Insights from a Former Switchboard Operator on Learning to Listen and Lead
By Lisa Deloney, Managing Director, Division Manager and Market President of Southern California
May 06, 2014 10:13 AM
To celebrate the Citi Foundation's Pathways to Progress, Lisa Deloney (Managing Director, Division Manager and Market President of Southern California) shares insights from her first job.
I was in high school when I landed my very first job, working as a switchboard operator at the Franklin Inn in Kelowna, Canada. Like many of my colleagues today, I have fond memories of my first job and attribute my current success to the lessons I learned early on.
When I applied to work at the Franklin Inn, I had no prior experience working a switchboard, but the position seemed simple. The board lights up and I connect--period. Well, I quickly learned on my first day that it wasn't so easy. The calls came in nonstop and it was up to me to answer every single one. Luckily, the hotel manager stepped in to coach me, and, over time, helped me develop my skills and confidence.
While I didn't always want to hear my manager's candid feedback, I learned to listen and came to appreciate his honest nature. Over time, with his support, I became more comfortable in my role and eventually excelled at it. My manager's unwavering commitment to my improvement had a lasting impact on me, and made me realize my responsibility to pay it forward and coach others.
Today, as the Division Manager and Market President of Southern California, I am responsible for numerous facets of our business, including sales, service and financial performance. But, most importantly, I see myself as a teacher.
When coaching employees, I remember the importance of providing consistent and straightforward feedback. I also do my best to pass on the many lessons I've learned throughout my career. For example, listen first and understand the needs of others. Every situation is different, and we must adjust our approach to properly meet--and exceed--the needs of each client. Also, keeping a smile on your face, as well as in your voice, goes a long way, and can change the course of any interaction.
My days of taking calls at the switchboard may be long gone, but my responsibility at Citi is not too different. At the heart of our industry, we are people serving people--employees helping clients achieve their financial goals and dreams. It is up to us to listen with genuine interest and care to enhance our client relationships, ultimately creating loyalty and the opportunity for returned business.