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How Zapier Boosts Employee Retention and CSAT by 'Keeping Support Weird'


Pam Dodrill, Vice President of Customer Support and Success at Zapier


“Keep Support Weird” might sound like a fluffy inspirational saying. But at Zapier, it’s much more than that. In fact, “Keep Support Weird” is the long-time motto for Zapier’s customer support team that has not only helped the team build its own micro-culture inside of the company, but it’s also led to impressive results:

  • Zapier’s support team has the highest employee engagement scores in the company.
  • The support team has less than half the attrition rate of the rest of the company (which is extremely rare for support, where burnout is common).
  • They consistently maintain a high CSAT score.

Pam Dodrill, Vice President of Customer Support and Success at Zapier, says there are four key tenants that help her team stay weird and authentic at work and deliver the best customer service possible:

  1. Encourage your team to be authentic in their communications. As part of her push for authenticity on her team, Pam encourages her agents to put their own personality into communications with customers (and colleagues). For example, instead of copying and pasting a canned response when helping a customer, use your own words. If you’re the type of person who loves to use smile emojis in your responses, go for it. If you don’t like to do that, don’t.
  2. Create a safe environment for people to make mistakes and learn. “Growth through feedback” is one of Zapier’s core values, and the support team has made it part of their DNA. Pam says she wants feedback to help team members grow and improve. It’s not meant to be punitive. “We create a safe environment for people to make mistakes and not feel like when they got the feedback, that they've done something terribly wrong. But that they made a mistake and now they know, and they can do something different next time,” Pam says.
  3. Make time for professional development. Zapier’s support team purposely runs a lower utilization rate to make sure everyone has time for special projects and out-of-the-queue time. This allows the small support operations team to help facilitate and monitor projects that help the team and support personal growth - while still making sure there’s plenty of coverage in the queue. Pam is also working to establish clear career pathways within Zapier to help support team members leverage their growth into career advancement.
  4. Encourage your team to have fun and show up for each other. Zapier’s support team is a sizable organization that handles high volume at a fast pace. But they still make time to have fun, have goofy conversations on Slack (like a debate over whether a hot dog is a sandwich), and also support each other during times of crisis or after a difficult customer interaction. “'Keeping Support Weird' is about fun, and it's about knowing when to have fun and when to lean in and take care of each other, too,” Pam says.

Watch or listen to Pam’s full episode to learn more! And don’t forget to rate Beyond the Queue on Apple Podcasts. ⭐

See the episode’s transcript

Meredith Metsker: Hey everyone. Welcome back to Beyond the Queue. Today, I am very excited to welcome Pam Dodrill. She's the Vice President of Customer Support and Success at Zapier. Pam, thank you so much for joining me today.

Pam Dodrill: Thanks for having me Meredith. I'm really excited about the conversation.

Meredith Metsker: Me too. So on that note, I have heard that you kind of have a certain motto at Zapier that guides the way you lead your support team. So to get us started, could you just first tell me what that motto is and then tell us what it means to you?

Pam Dodrill: Sure. 'Keeping support weird' is definitely our motto. It was part of my interview process was a requirement to make sure, come in and keep support weird. And it doesn't really have a clear cut definition. I did a LinkedIn post about it when I started and I was a little cheeky and said, "If I have to explain what that means, you wouldn't understand." But for us, it's more of a mindset really. And inevitably, when you assemble a passionate, curious, and most importantly supportive group of people and give them room to do their work in their way, it just happens naturally. We give our customer champions room not only to interact with customers, but to have some time out of the queue to work on special projects. Those projects contribute to the betterment of the support org. So there's a sense of ownership and empowerment in making just the operation itself be better. And it also contributes to their career development. So I think it feeds their own career growth. And that also helps people just feel empowered and be their best authentic selves at work.

We believe that it's something people are naturally born with and are passionate about to be curious, and compassionate, and support one another. And in a support org, you just really want to make sure you get all of that from your team and give them the framework in which that they can.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah. I love that. I imagine it's especially important for a high empathy type of team like support.

Pam Dodrill: Yeah, exactly. And I think that's what the, "If I have to explain this, you wouldn't understand," cheeky line was about, because it's a natural personality profile, I guess, for support people.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah, I've definitely figured that out, doing the interviews for this podcast. So for you, I'm curious on your opinion, why is it important to keep support weird?

Pam Dodrill: Well I think fundamentally for me, if you want to take good care of your customers, you get to them by taking good care of your team. Happy team takes care of customers and makes them happy. And I can give some anecdotes as to why I've seen the opposite of that work, but we'll focus on the positive. And I think that the importance of it is that I want everybody to show up every day and feel good about the work that they're doing, and to feel like they can be authentic at work. And I don't mean to show up and display whatever's you're feeling. I mean, show up as your best authentic self. And by providing an environment where people can be weird and it's accepted means that authenticity can come through.

Meredith Metsker: Okay. Love that. So now that we've kind of talked about what it means to keep support weird, how exactly do you go about doing that with your team?

Pam Dodrill: You'll probably get 50 different answers from 50 different people about this, but I have my own opinions on them. I think that we have four different pillars that we really think about. You can bring and be yourself with customers and colleagues without judgment. So for example, when you're replying to, collaborating with a customer on an issue that they're having. Use your own words. Don't use canned responses. Make your versions of what might be quick replies if you have quick replies, but remain authentic in your communications. If you're a happy person, feel free to put a smiley emoji in. If you're not that super happy person, still be nice, but don't include the smiley emoji, because that's not authentic to you.

One of the other things that we hold as a pillar is that we're all humans and we make mistakes. So part of how we do that here at Zapier is growth through feedback is one of our core values, and it is well lived. It's in our bloodstream. And sometimes it's hard to get used to if I'm honest. Feedback here is actually meant to help each other grow. It's meant to help you improve. It's not meant to be punitive. So we create a safe environment for people to make mistakes and not feel like when they got the feedback, that they've done something terribly wrong. But that they made a mistake and now they know, and they can do something different the next time. And I think that's been really critical to keeping support weird also.

A big thing for us is we make sure we hire people who care about helping customers, and each other, and Zapier succeed. All those things need to come into place. So there is accountability to our customers and responses that we give to them both in time and quality, and making sure that we're satisfying what it is that they're looking for.

Within our own team, the special projects I was talking about earlier that the team works on when they're outside of their queue hours, our operations team is created and helps keep the entire team accountable for those projects that they're working on, making sure there's transparency that we're working on them, that they're being delivered on time, if they're scoped well. And there is a lot of our customer champions driving those projects outside of their queue time versus just support ops doing all of the work, which I think really means as a customer champion, I know that I'm taking care of my customer. I know that I'm contributing to projects that are taking care of me and my peers. And I know that as I'm contributing to those projects, I'm helping Zapier get better. So we've really been able to put our arms around all of that.

And I think there's one more piece to this pillar that's important to call out that I haven't explained yet is that part of the team being able to contribute both to interacting with customers in the queue and that outside of queue project work is that we do run a lower utilization rate so that the team has time to invest in their own development. And one of the things from a business perspective that that also contributes to is it means we have to hire less operations people, right? We don't have to build a huge operations team, and we can keep a lot of things moving. So I think there's a benefit to the business there also.

Then I think the fourth pillar really is that our customer champions want to work in an environment were having fun is encouraged, and it helps keep morale up. And I'll give you some examples of that.

The first thing that comes to mind is just allow yourself to be goofy. Just be goofy and break the tension that comes with trying to help customers. Those are serious things going on for our customers. And sometimes, you need to be able to blow off some steam and have fun. So for example, our channels in Slack are filled with hilarious good morning GIFs. Especially when our Asia Pacific team comes online, I love just watching the Slack channel because it's just a new, fun GIF for everybody.

We have in the channel looking out for work life balance and making it fun. So one of the teams noticed their manager was working too much, and they set up a zap that pings the channel if the manager's still online when they shouldn't be. And it's like the manager name go home bot. It's hilarious. One of the teams had a breakup last week over condiments. Not literally, but there were jokes about that. The team has had an ongoing debate for years about whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich. And we do it out in public, and everybody gets involved, and we have a really good time doing it.

And don't get me wrong. We're a sizable org. We're high volume. We're fast paced. We have a lot of work we need to get done, but we want to make sure we're having fun doing it. In addition to fun, there's the lookout for each other when there's a crisis moment. It could be as simple as, "I just got off of this difficult interaction with the customer," and talking to your peers about it in Slack, with compassion for the customer at all times.

But there's other larger crisis moments we've been through as a team. So there were big wildfires on the West Coast a couple summers ago, and the company made sure that we were sending funds out to our individual cards so we could order food in and not go out in the smoke. But everybody was leaning in and asking, "Do I need to cover a shift for you? Do you need to go somewhere so that you can get to clean air?" And we're just looking out for each other that way.

We took a Friday off so that we could educate ourselves about racism in America. And I watched all the managers and team leads lean in and say, "We can't just shut support down. Our customers may have a mission critical thing happening, but we're going to watch the queue for those mission critical things. You all please go do what you want to do with this day and educate yourselves, and we've got you covered." So it's about fun, and it's about knowing when to have fun and when to lean in and take care of each other, too.

Meredith Metsker: Okay. I love that. It seems like all four of those pillars are really just about kind of like you said, being authentic, being human, bringing your best authentic self to work. Hiring great people that will fit those values.

Pam Dodrill: You bring up a good point. Hiring for values is really important and weaved into our interview process.

Meredith Metsker: So how do you gauge that when you're interviewing?

Pam Dodrill: Over the years, I mean, I can't take credit for this at all. We had some really strong values when I got here and they remain today. And we used to have a values based interview. And then we've noticed over time that our interview process is getting too lengthy. So now we've taken some of those value based questions and we've weaved them into existing interviews. We're pretty serious about our interview process. We go through it and then we give examples of a good answer. Or we ask the teams to say, "Was this an average answer, or below average, good answer, or great answer?" And then we train everybody on how to interview. So we're pretty consistent on who we're hiring and making sure that they map to the values that are important to the team, and the company, and our customers.

Meredith Metsker: Okay. I'm curious. Earlier, I think with pillar number two, you mentioned how you try to make the environment on your support team safe for people to make mistakes and learn. So how exactly do you go about doing that?

Pam Dodrill: Well, growth through feedback being a value. We have a number of different methods. I would say as a hiring manager, when I'm hiring somebody or anybody else on the team, one of the questions we ask in our initial one-on-ones is how do you like to receive feedback? Do you want it written? Do you want it verbal? And also, if you're not making mistakes but doing really well, do you want public recognition? Because not everybody does.

One of the other things we do is if an interaction doesn't go well with the customer, we don't escalate them. Even when asked to, we don't escalate and go get a manager involved. Now if somebody wants a manager's help, we will definitely get in there and help them. But we don't take over the conversation.

So I remember the first time I did a ticket and I refunded the wrong customer. I sent somebody a refund and didn't send it to the person that needed it. And I was panicking. And I remember calling someone on the team and being, "What do I do?" And I reached out to both customers and I resolved it. We would do that same thing with anybody on the team, is that's a mistake. It's okay. It happens. Take the steps to correct it, and we carry on. And I think that that's a big part of it is not making anybody feel bad. Just learn from it and keep growing.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah. Kind of speaking of the pillars again, with pillar number one encouraging authenticity and bringing your best authentic self to work, how do you as the leader of the support team model that and encourage that on your team?

Pam Dodrill: It's really funny that you ask that question, because I've come to find out that I'm an introvert by nature. But when it comes to team time or team meeting time, I just for some reason set that aside, and I try to just show up as if I'm ... and I get goofy, right?

So we hit a milestone a few quarters ago. It was our best employee engagement score for the team that we'd ever seen. We totally blew it out of the water from a goal. And I think that has to do with the team always taking care of and looking after each other. So it's a big team celebration. And we have a monthly team call. And I don't know, it could be 6:00 in the morning for some people, and just odd hours. But anyway, I was getting to that slide on the deck, and I had a boa on, and threw it around my neck, and started blowing out the noisemakers that have the flappy things coming out of them. And the team is dancing on the slide. And it was funny. In that moment, I could see the faces like I've done something wrong as I was doing this. But I think the noise shocked them. And in a few seconds, then they all started to smile and laugh.

So I think you need to demonstrate the vulnerability and the willingness to be in there and be goofy with the team. And it's not real a challenge when you're with a team that acts goofy a lot and is proud of it. We've got T-shirts that say 'keep support weird' because we're-

Meredith Metsker: Oh, really?

Pam Dodrill: Yeah.

Meredith Metsker: Nice.

Pam Dodrill: Then the team went out, we were at a retreat when we gave them out to the team. And somebody ran out and bought tie dye. So we tie dyed them while we were at the retreat. Just another example.

Meredith Metsker: Now that's my kind of team activity.

Pam Dodrill: It was really fun. And mine came out in perfect colors. I love that shirt.

Meredith Metsker: Nice. Love that. So I'm curious, what have been some of the results, well I guess not since you adopted this motto, but since you really leaned into this motto of 'keeping support weird?'

Pam Dodrill: Yeah. I could be cheeky about, "If I have to explain it, you wouldn't understand." But at the end of the day, what it was about was making sure that as we grow and we scale, that the team is coming along for the ride, and that we're helping them develop in their careers. And that they are engaged, which means they're engaging well with our customers.

So we have the highest engagement scores in the company, which is rare for support teams. And I think it's also indicative of just how much Zapier appreciates and really understands the value of its support team. It's not just because we keep support weird. It's because Zapier at its core understands the value that the team brings.

And we've had less than half the rate of attrition from the rest of the business, which also is below usual benchmarks for our industry. So those are two things I'm probably most proud of here at Zapier and of this team.

And we do all of this while we keep our top line KPIs. We've got good response times, our CSATs are good, our commitments for the projects we say we're going to deliver are usually better than goal. So we're serious about doing the business, and then make room to keep support weird. But keeping both of those in balance is the key.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah. So tell me a little bit more about that balance. How do you balance it all?

Pam Dodrill: It took a while to figure some of that out, to be honest with you. We didn't have clear expectations when I showed up. The team had grown a bunch, but we hadn't really put parameters in place. So we worked with the team to figure out what parameters do need to be in place. That wasn't always easy. So we have set up a set of hours we expect everybody to be working in the queue. Which then gives you a set of hours you have to work on special project time. Then you just have your productivity metrics that you're always going to measure to, whether that's tickets closed per day, tickets resolved, replies per hour. For us at the time, and thankfully this has shifted, it's replies per hour.

And then we looked at some data and tried to come out with the new replies per hour. And that did not go over well at all. The data was wrong. We didn't roll it out well. So I won't say the number, but the number that we were using that we thought should be the target will live in infamy. We actually make jokes about it now. So this is another good way to make support weird. That sucked in the beginning when I knew that we had blown that, and it was a big deal. And then we had to back off and continue to take more feedback from the team to get it to where we needed it to be.

But I'm not afraid to make jokes about it. It's a mistake that I made, and I'm not afraid to point to it, and be vulnerable, and point out when I mess up. And I think that also helps everybody feel like it's okay to make mistakes. They let me make that one and keep going. And it was a big one.

Meredith Metsker: But hey, you learned right?

Pam Dodrill: Totally. And you should see today the metrics that they're generating themselves. We have new systems, we have new data. And I get tears in my eyes and I'm like, "Whoa, y'all really dug us out of the hole I created in my first year. Thank you for the progress."

Meredith Metsker: That's amazing. I think sometimes we, or at least when I hear mottos like 'keep support weird,' I'm like, "That's really cool. But how does that tie to actual results? How do you see that play out in real life?" And it sounds like you and your team have seen very, very tangible, positive results.

Pam Dodrill: We have. And Meredith, a lot of it has to do with collaborating with the team, and transparency, and getting feedback. Yeah, you have to be able to have clear expectations set before you can go have fun and keep things weird. Clear expectations are kind. Holding people to them is the kind thing to do. And they're really important for sustainable business. Sustainable business is important to your customers. And sustainable business is critical to having jobs. So you have to have that be a part of it and then make room for being goofy and doing the fun stuff. And honestly, being comfortable being vulnerable as a leader and having leaders on your team that are also comfortable being vulnerable is really important.

Meredith Metsker: I'm getting big Brené Brown vibes right now.

Pam Dodrill: Well, I'll take that as a compliment. I haven't read anything of hers in a while, so it must be staying with me for a while.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah. What you said reminded me not only of her research on vulnerability and leadership, but also her quote. What is it? I think, "Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind."

Pam Dodrill: Yeah. And I may have taken it from my earlier reading of hers, but that is spot on. And you can sense it as a leader when you're not being clear with someone and they're not making the changes that you want to hope that they will make. You can tell when you're out of line with what they're thinking they're doing and how you think they're doing. And you have to make sure that there's clarity on both sides of that.

Meredith Metsker: So how do you go about setting those clear expectations, and then holding people accountable to them?

Pam Dodrill: Well, I think the first thing is to develop a draft of what you think they might be and/or ask your team for a draft of what they think they might be. And then collaborating, experimenting, and figuring which ones they are. For us, it took a long time. We had to upgrade some of our systems to be able to get to a place of clarity. So for a really long time, there was one metric we were measuring, and it's not the one you want to run a support business on. So I had round tables at one of our retreats and just had everybody come in and say, "What's working well. What do you think needs to be improved?" And a lot of ideas bubbled up about that. One example was, "I don't want you to measure me, Pam, on how many replies I have in an hour. I want to know that after I fixed a zap for a customer, it's working 30 days later." And I was like, "That is it in a nutshell."

So from that conversation, we're starting to actually look at what is happening with the zap after I help troubleshoot it? And what is the customer retention? And does the customer grow after they interact with support? So I think the way that you get to those clear expectations is to not come in with the hammer and say this is the way every support team's ever done it, or this is what I learned at a conference. Do the job with the team, understand what they're going through, listen to the team, get their feedback, and then align it with what you need to have done as a business. And have a good feedback loop so that if you don't adopt one of their ideas, they know why. And bring them along through the process.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah. Sounds like a great way to not only get more buy-in, but to also teach your team about business processes and leadership.

Pam Dodrill: Yeah, exactly. And that's the part that's fun for me now is watching the team develop the thing that I was trying to develop three years ago, but didn't have the data and didn't have the tools in order to do it. So we were giving it our best guess. But now to have this team that was like, "No, don't do that." Actually generating it themselves because they have the tools and the visibility is just a real highlight for us.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah. Sounds like it. So I'm curious what advice you have for other support leaders who would like to make their teams a little more weird, a little more authentic, and maybe achieve these high engagement scores and low attrition rates.

Pam Dodrill: I think it's really important that you as a leader are ready to show up as your best authentic self. And that's going to help your team be comfortable talking about the vulnerability, talking about the ability to point out and say, "Here's a mistake that I made," is really important.

It's also really important to be curious about your team. Actively listening to them and looking for ways to let people know you see them, and you're not just looking at a queue and the tickets that they're doing, and the conversations that they're having is really important.

One of the things we do at Zapier is we allocate a celebration budget. So all of our teams have a set amount per person that they can spend on celebrations they could have. We also have virtual lunch budgets that we share so we can get together because we're a remote team.

But the celebration and gift budget examples that I've seen over the last three years have been really fun and interesting. A couple examples is it was one of the manager's birthdays recently, and the team got together and ordered them a sweater for their parrot. Which means, "We see you, we see your pets. And we know that you put sweaters on your parrot for a reason. And we would like to order one of these cute ones for you and ship it to you." So that was unique.

Another time, a manager had a pet die and the team found out about it. And they ordered him a pet headstone to put in his backyard. I mean, those are just not gifts you usually see being sent out to folks on a support team. It's just super thoughtful, but they see each other.

And one of the teams, this was one of my favorites celebrated a milestone. They all got together and they adopted an elephant. And they all get updates on this elephant and they're funding its care-taking. So I think the point I'm trying to make is make sure that you're actively listening and observing your team and you know them as humans, and then finding ways to let them know that you see them as humans and recognize them is really important.

Meredith Metsker: So how do you balance taking the time to do all of that and making sure that you are really getting to know your team well, and spending that time there, while also still balancing the need to hit your daily, weekly goals, metrics, and all of those other top line KPIs?

Pam Dodrill: It's a tough balance. But I think it can be weaved in naturally with the job, right? So you've got a lot on your plate. You have a lot of things to think about. But show up in the moment with your team. You're meeting with your team, you're meeting with the leaders of your team. Active listening is, I don't think, a skill we talk about enough in leadership. And if I can't do something right now because I have to run to three more meetings, I put it in my to-do list with a reminder. And the really important ones don't fall off. And time management is just really critical as a leader being in support. Make sure you carve some time out to think in the process, and set expectations with the people that you're reporting into that you need to do that.

Have a clear staffing model. This is my utilization rate. This is my expected volume. This is what it's going to take to get the job done as far as head count goes. And if I don't get that head count, here's what's going to happen to the KPIs. You need to be able to give the business that clear line of sight. And in doing that, make room for yourself. Because otherwise, none of this stuff is a reality.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah. I suppose similar to the concept of a happy support team equals happy customers, happy leader equals happy support team equals happy customers.

Pam Dodrill: That's really true. And we call each other out on that too. "I think it's time for you to take a few days off. And I mean that with love." And I call myself out on it. We really do look out for each other and work life balance. And it's been different with the pandemic too. We worked from home before, we work from home now. But life is very different. And yeah, we just try to be a lot more flexible with each other as a team and with our teammates that, "If something comes up and you just need to step away, let us know. And we will figure it out." Having flexibility during times like this has been really important.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah. Makes all of work a lot more human, which I know I appreciate.

Pam Dodrill: Yeah, me too.

Meredith Metsker: I want to go back to the two results you mentioned. Having the highest team engagement score in Zapier, and then having less than half the rate of attrition. And I know that you said that's a common issue in support is that there's a lot of turnover. There's a lot of burnout. So what kind of things are you doing in addition to those four pillars to achieve those results?

Pam Dodrill: Well, that changes from quarter to quarter. And actually, it changes from employee survey to employee survey, to be honest with you. We take our employee survey feedback very seriously. Some of the things that have come out of that lately are, "We get this time out of the queue to work on stuff that is career development, but I don't yet know how to take my pathway from here to user experience, or product, or marketing or engineer." Well that's not true. We have an engineering path in place already. But what came out of it was we're making this investment to help them grow in their skillset, but it wasn't clear how to get from support to that next function in the organization. So we spent this last quarter building some of those pathways from support into other parts of the organization, and we will continue to do that and make them more formal. People need to feel like there's opportunity. And we were investing in them so they'd be ready for the opportunity, but we weren't showing them how to get to the opportunity.

And Zapier is just a fabulous company to work for because we also got permission from our finance team that if someone needs to go from if you're at a career level of three and you go to a marketing role or product role, it's likely you'll start at an earlier career level because you're just getting started. So we've given those teams permission to open roles at that lower level without hitting their budgets too hard to create those opportunities for the team to move.

The other thing... it's interesting, it doesn't really affect everyone, is you don't have to go into people management to grow your career. So we have two tracks. We have individual contributor career growth, and we have people manager career growth. And individual contributor means you're just getting better at your job and better and better as you go, but you still get rewarded and you can still get promotion through cycle just as you would if you were moving through people leadership. It doesn't go any faster. It's still just as hard, because the company relies on you as a thought leader at about the same level as we would the different people leader levels.

I think Zapier understanding that support is an asset and a brain trust, and not a cost center is critical. So that's not necessarily always in the support leader's hands. And it is hard to demonstrate if you don't have a senior leadership team that understands it. But look for ways to connect. Someone talk to support. What is the behavior of them afterwards? Do they stay, do they go? And likely you'll find they'll stay and they're doing more. Really trying to show the value that support ads versus it's a cost of goods sold. But finding a company that just really understands that is important. And we found one at Zapier. It's not a fight that I had to fight when I got here, which is why I chose to come work here because I knew they understood that.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah. You said you learned about Zapier's motto about keeping support weird in the interview process, correct?

Pam Dodrill: Yeah.

Meredith Metsker: So I'm curious, what went through your mind when you heard that?

Pam Dodrill: I totally understand what you mean. And all populations have this. I'll pick an example. Motorcyclists, Harley Davidson. If I have to explain it, you won't understand. I've worked in support so long that when they were saying 'keep support weird,' I knew what they meant. And other support organizations I've worked on, there's just a different flavor of I'm going to show up and be myself. Whether it's because it's a group of musicians and improv artists, or it's a group of people that live somewhere remotely and they're super proud. It doesn't matter. We wear our hearts on our sleeves, and we're just who we are when we come to work. And that's to me, a lot of what keeps support weird means. I just knew what they meant.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah. So I guess in the context of those other examples, each group has their own version of weird.

Pam Dodrill: Yeah, exactly.

Meredith Metsker: In your mind, in your words, what is support's version of weird?

Pam Dodrill: They're unsung heroes. They're unsung heroes. They take care of so many things for so many people. And that's what they get up to do every day. I watched something happen on a social media channel years ago, and I posted something about it. Or I just shared it. I didn't make an opinion about it. It was something somebody did in support that was pretty cool. And there was a big public view of this thing happening. I won't talk about what the incident was. And all I did was post it. I don't remember what social channel I posted on. I didn't say anything. Someone that used to work on one of my teams just replied, "Not all heroes wear capes." So that's what brings to my support teams are unsung heroes. They do a lot of things, and a lot of it isn't recognized. Because we're looking at numbers, we're looking at costs, even if you look at the value of it. But when you think about what a support person does all day long, it is take care of people and help them get to where they're going. And we'll never recognize every single interaction and every life that they've touched. There's no way we could. So they're unsung heroes.

Meredith Metsker: That was a beautiful quote. That was amazing. Yeah, I love that. Yeah, it seems to me like, I'm coming from the marketing side of things, but I have observed that interviewing support leaders for this podcast. Y'all are just one of the most empathetic, kind groups of people I have ever encountered.

Pam Dodrill: Yeah. I think that's why I stick with this business so much. I have a lot of sales experience too, and that's fun. But support is probably where my heart will always be, just because usually it's just that group of people who they're going to get it done and they love challenges.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah. Working with people, it's guaranteed to be a challenge.

Pam Dodrill: Yeah.

Meredith Metsker: Okay. Well, I think that's probably a good place to start wrapping this up a little bit. But before I get to my last questions, is there anything else about our topic, about keeping support weird that you would like to add that we haven't covered yet?

Pam Dodrill: I don't think so. I haven't thought of anything so far that I wanted to make sure I circled back on.

Meredith Metsker: Okay. Cool. Well, then I'll ask you the big question, the broad one. But generally speaking, what advice do you have for up and coming support leaders?

Pam Dodrill: Do we have the afternoon? There is a number of things. I think that thing that we talked about earlier on transparency and collaborative planning are really I think very important. When I talk about wanting to throw a number up on the board that we had to hit it falling flat wasn't a good example. But it also shouldn't be democratized. And there's a difference. So if you're starting with a smaller team or you're just starting in your career, you're just getting started as a start up. There's a tendency to want to do let's make this decision together democratically. And I don't think that's the best thing that you can do, because ultimately you will have to shift from needing to make decisions in smaller groups. So you have to pull away from that. So I would say transparent and collaborative planning versus democratized decision making are really important if you're getting started.

Get input, share your thinking as you design changes, remain open to feedback as you go. And then once those decisions are nailed down, close this loop and explain why certain things were not picked up. Then, I think the thing that comes after that it's really good to start doing early is normalize on disagree and commit. Because ultimately even if you explain your reasoning, not everybody is going to agree with the decisions that you've made or have to make. And I think one of the hardest things for leaders just getting started is if someone on your team cannot commit, don't be afraid to talk about that. Put it on the table. Don't be afraid to help them find a new direction for themselves, because non-committers can sow doubt.

Don't let non-committers sow doubt by not addressing situations like that. That's what I see a lot of early leaders get caught up in, and then get more concerned and anxiety builds. Be kind and be compassionate, and find a graceful solution. And if that means they need to move on, that's okay. It's a really hard thing to do, but it will make all the difference for the culture of your team. And the earlier you learn to do that, the easier it gets. And the earlier you do it in your organization, the easier it gets for the team to accept that. So it's really important especially in environments of fast and rapid change in scale.

And then share your own stories, like I just did. If someone is struggling, use what you learned on your own when you struggle to help them realize that they're not alone. Because we've all struggled, and we shouldn't be afraid to talk about it.

Meredith Metsker: I love that. Tying it back to the vulnerability thing.

Pam Dodrill: Hat's off to Brené again.

Meredith Metsker: Perfect. Okay. Well before I let you go, if any of the folks listening or watching, if they want to contact you or learn more from you, what's a good way for them to do that?

Pam Dodrill: That's a good question. So I'm really not on social media very much anymore. LinkedIn is probably the best way to reach me in my profile in LinkedIn. And I'd say email, but email gets lost so much these days because I live in Slack. So LinkedIn is the best way to find me for sure.