MANY managers are not aware of the talent that their team members possess. If you want to have a strong and self-confident team with members who listen to one another, all you have to do is ask the right questions and listen.

One of the best ways to feel connected with others in a company is to have good meetings where information is shared and people leave the room energised and ready for challenges.

Ask questions

When I owned my hairstyling salon, I opened our regular staff meetings by asking everyone to share what they were most proud of in their personal and professional lives since the previous meeting.

Too often, such events go unacknowledged by us. The discipline of needing to report made everyone more aware of their accomplishments.

This technique works very well. At a seminar I presented for the San Jose AT&T Multilingual Call Centre, I was warned that English was the second or even third or fourth language of many in the audience.

"We hire people for their ability to call and talk in their native languages with others who speak that language," the training manager told me. I was somewhat nervous because I was about to spend four hours with them.

For every new audience, you need to ask yourself: "What is my number one connection with this group?" I realised that we were all immigrants! We had all chosen to leave our native countries to seek opportunities in America.

One of the exercises I led was designed to build self-confidence and position them positively with upper management. "Imagine you are at an AT&T company picnic or social or business event," I told them. "One of the executives comes up to you and asks, 'What do you do for us?'"

A young woman said: "I would tell him that I'm just an associate."

I brought her up to the front of room.

"Tell me specifically what it is that you do here," I said.

"I'm from India," she replied, "and I call people who speak Hindi.

"Naturally, most people who speak Hindi have relations in India, and they spend more money on phone calls than most other ethnic groups," she said.

"In fact, we are the smallest team in this call centre - there are only seven of us - but we bring in the most revenue."

Everyone burst out laughing. She thought she was "just an associate", but actually she was a top revenue producer. I suggested that when an executive asked her what she did, she should say, "I have the privilege of being part of the smallest team that brings in the most revenue in this call centre."

I had her repeat this, and you could see her standing taller, holding her head higher as her self-confidence expanded.

Then I asked everyone to write a list of all the accomplishments they were proud of, even the most insignificant items, and I gave a prize for the longest list.

Many participants proudly shared their lists. I wish you could have heard these incredible stories.

One man was the editor of the newspaper for his ethnic community. Someone else was the treasurer of a large church.

Their accomplishments went on and on, all from people who might also have answered the question, "And what do you do?" with, "Oh, I'm just an associate."

"All your future success will come from building on your past success," I told them. "That means acknowledging it!"

At the end of the four hours, every single person in the room shook my hand and thanked me. They also thanked the training manager for inviting them and organising the session.

When they had all gone, I looked at her and said, "Did you know about all these accomplishments, especially those outside of work?"

She shook her head. "No, I had no idea at all."

At a time when many call centres are trying to do more with trimmed-down budgets, a well-run company meeting can still provide increased self-esteem and insights into the many talents and achievements of team members.

Learning more

By discovering the full range of each associate's talents, you have valuable resources for filling slots and promoting from within. Boosting the self-esteem of team members by recognising their range of talents, even those shared in the community, increases their productivity and enthusiasm for delivering excellent service.