23: Moving from Doing to Leading the Work with Matt Dale

23: Moving from Doing to Leading the Work with Matt Dale

Matt Dale thinks there’s a point where you just can’t do it all, and have to prioritise your time appropriately.


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Charlotte Ward  0:14  

Hello and welcome to the customer support leaders podcast session 23. I’m Charlotte Ward. This week we’re talking about moving from doing the work to leading the work so stay tuned for five leaders talking about that very topic. Today I’d like to welcome back Matt Dale. In a customer support leadership context, moving from doing the work to leading the work often really means getting out of the queue. Do you think that should happen?

Matt Dale  0:44  

I think it’s a tough transition as you grow naturally with the company and my experience here at illuminate you know, starting out as the third person on support and then moving into leadership. A year or two later when it became clear that hey, we actually need to have some structure. That’s a different process, right? Like, the people that are your peers are suddenly reporting to you and in our world to as a startup, you know, I was tasked with making sure that the team was successful. I think there’s a few schools of thought, I’ve talked to some folks that are like you 100% should never be completely out of the queue, you need to make sure you stay grounded and doing the work. And you know, if you if you get away from that, then you’re not going to understand what the frontline agents are feeling. And experiencing, in my experience, it’s been a little different. My world, you know, as a VP of support, my role is very much interacting with, with the other teams here in the company and making sure that support is being represented well in those situations, that we’re giving them what they need. They’re giving us what we need, and really ensuring that my team has what it needs to succeed. In doing that. I don’t have a lot of extra time on my calendar to sit down and dive in and say, let me work on the queue. And as a company to we’ve grown quite a lot. We’ve had several acquisitions, I’ve not actually used some of our products. So I guess to answer your question, I don’t think it’s essential that someone has to still be in the queue doing the things but I think that as a leader, you need to make sure you have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on with your frontline agents with their experience in using whatever systems you have in place, you have to understand kind of what they’re going through so that you can appropriately serve them and make sure that their needs are getting met as far as your second part of that question, which was kind of Hey, how do you move from being in the queue day to day to to, to not, I’ve had the opportunity as part of the support driven aspiring mentor programme to mentor a new team leads or people that are kind of in that transition phase. One of the folks she was feeling very guilty that she wasn’t diving in and taking care of tickets, and at the same time, was having a hard time showing her boss that they actually needed more people in the team. So well, talk me through what’s going on. Well, you know, I go home at night in the night I crank through these the ticket queue because the queues all backed up, and they come in the office and I’m trying to do performance reviews and I’m doing this and then the other and basically she was just killing herself to make sure that nothing fell. You know, nothing fell apart and everything was fine. I said well, try to be in your boss’s shoes and having them look at what your team is doing. does he see a problem here? Well, no, because every night I’m going, I’m going home and I’m tackling the tickets and I’m getting the job done. Maybe you need to show him a little bit of that maybe the team needs to fall just a little bit. If you’re pulling, you know, 10-12 hour days, so you can do your job as a manager, and then your job as a person in the queue that’s not healthy for the team, because your management isn’t seeing what’s really happening, which is you’re burning yourself out. It’s okay that you’re not doing everything in the queue. It’s okay to be a resource for your team. Now, what are the things as a manager you need to be doing make sure you fill the time with that and then the extra time you can use to be in the queue but you don’t have to feel guilty about it. That’s not your primary job anymore. Your primary job is making sure your team is successful. 

Charlotte Ward  1:04  

You do yourself no favours Do you if you really are just constantly sweeping up after your team, you actually need to grow yourself and your team into a place where you can step out and they’re not going to fail. I think it’s not necessary to stay in the queue to keep in touch. Definitely, if you are growing with the team, it’s probably more of a transition than a kind of yesterday I was an agent and today I’m a leader.

Matt Dale  4:00  

I think from my experience, it was a, probably a four-year process of going from, you know, frontline agent to backing off a little bit to, wow, you know, I can think about it right now and go if I’ll open up Zendesk, it’s been a while since I solved, you know, solved a ticket. And, again, you wouldn’t want that to happen overnight, because that’s probably not healthy for the team. But you also want to make sure that you’re you’re setting your team up for success. One of our team leads here, she was one of our best agents, which is why she became a team lead and her team was really functional. They really ran well. It was awesome. But her ticket volume was also consistent to what it had been as a frontline agent. Our conversations and our one on ones I said, Look, you’re doing a great job, but your team isn’t growing as they could, because you’re taking the hard tickets for them and you’re there for them every time. I don’t want you to be the glue that keeps everything together. She took that to heart and we worked on it over a period of time and she actually went out on maternity leave for a little while and while she was gone and the team at that point had been prepared because she’d been working to make sure that she wasn’t the only person that knew how to do this part of the system or that part of the system. It’s a hard transition for folks to make. Because it’s like, I’m here to make sure everything is successful. And if I let go of that, then who knows what’s going to happen?

Charlotte Ward  5:11  

It’s a personal transition. And also to a degree, it’s kind of succession planning as well, isn’t it? And I think it’s interesting. You said it took you four years, I’m assuming it was four years because that was kind of an organic transition. Would you be more intentional about it? Would you set a deadline by which you would aim to be out the queue so that you can resource and plan properly for that?

Matt Dale  5:31  

I don’t think so. Actually, I think it’s going to vary depending on each situation. So my current level now if I were to move into another role, another company, I wouldn’t expect to probably be in the queue much at all. I might learn the product or to learn what it’s like, but support’s support, right, you know, how do we take care of the customer? What types of questions are we seeing? And I can ask those questions and I can get to that point pretty easily. I’m internally not the type of person that like I don’t feel guilty about not being in the queue, whereas you know, my direct report. She really did, and for me, I, I looked at it more as Hey, what do I need to do to make sure our team is successful? So in the same scenario of a team growing organically like that at a reasonable rate, you know, four or five people a year, it worked really well. If we were at a much more aggressive hiring process, yeah, I would, I would have gotten out of that a lot quicker. But I think you do need to look at it and go, hey, what am I doing what’s healthy for my company for my team? Do I have these weird feelings of guilt that I shouldn’t have? Or that I need to kind of challenge or Hey, maybe I’m not feeling guilty enough! Maybe I need to get more back in touch with. So I think I think wherever you have to be on that spectrum, you need to kind of challenge that idea and say is this what’s really right it’s just what feels comfortable because it’s what I’ve been doing.

Charlotte Ward  6:39  

That’s it for today. Go to customersupportleaders.com/23 for the show notes, and I’ll see you next time.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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