u|Chief interviewed Jan Kühn, Director of contact centre specialists INOVO
What makes an ideal director?
You must always keep the bigger picture in mind so that your strategy stays on track; if you get bogged down in the smaller details, you can lose focus. Being a director is like trying to fix a boat while the engine is running: when you look up, you may not know where you are. A great director has experience, but he must be able to communicate what he knows to his team.
Being a director is like trying to fix a boat while the engine is running: when you look up, you may not know where you are.
Is there any ideal preparation or learning a prospective or aspirant director should focus on?
In communication and contact centre solutions – my main areas of expertise – the learning never stops, and it’s important to grow your skill set to cope with the many challenges that leadership poses.
What do you believe is the key to striking the right balance as a leader between being a visionary, an expert in your field, or an all-rounder?
In my field I need to be aware of all industry developments, as well as designing fresh ways of implementing solutions according to client needs. In that sense, as a company we’re always looking to the future – what’s on the horizon that we can innovate on and make use of practically in the contact centre environment. It’s part-IT, part-business strategy and also having a good understanding of what customers want so, by necessity, we have to be all-rounders.
What advice do you have for young directors in terms of coping with the immense pressure and expectations that will be placed on them?
Remember what your core business goals are and deliver on customer expectations. You can’t rush through a job only to have it backfire so, rather than overpromising, make sure you’re doing what’s expected – and more, if possible. Clients will appreciate that.
Remember what your core business goals are and deliver on customer expectations.
What are your personal leadership secrets?
I believe that, as business evolves, we must evolve in our approach, so always be learning, and be prepared to share your knowledge. A good leader is one who is growing professionally and as a person.
What has been the most important lesson you have learned in your career as a leader?
What we’re doing right now is important – it’s the foundation for the future. In IT, the future is as important as the present, since we’ve got to be constantly preparing for what’s going to happen so that our solutions can grow with our business and our clients. It’s also important to focus on your core business, and not get distracted by popular trends that may come and go.
How important has mentoring been to you in your career, and have you been able to mentor others?
We work as teams, so we all learn from each other, but I’d like to believe that I am able to share my experience and that it’s of benefit to others. There’s a shortage of skilled IT workers, and we want to ensure that our employees grow with the company.
Any advice for leaders in terms of the mentoring relationship?
Encourage younger team members to grow as many skills as they can so that they’re more valuable to the company; in this case, diversification works, having many strings to your bow. That will help you should business strategies expand to include more opportunities or, on the other hand, will save you if your specialised field is no longer in demand.
Any other comments about leadership?
Employ experts in your team and allow them to do what they are best equipped to do. Listen to feedback across the board and learn to discern between what’s relevant to your business and what isn’t. Inspiration can come from the most humble of places, so don’t disregard what anyone in your company has to say.