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Leadership lessons for call centers from the British Army


What do a ship captain and a contact center leader have in common? Both run an operation which involves many people and that requires the coordination of diverse variables. A call center organizes its work according to different channels of communication, while the Navy does it by the means of its fleet, which sails through the 140 million square kilometers of the world’s oceans.

For many years, Andrew St. George, teacher of the Business School in the United Kingdom, has researched about the leadership style of the British Navy, which has an amazing internship and may contribute a good deal to the leaders of the contact center industry.

It is curious to think that for the ship captains of this Navy the so called leadership “soft” skills are essential. However, it happens to be this way; for them nothing replaces the happiness, the effective narrative and the collective memory.

How do they implement this? Happiness, besides being an election, is contagious. The happy leader shares his trust in any environment; this has an impact on people’s productivity and happiness in relation to their work.

Can happiness be taught? The British Navy takes advantage of any informal opportunity to facilitate it: game organization, anecdotes telling and the “joke” performances at common spaces, such as dinner and lunch. Thus, they facilitate communication and the distance which hierarchy might impose.

The training activities and the informal spaces at the call center can be drawn upon this concept, removing solemnity from the training and adding more fun. Team celebrations are another way to generate happiness in the employment climate; and besides they are facilitated by a young population, which is proponent of festivities. Why not letting them organize the celebrations?

As for the collective memory, we may say that it is tantamount to what the companies call their philosophy or history, except that the first recovers the informal experiences of the leaders and they assign a space for exchange. A mid-morning tea and an expedition outside the facilities, which includes activities such as climbing and kayak, are some of the moments appointed by the Navy for the collective memory building.

Its worth lies in focusing in what people really did during important or minor situations; this is what provides cohesion and inspiration for future challenges.

The same happens at a call center: let’s think how many stories or anecdotes a supervisor might tell his team, his manager or another agent. Aren’t these the stories that constitute the company’s history?

It’s the people that work at the companies who constitute everyday its history, why not recognizing their prominence letting them transmitting it?

Let’s take advantage of the three British Navy lessons: happiness, effective narration and collective memory.

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Manual for Strategic Management Contat Center

Written by Elsa Basile. Learning Goals, Issues Debates, Case Studies on Human Capital, Technology, Operations and Management