Everybody wants to be on a winning team. We have all heard the buzzword “continuous improvement”, but what is the actual formula for making that happen? How can you make your telephone sales and customer service teams as successful as possible? The Air Force has shared two very important lessons with me.
- A formal debrief should be conducted with team members immediately after every project launch.
- There is always more than one way to solve a problem.
I recently had an opportunity to visit Maxwell Air Force Base with an international business owners group I belong to called The Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO). This base is where all Air Force personnel go for continuing education and training. We talked with Air Force trainers and participated in several team exercises.
The Air Force has poured enormous effort into teaching teams how to be more effective. When they present a team with a challenge, they have discovered that winning or losing is irrelevant. The real learning opportunity comes when the team debriefs immediately after to discuss what went well, what didn’t and why.
Examples of these questions include:
- Were there points when team members did or did not communicate effectively?
- Were the teammates with the right skills used in the right places?
- Did the team allow the appropriate member to take the lead when their skills were required?
- Did anything unexpected happen?
- Did the team meet the goal in the time frame allowed? Why or why not?
Participating in an exercise and debrief with a team myself really drove home how much there was to learn from questioning both success and failure. We learned that if everyone isn’t clear about what they did right, they are less likely to do it again. When things went wrong, it was often because of miscommunication between team members. Finally, if you don’t break down where the points of failure were, how are you ever going to avoid them in the future? As you can see, this debrief is key to continuous improvement.
One of the trainers told me that she has spent several years putting thousands of Air Force personnel through identical team exercises. Even so, there are still times when a team will come up with a completely novel solution that she has never seen before. She tells every team before they even begin a challenge that:
- There is no one perfect solution.
- They need to open up their minds to multiple possibilities, share ideas and listen to each other.
I want to express a special thanks to the Air National Guard for taking our EO members to the base on a cargo plane, allowing us to participate in training and giving us a special treat on the way home. We did a mid-air refuel of another plane at 400 miles an hour while we were only 27-feet apart! It was a very impressive display of teamwork.
This blog was written by Laurie Leonard, the President of SUITE 1000, a U.S. based national telephone answering service, inbound call center and outsourced call center service. Her company has specialized in handling legal intake, sales leads, email lead response, appointment scheduling, customer service and help desk calls for over 20 years.