Wed | Oct 17, 2018

Pronouns Predict Performance: The Critical Role of 'teamspeak'

Published:Sunday | September 18, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Do a quick exercise. Read the following statement and select the most appropriate response.

"I told them how important it was to have your documents ready this morning. I can't understand why they did not follow through."

a. The client services representative (CSR) struck the right note of empathy with the client.

b. The CSR created an environment in which venting to defuse anger was allowed.

c. By displaying empathy and defusing anger, the CSR adopted customer service best practices.

d. Other, explain _______________.

What is your response?

I choose 'd', and here's why:


Pronoun pointers


The words that stand out for me in the statement are 'I', 'them' and 'they'. The other words lose their significance in the presence of those pronouns.

It is essential to understand that excellent external relations cannot be sustained on top of dysfunctional internal relationships.

When we conduct customer service training and introduce the concept of internal and external customers, we need to take time to help the organisation - not just the CSRs - to understand the implications of the concept.

What happens at home is ultimately manifested in the street. Unhealthy relations in the organisation spill over on the outside.

In this case, the CSR has clearly demonstrated that preservation of his personal image is more important than loyalty to the team and presenting a unified front. This points a finger to underlying problems and disconnections.


More than outings


Now, team-building intervention goes beyond promoting positive interpersonal relationships. It is great to have team members get along well it impacts performance, makes people want to come to work and reduces staff turnover.

However, one reason the CSR

in our case study might have separated himself from the team is his frustration with the performance of his team mates.

He thinks it is unreasonable for him to make promises to clients, which are rarely fulfilled, and then have to turn around and face the brunt of the customers' ire. He is no longer going to defend the slackness. His position needs to be addressed.




The solution to this situation is not solely to have sessions to reinforce collective responsibility, unity and team loyalty.

A critical component must bring responsibility and accountability to a place of centrality. The organisation must fully appreciate that when the CSR makes a promise, it is binding on the entire organisation as a cohesive whole. Each member must see that promise as if it was made personally and commit to honouring their name. Change 'him' to 'me'.




The challenge with customer service in many organisations is that at the highest levels it is seen from the perspective of hiring people with friendly personalities in client-facing roles. This is simplistic and misses the opportunity to create a service ethic across the organisation.

An essential platform on which to build a service ethic is to pay careful attention to supporting systems. The vast majority of customer service frustrations are, at their very core, systemic failures. The way the leadership has organised things is actually designed to provide poor customer experiences.

Am I saying that the leaders have put in place systems that ensure that customers are going to be upset? Yes, precisely so.

For example, leaders persist with an archaic and dysfunctional system (if we can call it that) to manage their records. Retrieving documents is like going through a maze. Yet, we are surprised that customers go elsewhere because they are tired of having their phone credit run out while waiting on a simple request.

Customers shout in the bank because the leadership fails to apply queuing theory to reduce the waiting time required to make a simple deposit.




Pronouns and 'teamspeak' provide the warning signals. They expose the truth. The remedy demands proactive action encompassing review of systems, values, personnel, leadership style, procedures and culture.

People + Systems = Stakeholder satisfaction

Leaders can request a no-cost 20-minute tele-consultation.


• Trevor E.S. Smith is a behaviour modification coach with the Success with People Academy home of the 'Certified Behavioural Coach' and '3-D Team Leader' international