A Blue State of Mind

"The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams." Oprah

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Location: The Western U.S, United States

I spent 48 years caring about what people thought of me. I'm not spending the rest of my life caring about that anymore!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I Expect Great Things!

Today one of my best employees left the Company. She's close to graduating from the nursing program and she found running a family, interning, classes and working were just too much. She was the quintessential employee: dependable, maintained great attendance, volunteered to assist her peers, of the highest integrity. When she gave her two-week notice she began crying but I told her what joy to realize a dream!

I thanked her for her work here and praised her for the legacy she leaves. Whenever we mention her name I'm certain warm, appreciative thoughts will follow. This is the type of employee legacy I want to leave. I want to be remembered as someone who did just what she was supposed to do. None of this griping and complaining, personal-life-always-in-turmoil kind of legacy.

I wish I had twelve more employees just like her. There are some to be sure, but none like her. She wasn't trained to provide good customer service, it was a passion of hers. She wasn't bribed or praised to perform, she did it because she expected great things. I know she'll have great things happen in her life because she's leaving the corporate world to give more personal help to others who are ailing.

It's easy to find the people who are passionate about doing their best because they show up for work on time, they are dressed neatly, they care about their peers and how their work will reflect upon their leader, they reach out to assist whereever it's needed, they still believe the adage, "One for all and all for one!"

Working in a call center is hard work. We're dealing with the public who can't understand simple accounting, those who don't want to be held accountable for maintaining their accounts, people looking for a free ride and to hell w/anyone who dares to tell them no. People who honestly believe they can call an 800 number and be rude, boorish, obscene and vicious and the rep on the other end has to shut up and take that crap. They don't understand that their actions simply highlight what we know: they're cowards hiding under the cloak of an 800 number.

Call center workers have to know SO much information about SO many products and we have to handle inquiries in less than 2 minutes. Most of us want to help, but just knowing that we are at the mercy of the above-mentioned drains on even the saintliest of saints.

I expect my employees to possess a large amount of patience and I coach them to remember that it's only one call and we'll probably never have to talk to that caller again, God willing. I expect great things from my employees and they expect the same from me. I lead by example because they can see straight through me if I'm lying and they'll get in my face and put me on blast if I don't act right.

Want to be a good customer? Here are some helpful hints. They may sound simple because they are simple-just good old common sense. Here's what we need from you:

1. Have your information ready. We don't want to wait while you shuffle through pages of papers looking for that $19 charge receipt. Our jobs depend on low handling time. You don't like waiting and neither do we.
2. Put down that crying baby! We have to wait for you to find the receipt and listen to hollering Jr? Please call when Jr's asleep or there's someone to help until the call's over.
3. Don't pretend you're someone else. If your name's not on the account, please don't say "It's a joint account," or "I handle all the bills." It's not your account so stop fronting.
4. You are important, but cursing, screaming, threatening and being a bully won't help you get better service. We're just like restaurant workers: We may not be able to spit in your food but we can "accidentally" restrict your account.
5. Give a compliment once in a while. If someone's gone the extra mile ask to speak w/their supervisor or leave a msg on the supervisor's phone. It won't kill you to be nice.

Finally, to all of my call center counterparts out there: be strong, be nice and remember, it's just a call:-)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

In EVERYTHING Give Thanks!

"I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make a boast of the Lord. The humble shall hear thereof and be glad. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after: to behold the beauty of the Lord and to dwell in his temple all the days of my life."

I was going to begin this long awaited post with the old familiar "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" but then I remembered that I'm declaring victory over cowardice and wondering about what could have been.

This has been one of the most interesting, exhilarating times of my adult life. In January of this year I promised the Lord that "I wasn't going to be no punk!" I should have known He was going to try and test my resolve because in January I had to work under one of the hardest, confused and impatient leader in my entire work career. My peers and I tried all we could to get along w/this brother and work in peaceful coexistence but he was hell-bent on running us like an extended branch of the military w/him being Big Chief and us being little scouts who would receive and complete orders w/o challenge.

I did everything to help this brother assimilate into our very strong culture but he demonstrated he didn't value my opinion and didn't think highly of me as a minority woman who had survived in this culture for more than 19 years. At one point, during a 1:1, he brought up a topic that I had warned him to steer clear of and he replied in exasperation, "You tell me alot of things, I don't know which to listen to!" Well, Brother, I bet now you wish you would have listened don't you?

In case you didn't catch it, he left the company two months ago. At first I felt sorry for the brother because he had just bought a home, had all his stuff shipped down and was settling in for a long winter's nap. After he left, they asked ME to step in and handle some of his duties! Me! The fat mouse with the yellow streak down her back! That his peers would think so highly of me to recommend me to this position was very nice indeed! Of course, I should have known God wasn't through w/me.

Some of my peers, especially those I was closest to showed their butt almost every day. Being demanding, not meeting deadlines, calling me power-hungry, ignoring my pleas to help keep our dept going while a new boss was found. Now, these people knew that I didn't go out soliciting for this position, and they also knew that this was just a temporary position. But they still acted like FOOLS. I would have attributed it to them having to report to a Black leader but the two leaders before me were Black, AND... wait for it...one of those acting so stoopid is Black!!!!

So now we have our new boss but I'm still pissed at those losers for treating me like they did. I know, I need to forgive and forget and I will but just for the next few months I have to not speak to them unless it's business-related and pretty much count our friendship over and done.

So, after this, I gathered enough nerve to apply for three positions. Each of them promotions. I had two interviews and never heard from one but I was declined for each. My new leader says he'll help but I remain of the belief that no one's going to help you get a job but you. I hope I can count on him to support my moves. We'll see.

Remember when I started about thinking how things could have been? Well, I think of all the opportunities I've squandered during my life, just because I was too scared to try something. I always thought my weight would keep me from the top jobs so I didn't apply for them, watching the younger, skinnier, more aggressive people now sit as VPs and Directors of the company. If I had been braver, where would I be right now? How high could I have been? Would I have remained w/the Company? Would I even be working? Would I be living in another state? Who knows? This 'would've, could've, should've' can wear a person out so I can't entertain it for too long because then I start thinking I was the one that controlled my destiny when I know the Lord had a large part.

Now, I'm afraid that I've waited too late. I just had another birthday and being in the mid forties doesn't promise many more promotions unless I was already in that position or on a trajectory course headed for the top.

So, in EVERYTHING give thanks because this is the will of God, Christ Jesus concerning me. Whereever I'm supposed to be, God knows. He is the Lamp unto my feet and the Light unto my path (He's the Word, you know). I'm still applying for jobs because I'm drained in the current one.

It's hard leading people who don't want anything except to collect that paycheck on the first and fifteenth. People that I work with don't have the desire to do the right things. They find it difficult to come to work and WORK. Some of them think the workplace is their personal meeting place and oh by the way, I'll answer some calls every now and then. Anyone in a call center knows just the employee I'm talking about because they probably left your company to come and harrass me at my job.

One of the frustrations while I was leading my peers was knowing they were not passionate about their jobs. They weren't engaged, energized or even awake some of the times. Too many times they called out sick, used emergency vacation time, left work early after coming in late. What's up w/that? So now I'm trying to lead this bunch of burnout bummers while leading my team of stagnant water lillies. With my hand to God, I was glad to give that position up! When the new man was announced I took six days vacation just to try and detoxify myself.

And how was your day?