The Turnaround Factor: Digging Deeper

One of the most important leadership lessons of my life happened 5 minutes after I stepped off that stage. I’d been giving awards on my massive “road trip,” a 27 states in 45 day kind of tour of motivational kick off meetings in Verizon Wireless’ outsourced call centers.

I was the “client,” read that “scary” who was doing everything in my capacity to have my team viewed as helpers, not auditors.

But here I was on her home stage recognizing outcomes. Lisa, with beaming confident-humility, was ready to teach me about process.


The service rep that had swept the recognition awards at this particular center tapped me on the shoulder.

Last year I was almost fired.  My metrics were a disaster.

Everyone kept telling me that I needed to be more confident, to be the expert for our customers. But the problem was I just wasn’t FEELING confident. And I didn’t THINK of myself as an expert.

And then one day, my team leader gave me an opportunity to re-record my opening greeting. I decided this was my big chance to sound absolutely energetic, confident, and convey my expertise. I recorded it again and again until it sounded just right.

And then a miraculous thing happened. The customers heard that greeting. They began to greet me with comments like, “wow you sure sound cheerful for so early in the morning.” Or, “I am glad that I got the expert, I should be in good hands.” Well, after that I just had to stay cheerful, and began feeling more confident. And you know what, I had to be an expert. Turns out, I am one.

After thousands of calls, only once have I had a customer respond to this in a negative way. My customers are getting a great experience because I know I can deliver it. And now, here I am.

That’s what SHOULD have been celebrating… the story. I’m embarrassed to say. I didn’t know it. That was the last time I gave out an award without knowing the backstory (see also: why your recognition is backfiring).

Even if it seems impossible to go that deep, it’s worth it.

Know who the whole stories, not matter how many layers fall between.

I promise. It’s worth it.