How to Effectively Manage a Team Leader’s Time
Having managed call centres and consulted with small to large businesses around the world for 35 years and having owned a call centre myself, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a Team Leader say they didn’t have the time to coach or train their team members.
And, I’d bet when you ask your Team Leaders how much time they spend on coaching and training their team members most of them will tell you not enough.
And they’ll quickly follow that up with how they wish they had enough time because most of their team really needs it!
No doubt, the basic reason they give for not training or coaching more often is that they don’t have the time with all the different administration, human resources and supervision responsibilities they have to do every day.
To be fair, some have a point when you look at all the different things they have to do each day and every week, and if that’s the case in your centre, you need to seriously have a look at what can be handled by an administrator, rather than the Team Leader.
Because, after all, their number 1 priority should be reaching their team’s goals each week, right?
The Value of the Team Leader’s Time
I created a simple tool called the Team Leader Scheduler that helps identify if any tasks need to be shifted elsewhere and makes sure Team Leaders are spending their time and energy on the key result areas of their jobs like providing really effective coaching and training.
Before I explain how the tool works, let’s talk about two resources in life that when spent you can never get them back and are gone forever – time and energy.
Every other resource, like money, you can get back.
It keeps recurring and coming back every week.
You go to work and they pay you every week, and your money comes back.
But when you’ve exhausted the time or the energy on something they are gone forever – you’ll never get them back!
Ever hear someone jokingly say: Well, there’s 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back? We’ve all heard something like that at least once in our lives, haven’t we?
Probably used it ourselves plenty of times too!
Of course, it’s said as a joke, but the point is that whatever it was that we had spent our time on wasn’t worth it.
That time is gone forever, and we’ll never get it back.
With such valuable resources, we need to be very careful with how we use our time and energy in not only our personal lives but definitely in our work lives too.
Especially when most of us spend half of our lives working and the other half sleeping, having fun and spending money that keeps coming back every week!
You often hear people complain about how busy they are and that there just isn’t enough time for them to cover everything.
But what is it that they’re actually focusing on?
Rocks, Pebbles and Sand
There is a well-known inspiring story called ‘Rocks, Pebbles and Sand’ that gets people thinking about what they spend their time doing.
The origin of the story is a bit of an urban myth, and no one really knows where the story came from, but the story is about a philosophy professor who was giving a lecture and in front of him, he had a big glass jar, a pile of rocks, a bag of small pebbles, a tub of sand and a bottle of water.
The professor started off by filling up the jar with the big rocks and when the rocks reached the rim of the jar he held it up to the students and asked them if the jar was full.
They all agreed, there was no more room to put the rocks in, so it was full.
He asked again: “Is it full?” Then the professor picked up the bag of small pebbles and poured these in jar, and shook the jar so the pebbles filled the space around the big rocks.
“Is the jar full now?” he asked.
His students looked at each other and agreed that the jar was now completely full. “
Is it really full?” he asked again.
He then picked up the tub of sand and poured the sand into the jar between the pebbles and the rocks until it the tub was empty, and once again he held up the jar asking if it was full.
And, the students all agreed that the jar was full.
“Are you sure it’s full?” he asked as he picked up a bottle of water and tipped the water into the jar until it soaked up in all the remaining space in the sand, and his students laughed.
Holding the jar up for the students to see the professor went on to explain that the rocks, pebbles, sand and water represents everything in one’s life, and that the jar represents your life.
The rocks represent the most important things that have real value – one’s health, your family and one’s partner; those things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still have meaning.
The pebbles represent the things in life that matter, things like your job, house, hobbies and friendships but you could live without.
Of course, they certainly give life meaning, but they aren’t critical to having a meaningful life.
These things often come and go, and aren’t permanent or essential to one’s overall well-being.
The small stuff in life is represented by the sand and water – material possessions, chores and filler things people do like watching television or browsing the internet.
They don’t mean much to one’s life as a whole and are likely only done to just to fill time.
The point of the story of course is that if one starts with putting sand into the jar there won’t be room for rocks or pebbles. This also holds true with the things we let into our life.
If we spend all of our time on the small and insignificant things we’ll run out of room for the things that are actually important.
So, the lesson here is to make room for what’s important – to take care of the rocks first; those things that really matter and are critical to our long-term wellbeing and happiness.
Obviously, if you deal with the big issues first, the small issues can still fall into place. However, the reverse is not true.
This is where your focus should be in order to live a meaningful life (without over-obligating yourself).
Then you can fill in the pebbles and sand, knowing it’s ok to differ a little on these things because they aren’t so important.
So what do your Team Leaders actually do?
So, when you think about the lesson this story leaves us and apply them to how your Team Leaders fill their days and weeks with all the different tasks you have them do, ask yourself: Which tasks are the rocks, pebbles, sand and water?
When you think about the ‘rocks’, remember they’re the most important things a Team Leader needs do, and everything else that comes up are the pebbles, sand and water, right?
As mentioned earlier, the main reason most Team Leaders give for not providing on-the-job coaching or training is they just don’t have the time with all the different Administration, Human Resources and Supervision tasks they have to do every day.
Some have a point when you look at all the things they do each day and every week, because there are a lot of pebbles and sand they have to deal with.
If this is the case with your Team Leaders, have a look at which tasks can be handled by someone else aside from your Team Leader.
After all, a Team Leader’s primary focus should be on reaching their team’s goals each week, right?
You need to make sure they have the time and energy to focus on really effective leadership and coaching, and when you look at a list of typical tasks Team Leaders are faced with each day and week, their time and energy levels are at a premium!
Now, if your Team Leaders aren’t overburdened with too many tasks to deal with, then you’re really dealing with an excuse, and that’s an easy fix!
When you drill down with these people, their problem with coaching usually comes back to a couple of simple challenges they face:
- They really don’t know what problems their team members are having on their calls because they don’t spend enough time listening to their team members’ calls. And, if they don’t make the time for call monitoring how can they understand what areas their team member needs coaching with?
- As well, many Team Leaders haven’t been coached on how to score calls or give nurturing and corrective feedback or develop coaching plans to fix the problems. These are the rocks in their jar, so if they don’t have those skills you need to fix that – that’s one big rock of yours!
It’s vital that you coach your Team Leaders on these critical areas and ensure they’re effectively managing their time to prioritize time for call monitoring, providing corrective feedback and coaching to turn underperformers into consistently productive team members.
You can make sure they’re using their time effectively by having them complete a weekly schedule and give you a copy.
Be sure to review their schedule to ensure they’re focused on the coaching tasks you want, and make any necessary amendments if needed and their ‘No Time’ excuse goes away!
You also want to periodically check in with them throughout the week to make sure they’re doing their coaching tasks when scheduled to keep them accountable!
By adding all these essential ingredients together your Team Leaders will now have the time to help their team become more productive because they are finally getting the coaching they need!
Using the tool I created is the best way I know to have Team Leaders focus on their most important tasks and manage their time and energy as effectively as possible.
Just be aware that when people use this tool for the first time it will take a little while to pull it all together to really figure out which of the tasks and duties that need to be done are rocks, pebbles sand and water.
How to help prioritise how your Team Leaders spend their time
To get started you simply make a list of all the tasks they deal with each day, every week and include those done infrequently, and specify specific dates if necessary.
And, to make sure Team Leaders energy levels are up to their peak when looking after the rocks, when is the best time to schedule these activities.
Set up different Task areas in 4 different groupings:
- General Admin (e.g. reports that need to be done on a daily or weekly basis)
- General Supervision tasks (admin and hr related)
- Team Supervision list for the usual daily and weekly tasks, and
- Coaching and development
Once the list is completed work with your Team Leader to assign each tasks with a Priority Rating – A (Highest Priority – these are the rocks), B for Mid Priority and C for Low Priority (pebbles, sand and water tasks).
Then rank each task in your Priority Rating on a scale of 1 for the highest, and work your way down each task until you have every task assigned with a rating number.
This is really important, so don’t skip it because doing this really establishes task priorities and their importance in relation to all the other things a Team Leader needs to do every day and every week.
And, don’t be surprised if you see conflicts with different priorities that come up.
It’s going to happen, and when they do trust your gut and make a decision on which task comes before the other.
Later, if you find you need to make a change, simply make the change.
As Team Leaders are getting used to their schedule in the first few weeks this will likely happen, just be sure that if that comes up it’s not just because it’s inconvenient.
Amazing Team Leaders have the discipline to do what they need to do, when it needs to be done, not just when they feel like it!
Allocating the right time
Next, allocate the time it should typically take to complete the task effectively, so it’s not rushed.
If you’re going to do something, you need to give it the time it takes to get it done right!
Especially, when you’re dealing with your top priorities, you’re ‘A’ list priorities, your rocks.
After you’ve allocated the time they need, set the best day or days of the week and time or times of the day to do them.
When you do this also consider their energy levels.
Think about the task needs; make sure they will have the right energy level for that task, at that time of day.
As an example, replying to emails doesn’t consume as much energy as listening and scoring recorded calls, preparing a feedback session or providing a training session.
Just consider their natural energy flow throughout the day and take that into account.
For me personally, I try not to do much coaching or training right after a lunch break because I know my energy levels are down because my metabolism is working on digesting my food, which makes me a little slower or lethargic.
The same usually applies to those I’m working with too.
So in my case, right after lunch isn’t the best time for me to give people the best of me.
When you have all your tasks listed, prioritized, know the best days to do them and the best times of the day to do them simply put them into a schedule and see how it all fits.
The importance of breaks
Now, one thing to consider when thinking about energy levels, which I think are the first things they should put in their schedule before anything else (and as counter-intuitive as it may sound), are their breaks throughout the day, especially their meal break.
One way to look at this is kind of like when you’re on a plane and they do the safety briefing before you take off.
I’m sure you remember hearing the flight attendant saying that in the event that we experience cabin pressure breathing masks will drop down from the above panel, right?
Then they go on to say if you’re travelling with a small child to be sure to put your mask on first before putting their mask on them.
Now the reason why they tell you to do that first is to make sure that you’re in the best position to look after that child in case of an emergency.
You know if you put the mask on the child before yourself and you pass out, they’re not likely to be able to look after you or even themselves without your help.
That’s how you should look at making sure they take your breaks throughout the day.
They need time to relax and refresh throughout the day to generate the energy they need to be at their best looking after their team
Putting the plan in place to manage a Team Leader’s time
So, have them put their daily breaks into their schedule first, and then start filling in the schedule starting with the A 1 task and follow that sequence all the way through until you’re finished, and voila you have their weekly schedule.
And make sure they set time aside in their weekly schedule to prepare their next week’s schedule!
When it’s completed have them give you a copy, so you know what they’re supposed to be up to and where they’ll be if you need to find them.
You should also have them pin it up somewhere around their work area for anyone on their team to find them, and when they see what the Team Leader is doing they can make a decision about whether they have to interrupt them or save what they wanted for later.
Now, what happens if you find that after inputting most everything into the schedule there are still some tasks left over, what do you do about that?
If that happens the first thing is to think about whether or not that particular task is something a Team Leaders really should be doing and who else could be doing it instead!
As mentioned earlier, a Team Leader needs to focus on and spend our time and energy on the most important things that move the team closer to their goals – hose rocks that move the needle towards where you want the team to go!
Is it really going to help if you try to jam in as many things as possible into their day, including non-essential things?
Do you really want to dilute their time or energy coaching and training team members just to make way for something not as important?
Of course, not!
If something has to give it shouldn’t be one of your top priorities.
It has to be a lesser one, doesn’t it?
So, see who else can do that less important task instead of your Team Leader.
Sometimes people ask me what happens when they’ve finished a task before the allotted time.
Well, that’s simple… now they’ve got a little extra time up their sleeve to catch up on something they may not have not had enough time for earlier.
Now they have a little time to get ready for another task coming up or simply have more time to spend with their team being a cheerleader!
Like some more tips?
- Search: All our specialist courses for Contact Centre Team Leaders and Managers including those delivered by Marc Carriere >
- Read: The 7 Pillars you need to create amazing Call Centre Team Leaders >
- Read: Common call centre metrics (and how to improve them)
- Listen: to the CX Central Podcast with more tips for Contact Centre Managers and Team Leaders