Leadership Principles for Support Leaders

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I’ve gotten multiple requests to train support leaders this year, and I thought I would share 5 principles I find to be most helpful in helping managers move from merely managing the workload to becoming strategic leaders.

Give plenty of specific positive feedback

I often work with individual contributors, be they support agents or CSMs, and I can state confidently that the primary reason for dissatisfaction with their managers is that they only hear from them when something goes wrong–which happens regularly when working with customers.

You may think that positive feedback doesn’t matter since team members know that you will come to them if there’s a problem. Not true! If you are struggling with giving positive feedback, give yourself a quota to play a handful of (earnest, specific) compliments today. It will also put you in a good mood.

Have those candid conversations

Almost every leader I work with admits to having at least one serious, long-running, unaddressed issue with a team member, a colleague, or a sister organization. Of course it’s awkward to tell your team member they need to use deodorant; to ask a colleague to stop taking credit for your ideas; to request regular bug reviews with the Engineering team. It’s a lot more awkward to live with a festering issue.

Be an effective buffer

Insulating your team from the politics and vagaries of what’s happening above you helps the team members stay focused on their job. It’s psychologically demanding to function as a buffer, as you need to self-regulate very effectively, but it’s so helpful to team members.

You also want to buffer downward. Don’t escalate every issue your team raises: it’s your job to evaluate requests and to provide solutions that meet your business goals.

Stay sharp

Be curious. Keep up with the industry through conferences, blogs, publications. Find mentors and buddies. Start a book club. Sure, you can come up with fresh ideas yourself but imitation is just fine. Make time for strategic thinking.

Prepare for absence leadership

There’s much you can do to train, mentor, and inspire your team by example. Especially if you are a senior leader, the next step is to prepare your team to perform as the same level when you’re not around, and after you move on. What culture and systems can you implement that will sustain the organization for the long run?

 

We can help train your leadership team (Support or CS). Contact me for more details.

What are you doing to prepare your leaders? Tell us in a comment.

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