Killing It In People Relations

My latest challenge in my career is executing the position of Senior Technical Support Lead for the Americas at Zephyr, the software company that is, I believe, up-ending the software test management space. My primary responsibility is making technical support as awesome as possible for our Americas customers. This got me thinking on what resources I could use to my advantage in bettering the experiences our customers have when they call in or open a case at support.getzephyr.com.

The first thing is my technical support team needs to be challenged. Not just technically, but challenged within themselves. Each individual needs to be challenged to better themselves including their confidence levels, relationship skills, communication, and being able to think on their feet when the time comes.

That’s a long list of things to work on though and becoming overloaded is the last thing I want to happen which is why I want to use this post to focus on one’s self. There are two really good books that anybody who’s speaking with people on a regular basis should read, one of which I’ll cover today, and the next I’ll cover in my next post.

The first, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Yes, Carnegie’s dead. Yes, the book was written in the old days. Yes, it’s still relevant. What he said in 1936 still holds weight today, because at no point in history was it suddenly OK to be happy with mediocrity. No one said that taking a bland lifestyle should be the norm. We used to call the American Dream the American Dream for a reason. If you dream of middle-of-the-road-ness, then go for it.

I’d bet money though, that you don’t.

Here’s what Amazon said in their formal review of the book (emphasis my own):

Carnegie believed, is due 15 percent to professional knowledge and 85 percent to “the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people.” He teaches these skills through underlying principles of dealing with people so that they feel important and appreciated. He also emphasizes fundamental techniques for handling people without making them feel manipulated. Carnegie says you can make someone want to do what you want them to by seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view and “arousing in the other person an eager want.”

That’s exactly what every individual in a human-facing position should be able to do. There’s a line between being fake and manipulative and being powerful in your position. I don’t think this book covers that and it shouldn’t. Where that line is drawn is wholly up to you, but whoever it is, stand on the good side. As a good friend of mine once told me, “you have to put a leash on it and own it.”

If you only do one thing today make it this: buy this book. Read the hell out of it. Read it again. I want you to consume this knowledge as I will.