Acting Strategically w/ CS Leadership Office Hours

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This is a podcast episode titled, Acting Strategically w/ CS Leadership Office Hours. The summary for this episode is: <p>A weekly segment:</p><p>CS Leadership Office Hours</p><p>Every Thursday. 11:30am ET.</p><p></p><p>--</p><p>If you want to join the discussion with thousands of other customer success leaders, join Gain Grow Retain:</p><p>This podcast is brought to you by Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach...</p><p>Jay Nathan: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Jeff Breunsbach: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p>
Balancing Transparency and Following Protocol
00:34 MIN
Setting a Communication Expectation
01:23 MIN
Adjust Your Communication Style
01:12 MIN
Giving Feedback That Improves the Company's Outcomes
02:57 MIN

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Gain Grow Retain Podcast.

Speaker 2: Another thing that came up was having trust that everybody has their own role. And so where you have situations where maybe people are trying to get in on calls just to be there and maybe just to take credit for it, figuring out what's going on and dialing that back. And then I would say the other thing is a lot of times the complaints have to do with time management. And a lot of times the things you hear are," Hey, I emailed somebody and they didn't get back to me." And so helping people have a good time management system will alleviate that.

James: As I think yeah. And understanding expectation of the role that you're required and supposed to do, kind of gives you a term that has been used a lot recently I've seen is swim lanes, right? Everyone should have their swim line that they're dealing with and living in. And sometimes they're going to maybe accidentally slap our hand into another lane if we're doing a backstroke, that's a little unmanageable, but those things happen and it's good to understand how do we handle those as leaders and with our colleagues as well. Great stuff. Great stuff. inaudible, over to you.

Speaker 4: Yeah. Thank you. And James, some of our discussion in our breakout room was just kind of aligned to the experience you shared going directly to engineering. So it was all about, how do we approach others? The feedback people have received on the way of doing that, how do we respond back to somebody and how do we manage our own work? So in all three or four cases, we learned how managers helped by first of all taking the conversation private, any feedback conversation, shouldn't be a public conversation. And then helping people balance between that sense of transparency and following the protocol and doing what is the right thing instead of people complaining about, wayward approaches, right? So it was mostly, I would say, bottom up the participants in the group for sharing their individual feedbacks and experiences. And one of the experiences I had that I shared with the group was around the feedback I get on some of my CSM, since it's a topic, I'm sure many leaders have heard where cross- function teams tells you that your CSM does not think strategically. And that's a big, complex thing to untangle. And if anybody in any other group has kind of dealt with it, I'd be curious to hear their views. But for me, it was all about communication, clarifying expectation, and really breaking it down, what thinking and acting strategically means in making sure that everyone is aware of what it means versus everyone spinning up their own definitions and expectation of strategic. So that's our group's input.

James: I think the strategic versus tactical in itself is something that carries such a weird stigma of like, well, to be strategic you have to have a seven figure account. And you only have five accounts so you can't be strategic or can you be strategic with a book of a hundred accounts, like your SMB or 200 or a thousand? How do you think strategically for a one to many or many to one? So I think that's a huge discussion. And that's again, going back to kind of what Russell was saying is defining that early on so that you don't get those kind of cross drop- in someone saying," Well, I don't think your team is being strategic." And it's like," Well, I'd love to understand what's your definite definition of strategic so that maybe we can all be on the right page, because again, their definition might be different to yours, but as a company, and again, you have to be really smart and define those early on.

Speaker 5: And even more, you may have from different departments, defining strategy in different ways. So one person's strategy can be another person's rubbish and vice versa.

James: Exactly. Yeah.

Speaker 5: But yeah. Jen excited to hear what you have to say.

Jen: Yeah. In our breakout room, that was certainly part of the topic where it was taught. I think it was David. David was talking about first to check if it's coming from another team internally or from a client in terms of what their expectations were, as well as perhaps checking in terms of," Did you set the correct expectations?" He was also talking about before you give feedback to maybe check in and say," Hey, how's it going today?" And having some way of communicating as a team to gear that. So if you're going to do it as percentage, you could say," Oh, I'm at 50% today." So then that might not be the day to address the issue. And that was something too that Paul was also talking about is making certain that someone is in a place to receive the feedback. But then inaudible was also talking about making it maybe less of an event and always being open to feedback and modeling that so that then it becomes not such a big deal and that people expect to give and receive feedback as a regular thing. And that was also when you talked about, if somebody is not open to receiving feedback generally and tries to avoid it, strategies around that and creating a social contract, which is something that Nils Vinje talks about too. And that's in his 30 Day Leadership, that sort of thing. So we shared that. And then the last thing that we shared was also, if you're recording feedback is we're on Zoom a lot these days, that one thing you can do is then get feedback from the person who received it on how you coach to them and even share that with someone else and who can give you guidance on how to be a better coach. And I was talking to someone recently who does this on a regular basis. So that's all the strategies we were talking about in our session.

James: I love that. Yeah. I like the social contracts. One thing that I do when I hire a new person to the team or absorb new team, I like to set expectations. And part of that exercise we do is I ask them to fill out five things that I expect from my manager and then five things that my manager expects from me. And that way kind of, we immediately set the tone of I know what they want. And then they have their perspective on what they think I want. And then we can get together and we discuss like," How do you like to receive feedback? Do you like it publicly? Do you like your blasted in the Slack channels? What about LinkedIn? What about individually? How do you like your wins to be celebrated? And then how do you like me to drop some more of the constructive feedback? Do you prefer immediately after a call, I note something and we just say like, hey, I noticed this, would you be willing to do that?" And it's really good. And sometimes I've been told that in the Slack age that we live in the tone in which we write our messages is hyper, hyper important. Not everyone assumes positive intent. I think I saw Matt posted something on LinkedIn about always assuming positive intent and not everyone does. So one thing that I noticed coming from London to California, there's a younger crowd of folks that I'm working with, and if you don't include exclamation marks or emojis, sometimes that can be interpreted as this is a bad thing. That's a learning moment. And again, it's setting the expectation of communicating it. So inaudible someone say feedback is not like a mellow wine? It doesn't get better with age.

Speaker 5: Yeah. You definitely come across instances where especially in the age of inaudible that we are in now, one of the top points that comes out in discussion, and I think why Zoom and things of the like have catapulted in the way that they do, you can include tone as you hear. Now I have an inflection, but if I write that in text, you can't hear that. And as you just brought up James, to be able to include an emoji, a smiley, a goofy face, what have you, you actually get that inflection or through an exclamation point. And I definitely heard a lot of that in the breakout rooms, all different instances and points of view of that. Curious to see if anybody else has any points to add though. I don't see any hands.

Jen: Because I just had a question about the tone because-

Speaker 5: No, let's hear it. Yeah.

Jen: Because I understand that not everybody assumes positive intent, but if you're speaking to one person, say you're speaking to a couple of people. I personally can't sit here and worry about how every single person is going to interpret my message. Do I want it to come across the right way? Sure. But everybody reads things in there the way they interpret their own environment, the mood that they're in that day, there's a lot of things that you need to consider and you can start to cross the line into tone policing. And that's another place that you don't want to be. And I just fear that when someone attacks your tone versus the message, that's when you need to take a step back in looking at it, because now again, we go into tone policing. So everybody's got a different mindset and it becomes really, really difficult.

Speaker 5: That was a magical question. We have hands. Anastasia, what do we have?

Anastasia: Well, I was just going to add that Jeremy posted on LinkedIn yesterday, which was a great post, how he does not use emojis with his customers, but he uses emojis with his team. And I think once you get to know your audience, and once you get to know your customers, and once you get to know your employees, you kind of can figure out if they're more kind of straight shooter or if they prefer to have more direct communication, or if they prefer to have more of a fun way of having emojis and all that. And same goes for customers. There may be a serious customer if it's a CFO that doesn't want to be bothered with any sort of extra texts that he needs to go through, then maybe emojis is not the right place to use them. But if it's somebody who's kind of more in say marketing field, that's kind of all about how to connect with humans then using emojis is perfectly fine.

Speaker 5: Knowing your audience, always a great cake. crosstalk. I've seen a lot of great, I'm sorry. If you want to go, Josh we can?

Speaker 8: Josh was on mute and then there was the handwriting on the screen and-

Speaker 5: Go for it. Then yeah, that's it. crosstalk.

Josh: The visual here. So we're bringing up a really important idea of tone and intent. And one of the things that I think we're seeing, especially with COVID as well as this might be a little bit more natural for those of us who deal with international teams is that the culture of email and the culture of what is written can vary greatly. And especially when you're dealing with one email that will go to many different cultures, as well as be forwarded on to other cultures. You need to take that extra time to build and set your tone and to try to always look to soften it when considering that. This being said, one strategy that I take is to internally have a click, more playful interaction with intone and reputation within the team. So therefore, hopefully when the ball does not bounce my way, people who know me might say," Hey, I don't think that Joshua has had any ill intent." But again, you don't know what is going to be interpreted as down the chain.

Speaker 10: So I'm just going to share, and it wasn't about tone, but there's a podcast series called Manager Tools that's fairly Americanized. So some of us Brits bristle at some of the terms that they use and some of the things that they do, but there's some useful kind of nuggets in there. And one of them is a feedback kind of molecular process and mechanism. And the theory behind it is if you're going to give feedback, you want to do it for good and bad things, use the same process for both. Nine out of 10, should be you feeding back to your teams when they've done something well. So that the one out of 10, when you're providing negative feedback or constructive feedback, that it's not the only time you ever tell them how they've performed. And it goes into the steps of one, I'm going to tell you this is feedback. You have to specifically say," I'm going to give you some feedback on X scenario." Then two, when you do X, the impact is Y. So I'd now like you to Zed. So when you send emails with only one word to the exec, the exec is frustrated because they don't really know much about it. In the future, can you do more words? Or when you provide that extra level of detail, everybody really loves it because they know that you know what you're talking about. Can you please carry on doing that? Yeah, it's a formula for 1, 2, 3, but you have to do it for both good and bad. If you can do it for 90% of the time is when you're getting positive feedback. When you have to give the negative, it comes across as the same experience they've had before but this time it's something they can learn from. I've always found that very useful with my teams.

Speaker 11: I think that's absolutely spot on and it's giving them a point where it happened that when you did this, the impact was this. Here's how to fix it. Instead of coming in and saying like," Hey, the executives think you're lazy." That's immediately going to get somebody on the defensive. And that person is going to be like," Nope, shut him down. Not going to listen to this. That's not me." But you said, you did this, led to this and here we go. So I think that's a really great point there.

Speaker 12: The led two is the really important thing. Understanding-

Speaker 11: The leg two, yeah.

Speaker 12: inaudible led to what you've done.

Speaker 11: Yeah. And an actionable thing to avoid that thing happening again. I think that's really needed to know. inaudible.

Speaker 13: One of the best advice I got from a good mentor that was the boss at the time, years ago is the higher up you are in the organization, the less time you spend with more people and therefore you have to adjust your communication style in a wart and how you do. And I found that comment, I go back to it every once in a while I coach my team on thinking about it. Many of us have very strong relations with few people in our close team. And that level of trust enables us to be much more open in our communications. Whereas the more you talk to more people, the farther you are from there from them, and therefore you have to adjust your communication. I do think it all goes back into trust. If you have a team with a very trusting culture, when you talk to them, they look at this as feedback, as coaching, as helping. If you don't have a lot of trust, the same walls can be more often interpreted as criticism, as threatening, as whatever. That has to do with, by the way, a lot about internal versus external communications. Internal ones are easier from that perspective because it's easier to build that level of trust compared to what happened in the outside. With all of that said, when it comes especially to inaudible, there was something that happens... inaudible was talking about the Brits versus the Americans. In the U.S. in particular, in the last few years, there has been a trend towards a lot of sensitivity, which in many places becomes over sensitivity to the point where there is no meaning to anything you say. You frame things, you worry about things. You tone things down. And in the end of the day, the message has more meaning. So I think we should all be careful not to, of course, let HR know what we say and get sued, but at the same time, don't let outliers influence you too much. There is always someone who's going to be hurt by something, interpret things in the wrong way. If you cater to the outliers, you change yourself to become someone you're not. And your message has no meaning anymore. So put some caveat if you want, but be who you are and build on building the trust towards this is what I am. This is what I try to do, and this is why I do it. And let's try to be open about it.

Speaker 11: That's a great point. And that goes back to what Sherry was saying. Kind of, I think was in the chat is you want impact over intent. And inaudible I think that summary of if you over- index on the outliers, your words can lose actual meaning and actual impact. And the messages can be completely lost there. Elizabeth?

Elizabeth: No, I agree with a lot of what you guys are saying, especially around the trust and be yourself. One thing that I know that once I started being a manager is I recall when I was an individual contributor, is that that feedback would come rarely, and it will come rarely-

Jen: inaudible.

Elizabeth: Right? And then details. So when I became a manager, I knew that the things that I didn't want to do with my team and the people that I work with is that I constantly give them feedback because I don't want them to be surprised by anything. That's one of my goals. I don't want them to be surprised at the end of the year, performance reviews that come every six months or so. And I tell them," There's nothing surprising in the feedback that we'll give you overall on those performance reviews, because these are things that we touched on. These are the things that we talked about, and these are things that I know you're working on, or we're working together on." And also try to be vulnerable as well as just sharing the parts that I can be doing better as a way to model them to be more open, to also share what are they thinking and how they can be more self- aware with how they're doing things. So in a day- to- day perspective.

Speaker 11: Yeah, that's a great point. It's got to be constant, it's got to be kind of consistent as well. And like you said, something that was discussed throughout the year, to avoid that," Why did you not tell me about this if this is how you felt for 11 months or 10 months?" however long since our last performance review and it gives everybody something to work towards together as well, which is a fantastic point. Thank you, Elizabeth.

Speaker 5: It really doubles down on the trust aspect and ensuring that there's understanding, especially where we have two different directions that are happening simultaneously here. We have those asking others to be vulnerable on a constant basis so that there is this transparency in- person or virtual to understand what's going on the other side, but also asking someone else on the other side to also be cognizant of what's going on. And it's a great ask, but the more we can do it as with many things, the easier it can become to be that more routinized to do so in a way that you're not really thinking about it, and you're not putting in as much effort. And as Phil's brought up, as Sherry hits on, James your touch. A lot of us are really touching on here. At the end of it we're looking to get great action. That's what we're really looking to accomplish. We're doing so for duty, but we're also getting the humanity piece out of it. Chris, I don't want to hold you up too much, what do you got to say here?

Speaker 11: Okay. So what we talked about in the breakout room is I think the best company in the world deal to deal with the conflict culture is Netflix. I'll recommend this book right here. No Rules Rules, Reed Hastings. The CEO of Netflix just published this book. And I'll read the titles of the first three chapters, which are first chapter one, build up talent density. Chapter two, then increase candor. Chapter three, now begin removing controls. So the reason why I really his framing on conflict is he says that most companies go about conflict the wrong way, which is that people try to say things in a way that protects people's egos. And instead that the north star should be give feedback that improves the company's outcomes, give feedback that improves company excellence. So the outcome, the purpose of communication is to improve company excellence, not to protect egos. And the analogy he gives on how that works is that like a marathon runner, you can't go out on day one and go run a marathon 27 miles. Your body has to build up a tolerance over time. And it's very painful in the early days when you start running, but the body gets used to it. You adapt to the pain over time. Your brain and your body gets used to it. And giving feedback is the same way. When you give feedback and that feedback is criticism you also feel pain but the pain is to the ego, not to the body. So what's important over time is to create a culture where people are given permission to share feedback directly with each other and you kind of build up this tolerance. The ego builds up a tolerance over time so that you can start focusing on the thing that actually matters, which is not ego protection, but company excellence. So I really, really liked that framing. We actually have borrowed his language verbatim in our core values, which is say what needs to be said to improve company excellence. That's verbatim what our core values say. Now the one, I think the thing that's missing from Netflix's values and for anyone that knows Reed, he gets mixed reviews in terms of kindness. So there's this piece of, how do you balance kindness with directness? And I think companies probably need to introduce a core value around intent. We heard that word intent, good intent about building relationships to balance and give people the permission to be direct without being jerks about it. So we've added that into our core values to address the kindness portion of this. But I feel like his framing for conflict is spot on. Best I've heard.

James: Yeah. Two really fantastic managers. One is the most kind person I've ever met. The other person I don't think he smiled at me for two and a half years. But the feedback on the lessons I learned from each were pivotal in building kind of what I think I am today and what I think I could be in the future and lessons learned from both of them will stick with me forever. So I really liked that sort of focus on company excellence, notice things in the chat of we want to all be here for the same reason. If we've been kind of selfishly we're all here to be able to support and provide for our families and those of us around us to be able to do the activities that we love and take part in, but also see success in a business. So people join startups because they want to be involved in something that people might join a slightly larger corporate machine, because they want to be able to be part of that and have less gray areas around the job role and responsibilities. So again, it's kind of knowing where you are at what time you're at and what stage the company's out. But this is about how do we make this company more excellent because when the company is excellent, everybody makes more money. Everybody has a happier time, and when we think about it that's kind of what it does come down to. So I think great point. That book's been noted. It'll go on the to read list. So thanks there Chris. Anastasia, you got your hand up.

Anastasia: Well, I just want to add that as much as constructive feedback is important, it's also important to give positive feedback, what you did right. And the more you give what you did right then any time you have what you did wrong, and hopefully you fall into a category that do a lot more right than wrong, it will be perceived a lot better and they will be like," Great noted, this is important. This is what I need to do better." But if without that positive feedback and having reinforcement that you're doing things right, we may not take that constructive feedback as well.

Speaker 2: Jeremy, you got your hand up.

Jeremy: Yeah. I wanted to add that I have learned to love conflict. And I think that I find that there's a weird contrast between people who have a high level of empathy and conflict. We can feel the emotions of others, but sometimes you fall into it or I think that I've learned in my career and I've tried to help others learn to love the conflict is the way to figure out where the work needs to happen. And I find that's something that I wanted to share in this discussion.

Speaker 11: It's the ultimate learning point. Yeah. It's the ultimate learning point where our mistakes are our greatest lessons. Our conflicts are our greatest opportunities to pivot. Without mistakes in this world, how are we to learn as Sherry brings up with her meetings and getting a rating for her meetings, what do you learn if every meeting is just a Ted? How do you learn to grow? How do you learn to change and adapt to things? Where do you come up with new strategies if everything is just perfect? Intervention is perfect.

James: It's good. But sometimes you've got to keep an eye out for those who are looking for conflict for the sake of conflict.

Speaker 11: Yes.

James: But conflict occurs usually when people are trying to achieve competing ideas, but again, there is opportunity in it, right? It doesn't always have to be sunshine and rainbows. We've got to have some difficult conversations every now and again. And they're the ones that drive real change. Last week we talked about vulnerability, right? Be vulnerable, be open, maybe you just need to say it. And it might not get the results you want, but at least you're able to have a decent conversation from that. I think Jake in the chat was looking for how to raise his hand. So I don't know if Jake, you wanted to speak up here.

Speaker 11: Thanks James. I was going to just say how sometimes just like Jeremy said, conflict is necessary. I think it's part of an ongoing ability to improve as an organization. And I also loved... Oh my god, I forgot his name, the Netflix CEO saying that, we have to think of the company's excellence and ego sometimes can be a little fragile. And we think of ourselves as being perfect and what I do and what I provide the organization is unparalleled. And I'm the best. But I think that once you open that door to constructive feedback and you let your personal feelings about being giving feedback aside, if it comes from the intention of building company excellence, but also having that hard moment, I think it gets easier time and time again. Yeah. I was just thinking about what's a really quick analogy for it. inaudible to summarize this last point, which I think is great. Your kid trips and falls in a playground, they get dirt in their knee, you don't just put the happy smiley bandaid on the knee and walk away and call it good. You have to dig the dirt out, clean it out, which is a little painful, but this way, then it regrows you scab, you heal, you move on and it's good. And you have this thing that you've learned from like," Huh, it hurt." But sometimes you learn when you do just put the bandaid on and it gets super painful that wasn't the best way to deal with it. And you needed to dig and address that issue at the first point and on that kind of gross analogy, we hit 9: 30 here today. I really appreciate everybody's time. As always, please give us all of your feedback, be as candid as possible. We want to make this the best experience for all of you. Rest assured there'll be a 25 minute breakout room next time as well. All right, guys, everybody have a great day. Thank you very much for your time today. And we will see you shortly. Bye.

Speaker 16: Hey guys, thanks so much for taking the time to listen to the Gain Grow Retain Podcast. If you liked what you heard, please take a moment and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues and subscribe. We really appreciate it. Talk to you soon.


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