Annie recently left her job of six years. She was the lead customer service representative for her organization – a very visible role. A lot of people were sad to see her go, but she ultimately felt great about leaving after years of successful service.
Her customers loved her. She was the go-to person for many of the company’s customers. If they had a question, she knew the answer or knew who had it. If there was a problem – even if it was not in her area of responsibility – the customers came to her for information and to get connected to the person who could get it fixed. Likewise, her co-workers often turned to her for information – especially when “the higher-ups” were absent or didn’t communicate with employees, leaving them unsure of what was going on in the organization.
She was loved and appreciated by just about everyone. Except the big boss, BB, and his number two, Deuce. She always received strong performance reviews, but there was always one comment that her supervisor told her that BB wanted in her review, “She could do a better job if she didn’t spend so much time talking.”
On one instance when her supervisor pushed back, BB said, “How does she get anything done? Everytime I’m around her, she’s just talking to people. I wish she was more focused on her tasks. I don’t understand how she has time for work when she’s always talking.”
Sometimes she’d go to Deuce to let him know about problems that customers had told her about. “Why are you getting involved? That’s my area of responsibility, and you would do well to stay out of it!”
I am personally and professionally acquainted with both Annie and BB. A couple of years ago, Annie vented to me about her frustrations with not feeling understood and appreciated. She asked me if there were any suggestions for how she could get through to BB. We discussed some tactics, including working through her supervisor, direct communication with BB, and some other ways to encourage better communication and understanding. “I need more ‘walking’ and less ‘talking’ was BB’s response to direct communication.
I also offered Annie the opportunity to participate in the Teamability experience, an online tool created by The Gabriel Institute that helps participants understand their natural role on teams and how they can work more effectively with others. She readily accepted, and soon learned that she is a Communicator. In The Gabriel Institute’s words:
“Communicators are the people that everyone likes. They are friendly, affable, outgoing and love to talk to people. Everyone likes them and they seem to like everyone. People seek them out to talk to and they are ready to have a friendly chat with anyone. They can be recognized fairly easily as they are the ones who are always chatting with others, visiting, talking in the hallways, waving hello and engaging others in conversation. They are always eager to just have a conversation. They really want to listen as much as talk.
“Communicators are excellent at both sales and customer service. They are valuable wherever a lot of customer contact is required. They can make wonderful teachers. They are very good as doctors, nurses, lawyers, reporters, writers, counselors, clergy or in political work. Any job where there is direct or indirect person-to-person contact as a major aspect is where a good Communicator will shine.”
As it turns out, Annie was a great fit for her position, and had very strong performance reviews to back that up. But the feeling of under-appreciation — even tension — from BB weighed on her. She talked with him about Teamability, and his response was “I hope it helps you do a better job.” Finally, she suggested to him that he talk with me about Teamability. And he did.
After I explained Teamability, he said, “I’m old fashioned. I don’t go for all these new things. I just want people to work hard and get their work done.” I offered to walk him through his own personal Teamability experience, so he could learn more about it, but he declined. I brought it up to him several times over the past two years, but there was always a reason to not pursue teamability — usually something tied to “We don’t have time for that” or “We don’t have money for that.”
But the organization had to find time and money to recruit and train a new lead customer service rep, the poor communication within the organization will continue (or get worse), and Annie . . . she has already deployed her great relationship building business skills with a new organization that values and respects her role.
If you’re “Annie” or work with “BB,” or would just like to learn more about Teamability I’m happy to help you navigate your own Teamability experience — and hopefully do the same for your whole team. You can contact me — Chuck Hall
Note: Names and details have been somewhat modified to protect the innocent (and the guilty).