This week, please welcome the super Vanessa Subramaniam to give us her take on CS leadership!
Vanessa is Manager of Support at TourRadar, an online marketplace for travellers to compare, book and review multi-day tours. She’s been there about a year, and in leadership for four years.
Hi Vanessa! So, four years in leadership… can you tell me how you made that transition from Individual Contributor?
When I moved into a support leadership position it was an internal promotion. I wasn’t the “best” support agent they had. I wasn’t the most technical or the fastest at solving tickets. I was, though, the best ‘people’ person and understood the members of my team and their motivation better than anyone else. By promoting me, I immediately had a team who had my back and knew I’d have theirs.
Did you find the transition came with particular challenges?
Yes, I had to learn to understand that meetings can be meaningful work. Initially I felt like I wasn’t “doing” anything except providing my opinion and sharing user stories that were obvious to me. In time I learned that steering the strategy into a positive customer-focused direction has a greater impact than working overtime to cover incoming volume.
And now, what do you think makes for a great CS leader?
It comes down to motivation-focused leadership. Why does this person want to do this job? Is it to grow quickly within a fast growing company? Are they money motivated or growth motivated? Do they appreciate flexible hours or value be home at 5:30pm to make dinner?
When you understand the motivation factors of your team you know how to help them grow and put them on the right path. You’ll also know what the non-negotiables are in their work-life balance and can honour those factors to encourage employee engagement.
Metrics are important, too. Data-informed, customer centric approaches are my favourite thing ever.
Do you think there are any misconceptions about the role?
The thing people always think, is that it’s less emotionally draining than front line work. I’m very much an empath. Leading a team of 35 travel experts is like having 35 customers who need support on an ongoing basis.
If they’re having a bad day, I feel that. When 5 people have bad days, I feel that times 5. I work really hard to create a great, fun, positive environment to work in so I’m lucky enough to feed off of good days x 35 more often than not.
Do you have any recommendations for someone thinking about stepping into leadership?
Yes, make an effort to find a mentor who you trust and will give you an objective opinion. You don’t have to figure things out all on your own and speaking to someone with different experience can help consider a different perspective.
And, read Radical Candor by Kim Scott!
What’s your favourite sign-off?
Thanks, Vanessa! It’s completely true, everyone has their different motivations; part of leading a team is working with and supporting those differences!
Watch this space for another CS Leader interview, next week!