102: Fireside with Ash Rhodes

102: Fireside with Ash Rhodes

Ash Rhodes joins me in an extended conversation where he brings the topic. This time, we talk about losing key contributors in his team, how he felt about it, and how he dealt with it.


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Charlotte Ward 0:13
Hello and welcome to session 102 of the customer support leaders podcast. I’m Charlotte Ward. This week join me for a fireside chat with Ash Rhodes.. I would like to welcome back to the podcast this week Ash Rhodes, Ash it is lovely to have you back and you are the first guest on my fireside so or is it the first guest at my fireside my virtual fireside I’m undecided on that What do you think?

Ash Rhodes 0:50
Uh, I would think at virtual fireside as it so happens. I have never shown you but this is My fireside that is my that’s my fire place

Charlotte Ward 1:05
so I was expecting this to be near my fireside as the host but we are right next to your fireside. It is auspicious. Andy, thank you for supplying the fireside for this fires.

Ash Rhodes 1:17
happy to help.

Charlotte Ward 1:19
So with the fireside, it’s bring your own topic as well, like all good parties, right. So

Ash Rhodes 1:28

Charlotte Ward 1:29
Yeah, so what what would you like to talk about?

Ash Rhodes 1:32
So I had figured that we would talk about something that was an issue for me in the last few months, where in I had some something that had not really come up as as a problem before and I had, I was caught a little bit flat footed. I had two specific instances that happened one right after another. So I will group it all together and just say that it was a instance of missing representatives. In one case, I had a representative who was one of my best she was amazing in every way. But she unexpectedly fell quite ill, and so was gone for extended medical leave. She’s fine now. She’s great. But, you know, things happen. But then in another instance, I had a representative who, I would say it’s not really a fault of hers either, but we had just hired her. We were in, like, halfway through her onboarding. And she had, unbeknownst to me been also applying for another role, like everybody does when you are looking for a job and it was with a There’s with a dream company. That dream company dragged their feet in offering her the role. And when they finally did, she, I can’t blame her, but she took it. So, all of a sudden, I ended up with two different instances of missing reps. How do you do with that? Right?

Charlotte Ward 3:25
Wow, okay. And yeah, not just missing but unexpectedly

Ash Rhodes 3:30
missing. Right. So, yeah, we were the extra challenge. Yes. And as it so happens, this, these two instances overlapped. So I found myself it was a fairly small team. And so we were very desperately understaffed, even more so than usual. So it was quite the I’m not gonna say emergency because, you know, I’m But, but it was we were left scrambling to to solve the problem.

Charlotte Ward 4:05
Those are two quite different situations actually, aren’t they? Well, they are both unexpected. talk. Talk me through the first one, your, your

Ash Rhodes 4:14
medical leave.

Charlotte Ward 4:15
Yeah, your medical leave experience where and how you dealt with that one?

Ash Rhodes 4:22
Well, there were a couple of different things that we immediately had to take care of, which is that I mean, especially when you have a small team, everybody wears a bunch of different hats, but you also find that some people over time have taken on certain responsibilities that are distinctly theirs. And then you kind of lose track of them. Oh, my goodness, what did this person do that weren’t only theirs? Have we have we lost sight of those, of course this person had, and so of course, I’m not going to bother them while they are in the hospital? Or recuperating or what have you. Um, before I go any further, let me back up just a little bit. What I first did is make absolutely sure that they were okay. I don’t want to sound like some sort of monster or anything along those lines. And I really genuinely think that’s what everybody should be doing. I made sure that that they were okay. And that their job would be okay. Because I do think that that is also part of our responsibilities as leaders.

Charlotte Ward 5:34
Is it super important? I mean, I think that I found myself severely conflicted at several times in the past, or I’ve had people who have had to take leave for medical reasons or whatever personal reasons that frankly, leave you in a very difficult situation as someone who’s still still got a team to lead and a business around loan coverage to arrange and everything else. Right and There, I’ve just that conflict is huge. You, you want to be over there, helping them, helping them heal, helping them, you know, take the space or the benefits or whatever it is that they need, you want to help them in every way you can. And yet, you also need them back.

Frankly, if we’re being honest, if we’re being honest, if it’s an experienced threat, and they’re good, you want them back without, but but also at the same time you have this other piece, which is you’ve still got all the work to do you know, so it’s a real conflict and I’ve found myself kind of in feeling like a dog chasing its own tail sometimes in both circumstances. I don’t know how you cope with that.

Ash Rhodes 6:47
Oh, no, absolutely. And, and I’ve I personally have found that, at least in this situation, that the best thing that I could do was to make absolutely certain that they had all of the space and resources to get better, so that they were able to, to come back and to be the resource in the future and to make sure that they had basically just the sufficient space to, to heal. Um, I know that I’m just being pedantic at this point. But um, the the company, at first just simply didn’t have a long term medical leave policy. It just had never come up before. And so I had to sit down with our HR department and then HR had to sit down with our CEO and write one so specifically for this rep so that we could make sure that there was a place waiting for them when they came back. Because if we hadn’t If we just simply went by our policy that existed before this, they wouldn’t have had a place waiting for them. And that that was unacceptable that was, that would have been cutting off our nose to spite our face. And it was just so after he did that, so with that laid as the groundwork, we like step 1.5 was to, like, do a forensic accounting effectively, of everything that that person genuinely did on a daily basis, because there’s, there’s so much that goes in to I mean, I think anybody who works in a really chaotic startup type environment can understand that like, everybody, when you see something that needs to be done, you just do it. And that goes for everybody. And so what are all the things that this person just did? Because if they didn’t do it, nobody would do it. And so trying to figure out all of those things and making sure that they still get done and nothing falls through the cracks was was chaotic as can be. So, this day, I do not, I am not entirely certain that we got all of it, but I think we got the vast majority of them.

Charlotte Ward 9:29
It’s another it’s another point of conflict, isn’t it? Because one way to get that audit is to just go and ask the person because that they’re often the best place to understand what it is all of those. Yeah.

Ash Rhodes 9:42
On one hand, I don’t I I’m a big believer in just reaching out and asking people like, reach out to the customer and be like, Hey, we didn’t quite understand your message. Can you please clarify or what have you. The exception is when somebody In the hospital, like that is the one time you don’t ask someone about where was

Charlotte Ward 10:06
that Google Doc again, or whatever? Yeah.

Ash Rhodes 10:10
You know, like, I just don’t feel like that’s the appropriate time to ask. So, so I went way, way out of my way to it as, as it so happens with this person. I did interact with him a few times, but it was a I’ve made again, I went well out of my way to make sure if it didn’t work was never discussed at all. It was all just making sure that they were okay. Like just talking about their recovery and so on. Because the last thing they needed was to stress about work or to feel bad that they were out of work, or anything like that. So yeah, I ended up taking on a lot of it. I ended up working a lot of really, really long days. but ended up hiring ended up hiring, it was a, it ended up being a really good thing because it was, I was able to really paint in very, very vivid detail why we how we were so short staffed one person leaving, cause all of these ripple effects cause all of these other things to to go wrong. And if one person going out, can cause that what happens if someone else gets sick?

Charlotte Ward 11:35
What happens if a relatively short absence, right, and it will mean that if somebody actually leaves if somebody actually leaves then that’s a much bigger problem. Right?

Ash Rhodes 11:45
Exactly, exactly. If we had someone quit, or if we had someone, I mean, the the pandemic was going on at this point. By that point, it was it was not a matter of If it was a matter of just like, throwing a dart at a dartboard, if somebody else was going to go down very badly, and and at this point, my, my rep in question had only been gone for about a week and a half when I was like, this is a problem. So we were able to post very quickly we are able to get get approval for to hire someone and just began this other job.

Charlotte Ward 12:29
So, so tell me having done your skills audit, having understood all of the previously not understood where and the impact that that person was having on that work and the pain of when that person wasn’t there to do that work. You make this new hire. And, and then you have the second part of this story,

Ash Rhodes 12:52
right? Oh, yes. Yep. So we reached the point where we were able to hire someone It has, as it so happens, we were able to hire somebody that was already on our radar for from a previous job posting. So the actual time from post to hire was very, very small. And so we the actual job posting for the customer service representative ended up getting shut back down almost immediately.

Charlotte Ward 13:31
I mean, in theory, that’s a nice nice place to be. I mean,

Ash Rhodes 13:34
it’s a great place but that’s, that’s,

Charlotte Ward 13:38
yeah, I mean, I’ve had job postings open for months and months and months and the effort involved and the investment that you put into those those hirings are is it’s phenomenal overtime

Ash Rhodes 13:52
absolute slog to get the right path qualified people in And, and so on this person, I cannot say enough good things about the person that that we were, that we ended up bringing in. The only reason I even mentioned the the weird kind of dance is because it was such a short period that we brought it in, I want to be clear that we didn’t like, just hire the first person that came across our desk. It was somebody that had been so fully vetted. And so we bring her in. And like I said, just going right along, picking things up extraordinarily quick on the uptake for every single one of our systems. So quick, in fact, that I felt bad because it almost felt like She was disappointed that there were so many things that she would ask these insightful questions. I’d be like, well, I don’t know, because I’ve never had anyone asked me that question in all of my time at this company, so I’m gonna have to get back to you. And she’s like, Okay, well, I’ll just add it to the list. Man. She was good. She was extraordinarily good. Um, and then I, I took a vacation day. And on that vacation day, I halfway through the day, I get this message from our head of HR. Like, you need to log in right now. something’s going wrong. And I’m like, Oh, god, oh, god, oh, god, oh god. And it was that she had the hire, had wanted to tell me in person. And since I wasn’t logged in, she had Told HR in person that she’d gotten this other job. And I mean, so classy, like so classy. She didn’t want to just do it via slack or anything like that. So, she still gave even though she’d only been with us a couple of weeks, a few weeks, she still gave two weeks notice. And, and has even offered to, to like help us source additional people to replace her. And like literally everything great I can again I cannot give enough props to this person. But nonetheless, also completely left, like so left. So we immediate like literally that day. I stayed the whole rest of the day to repost that very very shortened job posting for a customer support Rep. It has just been a full disclosure. I have not. I have not left the company. However, I was there for several weeks during that and it was it was just as nightmarish as you can imagine as we just discussed

Charlotte Ward 17:28
soul destroying to restart that whole process.

Ash Rhodes 17:31
Exactly. It was exactly how you but I can’t find a single word better than soul destroying the process of weeding and I mean we’ve both done interviews like as if it was our job. Our sole job like we may as well be recruiters at this point just the you write the the job description. be as clear as you can you include in the actual application, some questions to to weed out people who just shotgun blast applications. So you weed out a lot that way, then you do additional questions to weed out further ones. And you do initial 15 minute phone calls with ideally an actual recruiter. And you do, right. So no matter what you’re you, you get it down and down and down. But it is still something that takes weeks, sometimes months to get to you 10 1520 people, and you narrow it down to five, and you still don’t necessarily find anybody that can actually do the job with the empathy and skills that are required. And it just so you have to start all over again.

Charlotte Ward 19:00
You know, I found that in that hiring process when you get down to two or three, we’ve talked about this before, I know sometimes you’ve got a clear favour even if you’re doing due diligence on getting two or three or five down to a final stage. So you’ve got a good pick and you You’re definitely sure that you’re picking the best and what quite often you’ve got a clear favourite, but sometimes you haven’t, you know, I just think sometimes, even with all the due diligence, if none of them feels quite right to me, you put in a lot effort. Like this process is just just it’s relentless, sometimes hiring so the gratitude you feel when you get a good person in the door is immense. And and then, and then they go, and as much as you may or may not, let’s be honest, wish them joy depending on the person I just think you know, you just you think you think you’ve got it. You think you found the one for that role at that

Ash Rhodes 20:07
time? And yeah, say back to square one is high actually. So no matter. Well, yes, I am always. I’m sad to see them go because it means I’m going to have to embark on this desperately awful process again. I am genuinely always, always happy for them. Because I mean, even even my dad switched companies multiple times. So I think it’s probably our grandparents generation that retired from the same company they started with maybe, I think it might even that I think it was all just a fantasy. Nobody is going to retire. Potentially nobody’s going to retire. But But nobody’s going to retire From the company, yeah, yeah.

Charlotte Ward 21:03
Generally you generally definitely you do wish them well, and I cared a little bit but, but you know, we’ve all we’ve all had the odd hire who doesn’t work out but, but just every once in a while, once in a while, somebody slips through the net. And you’re gonna, you know, for whatever reason, right things don’t work out, they get a better offer great, you’re happy for them. It’s just sometimes it’s just not a great fit, and you just know they’ll do better. So you know, you help them find it or they find it themselves and they do better and you’re happy for them. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out because they identify that there was something you missed in that extensive hiring process.

Ash Rhodes 21:47
Well, and I mean, the question is, is it something that you missed or something that they were just exceptionally good at hiding? Because I mean, It all comes down to being a practice of playing detective of asking all of the right questions to ferret out. The I don’t know, the hidden sociopathy or the hidden lack of ability to actually do the skills that you’re looking for or what have you. We could do whole conversations about hiring practices. Yes, we don’t have time for that. But But let me tell you the one thing just because we’re on the topic, the best piece of advice I ever got, and I it has served me so well from the CEO of a company a couple companies ago. And he always said that any hire that you make you need to be excited to work with the person if they do not engender excitement, like Cannot wait and it can be like your next CEO. Or it could be just your next tier one level customer support Rep. Doesn’t matter if they do not make you excited to bring them onto the team. It’s the wrong hire.

Charlotte Ward 23:19
Very true. Very true. Thank you so much for joining me ash. It’s been a wonderfully Long, long chat with you by your fireside. And thanks. So thanks again for bringing the fireside and yeah, rare opportunity and a new opportunity on the podcast come into kind of greater wondering depth side topics. That’s been a pleasure.

Ash Rhodes 23:45
It has been my pleasure to ramble with you about all sorts of things and I look forward to next time. Thank you very much.

Charlotte Ward 23:53
Thank you so much. Talk to you soon. Go to customersupportleaders.com/102 for the show notes and I’ll see you next time.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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