Recently a big company in Singapore wrote and asked – “Dan, do you have a class to help prepare Contact Centre Agents who are entering this year’s Awards?”
In my head I said to myself, “But isn’t that what you guys are supposed to be doing every day at work?”
But putting that (rather direct) thought aside, since 2003 I’ve assisted a number of Corporate and Individual Clients enter and win Awards.
And from the other side of the fence, I’ve acted many times as a Judge and Official Evaluator for awards in the U.K., Singapore and Malaysia.
In this short article I share just a few of the learnings I have for Candidates entering Individual Awards categories.
Fair or not – where you work matters
It is always the case that in any region, country or locality there are high performing organizations (and Centres) and not so high performing organizations (and Centres).
Having trained in countries ranging from India and Sri Lanka through to the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, I find that the ‘better’ candidates came from the ‘better’ companies.
Companies that set the right KPIs, train and engage their staff (regularly) and commit to processes and practices that are taken seriously, are environments where the Awards Candidate learns what the ‘right way’ looks like and feels like.
Their answers tend to make more sense – not because their presentation skills are any better or worse than the competition – but because they operate in a ‘good system’.
In addition, I find that these high performing Centres have a strategy around ‘who’ they choose to enter Individual Awards and how they go about preparing the Candidates.
They don’t just ‘throw’ candidates at the Judges in the hope that they get a medal or two at the end of the night.
I remember sitting in a judging room with a Partner Judge and as we looked over the list of Candidates that we were to interview that day we saw that perhaps 4 – 5 organizations were heavily represented in the Individual Awards.
As Judges do, we speculated, which organization (or two) was going to yield up the best quality candidates – and we were seldom wrong.
If you want to get ahead in the industry – it’s best to work for an industry leader.
Your company song is not why you’re here
I’ve experienced too many judging sessions where Candidates, surrounded by other Team Members (when allowed), would launch into the company song before beginning the interview or presentation process.
But when you enter an Individual Award it’s got to be about why you are the right Candidate to win Gold, Silver, Bronze, etc. in relation to the rest.
Remember the reason that you are there and use your time and focus wisely. It’s a competition.
It only takes 5 questions to know how you ‘measure up’
Early in my career I worked directly for a Corporate CFO who taught me a very useful lesson.
“Ed” was responsible for the financial management and direction of more than 20 different companies within a single portfolio and one day I asked him how he managed to do that and still get out for golf nearly every day (perhaps a cheeky question).
He told me, “Dan – actually the thing is that for any company – whether it’s our hotel business, our timeshare business, our music business, etc. – I only need the answers to 5 questions to know if things are moving in the right direction (or not) and what needs adjusting (or not).
“For example, for our hotel business I just need to know things like occupancy, room margins, etc. etc.”. (with apologies to readers in the hospitality industry).
I think the same logic works beautifully for Individual Awards Candidates.
As I Judge, I can pretty much sum up the caliber of a candidate in about 5 – 7 questions (and I’d venture to say that other experienced Judges would say the same).
It’s not simply the individual answers that the Candidate gives to each question. It’s the ‘totality’ of the answers, or how they relate (or in unfortunate cases don’t relate) to each other.
As a Judge it’s fair to ask and learn – “Do you, as the Candidate for an award, have a strong framework of reference as to what your role is, what ‘counts’ to meeting/exceeding your role, what your KPIs mean to yourself and others, how do you address seeming contradictions in your work (Productivity vs. Quality comes to mind), and what attitudes and behaviors are successful or not successful.”
Knowing the answers to the Top 5 Questions That Matter (which is what I call them when coaching Individual Candidates) establishes a framework which makes it easier for a Candidate to answer almost any question that the Judges put forward.
Not all Judges are created equal
It’s nice to think that when someone is appointed as a Judge that they have the requisite background in the industry to correctly evaluate a candidate and the requisite expertise to interview well.
But of course that isn’t the case.
My advice is to read up on the biography of each Judge that might be involved in evaluating you – where do they come from, what is their industry experience – are they new to the process or long time Judges.
Understanding the mental viewpoint of ‘who’ is judging is valuable in helping you to craft and tailor your responses.
Practice with a skilled mentor
Presenting before a panel of Judges (whether 1 to 10) can be an unnerving experience.
I’ve seen people cry, freeze up, lose their place and their calm. Otherwise very capable and likely skilled people who weren’t quite ready for the process.
If your company doesn’t offer you a mentor then ask for one. You need to role-play the presentation out to the point that it doesn’t feel under-rehearsed and at the same time not sound too scripted.
A scripted presentation (one that has been so rehearsed that it feels artificial) puts off Judges almost as much a presentation which has not been rehearsed.
Congratulations on entering an Award – it’s a journey and not a destination – and even if this year you don’t win – try again! You learn through each and every try.