Jeff Mask

"Nowhere To Go But Up"

What was this rookie assignment (the role, task or event)? 

It was 2:00 in the morning on March 10, 2010 when I received the call. The voices on the other end of the line were those of our two co-founders, who stated, "Jeff, we've been up all night restructuring the company, and we've decided that we need you to leave the Sales organization and lead the Customer Success organization." My stomach churned.

When was it (Month, Year)? Set the scene of the time you were in.

At that time in early 2010 our business was churning out customers at an alarming rate. Admittedly, solving that problem was not a job I wanted. I didn't know the first thing about customer turnover or customer service. I was a business development and sales guy for crying out loud! Yet I knew the company needed me, so I rolled up my sleeves, forgot myself, and got to work.

What were nervous or worried about?

I was worried about having zero experience in the art and science of retaining and wowing customers. I didn't know where to begin, how to forecast, or how to prevent churn. In addition, I inherited a team that was disillusioned at best and who rarely responded back to customers due to being so overworked and under appreciated.

How would I change that culture?

What were you hopeful about?

I quickly became hopeful about the change I knew I could make. With the current circumstances so bleak, there was nowhere else but up, up, up to go. Mostly, I became hopeful about the lives I knew I could change (both inside our company and outside). Lastly, I was hopeful that I could learn what I needed to do to lead the team powerfully and effectively. I knew the learning would need to be a combination of book smarts and people smarts - so I set out on my quest to devour as much intel as I could.

What was the outcome?

The outcome was a thing of beauty. That disillusioned, under appreciated team bonded together and literally transformed lives. Disciplined and cheerful service became the norm. Discovering and improving the leading indicators was key, and tracking the indicators on a daily basis was king. And we had FUN doing it. Lowering churn and increasing customer delight became a game, a quest.

As a result of all this and so much more, customer turnover dropped from 8% to 1.5% in less than 18 months. This team literally turned the company around.

Though years have past, and many of us have assumed different responsibilities within the company, the members on that team remain my close friends today.

What would be possible in your current job if you could re-invigorate this same rookie self?

The beauty of where I "work" is that living the Rookie Smarts concepts is a must; a way of life. So my simplest answer to this question is anything – anything could be, and is, possible.

What else would you like to tell us about your rookie story?

The key about the Rookie Experience I shared is that it was so profound that the principles I learned have stayed with me in every new role I've assumed since. I literally was transformed for good. I believe this is why I am so drawn to Rookie Smarts: it resonates so powerfully with who I want to become, day in and day out.

  • “Agility, resilience, grit, and a growth mindset—these are the attributes effective leaders need in a changing world. Rookie Smarts shows leaders at every age and at every stage of their careers how to master these skills.”
    DAVE ULRICH
    University of Michigan professor and author of Leadership Sustainability
  • “Wiseman masterfully shows why novices can outdo veterans, expertise blinds us to fresh ideas, and the brilliance of newbies remains untapped. With sage insights and fascinating examples, Rookie Smarts is a must-read.”
    ADAM GRANT
    Wharton professor and author of Give and Take
  • “As a company grows, nothing is more important than retaining a culture of innovation. Rookie Smarts shows how even a big company can take risks, innovate, and operate like a challenger.”
    MARC BENIOFF
    Chairman and CEO, Salesforce.com
  • “Wiseman (co-author: The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools, 2014, etc.) provides a big boost for first-time employees and others who refuse to be bound by arbitrary limits. . . .An exciting promotion of lifelong discovery and enthusiasm as answers to routine and business as usual.”
    Kirkus Reviews