Mark Brody Show Notes Page
Mark Brody was very focused on his team and wanting them to excel. Unfortunately, he realized it was because he wanted to have the recognition for himself and that he was failing to consider the larger ecosystem. In becoming a better leader, he made the mind shift to focus on everybody in the contact center being successful.
Mark Brody was born in the Kansas City area, but grew up primarily in Nashua, NH. His parents have been married for 51 years and he is the oldest of 4 siblings, the youngest of whom is 15 years younger.
He tried to convince his parents to name his youngest sibling “Ooops”, but for some reason, they didn’t think it would go over well. Growing up, Mark was involved in sports, mainly baseball and basketball – his mother wouldn’t sign the permission slip for football as she once told him, Jewish boys don’t play football.
Growing up his family was very involved in local and state politics. It was this heavy involvement in politics that taught him how to develop an opinion and be able to support it with factual data. This is not uncommon for what contact center leaders have had to do when leading teams, projects, or conducting research on process improvements.
Mark first started off in the contact center industry while attending The University of Kansas. He was staying at school for the summer and needed a job. He had applied for and was offered a position mowing lawn or he could accept a position working in an office setting. He chose indoors to avoid the summer heat and began manually dialing directory assistance as part of a skip tracing team for Sallie Mae.
Over the years, Mark has had the privilege of working with great leaders in a variety of collections and customer service verticals including credit cards, contact center outsourcing, auto finance, mortgage servicing, third party collections, and the student loan industry where he has spent about half of his 29-year career. He has worked for such companies as Sallie Mae, Capital One Auto Finance, Metris Companies, United Recovery Systems (now Alltran), and Texas Guaranteed among others.
Mark Brody is now the founder of Brohawk Solutions, LLC, and President of The Austin Contact Center Alliance in Austin, Texas. He is also a board member for The Professional Teleservices Management Association in San Antonio, TX, and on the South-Central Board for PACE. He has written several articles for the Contact Center Pipeline on the topics of leadership and employee engagement.
Mark currently resides in Round Rock, Texas where he lives with his girlfriend, their 8-month old foster daughter, and two fur children. He also has two sons who are currently attending college.
Tweetable Quotes and Mentions
“Employee engagement in the contact center industry is the most critical part of what goes on in a contact center.” – Click to Tweet
“If you’re not engaged with your workforce then everything else is fluff.” – Click to Tweet
“Trying is a mild form of failure.” – Click to Tweet
“For leaders to really understand the employee engagement, they have to look at all aspects of the employee journey.” – Click to Tweet
“What are your frontline leaders doing in order to support the first 30 days of the employee journey?” – Click to Tweet
“What is it that’s going to draw somebody to your contact center over somebody else’s?” – Click to Tweet
“Companies need to understand why employees are even coming in their door.” – Click to Tweet
“Our coaching style may not mesh with somebody’s receipt of information style.” – Click to Tweet
“If we would have thought we knew everything back 10 or 15 years ago, we would have been stuck back 10 or 15 years ago.” – Click to Tweet
“If I close my mind to learning, that’s the only thing that’s going to stop me from becoming a better leader.” – Click to Tweet
“Leadership is not about you. It’s about your team, it’s about the organization, it’s about others.” – Click to Tweet
“Take negativity, chunk it out of your life.” – Click to Tweet
“Focus on the things that are positive and work well in your life, and don’t complain about things.” – Click to Tweet
Hump to Get Over
Mark Brody was very focused on his team and wanting them to excel. Unfortunately, he realized it was because he wanted to have the recognition for himself and that he was failing to consider the larger ecosystem. In becoming a better leader, he made the mind shift to focus on everybody in the contact center being successful.
Advice for others
Allow people to speak and express themselves.
Holding him back from being an even better leader
Nothing. If I close my mind to learning, that’s the only thing that’s going to stop me from becoming a better leader.
Best Leadership Advice
Leadership is not about you. It’s about your team, it’s about the organization, it’s about others.
Secret to Success
I care. I care about seeing others improve, I care about seeing others be successful.
Best tools in business or life
Focus on positive. Take negativity, chunk it out of your life. Focus on the things that are positive and work well in your life, and don’t complain about things.
Contacting Mark Brody
email: mark [at] brohawksolutions.com
Resources and Show Mentions
Show Transcript:Click to access edited transcript
225: Mark Brody: I focused on everybody being successful
Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader podcast, where we explore convenient yet effective shortcuts that will help you get ahead and move forward faster by becoming a better leader. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.
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Jim Rembach: Okay, Fast Leader legion today I’m excited because I have somebody on the show today who is really going to get down into something that oftentimes people just don’t see. Mark Brody was born in the Kansas City area but grew up primarily in Nashua, New Hampshire. His parents have been married for 51 years and he is the oldest of four siblings the youngest of whom is 15 years younger. He tried to convince his parents to name his youngest siblings Oops but some for some reason that didn’t go over very well. Growing up Mark was involved in sports mainly baseball and basketball. His mother wouldn’t sign the permission slip for football as she once told him Jewish boys don’t play football.
Growing up his family was very involved in local and state politics it was this heavy involvement in politics that taught him how to develop an opinion and be able to support it factually with data. This is not uncommon for what contact center leaders have to do when leading teams, projects or conducting research on process improvements. Mark first started off in the context in her industry while attending the University of Kansas. He was staying at school for the summer and needed a job he had applied for and was offered a position mowing lawns or he could accept the position working in an office setting he chose indoors to avoid the summer heat and began manually dialing directory assistance as part of a skip tracing team for Sallie Mae.
Over the years Mark has had the privilege of working with great leaders in a variety collections and customer service verticals including credit cards, contact center outsourcing, auto finance, mortgage servicing, third party collections and a student loan industry where he spend about half of his 29 year career. He has worked for such companies as Sallie Mae, Capital One, Auto Finance, Metris Companies, United Recovery systems now Ultron and Texas Guaranteed among others. Mark Brody is now the founder of Bro Hawk Solutions and the president of the Austin Contact Center Alliance in Austin, Texas and he’s also a board member for the professional Teleservices Management Association in San Antonio and on the south-central Board for Pace.
He’s written several articles for a contact center pipeline on the topics of leadership and employee engagement. Mark currently resides in Round Rock, Texas where he lives with his girlfriend their eight month old foster daughter and two furred children. He also has two sons who are currently attending college. Mark Brody, are you ready to help us get over the hump?
Mark Brody: I am ready to help get over the hump.
Jim Rembach: I appreciate you being here. Now I’ve given my legion a little bit about you but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better?
Mark Brody: Jim, I am passionate about employee engagement. I think employee engagement in contact centers in the contact center industry is the most critical part of what goes on in a contact center. Forget about the technology forget about the incentives and all the prizes if you’re not engaged with your workforce then everything else is just fluff. I’ll give you an example, a few years ago I worked for an organization and it was a start-up branch of this organization and I knew that culture was going to be the thing that was going to define this. Instead of just bringing people in off the street or bringing people from other departments who seemed to be high performers I brought in people that fit a certain cultural mode that had personalities that we’re going to allow the group to become a cohesive unit a high functioning team and what that resulted in is three consecutive years of zero percent turnover rate.
Did you know in the contact center industry whether you have a small group or a large group medium-sized group doesn’t matter having a zero percent turnover rate is almost unheard of The way that I work with companies in doing that is I take a look at how engaged they are how engaged leadership is with their employees. Do they create a fun environment? Do they do they create an environment where learning is essential and mistakes are okay? Those types of environments are the ones that that that are definitely the most successful. The conversations that are that are occurring aren’t punitive but they’re coaching and developmental.
When I work with clients today as part of my company, BroHawk Solutions, I focus on what are the conversations that are occurring within the contact center? How is this resulting in operational excellence in a higher customer experience or a better customer experience that’s where I really focused my efforts on.
Jim Rembach: You’re talking from a place that I have passions from as well. I became certified as an employee retention specialist. I became certified as a better place to work expert. I became certified in emotional intelligence and because when I was in operations I knew that when my employees were connected and taken care of—that the customer was taken care of—almost by default, it just happen. I would jokingly say that, you know what? We can actually put the survey industry out of business if we just took care of our employees first because we would know that the customers were just needed what they came for. But when you start talking about—you mentioned something about the hiring and on boarding and the selection process there’s a lot of contact centers that do that. They screen a little bit better they try to find the right fit and the reality is I don’t know if any contact center that will sit up and confess that, oh yeah, we hire disengaged employees, nobody does that. Alright so if they’re already engaged when they come in, how do we really keep the engagement?
Mark Brody: You used a word that was very interesting to me just a second ago the trying, we’re always trying to bring in the best employees. When I was in third party collections people would tell us all the time, well I’m going to try to pay my bill trying whatever and it became a joke because trying is a mild form of failure. If you’re doing is trying to do better than you did the day before and not really taking a look at what were what were the root causes of why someone became disengaged, was it that they that they couldn’t get along with their peers? Were their personality clashes? Was it that the training was just giving them the baseline and the questions that were actually occurring were well above what was occurring during training? Was training long enough? Were the systems confusing? So for leaders to really understand the employee engagement aspect they have to look at all aspects of that employee journey and make sure that they’re hitting on all cylinders during that employee journey.
I started picturing myself going through that agent process. I worked in contact center operations for many years and I’ve been in operations as far as working in them and definitely been in several from a consulting perspective. I started thinking about all of that journey and looking at all of these different touches and interactions that they have with both the company, the systems, and the customer. I started wondering about at what particular point, and maybe it’s all of them, do these agents really start to have areas of struggle? When you start looking at their life and their journey from an ecosystem perspective everything that that they have purview to and that touches them, where do you find most companies struggle the most?
The first 30 days after somebody is released out of training. Because what I found is that a lot of companies will go ahead and do a good to decent job or decent a good job in giving new employees the system knowledge, have them listen to calls that are the typical type of calls that they’re going to be occurring. And then they get to the floor and they have a question and all they hear is cricket’s and they can’t get their questions answered they become disengaged they start making up information. And part of the process is also looking at what the supervisors are doing or the frontline leaders are doing in order to support the first 30 days or 60 days of the employee journey. That’s where people are deciding do I want to stay or do I want to go not to quote the clash or anything but that’s really what they’re thinking. Is this a place that I could see myself three years from now five years from now even at the end of this year based on my initial experience? And that’s where a lot of organizations fall short in the employee journey.
Jim Rembach: In addition, I think that there has to be a whole lot of humility from an organizational perspective because otherwise you will just live in total denial, it’s not our fault it’s somebody else’s fault. They also will buy into the fact when somebody tells them, oh well I found a better opportunity and that’s why they left. For me it’s like, what even gave you the interest in looking at something else?
Mark Brody: Yes, Jim, one of the things that I talk to new hires about and if I go into a company I wanted to sit in on a new higher class and one of the things that I asked them is, why did you come to work here? And it’s amazing how upfront people will be. Sometimes I just wanted to get my foot in the door so I could move somewhere else in the organization. And then they realized that path is a little bit more murky it’s not as easy to get to. Their understanding of why they come into an organization is there’s a mismatch between the HRM recruiting process and when they actually hit the floor. So that on boarding and releasing from training period is most critical. When I was with Capital One I used to go into every single training class, the first week of the training class and I would I would talk to the trainees. We grew from zero to six hundred people within an 18-month period and so we were bringing in some really large classes.
I would ask everybody, I don’t think anyone woke up this morning stretched, big old stretch and said, if I’m going to make a mistake today I’ll go work at Capital One. And so I asked the same question, is anyone here because they don’t have anything else to do? And this older gentleman, he was probably in his 60s raised his hand, and I said, okay so you have nothing else to do and you just—look, I’m retired I’m 60 something years old I just need to get away from my wife every day so I thought this would be a great place to come. He didn’t come back after lunch but that was his choice not ours because we would have made it a great place for him to be. But if you don’t ask those types of questions you won’t know the answer and leadership won’t have an understanding of why people are even coming in there to work.
Down here Austin, Texas it’s a very, very competitive market. In polls that we’ve done and surveys that we’ve done with the Austin Contact Center Alliance what we’ve found is that hiring and retention are the top two issues for call centers down here. It used to be that you could bring in a new agent at $13 or $14 an hour and they were happy with it but now Wendy’s is paying $14 an hour and they have flexible schedules. So what is it that it’s going to draw somebody to your contact center over somebody else’s or even fast food or Uber or Lyft or any of these organizations that are out there? And so companies really need to understand why people are even coming in their door. Are they paying the right money so that somebody’s not going to leave for 50 cents an hour? Are you in an area that’s a traffic issue? People will switch jobs because it’s too hard to get there. And so really understanding what people are facing, why they came, what they’re facing and what would allow them to want to stay.
Jim Rembach: That’s a really good point. There are a lot of things that we all have to go through in order to show up, just show up. If we make it such an environment by which it’s magnetic, and people would just—hey, they don’t say that thank God it’s Friday they say thank God it’s Monday I get to go back to work I think you could actually make a huge difference. The typical response to that is, wooh, that’s the contact center industry it’s just the nature of the beast I hear that all the time. I think your numbers, when you start talking about three years in a row with no turnover just dispel that crazy myth. So, if you start talking about an industry lift and the difference that could be made, where do you think that greatest opportunity resides?
Mark Brody: In companies and leadership really understanding the personality types of the people that are coming in and making sure their personality types are a match for their culture I think that’s the biggest lift that a company can invest in. In a company I worked at previously we use personality indicators to, not only look at what the best match was but also how to coach that person once they got in the door because how you and I are as employees may be different than how you and I are as leaders and our coaching style may not mesh well with someone else’s receipt of information style. And so it’s very important for organizations, for leaders, to understand the person that’s coming in and are they going to be the right cultural fit. That’s how I really was able to lead that three years of zero percent turnover. Even when I first came into the organization we were able to reduce turnover by 50 percent within the first year. There’s a lot to be said about culture, about the people that you’re bringing in, making sure that you have the right the right mix of people.
Jim Rembach: Definitely finding answers to all of these questions and these issues that have been around for decades in this industry and the different personalities and all the nuance it could it could be very frustrating but then also has a lot of inspiration when you have that success and that’s the things that we’d like to look at on the show to give us some inspiration or quotes. Is there a favorite quote that you like that you can share?
Mark Brody: I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a quote but more of a mantra that I have and I really look at. When we were kids what was the number one question we had as kids, why? As we got older it wasn’t just much about why but how. Okay, so over the course of our lives learning was a big part of our growth and our development. And I think as leaders when you—why and how did you arrive at new information or new skills? And what are those skills really teaching you? Does that make sense? Never stop learning is really the mantra that I go by and I instill that in people that I work with.
Jim Rembach: For me I jokingly say that when I stop learning it’s when the last breath occurs.
Mark Brody: Exactly, exactly. I tell people all the time, look I’ve been in this industry about 29 years, even for 20 25 plus as well how the industry was when we first started in the industry versus how it is today it’s night and day. If we would have thought that we knew everything back 10 or 15 years ago then we would have been stuck back 10 or 15 years ago and we wouldn’t have excelled in our careers as we have.
Jim Rembach: For me I see that the complexity has really magnified himself. For me when I was in operations we had two channels that we dealt with. We dealt with phone and we dealt with email a little bit of facts because we’re business-to-business. But now it’s been an explosion in channels and a lot of organizations don’t even have visibility into the work that’s happening in a lot of these channels.
Mark Brody: Correct.
Jim Rembach: Very scary.
Mark Brody: Remember it’s about 25 years ago when IVR are really became big and everybody was saying IVR is going to change call centers and there’s never going to be a human interaction anymore. But now there’s more people working in contact centers than ever before. I’ll give you an example, in San Antonio 4% of the population in San Antonio works in a contact center industry, that’s huge, that’s huge.
Jim Rembach: That’s a lot of people and I think national average in the load percentage points as well but still it represents a very large number of the workforce. So when I start thinking about those years that you’ve had in the industry and years I’ve had man I’ve had a lot of humps to get over especially when we’re referring to dealing with human beings both internally and externally in the organization. I know, and even outside of that, there’s probably humps that you’ve gotten over that really have brought you where you are today and we can learn a lot from. Can you tell us one of those times when you’ve gotten over the hump?
Mark Brody: I’m going to take this outside of the workplace. I had the opportunity to coach youth sports when my sons were younger. And one of the things as a parent, I say this is as a as a leader also, you become very focused on your team or your child in wanting to see them excel and you forget about the larger ecosystem that’s out there. And so there was one time that I was coaching my younger son in baseball and I thought for sure, if he was in this other position the team would have won the game or something. One of my friends that I was coaching with come over to me he says, your kids good but there’s a lot of other good kids out here and it’s not always about your kid it’s about the team. When I brought that back into the to the workplace and I started taking a look at how I was putting my team on pedestals and not really looking at the—because I wanted the name to be from myself and the recognition to come to me and it wasn’t about me it was about how the organization was successful was more successful when everybody was succeeding when everybody was growing.
And when I did that when I made that mind shift, it was a hard mind shift, my ability to coach people became a lot more effective because I wasn’t so focused on just the things that they were doing well and discounting the things that they were struggling with. I really dug down more of the root causes of why were they struggling? What is the concept that they didn’t understand? Was it a soft skill that they didn’t feel confident in? And a lot of what goes on in a call center is confidence in knowing where to find information. And so when I focused more on that not just with my team, but holistically within the call center, I really think that that’s really when it flipped for me and I became a much better leader.
Jim Rembach: As you were talking I started thinking about for me it’s very similar as well, it was about me and then that didn’t go so well because I kept going down that path and ultimately I had to relinquish those types of controls and relinquish those types of thoughts and those types of behaviors then things started happening that we’re quite different which for me I found they were more rewarding. I think that maybe it’s a maturation process that has to take place and we have to feel some of that pain in order to go over those humps. I also didn’t realize for me that I had people who were influencing me to do something different and I just didn’t see it at the time. Although when I think about those folks I thought about them as being some of the better leaders that I had the opportunity to interact with. Is there some person that kind of stood out to you? You talked about—you reflecting those things, your friend interjected and it’s something but is there someone who kind of influenced you to help you move down this path?
Mark Brody: I would say that there was probably a couple of people. When I was working at Sallie Mae I had a manager that I worked for, I had just graduated from college and you know how new college graduates are—I’m going to go out and I’m going to make a hundred thousand dollars a year and this is back in the early nineties that wasn’t going to happen anyway, you’re lucky to hit $25,000 in a new supervisory role but I was convinced that was going to be my path. I graduated I didn’t need to work there anymore and I had this manager pull me aside and he says, so what are you going to do now that you’ve graduated? I was a history major in college so my real career paths, do I want to go ahead and teach? No. Do I want to work in a museum? No. But what skills do I have? I could research, I was very good at that. When he sat me down and said, look why don’t you go ahead and apply for a leadership position within Sallie Mae, within the center? I think you’d be a great fit for it because you have a way with people you understand technology and you dig deep to try and find the root cause of problems and that’s exactly what we need here. I never realized that working in a call center for the couple years that I was there. And from that point on I’ve been in some sort of leadership position since then, 27 out of 29 years just about. One of my more recent managers brought me in the first day and this is a position that I really wasn’t thinking I was going to take because I was very happy where I was. I went ahead and applied for it I got offered the position.
The first day my manager brought me in she says, we’re going to be really good coworkers because we think similarly. We’re going to be very good friends because we have a lot of the same interests. We talked a lot between the time that I interviewed and in time I was hired or I started. But she said, you know what? If we go to lunch and I have to come back in the afternoon and terminate you for something I’m going to do it because you have to separate the business from the personal. And so for me that really was a defining moment. Previously I was friends with everybody that I worked with but she really instilled in me that you can be friends you can be friendly but business is business and sometimes as a leader you have to make some tough choices which may not always be popular and sometimes those impact the people that you actually do care about personally as well.
Jim Rembach: That could be somewhat harsh to hear. I understand where you’re coming from or she was probably coming from, sometimes you do have to take those tough action. However, it’s definitely not something that we look forward to doing.
Mark Brody: No, as a leader, from a coaching perspective that’s why you coach so you can avoid those types of conversations and that’s why you stay engaged with your employees so that everybody is on the same page as far as what the expectations are and what the expectations aren’t. So when I’m working with companies one of the things that I ask frontline leaders is, does this employee understand what’s expected of them? And are you inspecting what’s expected of them? Do you give them an opportunity to give two way feedback? If those things aren’t in place then those tougher conversations will happen.
Jim Rembach: Hopefully you’ll be able to continue along the path of developing other leaders like you’ve been developed yourself because being able to have zero percent turnover in contact centers will benefit the entire industry. So the Fast Leader legion wishes you the very best. Now before we move on let’s get a quick word from our sponsor:
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Okay, Fast Leader legion, it’s time for the Hump day Hoedown. Okay Mark, the Hump day Hoedown is a part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us a robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Mark Brody, are you ready to hoedown?
Mark Brody: I am ready.
Jim Rembach: Alright. What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?
Mark Brody: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. If I close my mind to learning that’s the only thing that’s going to stop me from becoming a better leader tomorrow than I am today.
Jim Rembach: What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?
Mark Brody: Its, leadership is not about you it’s about your team it’s about the organization it’s about others.
Jim Rembach: What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?
Mark Brody: I care. I care about seeing others improve. I care about seeing others be successful.
Jim Rembach: What do you feel is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life?
Mark Brody: Focus on positive. Take negativity chunk it out of your life focus on the things that are positive and that are working well in your life and don’t complain about things.
Jim Rembach: What would be one book that you’d recommend to our legion, it could be from any genre?
Mark Brody: There’s actually three books I thought about this, first one is the book called Juggling Elephants, and it’s about time management and organizing your life in a way that the three-ring circus is organized. Two other books by John Gordon. First one is the, No Complaining Rule. The second one is The Energy Bus. Read those three it’ll give you an entirely different perspective on leadership and how to be successful in not only in your own personal life but also in business as well.
Jim Rembach: Okay, Fast Leader legion you can find links to that and other bonus information from today’s show by going to fastleader.net/markbrody. Okay, Mark, this is my last hump day hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity go back to the age of 25 and you can take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you. But you can’t take everything back you can only choose one. What skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?
Mark Brody: Listen talk less and keep your eyes open.
Jim Rembach: Why?
Mark Brody: That’s it. Why? At the end of the hall when I grew up there was a poster, at the end of my hallway, and it said, it often shows a fine command of language to often say nothing. And so it’s important as a learning leader that you allow people to go ahead and speak and express themselves you’re going to learn more about that person and what motivates them than you will by telling them what you think.
Jim Rembach: Mark, it was an honor to spend time with you today, can you please share with the Fast Leader legion how they can connect with you?
Mark Brody: You can connect with me on LinkedIn, just search for Mark Brody in Austin Texas. You can go to my website www.brohawksolutions.com or you can go ahead and email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Rembach: Mark Brody, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom the Fast Leader Legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. Woot! Woot!
Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links, from every show special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster.
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