“Do you think a leader should be feared or liked?”
It’s a question manager of account operations in Langhorne, Shelley Thrailkill, always asks everyone on her team when they apply for promotion. But it’s a trick question.
“I’m not looking for them to tell me a leader should be feared or liked, I’m looking for them to tell me that a leader should be respected.”
Respect is the hallmark of Shelley and her team, who handle complex customer service questions for a leading opto-electronics company. Respect is earned through personal relationship building and a willingness to lean on each other for help.
“People can’t be a number,” Shelley says. “If you can’t tell if someone is having a good day or a bad day, that’s a problem and you probably shouldn’t be a leader. My leaders focus a great deal of time on the agents, sitting with them, talking to them.”
“We’re going to do it together. And we don’t leave anyone behind.”
The personal approach builds a strong team, Shelley believes. “We’re going to do this together and knock it out of the park, or we will fail. But either way, we’re going to do it together. And we don’t leave anyone behind.”
Shelley’s team routinely knocks it out of the park. They have earned the respect and trust of their client, gaining their support to pioneer new customer service technology that SYKES is developing. Shelley’s team was the first to adopt OneSYKES, the company’s new customer service, cloud-based platform.
“We continue to be the beta tester for the company in all the new innovations, all the new tools,” Shelley says. The team’s work as an IT guinea pig is a source of pride, reinforced by their recognition by Chuck Sykes and David Pearson for their efforts. The recognition – plus the fact that they get to try all the new bells and whistles – has increased employee satisfaction.
“They love their job,” Shelley says. “They love coming in everyday, and how much easier technology is making their jobs.”
Shelley herself has been on the forefront of change and growth. She started as an agent with Alpine Access when it was barely two years old, when it had only seasonal, temporary clients. She was on Alpine’s first full time account, and rose through the ranks, becoming a trainer, then a continuous
“I want to make it a safe place, where everybody can feel accepted and they can be themselves.”
improvement manager for Alpine Access University, which eventually grew into Talent Sprout. She moved on to other roles in account management and learning services, before her current position, which blends her training and management background. “I make sure that the subject matter experts have all of the tools and the resources they need to construct training within the guidelines of the client. And I’m the person between our team and learning services so I make sure training is compliant with the SYKES side.”
Shelley makes sure her team is not just respected, but that they feel at home. “I want to make it a safe place, where everybody can feel accepted and they can be themselves.”
It’s not just words. Recently a team member approached Shelley and said, “You know, thank you for making this a safe place for me to be. Because if you weren’t here and you didn’t accept everybody for who they are, I don’t know if I’d be able to work here and be accepted.”
Shelley says, “That touched my heartstrings. The company that the Sykes family has built, that we are all a part of, that we all work towards, and just the people that we all are, we make it a safe place. And we all fit together and make it work.”