One of my favorite events of the year is CS100. It’s hosted by my friends Dave Blake and Kristi Faltorusso from Client Success.

It's intentionally small.

100 customer success leaders.

The content is slanted toward leadership versus the tactical presentations you may see at other events.

It’s a breath of fresh air.

It reinforces my belief that the best leaders aren’t just good at a function; they have serious business and collaboration acumen.

We need more true business leaders In SaaS, tech, and customer success.

This week I’m focused on four of my favorite leadership takeaways from CS100, 2022.

Here we go…

1 - Focus on the present

Your next step is your most important one.

All we have is now, the current moment.

The past is gone, 100% unchangeable.

Our future isn't guaranteed.

Instead of overthinking past failures, we should learn from them and move on.

Instead of letting anxiety about the future control us, we should take the next best step toward the future we envision.

The small choices we make each day can and will impact our journey.

Am I making bold decisions or safe decisions?

One of the most impactful decisions of my career was to start a weekly call with customer success leaders in March 2020 (with Jeff) when the initial pandemic lockdown threw corporate America into chaos.

From that one decision, an entire community was born, Gain Grow Retain.

It took on a life of its own, gaining thousands of members in just a short period, and that experience forever changed my perspective on what is possible in life and business.

What is the most important thing you should do to step into the future you envision for your company, your team, and yourself?

There’s only one time that’s important, and that’s now.
  • Leo Tolstoy

2 - Focus on what you can control

This is closely related to focusing on the present.

As SaaS leaders, there are many (many, many) things outside of our control, and they will impact our success.

Because of this, it’s easy to adopt a victim mindset.

“I can’t accomplish my goals because our product sucks, and sales sell bad deals.”

It’s a trap.

And blaming others is never a winning strategy.

What can we do instead?

Make an impact on what we can control. It’s job #1.

You control coaching and enabling your team, how you interact with customers, and how you present information to your leadership team.

Once you get your own house in order, then (and only then) you can work to exercise influence in areas where you don’t have direct control.

If we aren't effective at job #1, we diminish our ability to influence change in areas outside our control.

Know what you can control and take full ownership of it.

3 - Lead across functions

Departments are a great way to organize people… for efficiency and career development.

But departmental silos can wreak havoc on the customer experience.

How often have you heard a customer say, “It feels like we’re talking to a different company when talking to your support team.” (Note: I’m not picking on Support, that’s just an example.)

Since departments aren’t likely to dissolve soon, how should we show up and lead across them?

First and foremost, be clear about who your “first team” is: your peers in the org.

If you’re a director of customer success, your peers are directors of support, engineering, finance, sales, etc.

That’s your first team.

Get to know them and seek to understand how their processes work. And don’t escalate issues to superiors until you’ve taken steps to work out issues amongst your peers.

Sterling Snow used crew rowing to illustrate the ideal teamwork scenario. In crew, the whole game is synchronization among teammates. If just one person is rowing faster than the rest of the team, the pace of the boat will slow rather than speed up.

There’s even a term for the feeling of near-perfect synchronization. It’s called “swing.”

Swing, near-perfect synchronization.

How are you creating swing with your first team?

4 - Grow your leadership tree

Finally, in his talk, Dave shared the concept of the leadership tree, which goes something like this:

The actual test of a leader is not what they accomplish in their role. It's the trail of leaders they leave behind themselves, the leaders they identify, cultivate, and coach along the way.

Using NFL football coaches as an example, Bill Parcells’s “coaching tree” is considered the most prolific of all time.

While he doesn’t have the highest personal win rate, Parcells led numerous successful coaches, including three who won 8 Super Bowls in total.

What does your leadership trees look like?

Have you identified potential successors for your current role? How are you building them up and preparing them for the next step in their career?

Who invested in you? Send them a text or give them a call to thank them.

Bill Parcells's coaching tree, greatest of all time.

Kudos to the whole Client Success team for a fantastic event. I’m already looking forward to next year and aiming to improve in the four areas above in the meantime.


Quote of the week

My favorite quote of the week came from my new friend Kristy Muir (Pelion Ventures) on the best advice she ever received for presenting in a board meeting:

Be brief, be brilliant, be gone.

On the road

I'll be in the following cities in October. If you are at either of these conferences, I'd love to connect with you:

  • Wahsington, DC - ChurnZero BIG RYG, Oct 12-13
  • Las Vegas, NV - TSIA, Oct 17-19. I'll be presenting Monday afternoon on the power of community for B2B technology companies with my good friend Aslan Noghre-kar.