Can’t Stand to See People Make Mistakes? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I am a trainer in a call center. It is fast, loud, and chaotic—and I love it. I take total newbies and train them to start at the most basic levels.

Once they leave me, they go on to other trainers who train them in more specialized work. They all have managers who, in theory, are supposed to give them feedback. The problem is that managers have anywhere from 20-30 direct reports at any given time and there is no way on earth for them to monitor everyone.

As I walk around, I hear my former students making basic errors and I can’t stand it. My problem is that my desire to correct them is almost out of my control. I heard one big error happening the other day, so I stuck my nose in and gave some feedback, nicely. The next thing I knew, that person’s manager (a peer, technically) was upset and complained to their own boss … well, big mess.

Should I just let people make mistakes? I trained these people in the first place, so I feel a certain pride in their performing well. Am I too much of a perfectionist? How should I handle this?

Once a Trainer

Dear Once a Trainer,

As a person who often calls in to call centers, I thank you for your commitment! I could tell you to let it go, that it isn’t worth the hassle, but I am not sure you could live with that.

The other option is to try to shift the training culture in the organization. The first step is to discuss your concerns with your own boss. See if they can use their influence to position you and other basic trainers as roving monitors 100 percent of the time. I can’t imagine that the senior leaders in the organization would object to all employees keeping an eye on quality at all times. You can also socialize the idea with other managers who are your peers, making it clear that your intention is not to step on anyone’s toes but to maintain the quality of the customer experience.

Even if you can’t get buy-in, you could position your role as basic trainer and giver of feedback for all operators always. Tell your newbies that even when they leave you, if you overhear them you will give them feedback—either praising or redirection—for the duration, as that is your job. That way, all of your trainees will expect feedback from you and won’t go running to their managers when you give it. The biggest problem will arise if you give feedback that is different from what another manager would give—so make sure the processes and procedures are clear and consistent. If your feedback is based on your opinion and the person’s manager’s opinion is different … well, big mess.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

One thought on “Can’t Stand to See People Make Mistakes? Ask Madeleine

  1. Dear Madeline: As always, a most compelling and challenging issue! “Once an Trainer” must be complimented.for her/his proprietary attitude towards responsibility for the company’s service to customers. A most worthy trait which, if his/her managers are not asleep, will greatly accrue to success! In my own career I have mentored many young people in various countries and have given them the same offer, namely, to come back to me whenever they need some unbiased opinion and advice. When they did. I asked them if their boss would agree with my advice. If yes, then great! If not, then they might consider speaking (negotiating?) circumspectly with their boss in a gentle and roundabout way so that the boss would not feel challenged by a proposed new direction. In the best of cases, the boss would come up with this new (and hopefully improved) direction as their own idea.
    Thanks, Peter Danilchick

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