Speakers: Perry Monaco, Head of SMB & Scaled Customer Success at LinkedIn & Jim Mercer, Global Head of Customer Success at Zoom
|Our Vice President of Customer Success, Peter Armaly, stepped in as guest host for this month’s Customer Success Unlocked Webinar to lead the conversation on Nurturing Employee Success in Customer Success. Zoom’s Jim Mercer and LinkedIn’s Perry Monaco answered some complex and nuanced questions on how to navigate employee success in the crazy and sometimes challenging world we live in today.|
Q: Lots of industrial psychology shows the three generations in the workforce today manage their working worlds and relationships uniquely. Can you comment around how these current generations: Gen Z, Baby Boomers, and Millennials, interact differently in the work environment and how do you manage folks differently depending on their ages?
Perry Monaco (PM): For me, it’s really just making sure you understand who’s on your team. I alluded to this a little bit earlier, but it’s a lot deeper than just ‘choosing your words carefully’. It’s not about walking on eggshells, of course, you want to be authentic and genuine, and you want to make sure that the words you’re using are impactful, but you also just want to make sure that your words are as inclusive as possible and understanding that not everyone is in the same boat. I think for me, it’s about just being conscious of who your audience is.
I remember, at one point in time, there was some feedback that leadership got around the fact that ‘everyone’ was talking about their children, and there were some people who didn’t have children. I can’t remember the specifics, but there was definitely some murmuring around kids in the workplace – people have them, people don’t have them. How does that impact your ability to do things before/after/during work, all sorts of complicating factors that for those of you who have kids, maybe understand, but at the same time for those of you who don’t have kids, you could equally understand. Because we often talk about childcare, but we don’t always talk about elderly parent care or family care.
So, I think it’s just a matter of being conscious of who your audience is. Understanding who is on your team, understanding how they learn, understand who they are. And that just means that you really have to invest in those relationships, the higher you go up the chain, obviously, the least likely you are to be able to understand how ‘Jill in Denver’ hears and reads your emails, but that’s where you have to build that into your leadership muscle and rely on the people who are around you to feed that information back to you, but, from my perspective, it’s about understanding your audience.
Jim Mercer (JM): Thank you for the question, I feel like it’s especially relevant, especially during the last couple years of a global pandemic. The last two years of varied levels of isolation effects the different generational, and even from a DEI standpoint as well, just thinking about where folks are at in life and being purposefully tuned in. I think, to Perry’s point, as far as knowing the audience and being tuned into, not just your direct reports, but your extended teammates as well, and truly understanding that just taking a few days off here and there to disconnect from work because you’re burnt out may not be the answer for everybody right?
Where, gosh, I don’t want to sound bad, but it’s sometimes cheap and easy just to make some blanket assumptions across your employee base that ‘Oh, this is going to help, we’re doing a great thing for the team,’ without really digging in and getting to the root cause of if there is an element of relief, where folks are burnt out or feeling strapped, that they can’t disconnect.
I think there’s a lot of relevancies to that and this is just me pontificating on the fact that, just doubling down on what Perry said around knowing your leadership team, knowing the audience, but also being okay with pivoting and meeting people where they’re at, even if it is seemingly a bespoke answer to a specific need. Because at the end of the day, that truly transcends that day to day, typical job experience that they might not otherwise get. Again, that’s kind of what keeps people coming back, that inspiring element that ‘hey I’m not just coming to LinkedIn, or to ESG for just my day-to-day job,’ but they truly care. These are universal truths, this truly does transcend the day-to-day confines of what could be deemed as ‘just my job.’
Q: How do you manage a direct report who is arguably more experienced at Customer Success strategy while building out a new team? I’ll think we’re on the right track and she’ll show me I’m thinking too narrowly, and we are stuck in our data process, but I don’t always have the ability to impact the level of change, even when she’s right about it.
PM: I mean we’ve said this a hundred times, change is hard, right? And slow. So, one of the most effective things anyone can do to be a positive change agent is to understand and appreciate where other people are on that change curve. And it sounds like that this person has been gifted an employee that has moved themselves along exceptionally quickly on the change curve, likely because it sounds like they’ve done this before. So, I think the challenge that this person would have to present to the employee, who is maybe a little bit anxious about not moving as quickly as they would like, is to recognize that, while this may not be new for them, it is new and more challenging perhaps, than people realize. For the company or their customers or whomever it is that is being challenged to change. And that is what makes that one of the ways in which you can identify really exceptionally strong change agents.
Not only can they recognize where they are in the curve, they recognize where others are in the curve and then they can adapt. So that would be my advice to for this particular situation without knowing any more of the details. Try and get this person to appreciate that they’re here, everyone else is over here, and they wish that everyone was a lot closer to them, but that’s just not the case. So, how can we work together, because obviously it sounds like the leader is on board with all the changes, or maybe they’re also a little bit further behind, but how can they team up together and accelerate that path by which everyone gets to the same spot? It may be divide and conquer, it may be like ‘hey, you’re going to reinforce what it is with your teammates’. It might be that you lead a session about why this is a great thing. There’re all sorts of really creative things that you can do to bring people along that curve, but I think it’s having a conversation with that person to get them to recognize where everyone else is.
JM: Yeah, so overlapping themes here that I’ve been thinking about, especially as of late. Very relevant for me in the last year, as it relates to some recent hires that I’ve made on my own direct leadership team. I’m not saying that this question is relatively addressing this point, but it definitely does overlap, as it relates to just my own methodology with hiring. I feel like I’m hiring better talent than myself, and I want to continue to do that. I feel like it’s an opportunity for me to learn, so I, at least from the question standpoint, I would want to ensure that were hearing some of that outside perspective, as it sounds like there’s more experience there. It’s an opportunity for that leader who asked that question to grow too. This is something that I embrace, there is a specific opportunity for me to grow. For me to personally spread my wings, when maybe we as a team haven’t done things before, but with all the experience that we have under our belt, there can be some golden nuggets in there.
I also feel like if there is an opportunity to provide space for growth for this specific individual, even if it’s a special project. Could that change agent help speed up that change in the right ways and inspire cross-functional efforts to transcend the status quo of what’s happening on the team? And in my mind, we as leaders need to be open to that. It’s not just about our way or the highway. Just kind of keeping that level of open mindedness to be humble and continue to grow. And to layer in my own personal philosophies, there may be some additional opportunity to ensure that ‘hey, let’s see where this could take us based on this person’s past experience.’ In my mind, does the relevancy around being a direct report, or maybe having more experience matter? That’s okay, it’s an opportunity for learning all around, I think.
Q: In a CS org that doesn’t have any type of leveling structure for CSMs, I find it challenging at times for team members to feel like there’s more for them within the organization. While I understand that this is something the organization needs to work on, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the best ways to keep an employee happy that is looking for that next step.
PM: Yeah, I mean I guess the easy answer without knowing a whole lot of the details, is to create those different levels, which is not what you’re looking for I realize but, a lot of times we can get ourselves into a position where we are overthinking it we try and boil the ocean. But realistically, writing down what the difference is between your junior CSM, middle tier CSM, and what a senior CSM would be expected to do can be an incredibly straightforward exercise but high impact for the individuals on your team to be able to give them that level of clarity. I understand that this likely means that there is a budget that has to go along with that, and so that’s where it gets, perhaps, a little bit more complicated. But I would say leverage your peers in this particular area. If you’re trying to come up with a career profile of what different levels of CSMs look like, please do not start from scratch. That’s definitely something that there’s a ton of stuff on out there. So, that would be one thing that again, that’s probably not answering your question, but just to sort of level set, that’s where I would start.
But then I would also suggest if you’ve identified individuals that are high performing folks on your team that you don’t want to lose, what are some of the things outside of their customer work that they can do? Start to investigate, perhaps there is a reduced book of business that this person is working on and they become, in smaller companies, like a pseudo Ops person or they could start to work on projects, or they start to think about what scale looks like for your organization because you’re probably not thinking about scale, because you don’t have enough customers where you think that scale could be useful. So, I think there’s all sorts of different opportunities. Where you can get yourself into trouble there as you start to do more and more things with this individual that’s outside of customer facing work, you lose, in theory, one of your better CSMs, but then you’re also asking them to do something more and not paying them any more either, so it is a fine line.
JM: Yeah, I mean we touched on it a little bit where it relates to Customer Success as a business function, the different roles. And I think, even if you’re in, I’m not saying that this is where this question was coming from, but even if your CS team is in its infancy, you only have a couple employees, some of the inherent elements of evolving teams, whether it’s segment focus, managing a smaller book, things of that nature, there’s inherent opportunities for either career growth or for doing different things, based on whether it’s expertise or a specialty.
Put it this way, I feel like there is an opportunity for that, but also not being afraid to have conversations, even if CS isn’t that person’s long-term passion. We’ve had that happen, and it’s not unique to Zoom. I keep saying that but, as we continue to inspire folks and provide them opportunity, oftentimes, we’ll find out that low and behold, someone doesn’t want to be in Customer Success for life. And hey, that’s okay, that happens. Sometimes cultivating and inspiring someone involves them kind of leaving the nest, this CS nest, as it were, and that’s okay. Not to say that’s the perfect answer in every scenario, but at least having that open conversation and finding out directionally where this person wants to go, whether it’s within CS or outside CS, is certainly healthy and would be appreciated too.
Watch the recording of this webinar to catch up on the full conversation!