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161

If you want to grow the growth mindset within your team, you need to start with yourself: how you’re showing up and how you’re leading by example.

In this episode

How would you rate your organization’s cross-functional communication?

Alignment at the leadership level and being aligned on the goals and incentives that you’re driving towards is where it all begins.

Sabrina dives into how to approach friction between two cross-functional departments, why healthy conflict should be encouraged, and how to promote a growth mindset at work.

Sabrina is an expert in cross-functional communication and teamwork. She gives actionable strategies to improve cross-functional collaboration within an organization, utilizing a growth mindset to achieve organizational and team goals.

Sabrina Leblanc is the VP of Customer Success at SurveyMonkey where she’s been an employee in various roles since 2014. As VP of Customer Success, she successfully orchestrates cross-functional initiatives to accelerate customer adoption, drive renewals, and unlock expansion revenue within SurveyMonkey. She also has over a decade of experience spanning finance, business development, sales, and customer success.

In episode #161, Sabrina shares her experiences with mentors, leading DEI initiatives, how to listen to your team, and leading during rapidly changing times.

Tune in to hear all about Sabrina’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.


06:00

Trying to solve it yourself backfires

12:00

Improving communication between teams

19:30

The value of mentorship

26:10

How to find mentors

32:30

Building a growth mindset culture

38:48

How to lead in rapidly changing times

45:50

Trusting your instincts


Resources mentioned in this episode:


Transcript

 Sabrina, welcome to the show.

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  03:30

Hi, Aydin Good to be here.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  03:31

Yeah, good to be here. So for the audience that probably doesn’t know this. You and I know each other very, very well. How did we meet? How do we know each other?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  03:39

Yes, we used to work together at startup called fluid where which you were the CO CEO at the time was Ali Fathy and work there for two years with you before we got acquired by SurveyMonkey.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  03:51

Yeah. And then and then you’ve been at SurveyMonkey ever since how long? Have you been at SurveyMonkey? No,

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  03:57

just close to nine years now. Nine years,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  04:00

and then plus two years where we spent working together. So in total 11 years of surveys and research, which was a significant amount of time.

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  04:11

Yes, it is. It does feel in a lot of ways. Like I’ve worked for five different companies during that time, because there have been so much change and evolution. But yeah, it’s been an interesting ride.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  04:21

Yeah, that’s awesome. So I mean, lots of stuff that we’re going to talk about today. But for the audience, you know, Sabrina is one of the most talented leaders out there, someone whom I really, really respect and we had a fantastic journey together, building fluid ware, and you know, subsequently selling it to SurveyMonkey. And so there’s a lot of lessons there to share. But one of the really interesting things is, you know, Sabrina has, has continued to rise up the ranks at SurveyMonkey today. She’s VP of Customer Success there. And there’s a lot of insights and things that I constantly learn from her so I figured it might be a good idea to press record. Word and share some of these things with everybody else, too. So I’m very excited to do that. But why don’t we start with the thing we typically do, which is to start talking about mistakes. And Sabrina, I know you’re, you’re a listener of the podcast. So you’ve heard many other mistakes from from other people. But do you remember when you first started to manage your leader team? What were some of your early mistakes? And some of the things maybe you don’t do as much anymore?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  05:26

I sure do. Yes, my first time as a manager was that fluid were where I was asked to build a BDR team. And so this was a team that didn’t exist before. We were hiring people, we were thinking about the process and the systems. And I remember early on as I started managing people, that I had a tendency of wanting to be the hero and wanting to solve all of the problems for my team. And it felt good, you know, there’s a feeling that you get when you’re that manager who is going through the trenches and getting all of these problems solved. And I think there’s some positive to that. But at the same time, I was disempowering my team by trying to solve everything. And as we were scaling, and as the team grew, I became a bottleneck as well. And I was overwhelmed, because I felt like I was dropping the ball everywhere. And so I learned through that mistake that you just have to empower your team and help them figure out the solutions. And sometimes you’ll do that together. Sometimes you are that person that needs to solve a problem for your team. But it doesn’t have to be you all the time. So that was a big mistake that I made early on. And I not saying I don’t necessarily make it sometimes today, but I’m much better at recognizing when I go in that direction.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  06:48

So how did you how did you realize that? Or what led you to want to change things up?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  06:55

Yeah, I think I realized that through a couple of different ways. The first is my team giving me that feedback. So early on, I always been keen on asking for feedback, understanding how I can be a better manager or a better leader. And so it’s feedback that I’ve received from employees that I’ve managed. I also remember a one on one that we had, together, you and I ate and where I was telling you how overwhelmed I felt, and that I was coming out of my one on ones with my team members with all of these action items. And I just remember you telling me, why are you coming out of all the one on ones with these action items, it should be the other way around. And that really stuck with me. And I realized that I was for no reason, just taking on all of these actions. And that was making me very overwhelmed.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  07:46

Yeah, I can definitely resonate when you just want to do things and you know, you know, push things forward. You’re in the meeting, you come up with things and you’re like, Yeah, I’ll take that. I’ll take that one, too. Yeah. And while I’m doing that also do these other things, too. And so if before you know it, you walk out doing all of the things. And so yeah, this is really sort of if someone today, like I wanted to just dig into some of the details. So for example, can you give me an example of something that might come up, and maybe how you would act today, you would try and get someone else to solve a problem? Let’s say there’s a serious problem and someone needs to solve it. Say, you know, some metric you’re tracking is like, really, really down. What do you do in a circumstance like that?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  08:31

Yeah, I think when I’m in, let’s say, a one on one and employee come to me with a problem. Generally, it’ll be either an issue dealing with a customer situation, or with a peer, let’s say customer success and sales, they work very closely together. So maybe they had a bad interaction. And they’re feeling like, they want me to do something about it, or they want to talk to me about it. And I would ask a question, after this conversation and say, Is this something you want me to take action on? Are you telling me because you just wanted to walk through the situation with me? And a lot of times, they’ll say, Well, I just wanted to talk through with you and like, okay, so how are we going to handle this situation? Or have you talked to this person? Or maybe they don’t know who they should be talking to? If it’s an issue with the product as another example, then I might direct them to the right place. I’ve been at SurveyMonkey for nine years. So I know some of the leaders and the teams that and how they work together. And so I’ll guide them towards where to find that answer or who to have that conversation with instead of having it for them.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 09:46

Yeah, I love the end, especially that first question that you asked, which is do you want me to take action on this? Or are you just telling me because you want me to know and it’s very interesting because you can stop yourself from taking all sorts of unnecessary Siri action. And yeah, sometimes people just want to be heard and have someone to brainstorm with. So that’s, that’s really cool. And I agree, that’s a great, great question to ask, you just bring it, you know, part of part of your role, obviously, being in CES. CES is a very cross functional role. So a lot of the stuff that you do is interacting with other teams and other leaders on other teams. And, you know, sometimes teams can have conflict, or they might not work all that well together, I remember when you and I are working together, there were a lot of times where we had to resolve, I guess, relationship issues between sales and customer success. And so I think, right, as we were getting to the point of resolving those things, I think that’s when my time ended, and I moved on from SurveyMonkey. So I actually don’t know where a lot of that happened. But you’ve been solving those sorts of problems for a long time now. So yeah, maybe we can talk, spend some time talking about just cross functional teams and just things that you’ve learned and in helping make teams work better together.

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  11:06

Yes, I love talking about this topic. I have an interesting background too, because I come from a sales background. And then I moved into customer success. So in some ways, I do know what it’s like to carry a sales quota and the challenges that come with the end of quarter pressures, if you’re, especially if you’re a public company. And then on the customer success side. Now, I’ve seen the whole other side of things, which is when we sell to a customer, and we have to fulfill those promises, and make sure that we’re delivering with the product. And so it does help having that background. But more importantly, I think communication has been so key to improving the relationship between sales and customer success. Before I joined the customer success team a few years ago, I think there was a lot of friction that existed between sales and customer success and how to approach certain customer scenarios, the sales and customer success teams weren’t necessarily talking to each other very often. And there was communication with customers that was disjointed. So it was a bad experience for customers, it was a bad experience for the employees. And no one was really finding that we were in a good place. And that was something that I prioritize is trying to improve that relationship over time. It does not happen overnight, you really have to invest in those relationships, you have to understand what are the friction points. And one of the things I’ve learned through that process was that our incentive models were very misaligned. And so when we were looking at what sales was getting compensated on what they were rewarded on, and the metrics that were being tracked. And then on the other side, what success was being compensated on and reported on also did not aligned with the sales side. So as you can imagine, when you’re talking about individual compensation and metrics, and you’re not driving towards the customer outcome and what is right for the business, that can create a ton of tension. And so we resolved that over time, for example, in customer success, now we have both a gross retention target and a net retention targets. So we are not only responsible for renewing customers, but we are responsible for expanding them. And sales owns the expansion target, too. So together, we’re driving towards that outcome.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  13:27

Yeah, so it sounds like I mean, two things, if I were to pull these two points from what you said, one is, you mentioned that, at least in some of the teams, when he first got involved, they weren’t really communicating as much with each other. So it sounds like communication, and making sure that there are just systems that ensure that people communicate more, that’s a positive. And the other one, which you pointed out was people having the same sorts of goals, and the same sorts of incentives so that they’re driving in the same direction. So So those are two really good points. And I’d love to maybe dive in a little bit deeper into them. But is there anything else or if you do those two things, you’ll be in good shape?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  14:08

I think those are the two main things. And I would say at the leadership level, when you’re looking at your managers and your directors, depending on the size of your organization, having alignment at that leadership level and being aligned on the goals that you’re driving towards. And being able to share that same message across teams has been another factor and improving the relationship. So we hold quarterly meetings as a team where we talk about issues that have come up in the previous quarter, we talk about the wins, like where we’re seeing good collaboration between our CSMs and our EAS, and then we build an action plan for the quarter ahead. So an example of this would be oh, we’re noticing CSMs are not always inviting account executives to join business reviews. Let’s focus on that for this quarter. Make sure that they’re doing those together. Or maybe a CSM feels like an AE is not pulling their weight on building the account plan for a customer, let’s make sure that we’re enabling the AES to, you know, work on that account, plan and work collaboratively. So we do a lot of work at that leadership level to align on what’s working and what’s not every quarter.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  15:24

Got it. So it’s almost like a retrospective that you run once a quarter. That’s right. Yeah. And so who attends the So is it just the leadership? Is it everybody? How do you get the feedback to bubble up to the leaders to discuss them?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  15:39

Yes, so we do it with the leadership team, but we also host sessions with the CSM and AES. So just earlier this year, we had a panel of AES and CSM that talked about some of the realities of a day in the life of an ENFP CSM. And that was such a great session. And I remember the team sharing afterwards, like they just didn’t realize some of the pressures that the teams face and building that empathy, I think helps improve the relationship. And sometimes it’s easy to judge someone because you don’t really know what’s happening on the other side. But once you get a sneak peek, it really helps build that empathy and relationship.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  16:19

So yeah, the panel sounds super interesting. So I think it sounds like a very entertaining thing. Probably some, like provide some comic relief, where people come in and have those sorts of chats, but maybe explain to me the setup. So if I wanted to run one of these, you know, at Fellow, how would I go about doing it? Like, what was the format? You know, how did you invite people, what happened?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  16:42

Yeah, we invited the entire sales and customer success team. And then we had a facilitator who walked through a series of questions with a EES and CSMs. And they were tailored towards understanding what a day in the life is of a CSM and an AE, understand the challenges that they face, and then also dig into some of the issues that they see in the collaboration and what they would like to see improved. So it was a very candid and open and honest conversation. It was respectful. Of course, that’s important. It’s not meant to be a live conflict. But it is something that just helps us bring the relationship forward and acknowledge where we still have room to grow. And then of course, letting people ask questions and probe a little bit deeper onto certain topics. I think that’s something that can help the conversation when it comes to the panels.

17:36

Yeah, I mean, what I like about this sort of thing. I mean, during this retrospective, I think, and I’ve, you know, we’ve heard this from other guests as well. But anytime you have two teams that do a lot of work together, it’s just in general a good idea to have some sort of system a retrospective, if it’s quarterly, heck, if it’s twice a year, you know, at the very least once a year, right? Like there should be a mechanism where people get together and reflect on how you work together so that you can improve. The other thing, which is really helpful is people will feel heard, right, because oftentimes, if the complaints are not addressed, or things don’t get better, what I find is, in retrospect, is if there’s an opportunity to talk about, hey, we, you know, that thing that we talked about last time, guess what, like, it’s going really well. And now we’re doing it like this. And, you know, that just instills a lot of confidence, I find in people that this is a company that listens, and we change things, and we get better every quarter.

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  18:38

That’s right. And I think it’s important to celebrate both the wins and the mistakes. So sometimes you can get stuck on everything that’s not working. But there are great stories to share about how the collaboration between two team members led to a great outcome for the business for a customer. And sometimes there are some mistakes that we made. And we need to acknowledge those two, because that’s what’s going to build the trust with the team that we can look at the two sides of the coin.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  19:04

Yeah, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And so the other thing that I did want to talk to you about is from a mentorship perspective, so I know that you are very passionate about the topic of mentorship, you mentor a lot of people and you’re active to make sure that you know you receive mentorship. So maybe talk about that a little bit more in detail. Why is mentorship important?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  19:31

Yes. Mentorship is really important to me, because I think as you’re growing in your career, you acquire this wealth of knowledge. And as we’ve talked about in the beginning, we make a lot of mistakes that others can learn from and we do some things right to that we want to share with others. And I feel like a big part of my role is to empower that next generation of leaders and to impart things that I’ve learned and I think I learned as much from the people I mentor as they may think they learned from me it’s very That’s a two way street. And I seek mentorship for myself. And I’ve been fortunate to have so many people in my career who have been there for me, sometimes mentors, they come and go other times they stay with you throughout your life. And they become not only career mentors, but even personal mentors. And that, to me is something you should always carve out time for. It is a point of reflection, you want someone who is invested in you as a person, and someone who will give you advice in an honest and constructive way. So I always carve out the time both to mentor others, but to get mentorship for myself. And I think you have received many of my phone calls in the past eight. And as I was going through different challenges and wanting to get a different point of view. And I really value that because it makes me a better leader. And then I can bring those learnings to others. So I feel like it’s one of those things that keeps on giving.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  20:57

Yeah, it was that mentorship, I just thought we were having fun and having a good conversation. So I’m glad some some useful things were said. So let’s talk about the like, how do you actually do it? So for example, when you are finding people that you want to mentor? Do you just find someone in the Oregon, you say, Hi, I’m going to mentor you do people come in ask you? How does it practically happen?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  21:22

Yeah, I think it’s a hybrid, I think sometimes it happens organically and that maybe you’re on the same team and you develop a relationship. And then you continue that on in a formal mentorship capacity. Maybe you have a monthly Coffee Chat to talk about their career. Other times, you might seek someone and I’ve done that in the past to someone who I see just a ton of potential with that. We have a good connection. But I want to explore that further. And so I’ll bring that to the table and see if they’re interested. And then I’ve had people ad hoc come to me and ask for mentorship from me that I may not know personally or they may not even work in my organization. And I have always said yes, anyone who has come to me asking for time, I will always give it the time. Because others have done this for me too. And I think it’s a good use of time. No matter how busy you are, or the work that is on your plate, carving out that half hour makes a whole difference. And it usually will come back in spades. So

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  22:22

got it. And so how does it work in terms of if you wanted to ask someone else to become a mentor? Like what is the playbook? Do you actually go out and say, Hey, I’m looking to fill my mentorship roster? Would you like to join and be a mentor? And we’re gonna meet once a month? Or how does it work?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  22:43

It’s a great question. And as much as I am passionate about mentorship, I don’t like the label of mentor. And it’s like you said earlier, I don’t say hey, Aydin Can you mentor me, I would give you a call and ask for advice. And I see that as mentorship. And I think that term mentor me, overwhelm people or find that it’s way too formal that you’re not willing to take that step and ask someone so instead of asking, Will you be my mentor? I think it’s as simple as saying, Hey, I would love to spend time with you grab a coffee, I wanted some career advice. And I think you can really help me in this area. Would you mind spending 30 minutes of your time with me to talk about that. I think that’s a lot less intimidating.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  23:24

Hey, before we move on to the rest of the episode, if you’re an engineering leader, whether manager, director, or VP, all engineering leaders know that one on one meetings are a powerful tool for team engagement and productivity. However, not all leaders know how to run these meetings effectively. That’s why the Fellow team just released a comprehensive guide on the art of the one on one meeting for engineers. It has over 60 pages of advice from engineering leaders at organizations like Apple, MailChimp, Stripe, GitHub, Intel, and more. We’ve also included expert approved templates for you to play immediately to make your one on one meetings that much more effective. So head on over to Fellow.app/Resources to access the guide and the exclusive templates right now will also link it in the show notes for you to check out there but you can go on over to Fellow.app/resources to get the guide and the templates today. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. I love that that’s so much better and I think like that’s such a great playbook because what I liked about the way that you phrase that was it’s not Hi can you know we have 30 minutes and I will pick your brain because that just sounds so vague, you know about what and you know what, why would I do this and but when you say something like I need help in this particular area, and I think you can help me because of blah blah blah it’s just a lot more focused and people are Much, much more likely to say yes, I think that’s a really, really good approach. And then what I would also add is that when you have that initial conversation, you know, sometimes there’s just really good rapport, right? And it just becomes natural, like you want to talk to them more, they want to talk to you more. Other times, you might not want to continue this for the long term. And so yeah, I think it’s in you know, people want to help, too. So when you’re, when you’re asking for mentors, like they do get something out of it, like you said, it’s a two way street, mentors will learn from you. But also, at some level, you know, everybody wants to be helpful. And that, you know, also helps them feel good, too. So, I think it’s definitely, definitely something that people should engage in. So do you have like a active learning plan? Like, would you ever say, you know, this year or this quarter, I want to get better at blah, and then, you know, find new people that you’ve never met? Like? Do you ever cold outbound anyone in that way?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  26:02

That’s an interesting question. I don’t think I’ve cold outbound based on a specific skill set I’m trying to develop, but I look for the people that I admire, and that have a skill set that maybe I’m not excelling at quite yet. And I’m like, I really want to get there. And I think I can learn from this person. And that’s when I’ll outreach them and ask for some time to help me grow in a specific area. I can give you an example of this to this year, I went to Gainsight pulse, and I was selected to speak at the conference. And I had never spoken at a conference on content that I was building, and I felt really overwhelmed by the idea and then think that yeah, it’s a really

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  26:44

huge conference. Right? It is, it’s

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  26:47

the the biggest ces conference. So for us, it’s like a big deal. And I was overwhelmed even by the idea of applying to speak at a conference. And so I seeked advice and mentorship from my friend Alexandra, who had done this many, many times and had been a keynote speaker and she told me something that stuck with me, which was you don’t have to have the whole plan and the whole presentation, just throw your hat in the ring and know that you are an expert in this field, and then take that next step. And so she really distilled it down to something very simple, which gave me the courage to go and apply. And I think that is really good advice that she gave me.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  27:33

Yeah. And of course, Alexandra Sunderland been on the show as well make sure to go check out that episode was also a really great episode. But yeah, sometimes it’s distilling things into super simple ways talking to people who’ve done it before that makes the difference. And yeah, it’s the other thing is like you can have mentors or role models in, you know, for different skill sets. Because doesn’t mean that you want to learn everything from that person. And maybe they’re not good at all those things. But maybe there’s something specific that you want to learn. And I think that’s, that’s a really good way to go about it. Yeah, I mean, same for me, right? Like, I have my mindset of mentors, and I like to learn different things from different people. And so yeah, that’s definitely definitely part of the mix. So, Sabrina, another thing that I did want us to talk about is DEI initiatives. Right. So you’ve been involved, this is an area that you’ve also been passionate about driven a lot of the initiatives at the various, you know, businesses, departments that you’ve been involved in, why don’t we talk about, you know, what are some of the initiatives that you’re championing today at SurveyMonkey? How do they work? And what can people learn from them?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  28:47

Yeah, I mean, on the D I, friend, I think at the core, what it’s all about is people feeling that they are included, that they have a voice, they feel heard, and they feel valued. They also want to feel like they have equal opportunity for growth and advancement. And so as part of my role as the executive sponsor of the Ottawa, diversity, inclusion and impact group, I want to make sure that I’m empowering my team to be able to create that inclusive environment. And our focus is on the Ottawa community within SurveyMonkey. But we overlap with all of the other ERG is that our company so ERG stands for employee resource group, where groups across the company who share common issues get together and they might be planning specific events, and we are helping instill those within the audit work community, or they want to raise awareness to certain issues. And so we need to make sure that we’re communicating that broadly across the business. And for me, as I think about being a leader in this organization, I make decisions on promotions and advancements and so I think a lot about where our employees involved when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, and I look got that in the same way that I look at other metrics that we, we strive for, and whether they’re driving towards those metrics. If they’re spending time on dei initiative, that is time they’re spending outside of their day to day. They’re building leadership skills, they’re helping create an inclusive culture. And that should be measured in the same way as other metrics are. So I will put some weight into that as we make promotion decisions to at our company

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  30:27

got it into how does it work? Like? What are some of the goals that you might have?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  30:32

Yeah, so I would look at that as a criteria that we talk about when we make decisions. So the way that it works is we have calibration sessions, where managers come together, and they bring employees within their team that they think are ready for that promotion. And there’s different criteria based on role. But as part of the questions that we ask, and the decision making workflow, we would ask, you know, are they involved in ERGs? And dig groups? Have they helped foster an inclusive environment? How did they show up for their teams? How do they help others feel heard? So it doesn’t always have to be formally as a co-lead of an employee resource group. But it can be that someone brings the voice of the team every time we’re not hearing from someone, they’re the ones that are asking them to chime in like that also is part of creating that inclusive environment. So we talk about that a lot in this process. And we talked about mentorship earlier, too, I think it’s very important when you’re mentoring others, that you are being thoughtful of how inclusive you are. Because it can be easy to want to mentor, the people who are just like you, and you’re like, they remind you of you when you were just starting out as a leader, or you have so much in common. And so you’re gonna give a lot of time to that person. But also think about other people who may not have as much in common with you, but can be a great person to shape up the leadership team over time. And so I think about that, too, as I mentor individuals and look for potential talent. And that’s

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  32:03

awesome. And so that is a great way to make everybody in the company know that you’re serious about this when it’s a promotion criteria. And so yeah, he was a commitment to really foster that kind of environment. And if it’s a criteria for advancement, then everybody gets the message. And so I think that that is awesome, and a good way to promote it. Sabrina, another thing I know, that you’re super passionate about is just promoting a growth, mindset culture at work. And, you know, I’ve seen this in action from us. So maybe we could talk about some of the examples. If someone says that I want to build more of growth mindset culture in my team and my company, what are some things that you might advise them to do? What are some examples of things that you’ve done?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  32:51

I think I’ve been very fortunate in that my early career I spent at a startup where I think you had no choice. But to have the growth mindset, there is no such thing as any activity that is beneath you, or this responsibility doesn’t fit in your job description, because your job description keeps expanding. And I think I learned very early on in my careers through working at fluid where that a growth mindset is the only way to grow as a leader. And I’ve brought that into my leadership and my management team ever since. I would say that if you are looking to build this growth mindset with the team, need to start with yourself and how you’re showing up and how you’re leading by example. Are you asking for feedback? Are you acting on that feedback as a leader, because as you lead by example, that is the best way to showcase the growth mindset to your team. And then are you capable and able to give honest feedback with care and empathy to your team. A book that I think is great in that realm is radical candor. You do need to give feedback constructive to your team and be as specific as you can, because that’s how they’re going to grow. And if you have that foundation of trust, and empathy, then you will see that it’s received well on the other side, because they know that you have their best interests at heart, and you’re doing this to help them grow. And so promoting that culture of feedback in real time. It can happen during formal reviews too. But it can’t just be saved for that one point in time. It has to be organic, and something that you do very regularly. And one of the things that I do in my role now as the VP as I because I don’t have as much time with individuals who are on the frontlines as I scheduled skip level meetings on a regular basis to hear from the team to understand what’s top of mind for them, issues they’re they’re having, how I can better support them as the leader of this organization and what are the roadblocks they’re facing and then I take all of that back and I try to act on on as much as I can of the feedback that came out of those they’ll skip level meetings.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  35:01

I think that those are all really good ways. And one other thing that I’ll also point out which we were talking about, as you were talking previously about, you’re talking about the mistakes and what you learn from them. When you have retrospectives, I think that also adds to it right. So if people are not afraid to make mistakes, and, and take risks, and know that it’s going to be okay, and will make mistakes, but as long as we learn from it, then I think that that’s another thing that, you know, to your point will build trust, and, you know, allow people to experiment and try these new things and get outside of their comfort zone.

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  35:36

Yeah. And I think I would encourage leaders to foster conflict, that might sound sound strange, but if everybody’s always agreeing all the time, then you’re probably not progressing towards the right outcomes. So I like to ask in meetings, if I haven’t heard from someone, I haven’t heard your point of view on this. Can you tell me what you think? Or does anybody disagree with the direction that we’re taking, don’t assume that because people aren’t speaking up that that means that they’re agreeing with the solutions that you’re you’re discussing. So I make a point of trying to get like another side of the team and opinion and how you react to that disagreeing comment. That’s how you say it is going to say a lot too for the team, if it’s a safe place to disagree or not. So if you’re reacting very defensively, or well, we decided this because of this, then the team is not going to feel comfortable the next time around to say their opinion, and be honest with what they’re really thinking. So I try to as much as possible pause when I’m hearing a differing opinion or a disagreement with something I am presenting or something that as a team, we thought was the right solution. And I will probe on that and ask questions about where they’re coming from and taking into account and I have made decisions before based on feedback that came out and decided to go in a different direction. So I think it’s a really healthy thing to do in a meeting and ask for for different points of view.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  37:11

You know it, what you said reminded me of, I’m pretty sure I’m remembering the anecdote correctly. But in the book, The Effective Executive, famous Drucker book, great book worth rereading. I actually, think sometime last year, I reread this book, and there was this anecdote in the book, where, you know, I think Alfred Sloan is hosting a meeting. And, you know, everybody’s agreeing on whatever the topic is. And he says, you know, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to excuse ourselves, we’re going to adjourn this meeting, until you can all go back form some disagreements, and then we can come back and redo this session. Right. So just to the point of actually encouraging disagreement, I do agree that this is something that everybody should definitely invest in. And yeah, encourage, you know, healthy conflict, healthy conflict is always a good thing to encourage. And one more topic that I think we should also touch on is it’s been a crazy few years, right? Since it first there is COVID, then there was, you know, hybrid and remote. Now there’s all this AI stuff that’s happening, basically, it seems that the world just doesn’t stop changing. And it can be scary, because this change is so rapid, and it feels like the rate of change is also increasing, which also adds to the tension there. So what are your thoughts? I mean, as a leader in these times, how do you show up to work? And what do you think some of the things are that everybody should do to manage? Well, in these environments?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  38:51

Yes, there has been a lot of change and uncertainty in the world, and especially in tech, in the last year, just a ton of change in the markets and companies struggling. And so it’s a, it’s not the easiest time to lead. I will say that. But I think what’s truly important is how you show up for your team and how you check in with them individually. And I think the pandemic made things worse to where people felt even more isolated. And not everybody has a partner at home that they can lean on that everybody’s in a workspace that’s super productive. So checking in, having those one on ones having those skip level meetings, those are ways that you can get a pulse for how the team is feeling. Another thing that I implemented with the customer success leaders has been what we call a state interviews. So we spent some time one on one with everyone in the organization and ask them a series of questions to understand how engaged they were, how they felt about the direction of the company, how they felt about the leadership of the team and whether And they felt supported to and addressing certain issues that they were having in their role. And so we took all of that back and then built an action plan as a team to address some of the challenges that came up in the last quarters. And so those are some ways in which I check in I’ve done red, yellow, green exercise, too, with the team at the top of the meeting to understand like, on the professional side, where are you on the red, yellow, green front, on the personal side as well, red, yellow, green. And what you’ll see oftentimes is, those are different on the personal than they are on the professional. And it also builds that connection to what people are going through at home. And it’s a good way to check in.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  40:47

So lots of good tips here. Let’s start with the red, yellow, green thing. So let’s just say you know, you’re in a meeting setting, it’s a group meeting before you begin, everybody kind of weighs in on that on each of those, and you go around the table. And if someone says, I’m just curious, so if someone says, I’m gonna read in personal Do you dig in? Or do you just like, you know, move right along? Or how does that work?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  41:11

Yeah, usually they’ll share but more than that, but it’s whatever they’re comfortable sharing. So not everybody’s level of vulnerability is the same I’ve learned so you let them share whatever they like to share. And if someone goes in and says, I’m a read and doesn’t provide context, I would probably follow up after the meeting and say, Hey, like, are you? Okay? Do you want to talk about it? In a group setting, it can be a little overwhelming. I also wouldn’t recommend doing this in a huge setting, a huge group, but in a smaller group that works well.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  41:39

Yeah. So that’s really good advice. And let’s talk about this stay interview. Again, I’m gonna get very tactical here, because, you know, one of the goals on the podcast is for people to be able to take things and, and be able to try new ideas with their teams. So I mean, would I send you a calendar invite, and literally in the title, it says, Stay interview with a series of questions that I’ll share with you in advance? Or how did this work? Or is it just a just casual thing as part of a one on one that you’ll know once a quarter or some cadence like that, you’ll ask special questions, like, give us the very tactical details of how people do interviews? 

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  42:17

Yes. So we took it very seriously. We gave questions to everyone ahead of time to help prepare and think through these answers. And we stick to the questions. And there were rules in place as we were having these interviews. The number one rule was Do not interrupt or chime in or provide an example or a rebuttal to what the team was saying. It was purely listening. So you ask the question, you listen, you type, and you take notes. So that was one of the things that we gave us guidance, we had a group of leaders that was doing this across the org. So we were following the same template. And then the last question that I think gave us the most insight was more open ended and less specific, which was, is there anything else that you would like to add to this discussion today? And that’s where we got things that we weren’t necessarily thinking about and the questions we were originally asking. So I think having a more open ended question that doesn’t point people in a certain direction is a good idea. If you’re going to do something like this. I think we do a lot of work with exit interviews, sometimes like thinking about why people are leaving, but why are people choosing to stay? What keeps them here? What keeps them engaged? What are they excited about? And then what could make them reconsider? The decision to stay with the company is something you should know. And so I think it’s a really good exercise to do in addition to understanding why people are leaving

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  43:45

show in an exit interviews, sometimes, you know, depending on the company, and you know, who works there. And who does these things? Sometimes it’s you know, HR that runs these interviews, sometimes it’s the hiring manager, sometimes it’s another manager on the team, that’s not the direct manager of the individual. Like, who runs these stay interviews. And also, let’s talk about cadence like, How often should people do this?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  44:09

Yeah, for the exit interview, it’s usually our HR team that would run those conversations. And if there are big issues that need to be discussed, those would be shared with the managers, but they tend to look at the feedback holistically and look for trends as to why people are leaving and addressing those trends on the state interviews, those are run by the leaders on the team. And it’s not something that’s mandated across SurveyMonkey, it’s something we chose to do and customer success. And we’ve run them like once a year roughly so

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  44:41

Okay, yeah, that makes sense. So yeah, that’s the tactical playbook on how to run these things. And I assume this is a thing that you’ve done and you know, the thing that you will continue doing because it’s worth it and the results like actually contributed to better, better team environment, better team performance,

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  44:59

you Yes, it is absolutely worth it. And we’ve got such positive feedback from the team since starting these stay interviews. So we plan to continue doing them. We’ve taken action based on the feedback and you can’t action, everything. So I want to be realistic that you’re probably going to get 20 issues that people are concerned with. But even if you tackle five of those, you’re making progress in the right direction.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  45:20

Yeah, that’s awesome into Sabrina, we’ve talked about a lot of different things today, we talked about dei initiatives, we’ve talked about cross functional teamwork, we’ve talked about growth mindset, and so many other things. And it was a fun time also talking, taking a trip down memory lane and, and talking about some of the ways that we used to work together. So the final question that we like to end on for everyone on the show is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any final tips, tricks or words of wisdom that you would leave them with?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  45:55

Yes, well, I will start with a book recommendation, one of my favorite books is the first 90 days, I would recommend that you read that if you’re a new manager, or you’re stepping into a new role or taking on a new team. I’ve read this book four times now. So every transition I’ve made in my career, I reread it to remind myself of the importance of listening, having a clear plan for the 3060 and 90 days, and there’s some super tactical advice there. So that would be one of my book recommendation. And in terms of

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  46:28

Yeah, I was just gonna say I have to also shout out Michael Watkins, who wrote the book and is also was a Supermanagers guest, and he’s one of the most contrarian people that I’ve ever met. And you should absolutely go check out that episode, if you haven’t. But yeah, I agree. Great book. And I interrupted you. So what was? What else would you have as advice for everyone?

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  46:50

Yeah, I would say trust your instincts, I think we sometimes can get overwhelmed with data and metrics and wanting to have all of the points of view but as a leader, and with experience, you’ll see that your gut and your instincts are right most of the time. And so put some weight into that as you’re making decisions for your team and listen to your team as much as you can carve out the time for feedback. We are a feedback company after all. So we do surveys, a lot to gauge employee sentiment. And I would just encourage you, whatever format makes sense for you and your company to take the time to listen to your team and understand what’s working and what can be improved.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  47:33

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

Sabrina Leblanc (SurveyMonkey)  47:37

Thank you, Aydin and scraping here.

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