Technical Leadership – Impacting The Customer Experience
Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on July 16, 2011
In Technical Leadership – An Introduction, I talk about how growth is associated with doing different things, and not necessarily doing more. The first change is the transformation into an independent problem solver. The second change involves learning to focus on how rather than what we do. The next transitions are all about expanding one’s circles of impact. This post is about growing to make a positive impact on the overall customer experience.
Improved customer experience could be a reduction in support calls; it could be reducing turnaround on support calls, say by reduction in escalation rates; it could be helping sell to a key account by figuring out ways to stretch the product to meet their needs; it could be understanding a customer requirement, and helping the development team design an enhancement to the product; it could be improving testability to ensure better release cadence; it could be many other things.
This transition involves a shift in one’s focus. We are no longer just eliminating our pain. We now understand how our actions affect the overall customer experience. We then try to eliminate their pain.
There are three things that directly affect our ability to make this transition.
- Networking: It is important that we expand our circle of impact to other functional groups. The more people we impact, the more access we have to information that opens opportunities for us to make a bigger impact. It is a positive feedback cycle that builds upon itself. It also requires a lot of time, work, initiative, and genuine empathy. Don’t pack your day with todo tasks, and expect to achieve this just by ‘meaning well’. We may luck out a few times, but without doing this deliberately, we will eventually hit a ceiling.
- Mentoring: As Meg rightly points out, mentoring and growing others is important in every transition. It is crucial to this transition. Failure to do this will forever cast us as the expert in whatever pain relief we brought in the past. Every time there is a similar pain, management will reach out to us, leaving no bandwidth for us to make the next transition. We will get ample kudos, but no time to network, and no growth. If you are in a growing business, expect that there will be more to do each day, and you may need more than one successor.
- Win the team: Often, we forget the very key role our peers play in our successes. It is key that they look to us for a solution for whatever problem we are trying to solve. We can never know everything, and will need their support. No matter how clearly management makes anything our charter, if the team does not buy it, they won’t support it, and we will fail. On the other hand, the team will readily share and collaborate if they know, trust, and respect us. This is generally not so much an issue for someone who has grown through the ranks, and made the leadership transition in the current team. However, this is important for someone hired to specifically make impact at this level. A newbie is an outsider, not trusted fully, and certainly not considered a leader. It is important for the newbie to first win the respect of the team. It is really hard to do this without stepping on landmines, and this is the reason that new leaders, who have been very successful in their previous job, often fail in their new job.
Hope you find this series useful. Look forward to your comments, and stay tuned for the next in the series.
The full series of blogs on Technical Leadership: