The Professional Services Guidebook
Leading the Right Way
Leadership doesn't come natural to everyone. It certainly didn't come natural to me. By surrounding myself with leaders of all types, good and bad, I've developed my own way of leading great PS teams. These articles is my guide to being a better leader.
Alright, it’s time to spread some positivity after the last article. If buy-in is so important for collaboration, then how do we get real clear with our teammates about our collective commitment before we embark on a solution? Here are 3 questions we should ask so we can get clarity on the problem, the effort, and the rollout of a solution.
Silos are bad in organizations that need to collaborate to succeed. Kudos for trying to break down barriers between teams, but when the other side doesn’t buy in that a problem exists, any effort you put in to fix the silo problem is destined for failure. Here’s a personal story of effort, failure, and lessons learned.
Groupthink is terrible for decision making, but dissent that make a team go around in circles is probably worse. We’ve all been a part of long meetings where no one agrees but nobody feels they’ve accomplished anything when they leave the room. Break the cycle by disagreeing without being disagreeable. Read on to find out how to dissent for a cause and to be a a great dissenter.
Do you only speak to development teams when you want something done? That's a sign that you consider your colleagues as tools rather than partners in crime. If you keep treating development teams like an afterthought, you'll find less participation, less care, and even worse, they will be rooting for your failure.
Your development team deserves a seat at your solutioning table. Bring them in early, listen and act on their feedback, and help everyone understand the true objective of what you're trying to achieve for your client. Read more to find out why this is a great idea to foster trust between PS and Development teams.
Your very first one-on-one with your team shouldn't be a soul-sucking exercise. I experienced from one of my mentors an extremely memorable and impactful first meeting, and in the process learned a very valuable lesson: professional altruism. If you're in it to help others grow, then express that professional altruism from the start.
It's the dilemma that all "doers" face when they become a leader: What's should I do with my existing client? If you think you can take on a leadership role and keep your entire client at the same time, you're going to yourself doing poorly on both. Read on to find out why it's not fair to your clients, your team, and yourself if you try to take on way too much.
I never had a "leadership manual" when I started leading services teams. Every team is different, but with help from my mentors I started doing 4 things when I take a leadership role: Listening for team pains, defining a team "why", prioritizing team pains to tackle, and learning and adapting to start the cycle all over again.
Why am I so passionate about professional services? It just happens to be a discipline that's highly technical, client-facing, and full of problems to discipher and solve.
When we're asked why we should have PS report to Sales, we try really hard to rationalize that proposition. I've been asked to rationalize moves like this before, but I've always had a hard time trying to stand up for my team. I outline the 4 biggest ways organizations try to rationalize this terrible move, and how in real life they are completely irrational.
Hiring into a PS team is hard. Most of the time, we beat our heads at a wall to find candidates that do the same things we do. I've had great success at building PS teams with those from support and operations organizations. Read on to find out my 4 reasons why I think they make great PS colleagues!
As technical consultants, our relationships with our clients tend to be very transactional. They call us, we solve their problems. We can do much better... and we can start by being better human beings. What does that mean? Read on to find out!
How should you lead when you're joining a team of incredibly talented people, all of whom are definitely smarter than you in almost every conceivable way? For me, I start with humility. I lay out my deficiencies to the team, and I help the team help me scaffold up to be a better leader for them.
When we start our meetings with asking your team to "stay positive", we are setting the groundwork for terrible discussions. Why is that? Read on to find out why a simple request is a powerful order to stifle debate and dissent, and what we as good leaders should say instead of foster true honesty and collaboration.
Part III on our series on breaking down barriers. We all know why it's a good idea to work more closely with our colleagues, and how we all benefit. This week, I lay out 4 concrete exercises that you can run with your sales and product teams to build rapport, learn from one another, and contribute to each other's success.
Part II of the breaking down barriers series. We look at how our skills in pattern recognition of client and industry trends, articulation of technical pains, and identification of chronic pain can help our colleagues in adjacent teams like sales, product management, and client management.
With unique objectives, measurements, and a strong voice at the management table, structuring an independent professional services team strengthens an organization's ability to continuously focusing on doing what's right for every client. It's definitely more work than to have a PS team report to sales, marketing, product, or another organizational unit, but in the long run it's more rewarding and sustainable.
Being a great trusted advisor to your clients should be the goal of every professional services consultant. It all starts with listening with an empathetic ear, asking the pointed questions, and responding fearlessly.
Professional services has the potential of generating a cycle of endless value within and outside the organization. Instead of approaching engagements as purely transactional, taking the time to assess pain, build great solutions, commit to a plan of action, deliver the action plan, and engage throughout the process will foster great partnerships that begs for the PS cycle to loop over and over again.
Professional Services isn't a team with a homogeneous role. It is a team of people that wear different hats: solutioner, planner, executor, and supporter.
It's not enough to understand what we do, but the reasons why we do what we do. We exist to understand client pain, to be trusted advisors, and to build great partnerships with the clients we work with.
What does professional services do? It seems the answer to that question is never consistent than the answers you get from "what does development do?" or "what does sales do"? Perhaps it's because every organization defines PS differently. But just because every PS team is defined uniquely doesn't mean there isn't a common thread.