Steve Bederman with Fernando Corona on the Sage Executive Podcast

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Steve Bederman
Steve BedermanPresident & CEO
Contact Center industry leader. Published author.

Published July 20, 2020

Fernando Corona

And so, right now, what are call centers? I guess, what’s their struggle of current call centers that don’t have your guys’ service or product?

Steve Bederman

Well, really, a critical time with the pandemic. Most people, I think you may be too, are at home, I’m at home – you can see. We’re all working from home. So to be able to do that properly at a contact center who’s connecting with third parties all over the world, you need to be able to have the technology that allows them to continue their business with the same visibility anywhere in the world.

This article is part of Steve’s interview with Fernando Corona.
Listen to it here:

Without our technology, you’re pretty well stuck. You know, there isn’t much you can do. I suppose you could use Zoom, but if you’re making millions of calls a day, you need a much more organized path to do it.

Fernando

That makes sense. Now, in your experience of building out your team, what would you say is the best part of building and being a leader?

Steve

Oh my gosh, it’s building a team. It’s being able to influence a team. You know, I’ve been in management for 40 years and probably 20 of them, I’ve gotten better at being a leader and recognizing the difference. It’s taken quite a long time to understand what the role is in my position. And the role is really, to be able to coach, mentor, and build people so that they can really, at the end of it all, be better than they were for touching you. And that’s personally my goal is to have that influence with people.

Fernando

So, when you’re initially bringing them on… you hear people say, “business is business and personal is personal, you try not to mix the two.” What do you kind of say with that? Can you be a leader and not touch on the personal? What’s your take?

Steve

I would tell you that it’s not so much a skill as who you are as a person and really live within honesty. Live within the reality. So, we’re at work to work, you know, we’re talking to people about work, but we’re also talking to people. And people have a whole dynamic that goes on that gets them into that seat in that moment at that time. And you need to be available to them and you need to be natural with them and not force them.

I can tell you our story: many years ago, I had a boss of a business that was not very good with people. And he was reading self-help books on how to be a better manager and a leader. And one day, he was walking between two buildings, and he walked out just to one of the people working for him. And he walked up and he goes, “Hey, how are you doing?” And they stopped and they were surprised. He said, they started to answer and he started walking past them and went to the next person. And I realized that my gosh, he read the first part of that book, but he forgot the second part.

Fernando

Nice. Yeah. So, then it sounds like you would say, hey, it’s okay to be human and put something personal in there because they’re not machines are not robots.

Steve

Right. At the same time, I think it’s important that people recognize what our roles are and why we’re there. For an example, for me, my job is to always be in management mode, and that requires me to recognize, though that I might be hitting somebody off skew, and they may not be in that mode in that moment. And I have to pause and not be so forceful, that I forget that there’s a human being there, too.

Fernando

Now we’re going to go into an opportunity where you’ve already dropped a good amount of value. And I know you’re here joking about it before, like, “I don’t know what I’m going to be able to share.” But this is an opportunity for you to really share with other execs out there. What kind of advice would you give to them? And so, I’ll leave that to you.

Steve

Well, you know, as a leader of a company, or the management of the company, you have to understand what those differences are, and often what happens is people get into my seat through working hard being entrepreneurial, it grows and grows and my gosh, they look around, they have a few hundred employees or they have a lot of clients. And all of a sudden, that same person is not working. And they look around and say “Now what am I supposed to do?” Well the job that I’m sitting in is really the job of saying, “My job is to find what is our vision?” So, get clear on your vision, assign a strategy to that vision, know what the tactics are to meet that strategy, and then use your management to implement that. But you have to have a single value system, a single vision, a single core value, and a single strategy. And it’s not an option for anybody. But at that point that I from my seat have those pieces in place, at least the wireframe for it. At that point, you bring your management in, and at that point, your management begins to implement and build the tools that you need to do it. It’s a very clear approach. I would tell you that a lot of people building up. and not planning to be in this seat, and finding themselves here don’t know that they make it very complicated. But it’s very, very, almost singular in nature.

Fernando

Yeah, but how do you know how far to go with your strategy? Is your strategy at the end of the year, or is it three years? Not even that, at what point do you declare an exit strategy? Or like, “Hey, we don’t we don’t want to grow any more than this.” I don’t know. I guess I have more questions.

Steve

So that’s iterative. Fernando, I think that there’s really only so far you can you can see into the future and be pressured. So, you really want to take the area that you feel you can control because remember management is control. Know everything you can all the time, and then use that information to control what you can control. And if I can control within the next 24 months, then I’m going to plan for that 24 months, and I’m going to match that plan or against the vision that we have for the company. And then that plan is specifically tied into the strategy. And the strategy is really built there for one reason, simply to implement that plan. And so that plan will take you to steps. But if you’re saying, like the old Soviet Union, “I’m going to build five-year plans, five-year plans, and five-year plans.” You may be where there is no more Soviet Union today. I think you’ll find it too far in the future, be reasonable about planning to the level you can control.

Fernando

Hmm, yeah. And I’m sure that’s practice. Because anybody who’s like… you start going one way, and then I wonder if things probably pivot and you change and something happens like right now, right? Yeah. And it’s like, you got to be able to-

Steve

But that’s the exciting piece. And it can happen, not just with an entrepreneurial company, it can happen with major corporations like NobelBiz, it can happen on any level, that same dynamic and that’s really the thing that lights people’s fire, is to do that.

Fernando

Well, Steve, what other leaders that you know you’re claiming, are capable of seeing this vision and strategy that you would like to acknowledge, that could share some of their value or some of their experiences their wisdom onto others. Who would you kind of recommend hopping on to the podcast?

Steve

Well, the podcast specifically, I think of certain… mostly people that have started as entrepreneurs, and that have grown into their position through the different variables that they have been hit with, and then reacted in a really strong and successful fashion. I can think of one in particular that just popped into my mind when you talked her name was Christa Heibel. And Christa, she’s just incredible. I have others that I could bring to you. I think that you would find that she in particular, is strong. She visits lots of businesses. I have another person Rebekah Johnson, it’s interesting. I know, it sounds like I’m only picking women in history. There are great men too. But in the moment, I’m thinking of the most-

Fernando

That’s totally cool!

Steve

I’m thinking of the most dynamic people, but Rebekah Johnson has built a company called Numeracle, very strong. What I find exciting to me are people are functionally very sound, but willing to step out of their comfort zone and take their enthusiasm and do something with it. So, it’s really taking your enthusiasm, and use your functionality to make it work. So, a lot of people have great ideas. Not a lot of people know how to implement those ideas. So, the ones I recommend, like a Rebekah, like a Christa, are the people that know how to match those two together.

Fernando

No. Yeah, thank you for that. The last piece, and this is kind of a fun question for you. You know, you have your team that’s all remote and you guys are global. So, what are some ways that you celebrate, either by yourself and family, or with the whole team?

Steve

Yippee! No. I’m kidding. You have to know your wins. We actually celebrate on many levels. And I love that part. Because honestly, every week, probably every day, if each of us in our management roles, see what people are doing, the effort they’re putting, there are a lot of celebrations. They’re not just a major, “look at what we are as a company,” it’s “look what we are as a person.” One of the things we do is we bring in ways to engage with people to show our celebration of them. So as an example, three days a week we do desktop yoga. So, we’ll have video sessions where everybody comes and sits for 15 minutes, just 15 minutes sessions with yoga where we’re celebrating them. And we have monthly meetings of our worldwide staff all together, on Zoom together.

Fernando

On gallery view….

Steve

Yeah, and everybody talking about it. And everybody recognizing that the celebration, it’s not really founded in this award. I think that’s a bit contrived. I think it’s founded in, “Hey, Fernando. Thanks, man. You’re really doing a great job, and your 400 peers here.” You know?

Fernando

Yeah, I totally think appreciation goes a long way. From your experience, with the different employees that you have, especially as you’re building a team, how I want to say this… how are you ensuring that the ones that you may not be inter-facing with consistently, the certain levels below where you are, how do you ensure that they’re receiving the same level of appreciation? Or how do you have a pulse multiple level down?

Steve

Well, it’s really about how do you train management? So how I manage needs to be how you manage and how you manage to the next level needs to be similar. Obviously, with who we are as people ourselves, in terms of the touch points that are required with people all the time. So, you have to pick the right people, you have to train the right management, you have to hire correctly but mostly you have to recognize that every single person in the company is equal. Equal in that they’re valid and valuable they are to the organization. Why would you have somebody if they weren’t? Why would I need that seat if I didn’t need that seat? And if I need that seat, how do I know that seat has any greater or less value than some other seats? Kind of like how Challenger fell out of the sky and it was just an O-ring. That O-ring was pretty darn valuable right? You might have overlooked it you might have said how important is that compared to this whole rocket sitting out there but people are the same and if you don’t take the time with everyone in terms of culture, connectivity, and in interest, then you just shouldn’t be in management.

Fernando

This is all this is all been super valuable. Steve.

Suddenly, you see the same contact centers that have been doing outbound, converting to inbound so quickly. I just admire the heck out of them, to tell you the truth!

Summing Up

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This interview first appeared on FlyingVGroup.com.

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