with Nils Vinje
“How To Create A High-Performing Team”
He is the only certified coach in the field of customer service who is exclusively focused on the growth and development of CS professionals and the author of the best-selling book the 30-Day Leadership Playbook.
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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and how did you become the only certified leadership coach focused on the growth and development of customer service professionals?
I have two deep passions in my world. One of them is the customer success discipline and domain, which is basically everything that happens post-sale in a B2B SAS business. So, the sales team will go out to sell deals and get new customers to sign up for annual contracts, $20,000-200,000 a year. And then the customer success organization is responsible for partnering with those customers working with them, making sure they get value. Ultimately, renewing and expanding their annual contracts.
This is an area I have deep expertise, and having been a practitioner myself, rose up through the ranks, up to the VP level, and then for the last seven and a half years have been focused as a consultant working with all stages of companies – early-stage, gross stage, scale stage, public-private, Fortune 100s even, helping them build world-class customer success organization. So that’s the one side of my world.
The other side is the leadership, coaching side of my world, and I’ve been a leadership coach for the last 10 years. I really focused for the first eight or nine years of that working one-on-one with my clients, spending thousands of hours, helping them solve real leadership challenges and problems they were going through. Then I wrote the best-selling book called “30 Day Leadership Playbook” and kind of took all of my expertise and all the tools I had coached people through, used myself as well, and put them into this book and this framework, I call them the four pillars of leadership.
I offer for your listeners to grab a free copy of the digital version of my book. Go to 30dayleadership.com/book, just drop in your email and we will send you a free digital copy right away, and you can get access to the content of this book. So, on the back of the book then, for those, there were a lot of people that wanted to go deeper and wanted to work more. I decided to abandon the one-on-one coaching model in favor of a group-based approach where I could provide access to the tools and techniques that I have used and developed. Some of which I talk about in the book and some of which I don’t and many of them go a lot deeper because it just can’t in the book.
Then I pair that access to training with live coaching with me. And so I get this beautiful blend of providing tools that can be integrated into everyone’s life and then supporting them on a coaching basis. We do this in a group-based format so that we’re all in this together and everybody is making progress every single month in developing their leadership skills.
It didn’t all make sense for a long period of time. It was about always trying to focus on my strengths and what I’m naturally talented to do and doing work in that realm, both from a coaching perspective, as well as from a consultant perspective. Then when all of it kind of came together, each thing kept getting a little bit better, a little bit better, and now extremely happy with where all of this is because it all just seems to fit, but it took a long time to get here. There’s no one perfect path, but I was committed to always improving, always finding ways to add more value to my clients, more value to organizations that I’ve worked with and this was the great end result.
For high-performance teams, what are the essential ingredients that a manager needs in order to help their team perform to the best of their ability and to maintain that impetus?
I am a very big fan of the Gallup organization and the StrengthsFinder assessment. I’m sure you were very familiar with this, as well. I love the fact that my definition of high performing team, is actually taken from Gallup’s definition. The reason why StrengthsFinder exists is that Gallup did hundreds of thousands of hours of research to answer one question: “What makes a high-performing team?”
It is very rare that that amount of research boils down to one single sentence as an answer and what they came up with after doing all this research and analysis was that the highest performing teams have individuals in roles that maximize their strengths. When I first came and understood this and kind of got into the Gallup world and saw this very clearly, all of a sudden it was like everything started to make sense. I understood why I was successful in certain roles and very not successful in others. Why members of my teams were successful in certain parts of their function, but maybe not everything maybe not the entire thing. That notion that everybody is naturally talented to see things a certain way, to do things a certain way, and that we should celebrate those strengths and focus on developing our skillsets around those strengths and acknowledge where we don’t have strengths.
So, this flies in the face of traditional personal and professional development that says, take something you’re weak at, and then do a bunch of work on it, to make yourself strong at it, and conceptually, I mean, that was how I ran for a long time and it’s just still in our culture and business and in life. That’s something that you do. What Gallup says is to acknowledge where you don’t have strengths but instead focus on where you do have strengths. Since I learned this I have, you know, just gone to an extreme end that I built my entire consulting business around my number one, most dominant strength.
My entire leadership coaching program is built around my number one, most dominant strength. I found ways to put myself in that position where I was flexing that strength, because I know if I did that, then hands down I would be in a place to deliver an incredible amount of value to another person or another organization or whatever the situation that I was in. So, that’s how I look at high-performing teams.
No matter how hard we try, we try hard and make square pegs fit in round holes, it just doesn’t work. So, from a leadership perspective, whether you’re project-managing a small team or a big team, or you’re a people leader of a small team, a big team, doesn’t matter.
If you can understand the strengths of the individuals who are in the group that you are leading or you are working with, your chance for success in whatever endeavour is that you’re taking on is exponentially greater because the work output of someone doing work that is aligned with their strengths is a million times better than the work output of somebody who just happens to get assigned a task because they had time. That’s like the biggest difference that time versus strength is monumental. When leaders, regardless of discipline except that, harness that and grab hold of that then their outcomes and deliverables and everything can just completely change.
How do you manage the envy that some people develop for successful colleagues?
That’s an excellent question and it’s certainly prevalent in virtually any situation where perhaps there was a promotion and it was awarded to one of a couple of people. It can only be literally one person, but there were several people in contention and it can always lead to a little bit of angst and whatnot. So, to look at this, from the two perspectives.
The one that is having the success or maybe was promoted and the other side, that is not. The one that is having the success and having the promotion. Number one thing is that your job in any leadership position, and I think this even applies to whether you’re an individual contributor or not, is to do everything possible to make sure that the people that work for you are successful. If you’re in an icy position, you can just translate that to do everything possible to make sure the people you work with are successful, right?
It’s a very simple way to look at leadership and one of the foundational core principles that I believe in. It represents kind of wise transitioning from an ICU to a manager is one of the hardest transitions people made because it goes from being about you to being about somebody else and that’s a totally different thing. So, if you get into that position and are granted that and someone else was not, right, your job is still to do everything possible to make sure that they are successful if they’re on your team or if their partner with your team, or whatever it is.
So, what you received, as a result of the promotion is completely irrelevant. From a mindset perspective, you got to take a step back and say “Well, okay. Yes. I was awarded this promotion. That’s great and all, but my job is still to understand how I can make this person successful who was not awarded this promotion.” So, taking a step back, recognizing your role, and putting yourself in the position of “I’m here to serve them and to do everything possible I can to help them” can help alleviate some of that angst about “How do I now manage them? Because I was a peer to them last week.”
Now, from the other side, the individual who was not selected for the promotion. Number one. I would seek to understand what was it that led to not being selected because that would help me identify where to focus my development and what skills I needed to acquire. Number two. I would take a step back and think “Well, apparently, I was not the clear contender. I was not the one that was selected, and if I get some input from the organization, okay, but I’m also going to do some self-reflection and think about, what do I own that put me in a position where I was not adding enough value to where it was a no-brainer that I was the choice for this promotion.”
So this changes the focus and the perspective going from “Well, something happened to me by the organization.” to “Something I control was not delivered at the level that I know is possible and should have been.” So, oftentimes when decisions are made without us, although in a promotion kind of situation, we can place a lot of blame, make a lot of assumptions, do a lot of this, that, and the other, and it’s completely irrelevant because you never really know if that’s actually true. The only thing you know to be true is exactly 100% what you control.
So if you look at the value that you’ve added to the organization and you take an honest look at that and you take an honest look at what you are capable of, then there’s probably one or more ways in which you can identify to position yourself perhaps for future promotion, or perhaps a skill set that you need to build in order to set you up for that future promotion. So, I think the core in both of these scenarios and the core thing to pay attention to is to take a step back. Number one. Realize this isn’t about you, right? Realize that are things you control and align with what it is that you can do to provide more value to the organization because it’s when you provide more value the organization will respond and reward that additional value usually with promotion.
If you can come out of that having done some self-reflection, having taken stock of where you are in certain areas, having identified a couple of potential things that you would like to do to improve and enhance and bolster your skillset as a result of what you learned during this process and then you brought that to your manager. Now, that is the demonstration of incredible leadership right there. Being vulnerable enough to say where you failed, being vulnerable enough to say that I don’t know things in this area and have come up with a plan and then ask for their help and how to develop these areas. That would be a magic recipe. I would love to receive that if I were the hiring manager at that point in time.
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