After working for many years in the high speed, nonstop environment of middle and senior operations management in contact centers, David Reid, the founder and CEO of Be All Ears found himself in the position of being a “Stay at home dad” looking after his children for close to half a year. We interviewed David to find out his reflections on that period of his life and what he learned from them.
Be All Ears: “What surprised you the most about the change in your situation?”
David Reid: “I think the biggest surprise was how similar the roles are. In both cases you need to plan in advance and then face immediate changes or challenges that push you to rethink your strategy. In both cases, you are responsible for caring for and developing people, in one case, it is your team, in the other case, it is your children. I thanked my wife properly after being at home for the first 2 weeks because until then, I hadn’t understood the need for true coordination. I never fully understood why she was tired. I didn’t realize that being a mum is a full-time job. Parents must support each other because they have joint responsibility, even if they do different jobs in the family. Managers likewise may have individual responsibilities, but they also have a joint responsibility to the company and supporting the culture.”
Be All Ears: “What was the biggest lesson you learned about leadership from being a “Stay at home dad?”.”
David Reid: “I think it’s the principle of “monkey see, monkey do”. As a parent, if I am silly, then my kids will copy me. If I use bad language in front of the kids, then they will start using bad language themselves. For managers, if they start to fall apart, then it looks like they don’t care. If team leaders don’t give their agents one to ones, then agents will not try to meet quality standards. If an employee provides a negative service, the customer retaliates with negative feedback. “Monkey see, monkey do” works both ways, you can use it to model behavior that you want the team to follow, but if you are not careful, you can end up modelling the behavior that you don’t want your team to follow as well.
Managers at all levels, from Team Leader to the CEO must model the behavior that they expect their staff to adopt in order to build this into the culture. This includes communicating clearly and openly at all times, or as Jordan Peterson would say, “Be precise in your speech” to ensure that what you are saying can be easily understood and acted on, and then when your team does act on it, you get the results that you expect.”
Be All Ears: “What did you learn that relates to how effective a manager you are?”
David Reid: “As I mentioned before, a home with young kids, like a contact center, is a very dynamic, constantly changing environment. Some people might even say it is chaotic. There will be misunderstandings, there will be mistakes. Blaming your partner or yourself will not solve problems at home, just as blaming your colleagues or yourself will not solve problems at work. Mistakes are learning opportunities that can make both families and organizations stronger, if they are embraced, understood and then acted on to prevent repetition. If people are scared of failure, they will fail as a family, they will fail as a team. Some of the best companies, such as Apple or Space-Ex have been developed on embracing the positive elements to failure.”
Be All Ears: “How would you say that this experience has changed your attitude to work itself?”
David Reid: “I have now changed my attitudes to life in and outside of work, I still care about my career, but I now put my family first fully. Let’s be honest, how many of our colleagues will we still be speaking to in ten years from now? In the past due to working commitments, you rely on your partner heavily to look after your family for you. You then miss the memories that matter, I missed special moments with my daughter, but this time, I was there when my son took his first steps. When you miss these things, you realize that you will never get them back and you start to say “no” more often. You will never get the best out of someone at work if they are not happy outside of work. If you get to know your peers, you will build better relationships with them and manage them more effectively. In my case, if the kids are happy, the wife is happy. If the wife is happy, then daddy’s happy, it’s that simple.”
Be All Ears: “So what are your thoughts on the way corporations promote a work/life balance?”
David Reid: “I would say they start by offering lots of benefits and do try to please the employee. But the impression I get today is that companies do copy each other, for example if Google gets a pool table, then other companies get a pool table. According to a recent Forbes article 3 benefits which can help companies promote a work life balance are flexible schedules, customizable perks and education and training. Which are all individual focused. Companies are offering more and more benefits nowadays, but is it quantity or quality an employee wants? Are we really listening to the real needs of the employee on an individual basis, or has this now become benefit overload? I would love to learn more about both how companies do promote a work life balance for their employees, and how employees themselves manage their own work/life balance.”
Be All Ears: “What would you say is the takeaway from our conversation today?”
David Reid: “With regards to time, I would say we must cater for the individual where we can, as customer experience and employee experience are strongly interlinked in and out of the workplace. In the end, all behavior is communication, and your behavior communicates the standards you expect your children or your team to follow. How your children behave is a reflection of you and how your employees communicate is a reflection of your business. One of Jordan Peterson’s “12 rules for life” is “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them”. We can apply this to the workplace with the rule: “Do not let your staff do anything that makes your customers dislike the business.”
Be All Ears: “Many thanks for your time and your insights. There is much here for us to consider when it comes to work life balance and how it can improve the organization’s performance.”
Open questions & talking points?
- How is the communication flow handled in your area? Where are the issues and how have they impacted your business?
- Does your company really promote a work life balance? How is this done? What impact, if any, does it have on the employees and the end customers?
At Be All Ears, we specialize in supporting businesses to successfully overcome growth and operational challenges, driving change through employee & customer experience. Get in touch with us and see how we can best support you.