I remember clearly when I was told about the Support Manager position at Intraway four years ago: the person who was at that time the Manager of the area was about to take on another position within the company and therefore he told me about the need to find a replacement. The fact was that he was thinking of me to take his place, a proposal that clearly would require all my willpower – and all his patience– as an introduction to the post would be required.
It is common knowledge at the company that the support area is one of the most complex to work in. This has to do with its main functions; assist and track customers requests according to the severity of cases until the proper restoration of service or reduction of the severity of an incident; always ensuring compliance of SLA; providing technical support 24/7, 365 days a year; strengthening the trust with the client to achieve active participation in future business opportunities. This implies that members of this particular team, in addition to the essential technical training, must meet a number of other skills related to self-management and self-management tasks: conflict tolerance, diplomacy dealing with customers – to whom team members will constantly have to hold in critical situations – and especially a proactive and collaborative spirit towards the other teammates.
As a person who had been part of the support area for a while, I already knew what was required to be part of it – and not die trying – but, what kind of skills should the person who leads this team have?
After sleeping on it, I found a definition that I personally consider quite adequate: whoever is serving as Manager of Support must have the ability to Learn to Learn.
In an article published by the Autonomous University of Madrid, the concept Learn to Learn is described as “the ability to pursue and persist in learning, to organize one’s own learning, which means performing effective control of time and information, individually and as a group. This competence includes awareness of one’s own needs and learning processes, identifying available opportunities and the ability to overcome obstacles in order to learn successfully. It means obtaining, processing and absorbing new knowledge and skills as well as seeking and using a guide. Learning to Learn means a having a commitment to build knowledge from past learning and life experiences in order to re-use and apply knowledge and skills in a variety of contexts: at home, at work, in education and instruction. Motivation and confidence are crucial in the person’s proficiency.
May there be other definitions that illustrate more clearly what managing Support involves? I’ll try to break down the definition to relate it to the organizational area I am talking about:
- “The ability to pursue and persist in learning, to organize one’s own learning, leading to perform an effective time and report monitoring, individually and together “ In the Support area it is always possible to resolve conflicts either by applying the technical knowledge in the team, innovating in the way things are done or maybe a combination of these. The Support Manager must be able to guide the team to research alternative solutions. He should also be able to promote actions to manage working time effectively, sharing the necessary information with the team members involved in different cases.
- “It Includes awareness of the needs and processes of their own learning, identifying available opportunities, the ability to overcome obstacles in order to learn successfully” Aren’t we, the members of the Support team, but survivors trying once and again to apply different alternatives for resolving conflicts while respecting the established processes, with opportunities to be original when it comes to devising solutions and above all, essentially being able to see every critical situation as a new opportunity to succeed? That’s the goal that a Support leader should aspire to, draw lessons from each situation, assimilate personally, but also share it with the rest of the members, empower and include the team in the most critical situations but also publicly recognize their achievements.
- “It includes obtaining, processing and assimilating new knowledge and skills as well as seeking and using guidance”: this part of the definition highlights the leading function of the Support Manager because he should not only guide the team to respect all the working processes, but also must have enough mental and emotional openness to incorporate learnings from other initiatives.
- “It means the commitment to build knowledge from previous learning and life experiences in order to re-use and apply knowledge and skills in a variety of contexts: at home, at work, in education and training”: COMMITMENT primarily from the person who serves as Support Manager to be consistent and coherent between what he says and does, besides being a reference of good working attitudes. This special area requires flexible timetables because in critical situations the standard weekly hours are surpassed and people may have to work all weekend to solve a given problem. Consequently, the Manager of this area should be able to manage work in order to help the members find a balance among work-family-rest-leisure. This should be taken into account to prevent demotivation caused by excessive stress or personal problems that affect the quality of work of some members in particular and of the team in general.
- “Motivation and confidence are crucial in people’s proficiency“: the Support Manager must be a leader who encourages the team. A confident person to make key decisions for the proper functioning of the team, someone present to answer questions, listen to suggestions and provide timely feedback.
Being a Support Manager can be a huge challenge, especially because there are many requirements to do it successfully. The responsibility to guide this kind of team, where people resolve conflicts day in day out, is enormous. This is a great truth, as great as the fact that traveling this road is really worth it.