What I learned from my Daughter’s Volleyball Game about Customer Success
My daughter has been playing volleyball for the past few years. As she is a freshman in high school this year, she tried out for the freshmen school team and made it. She is neither the best nor the worst player on the team, and she is well aware of it. She has been very proud to be on the team and has been working hard to both contribute to the team and improve her skills.
A few weekends ago they had their first tournament. Mood was high after they won the first game and most girls seemed to be playing quite well, effectively moving around the court, keeping the rotations and supporting one another.
Then came the second game against a team that was much stronger. They won the first set by a close 25:21 score. Volleyball, to those who don’t know is played until 25, but requires at least two point lead to win a set. So, if the score equates at 24 or more, the set is extended until one team leads by 2 points. In the second set, my daughter’s team trailed 20:24, and ended up winning at an amazing score of 38:36!! And not only that, but the lead changed sides multiple times along those 14 extensions…
On the way home, I asked my daughter and her friend what they thought about that set. Neither one of them actually played in those last crucial moments since the team ran out of allowed substitutions, leaving the 6 girls on the court for almost the entire last third of the set. Their immediate response was that they were very happy to not be on the court during those stressful times. They did not want the responsibility and feared they would fail and let the team down. I told them I don’t get it… what’s the point in playing on a team if you don’t WANT to be at the point of making an impact?
I saw a famous Michael Jordan quote saying: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” That’s the attitude of a winner, someone leaders want on their team, and of a leader people like to follow!
It occurred to me that my daughter’s mindset is common in business as much as it is in sports. You see, the greatest players – and most respected business people – are those who want to be the ones to take the initiative and run the final play. They trust themselves to be good and want the opportunity to make a difference. They believe that they can generate the positive outcome and even if not, believe that by trying, they will be at the very least learning from the experience. After all, what do you learn from not doing?
I was told once by a mentor of mine that: “you either happen for the business or the business happens to you”. You either drive for results or be driven by what happens around you. I bet that you each know some people who avoid the point of making a decision, afraid of the tough conversation with a customer or the debate with a team member over the right path forward. And I bet you, that you appreciate much more those who you know you can count on to come with you to the meeting that is expected to be a tough one and help you – or even take from you – the task of conveying the tough news or engaging in the tough conversation.
If you read this post and are working as a CSM, you are part of a Customer Success team at a company that trusts you. And that means that at least your manager and probably some/most of your peers decided they want you on the team. And it means that you are knowledgeable and experienced enough to win a spot on that team.
So, here is my pledge (a renewed New Years’ resolution?!!):
If you work on my team in any capacity, I will have your back in any and all situations when you “take the shot”. Further, I work to build the kind of culture where every person on the CS team, managers and individual contributors alike, do it too.
If we do not work on the same team – I encourage you to do the same. In environments where you feel not only supported, but also encouraged to reach out to others for advice, coaching and collaborative problem solving, you are likely operating in a stronger, smarter and more powerful a team than otherwise.
That said, not every situation has others next to you. Not every situation requires you to consult others. And ultimately, we each have jobs to do, jobs we have been entrusted to perform. You have a job to do. And in that job – I trust you to make decisions. I want you to be in the game, actively working to win that next point with our customers. We are on the same side of the net, playing against time and idle inertia. I encourage you to happen to the business and not wait for the business to happen to you. I can guarantee that you will make mistakes. All those who make decisions make mistakes. Heck – I am pretty sure that I have made more mistakes in my career than most of you…
But, I can also guarantee that you will learn from those mistakes and you will apply that learning to the next challenge/opportunity. The impact on your skill development and career from doing will be deeper than from watching, stronger when you take an action than when not. Of course, I prefer you to not make mistakes, but I rather you make a mistake than not take the action. Especially if you want to succeed. Especially if you want to learn and improve.
Make decisions. Take the actions. Learn and apply.
Happy New (learning and improving) Year!
SVP of Customer Success
Boaz Maor is a serial start-up executive with passion for Customer Success. He currently acted as the former SVP of Customer Success at OpenGov where he brings over 25 years of experience in a wide range of organizations from software to logistics to services.
Considered one of the early executives to help drive the development of the Customer Success function, Boaz is a frequent speaker, writer and presenter at conferences and events. Most recently, he won the “Innovator of the Year” award at CS-100. Before OpenGov Boaz found and led the Customer Success team at Mashery (acquired by Intel). Before that, Boaz held customer success executive positions at newScale (acquired by Cisco) and FreeMarkets (IPO and then Acquired by Ariba). Boaz holds an MBA with honors from Carnegie Mellon University.