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Guest

176

Because of the current economic situation, CS leaders, at a minimum, have to tie themselves to revenue somehow.

In this episode

Are there any similarities at your company between how new customers and new employees are onboarded?

In episode #176, Maranda Dziekonski shares her innovative approaches to onboarding. She highlights how viewing new employees through the same lens as new customers can revolutionize how companies integrate new team members, ensuring they become impactful contributors from the outset.

Maranda is an experienced team builder with a passion for setting up the right teams, systems, processes, and overall infrastructure to take companies to the next level. Currently the SVP of Customer Success at Datasembly, she has over 20 years of experience building world-class operations. She also has extensive experience scaling teams in early and mid-stage startups. She has been honored as a Top 100 Customer Success Strategist, Top 25 Customer Success Influencer Judge, Top 25 Influencer, and sits on numerous boards.

Maranda sheds light on the nuances of assessing for cultural fit and provides invaluable insights on how to effectively align new hires with company goals, foster a culture of continuous learning, and transform the onboarding experience into a powerful tool for business success.

Throughout the episode, Maranda offers practical advice and strategies for leaders looking to optimize their team’s performance and drive significant revenue growth.

Tune in to hear all about Maranda’s leadership journey and the lessons learned along the way!


Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


04:15

Early mistakes managing in tech

10:20

Building customer success operations

18:12

Best practices for getting everyone in your company trained on your product

25:58

Making it easier for employees to prioritize work

32:02

 Customer success team owning revenue

34:50

Leading productive one-on-ones


Resources mentioned in this episode:


Transcript

Maranda, welcome to the show.

Maranda Dziekonski  03:27

Yeah, thank you for having me excitexd to have this conversation. 

Aydin Mirzaee  03:31

Yeah, super excited to do this as well. I know that you’ve spent a leadership career at variety of different companies Swiftly catalysts today, your senior vice president at Datasembly. So wanted to maybe start from the beginning, though, do you remember when you first started to manage your lead a team? What were some of the early mistakes that used to make? 

Maranda Dziekonski  03:53

Oh,my gosh, I made so many mistakes. So if we go way, way back, when I was 17, I was doing management type work at a restaurant. And that was, you know, my first foray into management, that that is a very different type of management than when you’re in tech. So early on, though, in tech, when I first started managing some of the mistakes I made were, I mean, micromanaging, quite frankly, you know, I didn’t grasp the concept of just hire smart folks and get out of their way. I wanted to know every little detail every little bit in the minutiae of what was going on, how was it being done, where the i’s dotted and the T’s crossed? I’m a very operational person and think about, you know, process and optimization and quality and stuff like that, like as a hobby. So, you know, when you first make that jump into people management, and that’s your natural state, that tends to be how Oh, you manage, and I had a lot to learn. And it took a while to get over that and figure out how to just get better, better for myself and better for the people around me, quite frankly.

Aydin Mirzaee  05:11

Yeah. And you remember how you realized that you need to make a change?

Maranda Dziekonski  05:16

Honestly, when I knew, you know, I take things very seriously and personally, and I knew I was impacting people negatively with my management style, like, maybe there was a certain fear of me. And I didn’t like that. That’s not how I wanted to be. That’s not how I wanted to manage. And I also knew it wasn’t going to serve me well for longevity of my career. This is we’re talking 15 years ago, right. And I think it was one of those moments where I’m very self reflective, and just sitting down and taking a look at where I was, and where I wanted to be very raw and scary to share this on a podcast. But if it helps others, then that’s great. Yeah.

Aydin Mirzaee  06:02

And that’s, you know, certainly the intention. It’s the first question we start with every time and we get right into it. So yeah, thank you for sharing that. And it is really important to just see how you came upon these realizations. And so my question is, how did you turn it around? Was it just a switch? You said, No, I’m going to do it differently. And then the next day, everything was great, or what was the process? Like? What did you have to start doing differently?

Maranda Dziekonski  06:27

Well, first, I had to put in some basic frameworks to solve for whatever it was in my brain that I needed to solve for to allow it to take a step back. So you know, setting up things like KPIs goals, OKRs, check in points to where I had a pulse on what was going on in the organization, I had a coach and executive coach that I worked with, to create toolkits to figure out how to be able to adjust my style, depending on who I was managing, or who I was working with, right? It was many years of working on myself. And, you know, I think also, I hate to say this, but just age helps. You know, this was in my early 30s, I’m now in my mid 40s, right? We are all very different people. As we grow, I would imagine you’re not the same person now as you were at 20, or 25. Or, you know, not going to assume how old you are. So I’ll stop at 25. And,

Aydin Mirzaee  07:24

yeah, I’m a little younger than that. But I’m just kidding.

Maranda Dziekonski  07:29

But you know, it also just growth and evolution and being self aware and continuously investing in yourself. It’s not a switch, though, it’s acknowledging that different people need different things from you. And your management style can’t be a one size fits all approach. And if it is, you’re bound to either leave some heartache in your wake, or not be effective or impactful in a way that you could be if you could figure out how to navigate what’s needed by different people. Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee  08:02

I think this is all true. And the you know, the comment about ages is an interesting one. Because it is hard because like, the older you get, the more life experiences you get, you know, as you yourself, have a family as you yourself have various life experiences that are both, you know, times happier, other times painful, it helps you kind of appreciate things that other people go through as well. And again, when you’re young, and you’re getting into this if you haven’t experienced it, and so you try, you try to empathize, you try to understand these things, but you’re kind of approaching it from an academic sense. And then there’s the Okay, now I’ve experienced this stuff. I know what it means. And, and you know, I have a need to tread differently. Yeah. And different circumstances. So yeah, definitely. Point taken there, too. Yeah.

Maranda Dziekonski  08:48

Earlier this year, I led a company CEO function through two rounds of layoffs. And it’s been a rough year for tech. And you see lots of CEOs getting blasted on social media about how they handled it well or didn’t handle it well, or, and I probably was one of those that were Pooh poohing how folks were handling it, don’t get me wrong, some of the ways that people handled it with just pour, right? You just shut somebody’s email off and be like, surprise, today’s your last day. Like, that’s bad. But myself having set on 30 back to back zoom calls, looking people in the eyes and telling them that today is their last day and talking them through their packages, I have a very different level of empathy than I did prior. It’s always easy to be like that armchair warrior and speculate. But until you live through those types of things, teachers don’t really get it, you know, yeah.

Aydin Mirzaee  09:44

And there’s some niceness into the naivety that comes with being early on in the process. And yeah, some obviously good things that come from experience too. So yeah, thank you for sharing that. And, you know, I know that you spent a lot of time in operations if you were operational. leader focusing a lot on customer success as a function. One of the things that you’ve you’ve focused on is just building really great customer success operations and thinking about onboarding and how to very effectively onboard new people that are coming on to the team. And I was wondering if we could spend some time, you know, diving into some of your learnings, you know, what have you learned about, you know, building customer success, onboarding? And what are some lessons learned? And how is the approach evolved over the course of time?

Maranda Dziekonski  10:30

Yeah, so I’m gonna bucket two things together. Here, I’m gonna bucket customer onboarding and team member onboarding together. I know that may sound a little crazy, but follow me here. I also have owned human resources for multiple years. And if you think about the lifecycle and journey of a customer, and the lifecycle and journey of a team member, the correlation is quite uncanny. Right, and what is the most important part of the lifecycle of a customer, it’s generally like getting them to time to first value quickly, right, and making sure that they get the problems you’re solving, that you’re able to provide them a seamless service, a seamless experience, and they want to use your product all the time, right? The same thing with a team member, if you think about it, you have a new team member, you’ve gone through so much to get them in the door. And now it’s time to get them to their time to first value quickly. And I’m playing it this way just to help CS leaders understand and see that correlation. So when you’re building out that onboarding plan, you want to think, what is that? What does that look like and time to first value for a new team member is generally, you know, having quick wins, and getting that dopamine hit like, this is where I belong. And I get it. And I want to be here and I want to be impactful. So when I orchestrate an onboarding process, I’m thinking about what are the basic foundational components that they need to know about the company? What are the things they need to know about the role? What are things they need to know about the systems that they’re going to use? And how are these not just like you log in here? But what are the whys behind? These are the tools, right? If the tools are maybe less obvious tools like feeding them that why so they can figure out what’s in it for me? How does this make my life easier, and then figuring out ongoing engagement ongoing dopamine hits, ongoing wins. And that’s how you keep the employees and keep your team members in the same way. Keep your customers, right? It all like if you map it out side by side, it’s oddly very well correlated. And that’s how I tend to approach onboarding. It’s super interesting.

Aydin Mirzaee  12:37

We do all these things for our customers. And like we’ve kind of refined the process, and we figured out all the best practices around it. But you’re right, like a lot of this stuff translates very directly to how you handle your teams, or how you can onboard people onto your team. Do you have an example of something that maybe is really different or unique about the way that you onboard people onto your team in the past?

Maranda Dziekonski  13:02

I mean, I don’t know if it’s different or unique. I’m sure other companies do it. One, you make sure they have a mentor internally, somebody that especially in remote environments, somebody that they can just hop on and be on zoom with their first friend. You know, there are studies out there that say folks that have best friends at work tend to stay longer. So you want to try to help facilitate that. They have a plan in their hand when they start. So what are you going to be doing for the first week or two, this is especially important in remote environments, where it can be lonely, right? So imagine being a new person, you know, nobody in the company, and you’re trying to figure out how to navigate, it makes it less scary. If you have a roadmap that tells you today you’re going to be learning this, these are the milestones you’re going to achieve. These are the people you’re going to get to know. And these are the functions that they own right. And you map it all out for the first few weeks before you set them loose to do their role and move from their onboarding into their OKRs. Right. Again, I don’t know if it’s unique, but those are a few things that I do to make sure that new hires are set up for success and they’re not, you know, sitting out there by themselves floundering to

Aydin Mirzaee  14:10

the designated first friend sounds like a super interesting concept. So how do you get volunteers to do that? And is it like very official like, this is your onboarding buddy, they’ll stick with you for the first month or something like that?

Maranda Dziekonski  14:23

Generally? Yes. Generally, it’s very official, you’ll ask. I do prefer if it’s somebody that’s not within the team, the same team. Oh, interesting. Yeah. Sometimes that’s a little bit harder to get. But hey, we have so and so that starting I would love for them to have an onboarding, buddy. This is you’ll check in with them once a day and see how they’re doing and you know, you’re not responsible for their onboarding. You’re just kind of there just to, you know, have someone to chit chat with imagine like if you were in the office and you’re at the watercooler. I don’t know if companies even have water coolers anymore. offices, but imagine you’re in the kitchen and you’re making your avocado toast. Who else is in the kitchen making their ephah Kado. Toast, right? And you start seeing that friendly face. That’s the whole purpose of it, it’s not to go into the technical nuances of the product or, you know, go over role specific stuff. I find it though, to be more impactful. If it’s somebody’s not in their team, they’re gonna see people in their team all the time. Like, let’s get them that buddy. That’s not in the team.

Aydin Mirzaee  15:27

Yeah, that’s super interesting. And how do you encourage this as part of the culture? So for example, you know, do you volunteer people to become a buddy for somebody else, or, you know, people just volunteer to do it themselves?

Maranda Dziekonski  15:40

Generally, people volunteer, especially if they’ve been through the process, they know the value in it, and they want to give back, I’ve never had a problem historically getting volunteers for somebody to be a buddy. The only time it is a problem is when you’re hiring crazy parents and everybody’s burned out, then you might have to tap on internal team members to say, Hey, would you be there, buddy? But generally, I’ve not had issues with

Aydin Mirzaee  16:05

that. Yeah, I love it. And so when you think about the actual process of onboarding, especially because you have owned also human resources, functions, too. So what’s typically involved? Is it actually like a three week process, or they’re learning things for that amount of time before they do anything else.

Maranda Dziekonski  16:25

Sometimes the longer it depends on the product, it depends on the role. It depends on the milestone. So for example, at one company, I had a team that was responsible for API’s. And you know, they were quasi engineers, and they would embed API’s into our customers websites. And they would have to learn one extra step beyond were like the customer success managers, right? Because they would need to learn about, like, how our API’s work, the API documentation, and how do you make a pull request and a push request, and they would need to learn all of that stuff. So their onboarding would be even longer? The answer is, and if folks are trying to figure out how long their onboarding should be, it should be however long it takes to get the person to where they’re comfortable to be successful. And that could vary by person as well, not just function. Now, I would say you should have a barometer or you should have like kind of an idea on average, how long it takes. So if on average, it takes somebody three weeks and you have somebody that’s maybe six weeks out, that you might have a problem with fit, depending on where they’re getting hung up on their milestones program. If you have someone that took two weeks, you might want to just double click and make sure they really understand the fundamentals, right. So understand where your average is, and how much time you think it should take. And then pay attention to those data points.

Aydin Mirzaee  17:51

You know, one of the things that anybody who starts in customer success obviously really needs to understand the product, but to do a lot of other teams, whether they’re in sales, it’s really useful for product people to understand that, you know, arguably everybody in the company should really understand the product. Are there any things that you’ve seen, or ways of structuring product training that you’ve seen that has really worked? Well, like, who takes responsibility for it? Given that it’s something that again, in theory, every person in the company could kind of benefit from? Yeah, just like any best practices are really effective ways to get everybody in the company really well trained on the product. Yeah,

Maranda Dziekonski  18:28

as Swiftly we spun up something called the Swiftly University and we had three different levels, it was Swiftly one on one Swiftly, you know, 201, for whatever, right. And we would stagger it throughout the first couple of weeks of their training. And, you know, initially it would be, we would hire a person, and it would be a person with somebody else, taking them through this pre created deck, you would create the deck and all the content that needs to be covered in the deck, and to make the teacher’s job easy. And then it became, you know, we would hold it once a month for each of them. And anyone that started within that month had to attend these sessions. And there was always a volunteer in the organization that would teach it, it was created in a way that it would be easy for anyone to teach didn’t matter your role, except when you get to that 300 level, then we would need somebody from product or who was like a solutions engineer type mind, who could go into a little bit more of the technical nuances. But, you know, we would always ask for volunteers for the next couple of months have the professor’s assigned. I won’t lie. It worked. Well, it got us what we needed. When people get busy, they stopped raising their hand. So we had to continuously think about it iterate. And sometimes it did feel like we were begging for volunteers. But we felt so passionate about the program itself that we kept it and kept on it and I do believe it still exists today. That’s

Aydin Mirzaee  19:58

awesome. And should there’s one on one to one through one type classes and these kind of recur every single month, right? What was that the idea? So if you just started as a new employee, over the next three months, you would have exposure to these. And it was required for them to 10. Right? It was not like a voluntary thing. It was required,

Maranda Dziekonski  20:13

and it wasn’t that you would get one month it was all in one month. Oh, I was on one month. And if you needed a refresher as an employee, let’s say you’re three months in and you’re like, you know what, maybe I don’t understand this as much as possible, you know, that this class is going to be taught again, and you can go and get the foundation re taught to you. Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee  20:34

I really liked that. Because there’s all these side benefits, too, right? So especially if different people are teaching the class A, it’s an opportunity for you to meet other people, for the new people to interact with someone else. It’s an opportunity for people to practice their public speaking. Exactly. There’s, yeah, there’s a lot of really great benefit that comes from that. Yeah, that’s a really cool approach. Thank you for explaining that. Yeah. The other thing I wanted to also talk to you about is just interviews in general. So I know you have a customer success interview blueprint. You’ve done this a bunch of times, I’m sure that your blueprint has evolved from like, when we was first originally ideated, I would love for you to explain like how it works, and what are the things that have changed over the course of time?

Maranda Dziekonski  21:16

Well, one, we don’t do the on site anymore. So that’s a big change. If you recall, I don’t know which version of my blueprint you saw. But you know, part of it was, you have them back again for another round where they do their presentation, we’ve completely adapted all of this to be done, virtually. And we still do two rounds. So that’s the biggest change to I don’t actively share this out with candidates, you know, I had in the past, but I leave it out there as an Easter egg for them to find. If a candidate finds it, they completely know what to expect. And that’s like an extra bonus point for me, if somebody’s like, has found this blueprint, because part of customer success is sometimes you have to be an investigator like a natural investigator, you have to be curious and out there like digging and trying to figure out who it is you’re going to talk to, right. I mean, we have to get on calls all the time with people we don’t know, and have difficult conversations. So that’s part of it. The overall blueprint though, how I thought about it, when I was designing, it was thinking about the skill sets that are needed for the organization I’m in right now, it is meant not to be a plug and play solution for other ces leaders, but more of like a guideline on what you could do and adapt it to make it your own. I really like a few of the activities that I really like in it that I continue to use to this day. One, I like the prioritization method in there. So as part of the phone screen, I will give a potential CSM, five things that they could potentially encounter on their plate, and ask them to prioritize it. And it can be anything you know, and I shift them around a little bit. But the example I gave was you have a newly signed customer that needs to be on boarded, you have an enterprise level customer that’s having a major technical issue that’s hurting their ability to use your product, you have an EBR that you need to give in the next seven days, you have OKRs that need to be updated for a meeting. That’s happening the next day and then you have 10 unread Zendesk tickets, where do you start right? For me, it’s not as much about the answers. It’s more about how they critically think and the questions that they asked to show me how they advocate for themselves. So for example, I specifically say you have an EPR. And then if they put the EBR. Last, you know, because they have seven days, I asked them, What will you include in your EBR? And I find more people have no idea what a DVR is they just put it last because they have seven days and they didn’t ask me what isn’t EBR. Right. And it’s not supposed to be like a trick question. It’s more of hey, you’re going to be working remote on an island by yourself? Are you going to advocate for yourself? Are you going to ask questions to get to the root of what it is you need to do? Or are you just going to make assumptions? Right? So that’s really a lot of the activities I do in my you know playbook. It’s less about what’s right or wrong. It’s more about me seeing how you critically think how you advocate how you investigate how you show up.

Aydin Mirzaee  24:32

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Maranda Dziekonski  26:13

first and foremost, I’m going to look at the enterprise level customer that’s having a major technical issue. If they can’t use the product at all, that’s like, that’s a problem. And then I’m gonna do a quick skim in those 10 unread Zendesk tickets, just to see, is this an isolated issue with this customer? Or are we getting send us tickets, right? And usually, Customer Success doesn’t touch send us tickets. But you know, I put this in here as an example. Let’s assume you have emails, all right, I’m going to quickly skim to see is this a big issue? Or is this just an issue impacting this customer. The next thing I’m going to do for that is I’m going to send out whatever I need to the newly signed customer, and figure out what needs to do to get the onboarding kicked off, right, get the meeting scheduled, send over the welcome packet, or whatever it may be. And it nice welcome email, telling them what to expect, along with probably my Calendly link to get time on to start onboarding, then I am going to move to my Executive Business Review. Take a quick skim to see, are there any details that I need from other teams? Like are there anything that I need, that’s going to be able to make this the best Executive Business Review possible that is dependent on others? If so, I need to get those requests out. Now. So I know that I am successful, because I am a big believer, you’ve got to have that Executive Business Review presentation done, like five days before the Business Review, not like the day before or the day of so you and the team you’re collaborating with can iterate and really make sure the narrative is seamless. And then lastly, the OKRs getting those updated, you know, and making sure the latest and greatest I’m where you are with the key results and activities you own are moving in the right direction. It’s an ongoing thing, though, with OKRs. That should be something that’s incorporated into your every day. So I would anticipate if you were being diligent in your role, it wouldn’t be a big deal. You would just need to go in and say, check, check, check it check. Yes, I’ve done this. No, this has been de prioritized. And that should not take you very long at all. That’s how I would do it. Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee  28:26

I love it. And you know, as you’re explaining this, I almost feel like it would make really good onboarding content to just almost like, you know, prioritisation mini class or something like that. And just, I mean, it’s a great interview question. But I feel like it’s also useful for people to understand the mindset of some of these things, because I feel like some of this prioritization, you know, maybe you pick up some of these things once you’ve had a few years of experience. But then, if you are just starting how it probably helps to learn some of this stuff, even if it is in the form of a class. Absolutely.

Maranda Dziekonski  28:58

And you gave me an idea, maybe I’ll do that. Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee  29:02

it could be interesting. So okay, so we’ve talked about onboarding. We’ve talked a little bit about hiring. Now, let’s talk about the team. So you built a lot of customer success teams, what makes a super successful team, the high performing one,

Maranda Dziekonski  29:19

the higher performing Customer Success teams that I say they act like? They’re the business owners of their portfolio, they know the business, they know the ins and outs of their customers, they understand what you know, value looks like to them, they have goals documented, they’re working in partnership with their customers to solve those goals. It drives them crazy if something’s not updated in our systems, right? So they’re on top of stuff. Really, you know, the only way I could describe it, like I said, when I started is they act like entrepreneurs like this is their business. They take it very seriously. And they run it like a business. And

Aydin Mirzaee  30:03

so what are the team aspects of that though? Like, does each person own portfolio? Is it? Or is it a group of people that own a portfolio together? Generally,

Maranda Dziekonski  30:12

I work in small to mid sized startups that have larger contracts. So each CSM will own a portfolio, they will own a set of accounts. And that’s their responsibility to make sure that those customers are achieving value and growing. Now, I will say I’m a big proponent of team and the value of team. But I’m a believer that if multiple people owned something, nobody really owns it. So that’s why we have account assignments. Now to help with like the team mentality, I do structure goals in a way that helps drive team level participation in accounts. So for example, my CSM are generally bonused on two things, gross renewal, so your gross salary, noi of $100, up for renewal, how much renewed this month, right? The second thing is more of a team goal. And that’s your net retention. So not only how much did I renew, but how much did I expand. So we are always navigating resource constraints in every organization. So the reason why I believe in net retention as a team number, it’s because we all have to make decisions about who gets prioritized and what gets prioritized. And sometimes your account won’t get prioritized. But if another account is winning, and we’re still growing, you know, in a way that everybody wins, that’s good. So that’s how I tend to split it.

Aydin Mirzaee  31:43

Got it. And so one of the things that I know is, you know, top of mind these days is just this idea of, you know, what’s going on in the economy, obviously, all of us are being asked to operate on a more lean basis and do more with less and, you know, be responsible, everybody kind of being responsible for revenue a little bit. And one of the things that I’ve often come across is that for a lot of CSM professionals, it’s possible that that’s not their default place to go right to also be responsible for revenue or expansion. Like, they might be uncomfortable with those sorts of concepts. And some companies divided out, right, they say like, well, we have CSMs. And that’s different than, say, an account manager that is maybe responsible for expansion, like how do you think about this stuff? Should the customer success team own that? I mean, again, it is you mentioned as a team goal of a net revenue retention, but how should they think about revenue in general? Yeah,

Maranda Dziekonski  32:41

so first of all, there are no one size fits all answers for this, right? There will be companies where absolutely makes zero sense for CES to own the renewals and upsells, like, own the actual negotiation, and penning the contract and all of that. So I would advise, you know, the CES leader to one, make sure they know what makes sense for their company, don’t just architect something because you think that’s the way that the industry is going. However, that being said, I do think because of the current economic situation, CSX leaders at a minimum, have to tie themselves to revenue somehow have to be able to prove that the efforts that they are doing are driving gross renewal, net retention. And if they don’t directly have a goal, or don’t directly own that it does get hard. So that is my two cents on that. Like, I personally think it’s important that leaders get comfortable with owning revenue. I don’t know what’s going to happen in 2024, I wish I did. But my gut says we’re going to have a little bit more tough times before it gets better. And when, you know, as somebody who has own finance, right, in an organization, I know when I’m doing an audit, on line by line expenses, I’m looking to cut things that are not mission critical things that are not driving direct revenue, things that are not protecting future revenue. And you have to be very clear about how you tie those things together. So that’s a good thing for folks to keep in mind. Because it’s a reality that’s happening not just within their internal organizations, but at their customer organizations as well. Yeah.

Aydin Mirzaee  34:30

And just like the visual of you know, that CFO going line by line looking at those things, and I think those are the questions, is it mission critical? Is it directly tied to creating more or protecting revenue? And yeah, those are the questions I get asked in these sorts of times. So thank you for explaining it in that way. So I did also want to chat a little bit about one on ones. And so I wanted to ask you about you know, just what are your thoughts about one on ones with your team? When and how you tend to run them? Yeah,

Maranda Dziekonski  35:03

one, you should be having them weekly. Okay, I take one on ones very seriously, I tried to make sure and look, stuff happens, sometimes I have to move it out, you know, to a different time. But I tried to make sure at least every week, I’m spending 30 minutes to an hour with each of the folks on my team. Also, I am here to make my team members lives easier. That is the scope of my responsibility. I’m here to remove barriers, help them think through difficult moments, help them navigate any tactical things that they may be struggling with, and also help them to come up with strategy. I of course, will always have, you know, agenda items, but the majority of the agenda, and I made this very clear with all my team members is owned by them, they own the agenda, this is their time with me for whatever they need. And you know, so I always try unless I have something super urgent or something very immediate that needs to be addressed. I give that time to them. Now, I will also say every one of my team members always knows where they stand with me, I am in the moment feedback person, I never wait until they’re one on one to give them feedback. So they never have to come into that one on one worrying about what is Maranda going to talk about today. We also use a tool where we add all of our agenda items. So that’s always front and center as well. So they know what’s in there. But the most important thing is is the call out is the in the moment feedback. So if they did something amazing, they will hear from me immediately knowing that I really liked that good job. That’s high five moment. Or if there was an area of opportunity, I will immediately like say, hey, let’s hop on. And just chit chat about this observation. Right? I don’t save that from one on ones, because I want to make one on ones a safe place. Not a scary place.

Aydin Mirzaee  36:47

I love it. And so how did you get better at giving the in the moment feedback is something that you got better at over the course of time, is there a way that you remind yourself to do that, you know, some people don’t find it as easy to do. So I’m wondering if there any tips or tricks there,

Maranda Dziekonski  37:04

it’s important to do when you’re managing folks. So you just have to get into the habit of it. One, I just tell folks to evoke empathy, and think about, you know, being a human and what powers humans and what powers satisfaction and your role is generally having an understanding of where you are and where you’re going. And what path are you on, right. And a big part of that is making sure that you’re providing feedback. I don’t know if I have any amazing revolutionary tips, it’s just you have to do it. I definitely have used the sandwich technique when I’m giving constructive criticism, or I will just come out and I’ll ask the team member generally, they already know if they did something in less than ideal way. And I’ll ask them, so how do you think that went? Right? And they’ll self critique and bring up the areas of opportunity, and worth the investment? Three, trust, self assess, and be honest with yourself about where you are? I think one of the biggest things that hold leaders back from growth is not being open to the idea that you have areas of opportunity and areas of growth. We all do. I do. You do? Everybody does. But those who actually grow are the ones that acknowledge it, create a plan and start getting better. And I’ll agree and then we’ll say let’s create a plan to make that better, right. So there are various ways to get into that habit. But the biggest thing is just starting to do it. I will add one little more tidbit on this, get to know your team members, right, know them as humans, that makes those moments so much easier when you do have to give constructive feedback. I don’t want to get feedback from people I don’t know. I’m like you don’t know me. You don’t know what my intentions are? You don’t know, you know what I’m navigating maybe in my personal world, right? I’m not saying you get too deep, you get as deep as they want you to. And then that makes it a more safe place for you to be able to deliver feedback in those moments that you need to and then not so pleasant feedback.

Aydin Mirzaee  39:10

Yeah, it’s very interesting, like the trust building concept. Like this is why this stuff makes sense. Because if there is trust that you have the best intentions, you’re actually communicating the feedback to help them be better at what they’re doing. And it comes from a truly constructive place. Yeah, people will accept it a lot more easily. But if you don’t spend the time to build the trust and the relationship then and you wonder why people don’t listen to you. Why is it I keep telling people to do things, but they just don’t listen? Yeah, so Maranda, this has been an awesome conversation. We’ve talked about a lot of different things, including how to onboard Customer Success teams, how to hire, how to build high performing teams, we’ve talked about one on ones and feedback and so much more. The final question we always like to end on is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any final tips, tricks or parting words of wisdom that you would leave them with?

Maranda Dziekonski  40:09

So one, get a mentor. It’s always nice to have somebody and it could be somebody in your network, or somebody you work with, that you look up to, but don’t report directly to, I always find those relationships are super helpful to bounce things off from and maybe get feedback to if you have the budget executive coaches or chefs kiss. Like, it’s amazing to be able to have that. I know not everybody has the budget, but if you do, it’s definitely not of just sitting in the comfort of where they are like discomfort is really good sometimes.

Aydin Mirzaee  40:42

That’s great advice, and a great place to end it. Maranda, thanks so much for doing this.

Maranda Dziekonski  40:46

Thank you for having me. This

Aydin Mirzaee  40:47

was fun. And that’s it for today. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the Supermanagers podcast. You can find the show notes and transcript at WWW.Fellow.app/Supermanagers. If you liked the content, be sure to rate review and subscribe so you can get notified when we post the next episode. And please tell your friends and fellow managers about it. It’d be awesome if you can help us spread the word about the show. See you next time.

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