Starters vs. Finishers

In my last blog I talked about customer service oriented support people vs. just being a good technician.  Today I’m talking about another sometimes overlooked metric when determining how to hire and evaluate employees.  Getting a project off the ground can be difficult, I would not argue otherwise.  Having a valued team that starts a project on the right path is important, but more critical is having staff members that can close the project and have an eye on the finish line.
We can surround our ourselves with critical thinkers, ideas people and red team leaders.  All of these roles are important for the creative and vetting processes.  However, if your team consists of only these types of people, your timelines will creep, budgets will need to be expanded and ultimately your projects may fail, or be so far behind schedule that they will be considered a failure even when they succeeded.  Closers on projects pick up the oars when the project canoe has pushed off the dock and ensure you all get to the other side.
Good project closers are the people that add some ideas to the beginning of the project and push hard for the entire project.  They gravitate towards helpful solutions and understand who to communicate with when the project does something that was unexpected.  Great closers have a couple of added benefits:
They have an eye on the finish line from the start.  They keep communicating with the necessary people and push towards completion steadily.
They know what being flexible is, and when to use it.  Decisions that don’t need to move up the chain stop with them, and they stand by them.
Great closers use the tools given them.  Vital feedback, idea changes and deadlines are their oxygen.  Metrics helping define where the project is and how to proceed is their sunlight.
They stay ahead of naysayers.   Countering the negative feedback with facts and optimism is in their nature.
We have all met people who we would go to war with because they will not die, they refuse to quit and will climb any wall to make things happen.  They are relaxed in the pressure moments and keep a steady foot on the gas pedal during the quite times.  These are your perfect closers, cherish them and include them in your toolkit as the prized performers they are.

Customer Service vs Technicians

While working in technical professions its easy to seek out the best technicians we can find, understanding that they will have the specialized skills to fix problems.  Especially now, with so many technical people vying for jobs, picking the cream of the technical abilities crop becomes easy to do and defend.
However, I would recommend that you find a good technician from the group and then consider their customer service skills as having as much or more say in your decision.  I would also base those customer service skills foremost on their abilities at empathy.
Empathy can be difficult for technically oriented people, I know it seems stereotypical, but referencing multiple cases from my history in the I.T. field is all to easy (including myself).  It’s important for customer service personnel to understand the viewpoints and problems of the customer.  Just as important is the need of the customer to understand they have been listened to and heard.  So many I.T. base problems would not occur if technical customer service representatives took the time to listen to the entire problem before diving in.
Patience on the side of the customer is required as well.  Technical people are there to help, and they understand this.  Finding customer representatives that can bridge this gap faster and efficiently will help in almost every technical problem they approach and address.