The first call Tony Pante has with new team members does not involve anything about business. Instead, he asks about their families, what they’re reading, what motivates them and what they value. No, he’s not doing it to break the ice in the traditional sense; rather, he’s developing a rapport that he hopes will later turn into a full-blown relationship.
These aren’t the only questions the inquisitive Harvard Business School grad asks, but he knows that if he as leader can draw teammates in conversation, they’ll get to know each other better and trust will develop.
He sets the example himself. “In my leadership meeting every Monday, I always spend the first five minutes talking about a weekend experience with either my boys or my wife or the dogs, or a drink that we had or food that we had,” Pante said. “And I do that on purpose because then it gets other people started talking about their weekends and creates a safe psychological space.”
A former football player at Lafayette College, Pante built and currently runs the new Global Digital Center of Excellence for the Customer First/Customer Success organization at SAP. His team is responsible for helping SAP customers realize the full potential from the cloud products they have purchased to help them run their organizations. Early in his tenure as the center’s leader, Pante was charged with understanding more about how SAP was helping its customers. So he charged his team with opening up the lines of communication and starting the conversation, preferably by telephone, one customer at a time.
In the years since, that outreach program has grown from a handful of customers who picked up their phones, to some 30,000 offering feedback either on the phone, online or live. To keep the momentum going, Pante began opening quarterly staff meetings with a rundown of the top four client success stories. The practice proved so effective in team building that it led to team members competing to provide the best customer success stories to begin each meeting.
In the podcast, Pante shows how attention to the “human side” of competing in the global technology sector fosters resilient teams and more trusting customer relationships. Corporate competitors who listen in will learn:
• What Pante’s football playing days at Lafayette University taught him about getting momentum on your side—and keeping it there.
• How leaders can motivate their teams without getting in their way.
• The principle of coaching curiosity and avoiding complacency.
For Pante, curiosity about other people and connecting with them are not merely values but “our lifeblood,” core to the organization’s purpose. “I want examples of how we’re helping our customers because that’s why we exist as an organization. If we’re not helping them, what are we doing?”