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Strategies for ‘going extreme’ and staying at the top: A CX Moment with Sarah Robb O’Hagan

Zendesk chatted with executive, activist, and entrepreneur Sarah Robb O’Hagan on what it takes to stay at the top of your game while taking your organization’s customer experience to the next level.

By Denise Lomele, Staff Writer

Published August 27, 2021
Last updated September 1, 2021

What does it take to be “the best”? We all want to know the secret to be exceptional in our craft, whether we are striving to be a best-in-class agile CX leader, a high-performing customer service representative, or the go-to IT manager.

In order to understand the commonalities that unite top performers, our recent CX Moment guest Sarah Robb O’Hagan, author of Extreme You, current CEO of EXOS, and former CEO of Flywheel Sports, researched the traits and habits of entrepreneurs, artists, athletes, politicians at the height of their game.

Robb O’Hagan shared some of her lessons on how to uplevel yourself, your team, and your company’s customer experience. Here are some of our key takeaways:

Strategies for staying at the top of your game

High achievers are able to consistently tap into an approach Robb O’Hagan calls “going extreme.” An “extreme” mindset meets at the intersection of passion and skill. The top performers she researched were able to continuously use this methodology to up their game and stay motivated.

Once leaders find themselves at the top, staying there can be a challenge. “When you’re successful you may suddenly find your motivation waning. You’ve already climbed that mountain, [and ask yourself/and feel like] now what?” Robb O’Hagan explained.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, high achievers must continuously ignite their drive to maintain performance. Find momentum in your success by looking for true motivation in intrinsic motivators, such as improving your own skillset and setting and achieving personal goals.

Find momentum in your success by looking for true motivation in intrinsic motivators.

Setting stretch goals for yourself also helps model a learning mindset and infuses that into your team culture. When a leader is a novice when it comes to a new skill, it encourages others to get out of their comfort zone and lean into their “extreme” selves. “Extreme organizations play to everyone’s best potential while working towards a focused, common goal,” Robb O’Hagan said.

Building a successful team means tapping into potential

While the media has a tendency to celebrate disruptive business leaders, successful organizations must rely on a diversity of personalities, perspectives, and skillsets to see success. “Extroverts, introverts, creatives, and analytical people all play a unique role in making sure a company is successful. It’s so important to celebrate all those puzzle pieces,” Robb O’Hagan said.

To lead an empathic support organization, leaders must employ a broad range of perspectives and experiences.

The most successful support organizations will optimize agent performance by employing team members who want to stay agents but also those who will raise their hand for the next promotion. Agents who carry institutional knowledge into their work will balance those who are looking for their next project or to challenge traditional ways of problem-solving.

“You need talented disruptive thinking and institutional knowledge and experience with a close eye on the day-to-day,” Robb O’Hagan said. Play to your team’s greatest potential by understanding their strengths and championing the diversity of experience and thought each employee brings to the organization.

How CX leaders can keep support top of mind for CEOs

As a support leader, the most important value you can bring to your CEO or executive team is the unvarnished truth.

A great CX leader will be able to decode the metrics and present anecdotes to leadership to humanize raw data. Customer support builds relationships with customers that help keep a business moving forward.

A great CX leader will be able to decode the metrics and present anecdotes to leadership to humanize raw data.

“[A customer interaction] is the moment that can change the entire brand experience from a really bad [experience] to one that can lead to a referral. If an experience goes wrong, nothing else matters. You can’t make up for it,” Robb O’Hagan said. When support teams are able to enable the broader organization to make changes based on customer data, they can change customer detractors to brand evangelists.

Get intentional with your teams

The next years will bring unprecedented change. People throughout an organization will need to work with agility and get comfortable with continued change happening to and around them.

Download the 2021 Employee Experience Trends Report

For leaders, this means supporting a team that may be change-fatigued. Reset expectations with team members and colleagues around the amount of change that is to come, while emphasizing the core values that make your teamwork a cohesive unit.

“You’ve got to put a lot more thought and time into giving teammates the space to process the change. Give them space so they can have the energy to come back recharged. Set the expectations early around how messy and full of change the next few months, and potentially years, will be,” Robb O’Hagan advised.

The more you can lean into change and evolve your performance and team one mindset shift or goal at a time, the better positioned you are to uplevel your business success. Some might argue there has never been a better time to “go extreme” than the present.

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