How Customer Success Managers Can Avoid Dysfunction Within Startups

November 21, 2018 Rae Steinbach

Startup, Meeting, Brainstorming, Business, Teamwork

It’s no secret that building a startup can be a difficult task. This is partially due to the fact that team dynamics aren’t always clearly defined. In the early stages of a company’s growth, it’s often a challenge to fully define what everyone’s exact role is. This results in dysfunction, a problem which affects 75% of cross-functional teams according to a recent survey.

This issue is particularly relevant to customer success managers. Their job naturally involves working with various departments and teams to maintain strong relationships with customers. Combine this with the struggles that commonly affect growing startups, such as a lack of tools like a continuous performance management system, and working through the problem can seem like a major challenge. 

It doesn’t have to. If you work in this capacity at a growing startup, keep the following tips in mind to overcome dysfunction and continue building a thriving organization.


Focus on Emotional Intelligence

Having the skills and knowledge you need to perform your daily tasks successfully is only one part of being a team player. You also need to cultivate emotional intelligence. When you do, you’ll be more likely to understand the various perspectives of employees and coworkers. 

Seek out resources you can leverage to develop your own interpersonal skills, and share them with other team members. A culture of emotional intelligence will help you avoid a lot of problems that could otherwise contribute to dysfunction within the company.


Give Everyone Opportunities to Learn

Organizations which emphasize the importance of a learning culture typically have higher employee retention and engagement rates than those that don’t.

This can be vital for a growing startup. As roles and responsibilities evolve, employees may become insecure because they feel they lack the skills they’ll need to thrive in their positions. Instead of asking for help, they sometimes build wider gaps in between the skills owned by different department, and miss out on opportunities to cooperate and lean on one another.

Making sure employees have the chance to learn can mitigate this. If you’re a supervisor, offer your workers the chance to participate in events or programs that will help them develop their skills. You may also use the expertise of a team member in one area to organize a lunch and learn or workshop. Not only does this allow the team to know who the expert is for a particular topic, it gives them a chance to engage and realize where they can learn from each other. Even if you’re not a manager, you can still identify these resources and suggest that they be implemented.


Focus on Feedback

Positive communication among team members is extremely important for any business, and this involves giving feedback. Everyone from lower-level employees to higher-up supervisors should be willing to constantly give and receive feedback. Emphasizing the fact that they are free to speak their mind in an encouraging but honest manner will encourage valuable feedback.

Frequent communication boosts engagement. It can also give workers a better sense of whether they’re performing well. If a team member needs to improve, they’ll appreciate that someone is willing to let them know early on what steps they must take to succeed.

As a customer success manager, you’re always going to be working with various people throughout the company. The tips listed here will help you do so more effectively. While they are specifically geared towards helping startups overcome dysfunction during the early stages of growth, as a CSM, you can constantly use them to boost the overall satisfaction of everyone you work with. That includes yourself.


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About the Author

Rae Steinbach

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.

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