Strikedeck Radio - Episode 17

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Michael Connery - Director of Customer Success at BetterCloud - has a long history in both Support and Customer Success.  In Episode 17, Michael shares with Kristen how Success and Support can team up to provide an amazing experience to customers.

Strikedeck Radio is a partnership between Strikedeck and The Success League. You can subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud, or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter to get updates on new episodes.

One-on-One Meetings - Redux

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While we're pulling together a bunch of fresh articles for November, I thought I'd share one of my favorites from 2016. Enjoy!

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By Kristen Hayer

A weekly one-on-one (1:1) meeting with each of your direct reports is one of the best management tools you can employ. These meetings are critical for building relationships, understanding how team members are performing, and getting a feel for the challenges your team is facing. I’ve tried a wide variety of formats for 1:1 meetings in different leadership roles and with different kinds of teams. There were some wins and fails along the way, and through that I’ve found a format that works well for customer success groups. 

If you’re been promoted into a manager position, are heading up a new team, or are considering implementing 1:1 meetings for the first time, here’s my recommended approach to CSM one-on-one meetings.

START WITH GOALS

If you’ve been reading The Success League blog for a while you know that I strongly believe that solid goals are the basis of a highly effective team.  They are also the basis of a great 1:1 meeting.  A primary objective of this meeting should be to see how your team member is performing against their goals, and learn what you can do to help and coach them.  Without strong goals, you can still get the benefit of relationship building from these meetings, but they won’t be as productive.

A word about goals: Goals are something you’re responsible for as the leader of the team.  They aren’t something you sit around and wait to receive from your boss or executive team.  If you do get goals from your boss, wonderful!  You’re one of the lucky ones.  If not you’ll need to make your own team goals and work to align them with the goals of your company.  For ideas on how to get started here’s a post I wrote about goals for success teams.

STICK TO A SCHEDULE

This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way when I was a new manager.  As a busy leader, I would often reschedule or cancel my 1:1 meetings and assume my team would understand that my crazy schedule was a part of my job.  It took several brave team members telling me how they felt about it to help me understand that the most important part of my job was them.  Whenever I rescheduled or cancelled our meetings they felt undervalued and unappreciated; the opposite of what I was trying to accomplish with 1:1 meetings.

The second major objective of 1:1 meetings is building relationships with the members of your team.  In order to accomplish this, the meetings really do need to be weekly.  When was the last time you built a meaningful relationship with someone you only engaged with every other week or once a month?  Get these meetings on the calendar, every week, at a time you can really commit to.

STANDARDIZE THE AGENDA

Establishing a rhythm in your 1:1 meetings is important, to make them both efficient and effective.  If your agenda is the same each week, you and your team member will be able to plan for the meeting and be prepared with any materials you need to discuss.  The other advantage of a set agenda is that it shifts the emphasis from gathering information and presenting to discussing issues and problem solving together.  Over time, this will create a richer relationship and open the door to deeper discussions about career and personal development.

If you look online you’ll find many suggested agendas for 1:1 meetings.  More important than the specific agenda items is that you have an agenda and stick with it, so find what works best for you and your team.  One resource I really like is the Manager Tools podcast, and they recommend a slightly different agenda than mine.  I have found the following to be most effective with CSM teams:

  1. Discuss goals and performance (CSM leads)
  2. Discuss bottlenecks and challenges (CSM leads)
  3. Discuss specific customer issues (CSM leads)
  4. Coaching and problem-solving(Manager leads)
  5. Career development (Dialog)

THEY BRING THE DATA

When I started doing 1:1 meetings as a new manager I would spend a tremendous amount of time preparing for each meeting, pulling metrics on each of my team members and building a document to show people how they were performing.  I would be really frustrated when, the very next week, they didn’t remember any of the data I had shown them and hadn’t accomplished the action items we discussed.

What I learned is that in order for your team members to feel ownership for their goals, and to truly understand their own performance, they need to be the ones bringing the data to you.  Come up with a format you both agree on, but give them some flexibility as well.  You’ll find that your team will often take a different approach than you would, which can provide new insights.  Let them walk you through their performance and you’ll find that they are more engaged in the meeting.

INCLUDE CAREER DEVELOPMENT

As I’ve taught this 1:1 process to new managers, career development has been the area where I’ve gotten the most pushback.  “Why should I talk to my team members about their career development?  Isn’t this too personal/their responsibility/the HR department’s job?”  Managers are worried that individuals on their team won’t be open to talking about this topic or will expect to be promoted too soon.

I would argue that this is the most important part of the 1:1 meeting, and a part that can bring tremendous long-term value to your team.  Yes, it can take a few months for a new team member to warm up to you enough to have this be an honest dialog. However, in order for you to fully leverage the talent in your group you need to understand their career aspirations and commit to helping them get where they want to go.  If you are successful in making this a part of your 1:1 meetings you’ll find that it results in reduced turnover, increased job satisfaction and volunteers for side projects on your team.

One-on-one meetings are a major time commitment for a manager, especially if you have a large team.  However, they are such a powerful tool that they are worth every minute you invest.  Make that investment now and start reaping the benefits of better relationships and stronger performance.

Want more tips on how to build and lead your customer success team? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers a Leadership Training Program for current and prospective CS leaders. For details visit TheSuccessLeague.io

Strikedeck Radio - Episode 16

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If you're implementing a low or tech-touch Customer Success program, customer marketing is a must! In Episode 16 Boaz Maor, the Vice President of Customer Success at OpenGov, and I discuss why marketing is a critical partner of customer success. Tune in to learn how to nurture this relationship in your own company and implement customer marketing programs through collaboration.

Strikedeck Radio is a partnership between Strikedeck and The Success League. You can subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud, or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter to get updates on new episodes.

Searching for Success: Job Hunting Part 2

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By Ashley Hall

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This is Part 2 of an earlier post about how to kick off the process of hunting for a customer success role. This post continues the journey through the interview process.

Great work! The effort of networking and applying for jobs has paid off. It’s time to get ready to interview. Do not panic! Interviews are naturally stress-inducing, but great preparation is the key to success. Here are some guidelines that will help you to arrive cool, calm, collected and ready to nail the interview.

The Phone Interview

Phone interviews are a common first step of the process. Just because it is over the phone does not mean you should take it lightly. This is an integral step to create a strong first impression and preview of your personality and background.

First, a few style notes. Talk slowly. Nerves will, of course, cause you to speak a bit faster than usual. Taking a deep breath and remembering to speak slowly will help you be heard loud and clear. Be sure to smile while you’re speaking! They can't see you, but the positive energy of your smile will come through while you are speaking with the hiring manager.

Summarize your professional, not your personal life. “Tell me about yourself” is a common opener to these conversations that should be taken seriously. It may feel more natural to just wing it on this response. I recommend rehearsing your answer to make sure you focus on the professional and highlight your strengths as you answer this question.

The Onsite Interview

Once you ace the the phone interview you will be invited to come to the office for an in-person meeting. Here is a checklist that will set you up for success.

Know who you are talking to

Be sure to get a list or schedule for the interview by at least the day prior to your interview. This way you can come up with unique questions for each interviewer as well as study up on their LinkedIn profiles before meeting them in person.

Get your act together

Arrive a few minutes early. 10 minutes is too early: You'll put unnecessary pressure on your interviewer. That said, a few minutes early will give you time to take a few breaths in the lobby before meeting everyone.

Always bring a bottle of water. It sounds silly, but every time I don’t bring water I get a little tickle in my throat I can’t clear! Having your own water will ensure that you don’t run into an awkward scenario where you must excuse yourself.

Prepare questions and answers

Be sure to have unique, pointed questions for each interviewer. Also prepare your notes and answers so you can respond to questions like “Why are you the best candidate for the role?” “Tell us about your greatest successes in your last role.” or “Tell us about a challenging customer and how you dealt with the situation.” Having talking points for these scenarios will help you showcase your ability to prepare and be a few steps ahead of anything the situation calls for.  

Bring your homework

It’s standard practice these days to ask candidates to complete some sort of assignment to secure a role. It could be a presentation or a simple writing assignment. Be sure to complete your assignment on time and have it printed out for reference during your onsite interview.

Send thank you notes

Be sure to send individualized emails to each interviewer you meet with. This is the polite, professional thing to do, but also another opportunity for you to highlight why you are the right person for the role. It also gives you a chance to combat any opposition or push-back you encountered during the interview.

Finally, be yourself! Do your best to channel your nerves into positive energy, and try to have a bit of fun! Don't forget: Interviews are a chance for you to learn about the company you might be working for, as well as for them to learn about you. Being yourself will help you to avoid a culture misfit.

Want to be prepared for your next customer success role? The Success League offers a CSM Training Program that covers 8 core skills you need to rock your interviews and land your next job. Learn more by visiting our website - TheSuccessLeague.io

Ashley Hall - Ashley loves to lead account management teams; from training newbies to building processes out of chaos to working directly with customers. With an eye on the future she is a powerhouse in building scaleable frameworks that support and drive growth. Ashley serves as an advisor to The Success League, and is currently working for Singular.net as an enterprise account manager. She holds a BA from the University of Colorado, Boulder and enjoys living in San Francisco, CA.

Customer Success Leadership & CSM Training Programs Start Next Week!

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Please join us for our final customer success training series of 2017. We'll be covering all of the skills you need to plan for next year so you can hit the ground running. Sign up today to reserve your place in our program!

Customer Success Leadership Program

Tuesdays at 12pm Pacific / 3pm Eastern

  • Team Metrics & Goals - October 17, 2017
  • Building a Playbook - October 24, 2017
  • Planning a Team Structure - October 31, 2017
  • Developing Compensation Plans - November 7, 2017
  • Hiring Top Performers - November 14, 2017
  • Onboarding New CSMs - December 5, 2017
  • Goal-Based Management - December 12, 2017
  • Reporting on Results - December 19, 2017

CSM Training Program

THURSDAYS AT 12PM PACIFIC / 3PM EASTERN

  • Customer Goals & Outcomes - October 19, 2017
  • Quarterly Business Reviews - October 26, 2017
  • Customer Onboarding - November 2, 2017
  • Time Management for CSMs - November 9, 2017
  • Selling to Customers: Methodology - November 30, 2017
  • Selling to Customers: Process - December 7, 2017
  • Difficult Conversations - December 14, 2017
  • Managing Churn - December 21, 2017

Classes include 60 minutes of instructor-led, online training, group discussion, exercises to extend your learning, and tools you can implement right away.