A ‘virtual team’ of contact centre managers was experiencing problems. Their centres were widely spread geographically, but the company needed them to co-ordinate their efforts closely. Instead the differences between centres were becoming more and more apparent, and friction was increasing.

Intervention

The team came together for a day-long session facilitated by Clean Change consultant Wendy Sullivan. First, the individual members of the team explored their own ideas about what their perfect working team would be like.

One man wanted the group to be like a formula one pit crew team. Someone else wanted it to be like setting sail for distant shores. Interestingly, these two people had been having a hard time working together. All the team members’ symbols were all different and equally revealing.

Wendy said: “As each team member was asked about their symbol, there were nods and smiles as the team realised they had seen individuals ‘living’ their symbols from day to day.

“For example, the ‘Formula One’ person’s meetings had no breaks for lunch or tea. People were expected to keep working and concentrating as long as there was work to do. He spoke fast, frequently losing team members who couldn’t grasp the concepts flashing past at high speed. “

The group then learned new ways of using language to fit the different thinking styles of other team members, and began to try them out from day to day.

They also constructed a shared model for how they would like the team to be: a head with big ears for listening, lots of curly hair representing a zest for life, big eyes for taking in visual information and big dangly earrings for an element of fun. As a reminder of the event, it went ‘on tour’ around the team’s different offices over the next year!

Outcome

Communication within the team improved immediately, even before the day was over. As team members understood more about the thinking that generated a colleague’s actions, it was simple for them to incorporate this into their communication and therefore to influence their colleagues’ behaviour. The regular conflicts and misunderstandings eased, resulting in improved communication across the contact centres and leading to improved customer service.

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