What makes a good manager - lessons from Schitt's Creek

5 Lessons You Can Learn From Schitt’s Creek on What Makes a Good Manager

At the start of the pandemic, I, like many people, needed a feel-good show to binge. The suspenseful thrillers that usually catch my attention seemed a little too eerie for the time. So, I turned to replaying episodes of The Office and seeking out a new cast to adore. I landed on the Rose Family – the quartet of David, Alexis, Moira and Johnny, at the center of the hit PopTV show Schitt’s Creek.  

As I devoured each episode, yeah, I laughed a lot but I was also inspired by how well the showrunners blended comedy with real, meaningful life lessons. And in fact, I kept thinking about what makes a good manager and how leaders can use lessons from Schitt’s Creek to not only improve community among their teams but to improve individual performance, too. 

So, I’m here for a quick philosophy seminar. Let’s dive in on five lessons I learned from Schitt’s Creek and how you can use each one to become an even better contact center leader.

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1. Connect your team to a common purpose. 

The common purpose for the Rose family at the start of the show? Get far, far away from the town Schitt’s Creek. They bonded over their desire to leave Schitt’s Creek, and that common purpose helped them work as a team to solve problems. 

Each family member picked up a side gig to stockpile cash as they planned their exit. And in the process, they started to lean on each other. They supported David’s Apothecary opening, Moira’s foray back into acting, and even Alexis’s PR venture. When they joined together, that’s when they found the most success. 

What a good manager can do to apply this lesson:

Some 83% of people say finding meaning in their day-to-day work is a top priority in their role. And once employees realize their purpose, productivity peaks. Unite your agents around something bigger than themselves to improve performance in your contact center. Create a culture where you encourage your team to work together to solve problems for customers. 

Make sure your agents understand your company’s goals, your contact center’s goals, and their role in reaching those. Your agent’s purpose should transcend the target of answering interactions and meeting KPIs. Instead, your team should understand the outcomes that follow those actions.

2. Coaching your team leads to better business results.

Johnny Rose, business extraordinaire, imparted tons of business wisdom on Stevie, the Rosebud Motel owner and manager. Johnny stepped in and helped Stevie run the business side of the motel when she inherited it. While Johnny worked alongside Stevie, he gave her real-life training in the moment while running the motel. And, when the motel began its growth strategy, he gave her the book he wrote during his tenure as CEO of Rose Video, “Fast Forward to Success: Business the Johnny Rose Way.” 

The Rosebud Motel then won awards and even grew their footprint – expanding to another location nearby. At the start of their quest to grow the motel, Johnny felt defeated at the slim chances of success when they bought a second location. But Stevie used what she learned from him to coach up and acquire funding to expand the Rosebud Motel across the nation. With a little bit of coaching from someone with more experience, Stevie flourished and took the motel to new heights. 

What a good manager can do to apply this lesson:

You’re the Johnny Rose of your contact center. You have insight into what’s happening across your contact center and customer experience, and it’s up to you to share it with your team. Ramp up coaching in your contact center and carve out time to give feedback to your agents daily. 

Use in-line training to leave feedback directly on interactions, so your agents have context for where to improve. And, it helps speed up the coaching process, so you can review more interactions, too. Turns out, when you coach immediately after interactions, research shows you can improve team performance by 12%. And, the best managers spend 75% of their time coaching. 

3. Give direct feedback. 

In season five of Schitt’s Creek, the town planned to put on a musical – with Jocelyn, Mayor Roland Schitt’s wife, leading the casting call. Alexis debuted her infamous A Little Bit Alexis performance proving she wasn’t a triple threat like her mother Moira, a former soap star, singer and town council member. Rather than telling Alexis she didn’t get the gig, Joceyln sneakily delivered chocolates to Alexis’s doorstep as a consolation prize for not scoring the leading role. 

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The gift sent mixed signals to Alexis. First, she had false hope thinking the gift was to congratulate her, not console her. When Jocelyn broke the news, Alexis was left confused as to why she didn’t win the role. The whole awkward debacle could’ve been avoided if Jocelyn would’ve given Alexis direct and candid feedback. 

What a good manager can do to apply this lesson:

Don’t offer your agents a consolation prize. Giving constructive feedback is hard. It’s uncomfortable at best and tortuous at its worst. But it’s so important to your agents’ growth and development. When you gloss over tough feedback, or worse yet, try to disguise it as positive, you lose your agents’ trust. It feels inauthentic, and then they struggle to listen and improve in the future when you do offer up solid advice. What’s more? Some 92% of people think negative feedback offers up the best opportunity to improve. And 42% of millennials – now the largest generation in the workforce – crave weekly feedback from their managers. 

Your agents want to know how they’re doing, so tell them. Share specific and actionable feedback to help your team improve. Don’t just point out where they fall short, but jump in with action items they can use to do better next time. Focus on pieces of an interaction where you can add context and coach your agent to improve. Point out where they got off track or where they used the wrong language with customers. Clue them in on how they’re doing, and use detailed examples to help them understand, then improve.

4. Give your agents some space.

David and Alexis are two thirty-somethings who are completely financially dependent on their mom and dad. When the Rose family loses their fortune, Alexis and David get a reality check. They’re forced to pick up the slack and find some independence, so they can contribute to the family fund. 

And it wasn’t until David and Alexis felt this sense of autonomy that they discovered what they wanted out of their careers and life. When given a little slack, these characters (eventually) ran with it. They built up their confidence and felt capable tackling new challenges. That kind of personal growth sprouted two up-and-coming entrepreneurs committed to working hard and succeeding. 

What a good manager can do to apply this lesson:

The number one factor impacting an agent’s experience at work is the empowerment they feel to offer customers unique resolutions.

Give your agents the tools and resources they need to work more autonomously. Create processes and invest in technology to eliminate easy tasks from your agents’ plates. And, encourage your agents to own customer relationships. Empower them to credit a customer’s account if that’s what’s needed to fix a situation. Or, give them the go ahead to spend an extra five minutes on the phone if it means resolving the customer issue on the first contact. A little bit of independence goes a long way (for your team and your customers).

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5. Help your agents see their potential, and they’ll be happier. 

Season 5 of Schitt’s Creek revolved around the town’s upcoming musical – Cabaret. Since Alexis was deemed a bit “too talented” for the lead role, Stevie snagged the coveted spot. She rehearsed for months but was still scared (Schittless?) about performing. Taking on the lead role in front of an audience rather than behind the motel front desk pushed Stevie’s boundaries. 

When she got on stage and performed “Maybe This Time,” she realized her potential. It opened her eyes to new opportunities and taught her to believe in herself, first, then invest in herself, too. Her new-found confidence helped her explore her talents and find happiness and fulfillment in her life. 

What a good manager can do to apply this lesson:

When your agents feel supported and are happy at work, so are your customers. Contact center leaders like you have the chance to help your agents find happiness in their current roles, and in their future careers. Turns out, two out of every three employees say a big reason for quitting their jobs is because of inadequate career development. That means, what makes a good manager is creating the right growth and development strategies to save nearly 70% of your agents from leaving. And along the way, you save your contact center thousands in turnover costs, too. 

Find out what drives your agents, what short-term goals they have, and where they see themselves in the next five years. Then, help them get there. Use your 1:1s to develop your agents based on what you learn. If Susie wants to be a manager, start coaching her on how to lead a team. Let her peer-review a handful of interactions each month to hone her skills. If Jessica wants to become an account executive, challenge her to upsell current clients when a product or service meets their needs. 

Create targeted career maps and action plans to help your team grow, and watch engagement and customer happiness reach all-time highs.

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