Are You Ready for Leadership in Customer Success?

Are You Ready for Leadership in Customer Success?

Written by Ashna Patel - Co-Founder of CS Insider

It was around October 2020 when I had an annual 1:1 with myself.

I questioned everything!

• Am I happy with my work?
• Am I building new capabilities? Am I in the right role?
• After going through this process, I realized a few important things.

I was happy with my work, but I wasn't satisfied. Yes, I was growing professionally, but my skills, and capabilities were being underutilized.

Wanting a new challenge, I took extensive notes on where I was and what I wanted to achieve.

And then it clicked, leadership.

Why leadership? I dug deeper...

• Was I seeking a bigger challenge purely out of boredom?
• Did I genuinely care about my team’s growth, or was I only looking for my own?
•Was I ready to be held accountable for others?

A desire for a raise, a new title, or plain boredom doesn’t mean you are ready to lead.

So, I jotted down my thoughts & shared them with my manager. With some brainstorming & “looking deep within” I noticed some obvious signs that helped me decide that I was ready for the leadership role.

Let’s see if this resonates with you as well.

Funny gif about leadership

You think in terms of WE over ME

When you have a learning mindset, you proactively seek and share knowledge. You look up to other leaders & learn from their behavior.

Over time, you'll witness a transition as you start thinking in terms of ‘WE’ instead of ‘ME or I’.

Here's what thinking in terms of 'WE' looks like.

You:

  • Identify opportunities to support both your company & customers.
  • Prioritize your work and proactively allocate time for your team.
  • Reach out to other leaders & learn about their pain points.
  • Make your 1:1s with your manager more actionable and team-centered.

A successful Customer Success Manager knows what the client needs.

Similar to that, a successful leader or leader-in-progress thinks of their team as their customers and helps them be successful.

You lead by example

Leading without authority isn't about being an authoritarian. It's taking the initiative to do more.

I was hungry for more responsibility.  I wanted to take what I was learning and share it. But I didn't stop there. I implemented new ideas and took risks.

Some things you can do to practice leading without authority:

  • Don’t wait for others to give you a list of ‘to-do’s”, look for opportunities waiting to be seized.
  • Start brainstorming ideas for growth & development. Create your own OKRs.
  • Be ready to do what others cannot or will not.

“Leadership is not a matter of authority, it is a matter of influence. A true leader teaches others to understand more, motivates them to be more, and inspires them to become more.”- Michael Josphson

Leadership myths and facts

You are comfortable being held accountable for the results of others

According to a report generated by Harvard Business Review in 2012, nearly half of all managers are terrible at accountability. Now, if leaders are bad at it, you can’t expect the team to be any good at it. Can you?!!

Being ready for leadership does not happen overnight. You practice, adapt, and evolve. You know you are ready for leadership when you want to lead a cause and are comfortable with being accountable for results.

You are not ready for leadership when you just want bigger pay or a better title.

Are you ready to:

  • Be your team’s Advocate?
  • Be your team’s Customer Success Manager?
  • Set expectations, consider your team’s success yours?

It’s hard to fill a cup that’s already full.  So keep a learning mindset & welcome constructive criticism. If you feel motivated to learn & grow, you will automatically inspire others to do the same.

Others look up to you for guidance and advice

The value of a true leader is not measured by the work they do, but by the work they inspire others to do” - Simon Sinek

Leadership & inspiration are two sides of the same coin. Here are signs that your team members are inspired by your work.

  • Your team member comes to you looking for guidance with customer concerns.
  • Other leaders collaborate with you to work on internal & external projects.
  • Your manager respects your perspective when making important team decisions.

Fast forward to this year, I was promoted to manage our Customer Success & Support Teams. I didn't know if I was truly ready but there are elements of leadership that you can only learn with experience.

Leading when you aren't ready or committed can cause distress amongst your team. It’s important to be honest with yourself, either way.

But remember, you are checking if you are ready to START leading. Leading WELL takes time. It's both a mindset and a skill.

Last thoughts

Zara Yarwood wrote an article (link below) in 2017 showcasing “10 Signs You're Not Ready for a Leadership Position - Yet”. She talks about signs that will help you understand if you are NOT ready to lead.

It’s okay if this is not what you want. You may check all of the boxes above & still not feel ready. Maybe leadership is not something that excites you. That's ok too!

Creating value isn't tied to a role or level of authority. Individuals Contributors can create as much or more positive impact than their supervisors.

But if YOU feel ready. Ask yourself :)

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