and actively engaged in either growing or leaving, all based upon how you treat your first customer.  I suggest taking heed of them.?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

If you want to be part of my dissertation research, please reach out to me using the following email address: msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu.  Please help me help you and your company through value-added research.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the photos or images 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.

Code Enforcement Response Letter – 29 October 2021

The Honorable
Mayor Ken Miyagishima
City of Las Cruces
700 N Main
Las Cruces, NM
88001

29 October 2021

Dr. Dave Salisbury Ph.D.
1805 E Idaho Ave
Las Cruces, NM
88001

Subject: Unequal Treatment Before the Law, Code Enforcement, and Staff Incompetence and Unreliability

Dear Mayor,

On 19 October 2021, Officer S. Chavez (#C438) drafted a letter to me complaining that my property was somehow in violation of Las Cruces Municipal Code Section 18-2(1).  Which according to the website linked, states the following:

Noxious weeds and other rank vegetation.”

Item 1:  What is a “noxious weed,” how does one identify “rank vegetation?”  The municipal code is vague and unclear.  This means that the code enforcement officer is left to use their own opinion, opening the doors to authoritarian interpretation and the abuse of the taxpayer in the application of the municipal code.  I have some deep and abiding concerns.

Item 2:  The letter was dated 19 October 2021, but the postmark from the stamp machine is dated 25 October 2021, and the US Postal Service delivered this notification to me on 28 October 2021.  These dates are important for several reasons.  Please note, I was mandated to comply with the authoritarian and opinionated code enforcement officer’s interpretation of the municipal code by 31 October 2021.

  1. Why did Officer Chavez (#C438) sit on the letter for six days before stamping it and dropping it in the mail?
  2. I asked this exact question of Officer Chavez (#C438) and received three separate and distinct excuses, and then was “offered” an extension of the deadline without asking for it. Alerting me to the fact that Officer Chavez (#C438) knew he had done wrong, knew he had been busted, and knew he needed a plausible excuse.  This is a clear indication of Officer Chavez (#C438) being incompetent and unreliable.
  3. When I called his supervisor on 28 October 2021, I left a message; I identified myself, left my number, and left an expectation for a callback. Officer Chavez (#C438) identified the supervisor as simply “Roach, like the bug.”  Alerting me to another problem, a lack of respect for authority in the code enforcement offices.  I have some concerns; if the officers do not respect each other and their supervisors, how can they respect the law, the municipal codes they are expected to enforce, the taxpayers, and themselves?
  4. 0815 – 29 October 2021, I called dispatch and asked for Roach’s supervisor, as I refuse to play phone tag. If “Roach” will not meet a taxpayer’s expectation or make it a priority to call that taxpayer the following day, then it is time to speak to a higher power.  More than an hour later, “Roach” calls me.  By the way, I am still expecting a callback from “Roach’s” supervisor.  Who is that, and when is that call going to transpire?  The dispatcher did not know and could not tell me.
  5. For the record, who is “Roach?” What is his title?  What is his full name?  None of which were provided when “Roach” called me.  By “Roach’s” call, I have now introduced myself three times to the Code Enforcement Officers, and still, “Roach” proceeds to call me not by my name.  Indicating disrespect is endemic in the City of Las Cruces Code Enforcement Department, and there is a severe lack of leadership on top of the problems with unreliability and incompetence.  Where is the training of these officers coming from, and who is modeling this execrable behavior?
  6. When I asked “Roach” the question, “Why did Officer Chavez (#C438) sit on the notification letter for 6-days?” he proclaimed he did not understand what I was saying, chose to become offended that I was trying to explain, and claimed I was berating and belittling him. “Roach” actively refused to listen, preferring to listen to the voices in his head instead of the taxpayer voicing legitimate concerns about being abused by his staff.  Are we sure “Roach” is a supervisor?

Let me pause here and clarify a few points.  I possess more than 20 years of experience as an industrial and organizational psychologist.  I have worked in many different roles across the United States, including government, the private sector, and non-profits.  I have been in crisis management, led teams in emergency response, enforced legislation, and much more.  My jobs often see me needing to evaluate and observe, quickly make conclusions, and then develop action plans to generate positive results in a timely and efficient manner.  I am very good at my job!  I am a data analyst, a project manager, and hold an MBA in global management specializing in human resources, a master’s in adult education and training, with deep experience in eLearning design and delivery, and am writing my dissertation to complete my Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology.

I have seen incompetence and unreliability in people many times and in many places.  The experience witnessed over the last two days at the hands of the “Code Enforcement Officers” for the City of Las Cruces leaves me mentally breathless, and my blood is boiling.  There is no excuse for this unprofessionalism, lack of respect, and the refusal to apply the law equally and appropriately answer simple questions from taxpayers!

Item 3:  When I drive through my neighborhood, my yard is desert and is in no way, shape, or form less or better than my neighbors.  How many of my neighbors received code enforcement letters for their yards?  If the answer is none, then the law was not equally applied, and the officers involved need discipline for being selective in their application of the law and enforcement of the municipal code.  Suppose the answer is all of my neighbors. In that case, the code enforcement officers need to visit the neighborhood and explain precisely to everyone what specifically the code means by “Noxious weeds and other rank vegetation.”  The same vegetation growing in my yard is found in the desert surrounding Las Cruces.

Item 4:  The vegetation in my yard was left alone intentionally because the birds had been eating the seeds.  I prefer to see the birds as I am allergic to cats and dogs.  Since I cannot have a pet, and the vegetation had pretty flowers and had a valuable purpose of feeding butterflies and birds, I am still at a loss as to which of the vegetation is considered, “Noxious weeds and other rank vegetation.”

Item 5:  The time delay of Officer Chavez (#C438) cost me more than $1500 and worsened my injuries that were sustained in US Military service.  I am a 90% disabled veteran, and the stress of having to comply due to the refusal to notify taxpayers timely meant I could not hire anyone to help, nor could I obtain assistance from friends.  Thus, I had to perform the work myself, causing me significant injury over the 5-hours I was performing the yard work.  I take serious umbrage at the time-lapse in the notification from Officer Chavez (#C438) and his unreliability, and incompetence which need immediately rectified and resolved to my satisfaction.  Officer Chavez’s (#C438) actions were unconstitutional and potentially criminal.

I expect a prompt and timely response as a taxpayer.  Please note that a copy of this letter is posted to my blog and found at this link to promote governmental transparency.  Thank you for your time in this affair.

Sincerely,

Dr. M. Dave Salisbury Ph.D.
I/O Psychologist
US Army/US Navy Veteran

MDS/mds

CC: City Councilor Gabriel Vasquez

Session Title:  Able, Not Disabled, Not Differently-Abled

Introduction:  The following are my notes delivered at a global conference for disability inclusion held 27 October 2021 regarding how to improve disability inclusion in the workplace.

Description:  Increasing abilities by removing boundaries, discussing paths forward in ability inclusion, and building upon the great work Amazon and several other companies have done in pioneering disability inclusion in the workplace.

Welcome to a discussion on abled, not disabled, not differently-abled!  I am glad you’re here!  I am Dr. Dave Salisbury; I look to complete my Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology by April 2022; if you would like to participate in my dissertation, don’t hesitate to contact me outside this forum for more information.  I possess an MBA in global management specializing in human resource management, a master’s in adult education design and training, and have been a business consultant since 2004.  I am a dual-service US Army/US Navy disabled veteran.

My intent today is to help break down barriers so we can be comfortable around each other.  So comfortable that we can share jokes about my disability, we can look past the twitches, the spasms, and the stutters and find common interests.  Disability inclusion is precisely this, the inclusion into society of those with disabilities to the point that we do not see the disability, we do not recognize the handicaps, and we can then work in an atmosphere of ability.

I have several disabilities, most stemming from injuries sustained in military service; some include my voice, some include neurological issues, others are physical and mental.  Regardless, as these injuries have increased in severity, my professional intent began to be recognized for my abilities, talents, skills, knowledge, and potential, not for my disabilities.  Yet, I am often seen only as a disabled person or worse, a “token” disabled person filling a slot that another person could be occupying.  I ran into this thinking in the Federal government, New Mexico State, Bernalillo County, and Albuquerque City government hiring practices as recently as 2019.

Earlier in my professional life as a disabled person, I was told not to be thinking of myself as disabled but as “differently-abled.”  I am not differently-abled!  Differently-abled draws lines and limitations; it separates people and places boxes on potential.  Worse, it allows for the continued breeding of an “us against them” mentality, which breeds hostility and counterproductive beliefs.  Thus, I refuse to be differently-abled.  I do not particularly appreciate being classified as disabled either.

Please allow me to digress for a moment.  The transitive verb “dis” means to show disrespect, insult, or criticize.  As a prefix, “dis” is defined as the opposite of something, depriving someone of something, excluding someone, or expelling someone.  Thus, a disabled person is either being disrespected, insulted, or criticized, deprived, excluded, expelled or is the opposite of able.  Frankly, I believe that when we are made aware of the etymology of words, we are then more aware of why people choose to adopt or not adopt certain words and labels.  I repeat, only for emphasis, I do NOT particularly appreciate being classified as disabled, for I AM able!

Words and labels should not be the focus of our attention and efforts.  I prefer handicapped to disabled based on the etymology, even though I don’t particularly appreciate being considered handicapped.  A handicap can refer to a disadvantage in task completion, physical or mental disabilities, and can intentionally place a person at a disadvantage; there’s that “dis” again rearing it’s disrespect, insults, criticism, deprivation, exclusion, and expulsion.  Please, let’s stop focusing on word games and plastic phrases; instead, let’s invest efforts in finding solutions to existing problems.

How big is the problem of word focus; in the past few weeks, there have been several email chains based solely on a person’s word choice preferences.  I would venture to presume that not a single person intended to cause insult or denigrate a community member by using or not using a specific word, phrase, title, verb, adjective, etc. in describing a person or population in the community.  Yet, people chose to take offense, and others rushed in to ameliorate the feelings of the one choosing to be offended at a word.  Bringing up a fundamental aspect in disability inclusion, individual responsibility, accountability, or self-rule.

I am able!  I take a little more time, need a couple of extra breaks, and use additional technology and equipment to complete tasks.  I possess skills, talents, experiences, and knowledge valuable to situations, teams, and companies.  I bring to the table unique perceptions, insights, and benchmarkable skills worthy of consideration.  I bring formal and informal education and experience that is invaluable and immeasurably useful as an asset to the organization.  I am all this long before we ever discuss my physical and mental concerns or disabilities.

My first priority is my personal safety and security; my first job is to look out for myself.  Monitor what I am carrying, how far I must take it, doors, elevators, paths for egression in emergencies, methods for being warned, and what I can and cannot do.  For example, as COVID-19 began, I knew I could not wear a mask and asked about those of us who could not wear a mask.  I saw the confusion on faces. I witnessed the policy shifts, the harassments, the legal segregations, and suffered legal abuse and discrimination for not wearing a mask.  I realize that eventually, my injuries will require my independence to be curtailed, and I will become more dependent.  As such, I have to monitor what I can and cannot do constantly and clearly describe this to those I work with.  The same should be true and expected of all people regardless of handicap or level of ability.  Individual responsibility for safety, security, and health does not end just because they enter a building and should be stressed as a regular aspect of workplace safety.

Amazon has performed incredible work and is one of the few companies that has done pioneering work leading to real success in disability inclusion on a global scale.  The question before us is where and how do we build upon this work to improve the culture and potential of all employees, regardless of ability, in all industries and businesses, based upon the pioneering work of Amazon.  I believe the following action items can be the building blocks to successfully enhance the inclusion of people of all abilities, talents, skills, and knowledge.  I will revisit these questions when we get to the discussion portion; please consider these points.

  1. Conflict is good, beneficial, and a tool that is useful for building people, teams, and businesses. Douglas Malloch wrote a timeless poem, “Good Timber,” which is the quintessential discussion on why and how conflict is good.  Let us embrace conflict as the tool it is for improving people.  A handout is available for further consideration on these topics, and all bullets discussed, with reference materials for additional research if you desire.  Please send me an email if you would like these materials.
  2. Leadership begins with followership; followership begins with being lifelong learners, learning requires opportunities to teach, teaching is a prerequisite to learning, and learning requires the ability to lead and apply. – These are merely starting points to understanding. They are facts.
        • Do we encourage delegation and learning through experience?
        • Do we embrace failure as a tool for lifelong learning?
        • Leadership is not a title; leadership is first an attitude, then an action, and finally a method of learning and teaching. How do we apply these truths in daily activities?
        • Leadership as an attitude is witnessed in good followership, even when our followers practice loyal opposition; are we embracing the loyal opposition? Do we know how to recognize the loyal opposition?
  3. Flexibility and agility require open minds. Open minds need varieties in opinions, politics, beliefs, religions, and so much more.  Open minds begin with lifelong learning!  Lifelong learning requires self-reflection. – Again, we find fundamental truths, simply explained and expounded.  How are we embracing these truths in daily practice?  What actions are we supporting in the workplace to showcase support to and openness to variety in thinking and commitment to lifelong learning?
        • What book did you just read?
        • Did you share that book, recommending it to whom?
        • Were you excited about the book?
        • When was the last time you self-reflected?
  4. Do you believe?
  5. How will you act tomorrow?

Are there activities I cannot engage in?  Yes.  To my disappointment and chagrin, there are many activities I can no longer engage in.  Stairs are a tremendous activity I have to avoid; yes, this includes sidewalk curbs.  Standing and sitting for long periods have to be monitored and curtailed.  Walking is another activity I have to be conscious of and monitor closely.  I regularly mistake how long I have sat or walked and wind up in trouble breathing, or my legs give out from exhaustion.  But, I should not have to get into some vast dramatic affair just because my abilities are curtailed physically or mentally.  COVID-19 hit, I cannot wear a mask due to breathing issues; the mask mandates have been so embarrassing and challenging while also being segregationist, separatist, and legally expensive.  Why are disabled people still challenged on their disabilities when we are already disrespected, insulted, criticized, deprived, excluded, and expelled for merely being less physically and mentally able?

Ask yourself this question, “When I see a maskless person, do I condemn them first or think maybe they have a reason?”  That single decision is the key to the choice between building people and building disability thinking!  I do not need your answer voiced; please consider your response now and think about when you will witness a maskless person the next time.

Has anyone taken a look at the processes for obtaining work accommodations?  A work adjustment for a disability?  A mask exemption?  With all the differences in abilities, one would think the process would be straightforward to understand.  Yet, the opposite is often the truth because we refuse to embrace that we are all able and are programmed to first separate into able and dis-(disrespected, insulted, criticized, deprived, excluded, expelled)- abled.

The last two questions are not included for any reason other than to spark a conversation inside you.  Do you believe in a difference existing between disabled people and non-disabled people?  What will you do differently today and tomorrow to reflect your belief structure?

I learned a long time ago everyone has a disability, a blind spot, an issue they keep hidden from the world.  Sometimes it is a missing eye, an arm, a leg, an embarrassing laugh, depression, anxiety, trauma, childhood abuse, adult abuse, the list is endless.  Yet, some of those “blind spots” are more severe and become listed as “disabilities.”  The government stepped in to classify people, draw lines of segregation and separation, which did a lot of harm to people of all abilities.  I met a man recently who lost several fingers and partially lost several other fingers.  His lost and partial fingers never came up in conversation.  His abilities as a typist were terrific, and his talents on several musical instruments were extraordinary, but his missing and partial fingers were non-topics!  As a point of fact, I did not notice the fingers until I shook his hand in congratulations for his accomplishments.

Drawing lines, classifications, separations, segregation, it never works.  Until we can look past, work past, and choose to live past the disability, we will never be equally able, and everyone suffers.  What keeps disabled people from being able; our choices.  What keeps able people from working together; our choices.  See the connection; how we choose is the single greatest determining factor in moving forward as an individual, a team, a group, and a company.  We choose to either be abled or disabled.  We choose to allow our comfort zone to define us or not to define us.  We choose to work together first or separate each other first.

Often a person lacking an ability due to misfortune of some kind will develop and magnify other abilities, an often-overlooked advantage to their value because seeing past their loss has become a lost art of possibility and consideration.  In other words, our humanity needs restoration.  Those who do not have a fulness of ability know the realities of unreasonable and unfair judgment rather than the realities of potential and are thus prevented from entering the world of abilities and possibilities by the much too often impenetrable establishment of discrimination.  We can lift people from where we are and change the paradigm of ability and advancement to a higher level of accomplishment and respect.  We can do this!  Do you believe?

How will we act tomorrow?  A similar question was posed by Brian “The Brain” Johnson in the movie “The Breakfast Club,” and new attitudes, new thinking, and new potential were born.  Are we willing to see past the outside wrapping, shun society’s labels, and choose a different path forward through action, learning, leadership, and healthy conflict?

Let’s discuss!

    • Conflict is good, beneficial, and a tool that is useful for building people, teams, and businesses. Douglas Malloch wrote a timeless poem, “Good Timber,” which is the quintessential discussion on why and how conflict is good.  Let us embrace conflict as the tool it is for improving people.  A handout is available for further consideration on this topic and all bullets discussed, with reference materials for additional research on these topics if you desire.
    • Leadership begins with followership; followership begins with being lifelong learners, learning requires opportunities to teach, teaching is a prerequisite to learning, and learning requires the ability to lead and apply. – These are merely starting points to understanding. They are facts.
            1. Do we encourage delegation and learning through experience?
            2. Do we embrace failure as a tool for lifelong learning?
            3. Leadership is not a title; leadership is first an attitude, then an action, and finally a method of learning and teaching. How do we apply these truths in daily activities?
            4. Leadership as an attitude is witnessed in good followership, even when our followers practice loyal opposition; are we embracing the loyal opposition? Do we know how to recognize the loyal opposition?
      • Flexibility and agility require open minds. Open minds need varieties in opinions, politics, beliefs, religions, and so much more.  Open minds begin with lifelong learning!  Lifelong learning requires self-reflection. – Again, we find fundamental truths, simply explained and expounded.  How are we embracing these truths in daily practice?  What actions are we supporting in the workplace to showcase support to and openness to variety in thinking and commitment to lifelong learning?
            1. What book did you just read?
            2. Did you share that book, recommending it to whom?
            3. Were you excited about the book?
            4. When was the last time you self-reflected?
      • Do you believe?
      • How will you act tomorrow?

Additional Questions, Comments, Concerns, feel free to reach out to me via email or chime.  Thank you!

© 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.

Bottle-Necks and Push-Back – Problems in Production Goal Attainment

Knowledge Check!Let me begin with an affirmation when you believe that a problem is insurmountable, you are 100% correct, and nothing will ever change.  If you tell me a problem is insurmountable, I will say to you BULL!  Every time!  Why; because if people built it, people can disassemble it.  We might have to push at it, swear at it, sweat at it, and kick at it some, but people can disassemble it!  When we believe no problem is insurmountable, we are more than ½-way to solving the problem!

At work right now, a colleague has a problem; trainers do not want to come in early and train new hires.  Because new hires cannot be trained in off-hours, his team is slipping in production goal attainment.  When he drops far enough, his regional bosses will decide more resources need to be spent, and public shaming begins to occur because public notice accompanies greater resource allocation.  The bottle-neck is training; the push-back comes from trainers.

Fishbone DiagramThe trainers are pushing back because they are already double and triple tasked to training new hires in two other more “important” departments.  Except, because those other departments are considered “more important,” production goals for the entire facility will never be met.  A core philosophy is missed; when quality fails, nobody meets production goals.  The vicious cycles keep going around; training cannot spare people to train quality, quality fails to meet goals, and production goals are missed due to training.

Exclamation MarkThere are times I have wished this was an isolated example; however, this repeats so often I should have cards made.  Breaking the training bottle-neck requires thinking outside the standard paradigm, or in more basic vernacular, get out of the box and start thinking anew!  While the following solutions are explicitly geared to fixing the training bottle-neck, the pattern for thinking is helpful as a conversation starter.  Start the conversation rolling!

Here’s some ideas:

  1. Off-hours shift training. Look at your operational schedules.  Do you have times when equipment is not operating, when the production floor is down, and when people can be trained?  Use that time!
        • I worked at a manufacturing facility where after the first three days of new-hire orientation, all manufacturing and warehouse employees worked the third shift for their first four months. Why?  Training could operate the floors and equipment and work around maintenance without crimping operational schedules or hindering production.  Then, new hires went onto the day shift where two extra managers could offer management-by-walk around for additional OJT.
        • I have observed warehouses where new hires work a split shift; they come in for 4-hours of training when nobody else is around but trainers, and then 4-hours when the rest of the warehouse is around—giving new hire equipment operators experience in operating in both a quiet environment and a busy environment.
        • The idea is to find times when you can safely train without hindering operation tempo. Use the calendar, use a shift rotation, be honest with people and be upfront on expectations and the reality of business needs.  Guess what, when you are honest, people respond!
  2. Appreciative Inquiry – Believe it or not, when you have a problem, a pressing business need, or an urgent issue, your people will pleasantly surprise you with solutions if you listen and act. Too often, I have been stunned ever to forget this lesson; people have brains and ideas, use them, give them credit, and watch them blossom into your best problem solvers!
  3. It should go without saying, treat people as the professionals you hired.
        • My first boss in supply chain quality control did not teach me basic stuff, e.g., this is a part, how you count the pieces, a SKU, etc. The boss presumed I knew or would ask questions, which saved both of us time and resources.  More to the point, by treating me as a professional, I grew into being a supply quality control officer and loved the job.  I have witnessed the opposite too often to know my experience is not the norm in supply chains, which is detestable.
        • You hired a professional; treat them as a professional. Set standards, show them, explain, train them, and build them into greater professionals, primarily by getting out of their way!
        • Encourage people never to stop learning through example!
  4. Who is your customer? Who are your vendors?  Who are your stakeholders?  Why is this information important?
        • Customer service is dead; however, if you do not know your customer, vendors, and stakeholders are, so is your business model!
        • Customer helping is alive and well; however, your business model is dead if you do not know your customer, vendors, and stakeholders!
        • Managers, let me give you a hint, your customer is your employees. When was the last time you got to know your customers?  When was the last time you helped your customers?  Why did you last help your customers?

LookWhen it comes to bottle-necks and push-back, knowing your customer is the first step in solving the bottle-neck and charting a positive path through push-back.  Consider my colleague, his customer are his employees needing training, his vendor is the training department, and the stakeholders are the rest of the business, those setting production goals, those relying upon his team meeting production goals, and ultimately the paying external customer.  Yet, my colleague, cannot see who his customer is, does not think of training as a vendor, and the rest of the business as a stakeholder, for this is not how he was trained.  Worse, his business unit refuses to accept this method of thinking to improve production goal attainment.

  1. Leadership must lead by first embracing new thinking and possibilities.

Previously in my career, it was a pleasure and adventure to be on a project where the leadership wanted a solution to their problem.  However, the leaders did not want to change, at all.  They wanted a solution, but refused to change in any shape, form, or method.  Worse, the leaders did not admit they did not want to change because they themselves had not considered that a solution would require change.  Thus, when the solution was delivered, it looked like a great idea, on paper.  But, the second it was implemented, reality bit, change was coming, and this scared the leadership team into panic mode.  Add in the coming economic downturn that had already started to hurt the company, and panic turned into a full-on disaster.

?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1Leaders, it is imperative that you lead first by example personally, then by actions professionally, then only if necessary by words.  When you observe new thinking on an old idea, embrace that and see where it goes.  Even if the new idea fails, build people!  Production goals are about human efforts distilled into statistical symbols.  Never forget about the human element.  Build people, and you meet production goals.  Build quality into every single transaction, and you meet production goals.  Fail people, and you will never meet production goals!  Fail quality, and you will fail to meet production goals.

I cannot make this any simpler!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Compliance Problems and Dead Veterans – More Shameful VA Misconduct Chronicles

Angry Grizzly BearThe Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) is filling my inbox by mid-week again, and the volume never ceases to amaze and mystify.  Over the last 10+ years of reporting on the VA-OIG reports, I have learned that when the volume is exceedingly high by mid-week, there are reports the VA-OIG is hoping to get overlooked in the crush.  Luckily for them, I am here to ensure nothing gets overlooked; you’re welcome!

We begin with more fiscal insanity and the failure to comply with regular auditing and business financial practices that would see a private company’s owners in prison.  Let’s be clear; Congress passed specific legislation to single out government agencies to demand they comply.  One of these unique pieces of legislation is called the Payment Integrity Information Act (PIIA), which audits the VA regularly fails.

Please note, last year, the VA failed two programs on the PIIA; for the fiscal year 2020, the VA failed two of the programs, consistent failure is a leadership problem.  Yet, the VA-OIG claimed the following:

To VA’s credit, it noted a decrease in improper payment estimates two years in a row and a decrease in its improper payment rates for nine programs and activities.”VA 3

Consistent with the previous fiscal year’s PIIA reports, yes; still a leadership problem, yes.  But I am not so generous as the VA-OIG, for I know many a non-profit and for-profit organization that has been fined heavily, bankrupted, and put into conservatorship over the same actions.  Nothing ever happens to the leaders at the VA failing to do their jobs!  12 programs and activities totaling $11.37 Billion, and never are the leaders held accountable for failure; let that sink in for a minute or two.  Read the report, you tell me, should real people be held responsible for failing to follow the law?

Gravy Train 3The VA-OIG conducted a comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIp) of the Roseburg VAHCS in Oregon; for the regular readers, I bet you can guess what was found.  Yup, the employees feel morally distressed in how they are being pressured to treat the veterans.  Are you surprised; I am not, but there still might be some people, somewhere in America, surprised that the VA abuses the veterans they are honor-bound to serve.  The most tenured leaders have been in place since 2016.  I wonder if the moral distress and the leadership hiring are correlational data points, for I know that from 2012 to 2017, there was a lot of shuffling of VA leaders at the local VAMC/VAHCS level due to dead veterans in Phoenix from death list scandals.

The VA-OIG claimed the following:

The VA-OIG identified concerns with root cause analysis action implementation and outcomes measurement. Leaders were knowledgeable about employee satisfaction and patient experiences. However, they had opportunities to improve their knowledge of VHA data or system-level factors contributing to specific poorly performing Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning measures.”VA 3

Tell me something, how can you have a job for more than four years, be rated as knowledgeable about the measurement analytical methods, but not be knowledgeable about root cause analysis, action implementation, and systems-level factors contributing to poor performance?  To gain your position, you had to grow professionally through the bureaucracy and the various sub-levels of VA leadership to lead a VA Hospital.  Yet, somehow, after all this time and experience, you have inadequate knowledge about the essential functions of your job.  Quoting Colonel Potter here: “HORSE HOCKEY!”  Does this sound remarkably akin to designed incompetence to anyone else?cropped-bird-of-prey.jpg

Meaning, I do not believe your lies!

Traveling to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and the case of Dr. Robert Dale Bernauer Sr. (74), who has pled guilty to workers comp fraud and four other charges of fraud, where the total amount of fraud existed from 2011 to 2017 and more than $1 Million.  Co-Conspirators and the insurance company are not named but should be.  Worse, this scheme involved workman’s compensation insurance for Federal and State employees, Federal agencies, State agencies, and private employers.  While the lawyers and attorneys all crow about catching a doctor who committed fraud, and I am glad he was caught, where are all the state and federal employees who had to know this was going on and did not do their jobs?

Through the insurance company, the doctor was charging 1500-2000% higher for medication marked up. Indeed, this should have raised some eyebrows and questions somewhere in the six years this fraud lasted.  Who is asking why this did not raise red flags at the state and federal levels?VA Seal

Weep America, another veteran, has died by suicide, and the VA is culpable due to bureaucrat inertia and outright failure to follow the guidelines and rules as established.

The VA-OIG found that staff did not adequately evaluate the patient’s condition when reviewing the patient’s high-risk status.  Facility staff did not assign a Mental Health Treatment Coordinator (MHTC) prior to discharge or establish a facility MHTC policy, as required.  The Recovery Engagement and Coordination for Health – Veterans Enhanced Treatment (REACH VET) provider did not outreach the patient as required.  Facility staff did not comply with Veterans Health Administration suicide risk assessment procedures and did not notify facility leaders or suicide prevention staff of the patient’s death by suicide” [emphasis mine].VA 3

Why was the staff allowed to fail so severely here; they were not appropriately trained.  Staff failures and training failures are symptoms of leadership failures, and a veteran is dead!  Which staff has been fired for their failures?  Which leaders have been fired without retirement or potential for rehiring for a deceased veteran as the final act in a chain of events that began with failing to perform their job?  How many times will this story have to repeat before Congress acts to reflect the interest and the responsibility invested in their office by the electorate?  How many times is this story repeating without the benefit of the VA-OIG doing a full-blown investigation?Angry Wet Chicken

Unfortunately, the following report involves the abuse of an intimate partner and bureaucratic inertia.  While the complete record is not revealed (thankfully), what is revealed is detestable to the Nth degree and includes 214 days of spousal abuse, bureaucratic inertia, and mental health failures to protect the spouse and help the veteran, ending with the veteran’s suicide.  The saddest part of this story, it took almost three years for this suicide to be investigated by the VA-OIG (2019).

“The VA-OIG found that despite the patient’s and spouse’s intimate partner violence (IPV) reports, inpatient mental health unit staff did not consult with the IPVAP point of contact or ensure the spouse felt safe with the patient returning home upon discharge. The inpatient psychiatry resident did not timely complete a progress note addendum, which resulted in other clinicians not having access to critical IPV-related information for 34 days. Facility staff failed to consider a consultation with the Office of Chief Counsel, although the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) advises employees to “work with your Office of Chief Counsel” regarding state reporting requirements for victims of IPV. Outpatient mental health staff did not consult with the IPVAP point of contact or document discussion of IPV resources or treatment options, as the OIG would have expected. The Facility Director did not ensure the development of an IPVAP protocol, as required. Although a licensed independent provider was appointed as the IPVAP coordinator, facility staff and leaders did not identify the assigned IPVAP coordinator as a resource at the time of the patient’s care in 2019. The VA-OIG also found that VHA guidance about IPV training responsibilities was unclear.”VA 3

Let’s talk about some realities of mental health.

      • 50% of the patients seeking mental health see no improvement.
      • 10% of the patients seeking mental health support will be injured by the mental health provider.
      • 33% of the mental health patients choosing a pharmacological solution experience harm or no relief.

If you add these numbers up, that’s 93% of the population seeking mental health support not being helped or being harmed by mental health providers.  This does not mean that mental health providers need to give up, but they need to work harder to find solutions and meet their patient’s needs.  It means timely provider notes are mandatory!  It requires providers to have a plethora of options for treatments, obtain patient buy-in, and follow up with the patient.  It involves treatment facilities to write procedures and operating policies that allow for rapport between a patient and a provider that is not disturbed as long as that relationship is healthy and progress occurs.

Knowledge Check!America, it is time, and past time, for the Department of Veterans Affairs to be overhauled from stem to stern.  To be held up to scrutiny, transparent audits and the leaders held accountable and responsible for the failures and abuse of veterans, their spouses, and dependents.  These last two stories, especially, have left me spiritually sick and mentally angry!  There is no excuse for the inertia evidenced, no excuse for the designed incompetence, and no excuse for the abuse to continue!  Where is Congress?  Where is the US President?  Where are the House and Senate speakers (Major and Minor) raising a rhubarb and demanding hearings, opening Department of Justice inquiries into misconduct and malfeasance when these egregious VA-OIG reports are brought before them?  Where is the media in demanding the politicians pay attention?

Satire? Obama ISIS Speech Depresses Nation | Hooper's War - Peter Van BurenWeep America!  Those who have defended you and me are being fed into the machine of bureaucratic inertia and spat out as broken or dead constructs — bereft of hope, lost in red tape, and denied solutions and care.  Pets and farm animals are treated better than veterans, and I cannot help but wonder if this was designed purposefully to satisfy the whims and fancies of the politicians currently in office.  Treat an animal like a veteran is treated, and you will be publicly shamed on national TV faster than a snake can shed its skin.  You will receive more media attention, more lawyers and politicians will hound you, and consequences galore will fall all over you.  Shameful!  Utterly shameful!

References

American Psychological Association. (2012, August). Recognition of psychotherapy effectiveness. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/about/policy/resolution-psychotherapy.aspx

Corbett, L. (2013, December 17). Psychotherapy based on depth psychology is a superior approach [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/e4JQamcq24c

Lilienfeld, S. (2007). Psychological Treatments That Cause Harm. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2(1), 53-70. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40212335

Smith, B. L. (2012). Inappropriate prescribing. Monitor on Psychology, 43(6), 36. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/06/prescribing.aspx

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

The Role of a Call Center Trainer: A Qualitative Descriptive Study

Bobblehead DollI want to express my deepest gratitude to Call Centre Helper Magazine for the opportunity to advertise for my dissertation research.  I once asked a call center leader what a trainer does; their answer still makes me chuckle.

A trainer trains!

Kind of obvious, right.  Now, what does a trainer train?  How does a trainer train?  How does a business leader know the trainer has been successful in training?  What is the purpose of training?  What does training do for those trained?  These questions and the business leaders’ comment have inspired my professional and academic footsteps for several years now.Call Center 2

In early July 2021, I finally received permission to begin human testing for my dissertation.  I have posted several advertisements on social media for call center workers, trainers, and senior leaders to entice 17 people willing to answer some questions about training in call centers, a call center trainer, and what precisely a call center trainer does.  The following is a brief description of the aims and intents of my research to increase interest and hopefully glean the needed participants to finish my study.

Consider for a moment a teacher who has influenced you professionally or personally, and why did they make such an impact?  Could a different person have made the same impact?  Why?

The above questions are the crux of my research; to date, the role of the instructor has not been considered a variable in corporate training.  As an adult educator, I find this gap very alarming.  In academia, the teacher’s role has been extensively studied, and opinions abound regarding the role of the teacher.  Yet, in a professional setting, no researcher has addressed this gap to date.  With the push to move all training to computer-based solutions in autonomous environments, if the trainer does not teach corporate knowledge and behaviors, who does?

Call Center BeansIn researching the history of professional training, the model employed has not changed since a master taught journeyman who led novice instruction.  Yet, with technology, global populations, cultures, language, and globe-spanning organizations, the role of the trainer seems to continue to take a back seat.  Yet, if a corporate trainer profoundly influenced you professionally, would you not want that experience for another person?

Due to the restrictions on human testing in research, I cannot change the dry legalese of the advertisements.  I know they are long, tedious, and challenging to get through.  However, if you are interested, please get in touch with me directly using:

Msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu

Please note, to participate, you will need the following:

      • Work in an English Speaking Call Center with a home base in the United States.
      • Have a LinkedIn account (This is for verification of professional qualifications only).
      • Speak English like a native.
      • Be willing to answer demographic questions, including time in the current role, education, and so forth.
      • Be willing to elaborate upon your answers. I will ask you some questions about your experiences; please provide details, depth, and descriptions as your answer.

Knowledge Check!Important to note, your name and business will never be mentioned in my dissertation!  I am not collecting any personal data beyond education and years of experience.  Any direct quotes employed will carry no connecting data, and no one will see your details.

Thank you for considering joining me in my dissertation research.  I look forward to publishing this research and discussing the findings with you in later articles.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

The Role of Quality – The Only Path to Improving Productivity

LookWarehouse or call center, manufacturing or non-profit, service industry or product sales, the role of quality continues to be misunderstood.  Sometimes, it appears that quality is intentionally misunderstood.  Often it seems as if quality and compliance are synonymous, even though quality is a small part of compliance.  Some businesses call quality “Quality Assurance,” “Quality Control,” or the “Quality Department.”  Regardless of the name, quality is the only path to improving productivity; however, productivity is measured.Inspiring Quotes on Quality - Fortune of Africa Swaziland

I have worked with businesses that used quality as a stick to beat employees and ultimately fire them.  This is an absolute abuse of quality and the quality people!  Worse, it hinders productivity because everyone becomes worried about meeting quality demands and not meeting customer expectations.  The employees who meet “quality” in these organizations are depressed, morale is pathetic, and the brand suffers significantly.  What really hurts, everything costs too much takes too long, and the company is not competitive, flexible, viable, or even worth mentioning.

What is Quality?

Bobblehead DollQuality is a process of striving to improve.  Interestingly, people inherently know when they have received quality or not.  Be it a person, a company, a community, a state, a government, etc., how one approaches quality as a process for improvement defines that person, company, community, state, etc.  Some companies think, “We have a quality department, we are meeting quality metrics, we are doing just fine in quality.”  To which I reply, in my best imitation of Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H 4077, “HORSE HOCKEY!”Quality Quotes (40 wallpapers) - Quotefancy

Why; because that company cannot define what drives the metrics being reported.  That company has a quality department but not a quality attitude, quality focus, and quality determination.  It cannot be stressed enough if your people are not quality first; you are losing between 33% and 50% of your potential!  Worse, the loss of potential is always hard to pin precisely to a direct problem when the problem is lodged in something as amorphous as “quality.”Chinese Crisis

Recognizing Quality Value

Let’s do the numbers together.  A manufacturing plant, a call center, and a warehouse are examples A, B, and C, respectively.

Example A: Employee A has been trained on making a part; he has never been told how his parts affect the finished product and is sometimes sloppy in creating pieces.  But, because he is within set standards, his sloppy work can be cleaned up at another station, so Employee A does not want to improve quality.  Producing 200 parts made per day, with anywhere between 5 and 75 pieces, needing additional work; Employee A has an overall cost to the company above and beyond expected costs.  Regardless if Employee A increases his productivity to 250 to 300 pieces per day, his defects remain potential lost.Blue Money Burning

Example B:  XX Team has 15 agents; each agent is expected to handle 80-100 calls per day.  But the quality metrics are so stringent; the team can only meet 35-40 calls per day on average.  However, the business processes to complete work, and meet the quality standards, handicap any single agent from meeting the 80-100 calls per day.  Does the company look at the agents or their business processes and quality standards?  The business will demand higher productivity and never realize that the churn increase is from burned-out good employees walking away!blue-money

Example C:  Inbound product receivers, outbound product shippers, and quality are the three departments in a warehouse.  Inbound, they do not consider themselves part of a quality initiative; their productivity is driven by how many items get properly stowed per day.  Outbound is where the company focuses as this is where the customer satisfaction is directly observed; how much an outbound picks and prepares for shipping is productivity.  Quality is considered someone else’s job as a quality department counts for compliance to SOX and other legislation.  Inbound and outbound employees know their positions, and because they are not quality, they can create quality problems intentionally or not, and someone else will always take care of the problem.  Dirty part locations with inventory from other areas don’t matter; quality will fix it.  Torn or damaged product in a location, it doesn’t matter quality will fix it.  In this case, 2/3rds of the employee potential for improving quality is AWOL!

TOP 25 POOR QUALITY QUOTES | A-Z QuotesNow, someone might think, these are hypotheticals, not real businesses.  Those examples are directly from my experience.  Yes, these examples are slightly oversimplified for brevity; however, not having a whole company quality culture hinders productivity.  This is a truth inescapable.

Co-Equal but not Co-Valuable

kpiProductivity, however measured in your company for goods or services, should be a co-equal part of quality.  Yet, if equality cannot be achieved, err on the side of increased quality until productivity catches up.  The value of productivity is measured in green money, cash.  The value of quality is measured in blue money, potential.  Bringing up my favorite axiom, “Burn enough blue money, and cash evaporates, and no one can trace where the cash went!”

Returning to Example A, the employee does not know, has not been trained, and is unaware that their actions are directly costing the company.  Since there is a quality person to check and “fix” the mistakes, the loss of potential is immeasurable until the business leaders have to increase the manufacturing price to account for the added work in quality to correct the errors.  Hence, when all metrics are equal between quality and productivity, err on the side of quality, and productivity will catch up.

Exclamation MarkWant a secret; it does not work in reverse!  Erring on the side of increased productivity increases costs elsewhere, burns potential, and ruins company bottom-lines.  Quality cannot “catch up” to productivity — an example best witnessed in manufacturing and warehouses.  The potential costs between manufacturing or multiple handling of products carry a potential cost, with no means of recovery.  Thus, it remains imperative to understand the roles of productivity and quality defined early, and placed in the proper order, to avoid significant cash hits to the bottom line.

Quality – A Culture, Not Just a Department!

cropped-2012-08-13-07-37-28-1.jpgA quality culture is an extension of the individual’s professionalism, always striving to be better.  Not faster, not slower, but better every day.  Training is a dynamic part of quality, and learning something new should be encouraged.  Yet, training, especially in call centers, always seems to take a back seat to operations and productivity.  All because productivity is not correctly understood and placed in its proper role.  Training and quality are potential or blue money expenses where the return on investment will be unknown.  Why; because quality and training place tools into the hands of employees, who then go on to build or destroy based upon the examples of leadership.

Quality Image Quotation #4 - Sualci QuotesQuality should be felt in every conversation, in every process, in every program, in every interaction.  As the most important customer in a business is other employees, the quality program is the most important activity and process for enhancing the business’s goals, aspirations, and daily production rates.  A culture of quality will then have the ground to grow and room to expand.  But, a quality culture will not grow overnight, nor will it grow without causing stagnant processes to change.

Knowledge Check!Consider a seed.  To grow, that seed has to be destroyed completely; but no one ever mourns the loss of the seed for the potential fruit to be born from that seed growing.  The same is true for a quality culture growing; the culture will destroy the seeds of stagnation, the apathy of indifference, and the processes and procedures that are not valuable to the new quality culture.  Will you allow a quality culture to grow?

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

No MORE BS: A Worthy Resource and Government Funding

VirtueI am a nerd; when it comes to data, I am a sponge.  I tell dad jokes because they make me laugh.  I have many resources for these articles, and I generally do not share my resources, as I find many people are not as nerdy as I am when it comes to the issues surrounding America.  I also find abbreviating stories fun and hope they are helpful for others who need information but do not have time to track all the data sources I follow as a  nerd.

I am going to recommend the following resource and getting on their email list.  The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is an organization that works to help state legislatures work better.  The NCSL Mission is all about increasing independence and integrity in state legislatures, and I have been very happy to gather and use data from this source.  When I found this resource, I immediately signed up for their email list and occasionally receive state legislature news that is considered “local” or not “worthy” of corporate media reporting.

Ziggy - How Government Should Have to RunA critical activity of the NCSL is training state legislators to operate in their elected roles more fully.  Training has been a concern of mine for many years due to how America selects its elected representatives.  I do not want more bureaucracy, but junior legislators need mentoring, training, and having a network dedicated to watching, reporting, and offering help in training is a critical niche market for Americans to produce more trust in government and those elected to scrutinize the government.  I do not want, and I think America could use, a lot less, lawyers as elected representatives.  Thus, I promote the NCSL’s efforts to help.

My congratulations to the Executive and Legislative Branches of Indiana, you appear to be working well together, and I hope this trend continues.

“The revenue forecast Indiana received is good news and comes on the heels of a decade of fiscal discipline that is paying off in a big way for Hoosiers,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Ryan Mishler, R-Bremen, in a statement [emphasis mine].
House Speaker Todd Huston said the legislative leaders hope to use the extra $2 billion to pay off state debt, give public and private schools funding, and make one-time investments.
Just one year ago, the pandemic entered the ring and seemed to deliver a knockout punch to our booming economy. Our near-record-low unemployment of 3% skyrocketed to a record-breaking high of 17% in a short period. Now, Indiana is not only bouncing back but winning the fight,” said Huston, R-Fishers, in a statement.Government Largess

Now, here is the bitter pill in the good news posted above by the NCSL.  A question has been percolating in my head since writing the series of education articles, Here, Here, and Here, “Where do states get their money?”  With the continuing changes to state tax law, where the state is stealing county and city government tax revenue for school budgets controlled at the state level, more questions continue to percolate.  I do not like the answers I am getting.

Hence, we introduce the information gleaned to inspire action in a more informed manner and understand the relationships between funding government on the state level and the incestuous relationship on the federal level.

Detective 4We find the following article from PEW: “Where States Get Their Money: FY 2019.”  The report contains a graphic that spells out the problems quite well, and I encourage you to visit, find your state, look at the sources, and ask questions!  Averaging all the states, 49.1% of a state’s funding arrives as tax dollars directly.  31.4% arrives as funding from the Federal Government.  However, this is not a good indicator of the incestuous relationship between the federal and state levels of government.  Not all states are equal in receiving federal funds or the reasons for acquiring those funds.  11.3% arrives in state coffers as service charges for teachers’ licensure, building permits, and other executive branch-controlled service charges.  7.4% originates in a miscellaneous category (discretionary funds), which is a problematic category, as political payoffs are paid out of many a miscellaneous fund.  Finally, 0.8% arrives from local funds, or the cities and counties are forwarding funds to the state for various reasons; for example, taxes on homes meant for local public schools but have to be filtered through the state coffers.

Thankfully, no single state is 100% funded by the federal government.  However, FY 2019 definitely should raise some eyebrows and questions in Alaska, Louisana, Montana, and Wyoming, as to why these states top the list for receiving federal funds.  The top 10 receivers of federal funding are Mississippi, Arizona, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Alabama.  The states receiving the lowest funds are Hawaii, North Dakota, Virginia, Kansas, Utah, and Iowa.  Also, a category needing more questions asked, scrutiny, and a lot more answers using audits and third-party auditing to explain.

ApathyPlease note, I am only using PEW reported data; I do not know how these numbers were collated, I do not have access to the raw data, or see the bias built-in by humans when reporting numbers through statistics.  I can only report the numbers and hope people take action by asking questions.  FY 2019 needs examined quite heavily as the past is a prelude to the future.  Unfortunately, the past being a prelude to the future is especially true where government funds arrive and depart in any level of elected representation.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.