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January 18, 2023 | 31 Mins Read

Service Transformation: Perception is Reality

January 18, 2023 | 31 Mins Read

Service Transformation: Perception is Reality


Adam Gloss, VP and GM of Service at McKinstry, joins Sarah to discuss how he pushes beyond some of today’s biggest challenges to see and capture the opportunity – and how he motivates his teams to do the same. 

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we're going to be talking about how in so much of service transformation, perception is reality. I'm excited to be joined today by Adam Gloss, who is the VP and GM for services at McKinstry. Adam, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Adam Gloss: Thank you, Sarah. Nice to be here.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes, thank you for being here. All right. Adam and I had the pleasure of meeting last fall, and when we connected to chat about doing a podcast together, I was really, really taken with your passion and excitement for not only what you do, but the potential that exists in services as a whole. I probably was taken with that because I am also very passionate and excited about the potential that exists. But we started sort of reflecting on how you perceive different things dictates so much of the path taken, the outcome, et cetera. So that's kind of what we're going to talk about today. But before we do that, tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself, your role, anything you would like to share.

Adam Gloss: Yeah, that sounds like a softball question, which is a great way to kick things off.

Sarah Nicastro: A warmup.

Adam Gloss: Yeah, yeah. My answer is probably a little complicated, but I think it will tell you a lot about me. So humor me. I'm the Vice President of Service for McKinstry and we work in the built environment. We are a national design, build, operate, and maintain company that specializes in critical and complex buildings and facilities for infrastructure. Ultimately, I'm tasked with leading our field service organization and developing solutions for the problems our customers face, and frankly, the society at large faces around the cost of the built environment and maintaining it, the wellbeing of its occupants, its energy and carbon impact, and the equity impacts all that exacerbates. So it's a small job.

Strangely, when you think about what I do, I actually started my career in advertising and marketing. Completely left field, right? And then spent 15 years in healthcare, first in sales and marketing and then in operations, and moved into field service about 17 years ago. When I talk to people about my background, those threads seem very disparate. They all look at me kind of like, what? And I have to explain to them. But I see a lot of congruity, a lot that ties those things together. Both of them are really focused on outcomes where helping others is critical and the work matters, and that's important to me. That gets me up and going every day. Both are environments that are talking about healthcare and thinking about facilities. Both are very dynamic. They're very fast paced. There's a lot of change, a lot of challenges. I think that gets back to attitude. I find joy in that, not frustration. And then both are very labor intensive. They're very people focused, and there's incredible challenges and opportunities around that. And I love the people aspect of that.

For me, what I do now kind of ties all of that together and it gives me an opportunity to make an impact in a very big way and to have a meeting in my work. And then I'm also really, really fortunate to work with some amazing people. That actually brings a lot of joy to me. And any success we have, I think is largely because of the quality of people in our organization, their dedication to the work that we do, and their excitement about the impact that we get to make. That excitement becomes contagious.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. That makes sense. And I think that's a really good way to say it. Excitement becomes contagious. So does negativity or boo hoo attitude as well. So we'll talk a little bit about that. You have been in field service, you said 17 years. I've been in this space about 15. I think maybe some of our excitement around what's going on in this space today is because of the entry point of time into it. I know for me, I've said this a lot on this podcast, when I started in this space, it was pretty segment in some ways. And it was a little bit, I say boring from the context of covering the space. All of the conversations were sort of centered around how do we maximize productivity, minimize cost. Service was a cost center. There wasn't a lot of super exciting technology advancements being adopted yet, et cetera.

I feel like what kept me interested over the last decade and a half is that I started to see that progression unfold. Those conversations started to shift and the recognition of service as a profit center on a differentiator happened and the way work is done and the way we focus on customer experience evolved largely due to digital transformation. So there's been a lot of things that have happened that have really, really flipped that impression of 15 years ago around. You've probably witnessed something similar. And here you are saying, "I love change. Everything that's going on in service is so exciting." And other people can find it daunting or exhausting or frustrating. So we're going to talk about some of the areas of change and your perception on them, but just related to change overall, what is it that you like about change? Why do you feel like you have the perspective that you do?

Adam Gloss: It's not change per se. For me, it really is about solving problems. I get a lot of satisfaction from making things work better or from finding novel solutions to a problem. And I really enjoy the creative process in that. The byproduct of that is change, but it's not looking at change for change's sake. It's, "Well hey, here's a problem, here's something that we could have an impact on. Is this worth doing? If it is, let's figure out how to do it." And that's the exciting part to me, is seeing that impact that you're having on a client or customer on a segment of the market, on your own team members or employees, on the world around you. Being able to wake up one day and look at something and go, "Wow, I helped do that." That's really exciting and engaging.

Sarah Nicastro: I want to unpack this a little bit only because I'm trying to think about the psychology of this a little bit because I understand what you just said, but what I heard is you saying, "What I really get excited about is having an impact." I think even more so than solving problems. The reason I say that is there are people that enjoy solving problems, but once they've figured out the solution, they wouldn't necessarily be energized by the thought of evolving that solution as the problem shifts. Maybe sometimes in minute ways. Do you know what I mean?

Adam Gloss: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: So I think you can like problem solving but still kind of be in a place where constantly having to reengage in that process can seem daunting. But I think what you're saying is what really drives you to embrace change is having an impact. And if you're focused on having an impact, what it takes to do that is going to continue to evolve.

Adam Gloss: It will.

Sarah Nicastro: Does that make sense?

Adam Gloss: It does. Yes. Yes. So you're right. And there are people who know me who will tell you that I get bored easily. I'm not a stagnant person. I have trouble with that. I know people who have been doing the same job for 20 or 30 years and God bless them. We need those people. I think even in those roles, you still though have incremental growth and change. You can think about somebody in my world, let's talk about a service plumber or mechanic or a refrigeration technician or a boiler technician or whatever they are. You can be a really, really good chiller mechanic. And it takes years, by the way, to become one. You're talking about a decade of work to really get competent and they will tell you that, well, the machinery changes on them or the customer change and they can't be stagnant either. I think to excel at anything that you do, you have to recognize there's going to be a need for growth or incremental change along the way.

I would struggle, frankly, with people who don't want to ever change what they are doing, who don't see that just to keep meeting the needs of society or customers or clients or to keep working on emerging technology or whatever, you have to be able to change and adapt. Now, I think there's fatigue that comes with that at some point, right? I can talk about how to manage that difference, that there are people who can become more tired of change more quickly than I do, and how do I recognize that and stay attuned to that and manage through that? That's a whole separate challenge. But I would say that anybody who is not willing to think about continuous improvement it’s a better way to talk about this. They're not going to be comfortable working on one of my teams. They're just not.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. Yeah.

Adam Gloss: But I think it gets back to that same thing you talked about earlier, which is about owning your attitude. Sayings around owning your attitude are overworn, but they are for a reason. You made the comment that if you are frustrated, that colors how you see the problem. You see it as a problem if you approach something. Because I'm already frustrated by this, it's terrible, it's horrible. Now I'm focused on the problem. If I can get myself past that and think, "Okay, this is what it is. How do I deal with it?" Now I can focus on an outcome, now I can focus on a solution. If you approach it with a different energy, that becomes self-fulfilling.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So let's talk about a couple topic areas because I want to kind of illustrate for people what we're talking about when we're talking about perception. So we're talking really about challenge versus opportunity. So when you think of a topic that's relevant to service today, do you see challenge? Do you see opportunity? And what is that distinction? So we had talked about a couple examples when we were preparing for this, and maybe we'll just touch on a few, but one is the topic of labor. So maybe kind of summarize for folks your attitude and we can talk about how that may differ from someone who is focused on the challenge versus the opportunity.

Adam Gloss: Yeah, I think this is the perfect illustration. Labor is by far the biggest challenge that we face in my organization. And as I talk to people who lead field service organizations and other companies and other industries, it's single biggest challenge that they face. So it's universal. My own viewpoint is that it's especially acute in the skill trades. Because like I mentioned, it takes years to actually become competent at what it is you're doing. Most of our apprenticeships are four to five years before someone's actually able to work independently. I could get hung up and other people do get hung up and oh my gosh, there's not enough people in the skilled trades. All these baby boomers are getting ready to retire. We have this massive brain drain that's happening. There's not enough people going into trade schools or entering union apprenticeships. And you can get spun up on the crisis that this really is.

We are, some people say on the edge of the cliff, some people say going over the cliff. Either way it's bad. So you can get hung up on that and panic. We see people trying to buy their way out of that and offering insane sign-on bonuses or trying to steal other people's employees. "Well, I'll pay them more." Okay, where's that end? Right? Because they're going to make up a buck or two an hour more somewhere else until they go there. That's a panic mode response. If you approach it with that same attitude we were just talking about and think, "Okay, is there an opportunity in this?" This actually gets really exciting to me. So when I think about that gap in skilled trades people, and I think about the cost crisis that I mentioned at the outset, the cost to operate buildings is too high, and most of that frankly is driven by labor costs, which is supply and demand equation. Not enough people, too much demand. Wages are escalating much more quickly than they normally would.

The labor crisis you mentioned, and I mentioned the equity crisis, that there are people who are underrepresented in our labor pool. There are people who are shut out of those opportunities. There are people who are more directly impacted by the climate crisis, by the cost crisis, and they're suffering the most from this. I see a confluence. I see an opportunity to solve multiple problems in the same stroke, but I have to think about it a little bit differently and say, "Okay, if I thought about these." And said, "Okay, there are underserved populations, how do we get them into the trades? How do I maybe address the labor gap by being more inclusive, by bringing in underrepresented people?" So that's actually part of our solution. We are working on developing pathways to those marginalized or underrepresented groups to bring them into the trade, working with community partners and community organizations that work with women, people of color, veterans transitioning out of the military, people making mid-career changes or life changes like single mothers coming back into the workforce and talking to them about opportunities in field service.

Because the reality is that most of them have no exposure to it. They don't know it's an opportunity. Even if they did, they wouldn't know how to get into it. That becomes daunting. Then we're partnering with trade schools and with our local unions and talking about, "Okay, now let's create a pathway to get them the training." And then we can provide the employment on the back end and make sure that there are now living wage jobs for people with great career opportunities, that we are helping to increase that labor pool, which addresses that supply and demand balance. We manage cost escalations better as a result of that. That is not a panacea, it's not an overnight solution. It's going to be a long-term project.

But I'll tell you that between in the last two years in 2020 and 2022, we tripled the number of new hires into our field service organization and tripled the representation by women and people of color. And it was just because of thinking about that problem a little bit differently and all of a sudden we're solving two or three at the same time. So flipping that mindset and think, "Okay, I'm not going to get hung up in the problem and my frustration with it." Taking a step back, changing your energy a little bit and thinking about, "Okay, what are all these problems? How can I start to leverage this?" Now you may still have an immediate problem, you need to figure how to solve that a little bit differently, but that long-term perspective, thinking holistically, thinking constructively changes [inaudible 00:18:36].

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. That's what I was kind of thinking as you were walking through that. It made me want to clarify for listeners, when we talk about perception, it isn't about rose colored glasses. It isn't about ignoring the complexity or the difficulty that is in each of these different areas very real. It's more about pushing past that. I think that's what I'm thinking about is maybe the difference is people getting stuck there, getting stuck in the problem to not get past it mentally to see the potential. I was reflecting as you were speaking on, you mentioned that you view yourself as a creative person. And I wonder if that's also psychologically another distinguishing factor. Because people who are creative and want to have an outlet for that creativity are the people who may be more inclined to see the problem but then want to push through to, "Okay, this, this and this are fact. Let's remove the emotion. Now let's brainstorm what this means in terms of potential." And obviously we've already talked about the fact that in most cases, that means change.

So it's just interesting. I mean I'm probably getting too deep for some people, but it's interesting to me to dig into... I think a lot of people would say, "I like to solve problems," but that doesn't necessarily mean a lot of people are default to that more excited approach to it versus frustration. Then as you dig into a specific topic area, I think it would be foolish to say, "It's all about perception. You just need to see opportunities." That's not what you're saying. You're saying, "Yes, these are real challenges." And we can acknowledge that, but if you just get stuck in the difficulty, you can't push past that to see the opportunity. So it's perception. It's also kind of perseverance. Don't get mired down in the hard because that will prohibit you from being able to go on and make these changes.

Adam Gloss: Yeah. We could do a whole separate conversation and a whole separate podcast about leadership, but I think that's a real aspect of leadership, right? That as a leader, you need to balance confidence and vulnerability. I can talk to my people about something being hard and challenging and acknowledge the reality of it, but I still have to be incredibly positive about the outcome we're working towards. Even when there's failures along the way, which there are. We never have an idea that works exactly the way that we thought it would by the time we get to the end. It's an iterative process back and forth. Sometimes it's one step forward and two steps back and sometimes it's two forward and one back. But getting yourself and your people through that to me is kind of the whole point of leadership. It is okay, as the leader, I need to be the one that carries the vision. I don't need to create the vision solely by myself.

That's the other thing that you mentioned. I do think of myself as a creative person that does give me energy, it does help. And then maybe people listening to this or watching this who don't think of themselves that way, but have other characteristics that make them very powerful leaders and who are leading service organizations. Great. Lean into your strengths. If your strength is around team building or it's around communication or it's around consensus building, leverage that. If you are a very strong organization, there are people in your organization who are creative and frankly the best ideas are almost never mine. They're a combination of lots of people's ideas and a lot of them come from the people closest to the work. So if you're not spending your time with the people doing the work, listening to the people doing the work, making sure that they feel heard and that they know that their voice is incorporated into what you're doing, it won't work either, right? So there's lots of things to unpack here and I'm spitting a lot out at once. I'm sorry.

Sarah Nicastro: No, it makes sense. When I was talking about creativity, I didn't mean that you own that, like you are the creative one. It's more that as a creative, you are energized by the process of pushing everyone to sort of the, "Okay, so here's the problem. Great. Let's set that aside. Let's problem solve." So it isn't about it being your ideas, it's just about finding the energy in that process to be able to motivate people to want to do that part. Yeah.

Adam Gloss: But if you work to your strengths, you'll find that energy in something else, right? Change is still going to happen and you have to kind of live with the idea that, okay, progress requires change to happen. And there are going to be people who get frustrated by that or upset by that. There are people who become resistant to it, but your job as a leader is to manage them through that to come out the other side with an outcome worth the pain of that change.

Sarah Nicastro: Yep. So if we look at just maybe one or two other examples, I think people understand the complexity or the difficulty, but let's just talk about the opportunity part, right? Okay. So let's talk about the market shift. So really talking about the evolution of services from more of a transaction to more of delivering outcomes. So it's a big evolution and it has different layers of complexity, but how do you view the opportunity in that?

Adam Gloss: It is one of the things that we are working most hard on at this point that we are doing in small incremental steps because it is such a massive undertaking and because there's so many components to it. There's market conditioning we need to do and shifting conversations with customers and how they talk and procure and understand. There's changes we need to do with our people in the field about how they deliver. There's technology changes that are required, contracting changes, billing changes there. There's nothing that we're not having to touch as part of this. And it is incredibly daunting. If you put the whole thing in, map it all out, you look at it, you could just throw your hands up and go, "Forget it. My customers are still willing to buy this way. We're just going to keep doing it until we don't have to."

But to me, it is incredibly exciting because of that idea of solving problems that I got back to earlier. If I'm really going to help a customer, I need to understand their problems. That's just selling all in one. But you take that a step further, if I'm really going to help them solve that problem, I can't look at old metrics or KPIs or ways of procuring and say, "Okay, this is how we're going to do it." I need to align my solution to that problem and I need my KPIs or my measurements to align to theirs. Because they're thinking about... I can go as high as you want, but let's talk about something really high level that actually we do get to impact. We can talk about carbon impact. There are hundreds or thousands of companies making carbon pledges at this point and environmental pledges that are very lofty. "We're going to be carbon free by 2030 or 2040 or 2050." And as an insider in the industry, I'll tell you that none of them have any idea about how they're going to do it. Just no idea.

That's where companies like ours come in. We can actually help guide them to solutions for this. But if I just went and approached them and said, "Okay, here's your time and material rates. Here's your markups, here's your cost for servicing this kind of equipment." That conversation does not move them towards reducing carbon impact. But instead of I say, "Okay, let's talk about how we would provide our services in a way that aligns with reducing energy consumption and carbon." Whether that's tail pipe the emissions or smokestack emissions or utility emissions or whatever it is, we can actually develop a plan to do that. That to me is really exciting. That's about solving a problem at the very, very highest level.

The challenges along the way are immense. So we're unpacking this one little thing at a time and we're celebrating small victories along the way and we have a roadmap that we're working that we can look at say, "Okay, here's generally where we're going and there's technologies we're testing that work great we're excited about and others that we think are going to that don't." There's customers who get excited about the idea and then they're up against pressures internally in their own organizations around cost, especially right now. "Well, we were going to do this, but can we put this off for another year?" I mean, you have all these things and you have to take the long view and you have to celebrate the small victories along the way and I think keep your people focused on that ultimate outcome and why it is worth doing. That why becomes the driver for everybody. I don't know if I gave you the answer you were looking for.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. No, for sure. Let's do one more only because I know it's a very important one right now, and you brought it up, which is the economy. Again, this is something that everyone realizes is in a very challenging spot, but what is your take on how you, again, work through the emotions to the problem itself to get to brainstorming around, "Okay, so this is the reality," but how do we shift that into what's the potential?

Adam Gloss: Yeah, so I think I have the benefit like you of having been in this industry for a few economic cycles now. It's not my first downturn, it's not my first rodeo. The solution for me every time has been the same approach. Not the same solution, but the same approach. And it really is about connection. So the marching orders that we give our account managers and our sales team is go get close to our clients. Talk to them about the view from where they live. You need to see their side of this. And then work to solve. Because the reality is that people cannot stop maintaining building infrastructure. Bad things happen when you do that.

But that doesn't mean there isn't a reality that they have to reduce costs. They may be under a mandate from their governance boards or their executives, "Okay, it's 10% cost reduction and that's what your budget is." I can't go to that customer and say, "Well, that's nice, but you can't stop servicing your chillers and boilers and your ventilation systems and your air filtration systems and your plumbing." If you stop servicing your water systems and your sewer systems, that becomes a real problem. You can't just tell them no. But we talk about, "What can we do?" And I think it's that same thing we talked about, that mindset or the attitude of understand what the problem is, detach yourself, it's not personal.

And if we focus on the long term, I'd rather keep that customer and have that customer know that we worked with them through their problem. And when we come out the other side of this, they see us as a partner and now we can talk about reinvestment and what do we need to do? And in some cases, there are solutions that come from this that are very different and very creative. We can talk about changing the service model. We can talk about moving to an as a service model and then thinking about how control or ownership of infrastructure may change. This can be taken very, very far, but in the simplest conversation sometimes it's just, "Hey, help me cut 10% for my budget for the year." At the end of the day, can we do that? Yeah, we can probably figure out how to do that.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I was just thinking there's also an element of acceptance that I think maybe it's some of these different areas of change, there's fear associated with the problem that we have to push past and realizing that. So in this situation, I think the closeness with customers is important, but what you're also saying is there's certain realities to some of these big challenges that we just have to accept. Because the harder you try and fight the reality, the more time, energy, resource, money you waste on efforts that are really futile. So whether that means, in this example, you have to look at the long view and realize that if we accept the reality, we work with the client to reduce their investment over a period of time, but maintain the relationship. Then when things shift, we have the relationship to evolve. Or whether that's we accept the reality and then we work to create new-

Adam Gloss: A different solution.

Sarah Nicastro: Or different offerings to offset what may be going on in that arena. There could be multiple solutions. But if you stay in, "No, we're not doing that," you have to... It's really being focused on your own outcomes versus the customer's outcomes. You kind of get stuck in protecting, and that sometimes means ignoring or avoiding the reality, which prevents you from really getting to the brainstorming part.

Adam Gloss: The brainstorming part is critical, and you are absolutely right. Sometimes you actually come up with new offerings. If you think about that outcome-based solutions, we are piloting some of that now with clients where part of what their goal is cost reduction. Now, I don't need to think about... I'm getting a little in the weeds here. It may be that what they need to think about is an operating cost reduction, but there's also capital costs. When you start thinking about those two together, you can re-engineer or reimagine solutions in a very different way that you couldn't.

Sarah Nicastro: A mutually beneficial way.

Adam Gloss: Correct.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. I mean that's the thing about outcomes as a service. I mean, when it's done well, it benefits both parties. It just goes back to the whole topic of this discussion. It requires a significant amount of change. A company cannot shift to that model without really digging in and making some foundational changes. I always say when you talk about outcomes based service urbanization, that is not a service transformation, it's a business transformation. So you cannot do it within service as a function. It's a whole foundational shift in how a business operates and that's why it's complex. But there's also a ton of potential for those that are willing to take that on.

Adam Gloss: Let me give you one more example of this. It's very, very specific, but I think it's very illustrative. So we have that issue. Customers are coming to us, it's very real. "Hey, I need to cut 10%, 15% from my operating budget." We can have those conversations about capital and outcomes and things like that, but none of our customers are ready to have that conversation, none of our customers wants to have that conversation, none of our customers have the power to have that conversation. Part of what we did and are doing is going to our vendors and going, "Okay, what solutions are there? Here's where some of our cost centers are? Let's put the emotion aside. Let's analyze what our actual costs are, what our cost centers are providing this service."

One of our biggest ones is changing filters and air handling equipment. Same thing you do in a filter in your house. You got to change the air filter. Buildings need that, but you're not doing a filter. We have semi trucks filled with filters. There's a lot of them. The material and labor cost is incredibly high. And that filter is typically in there for three months. It's taken out and it goes in a landfill. For a large building, it could be tens of thousands of dollars every single time we do a filter change. We went to our filter vendor and said, "How do we solve this?" They came to us with an extended life filter that we can use for six to 12 months, depending on conditions. We go to our customers, "Okay, if you really want to reduce costs, here's a way to do it. We can eliminate an entire filter change. We can save you." Or we can eliminate two filter changes. We can do 25-30%. Not 10, not 15, we're saying 25 or 30."

Now people are listening and thinking, "Oh wait a minute, but you just cut your revenue dramatically." Well what you're forgetting is I have a labor crisis. If I can take that labor and apply it to better use now and service more customers and grow my market share because I'm not doing the lowest common denominator work that I was doing, it solves a big problem for me or helps solve a big problem for me. It's a win-win, right? But we're doing this every day, right? And it's not that those extended life filters are not available to other companies. We don't make them. We didn't design them. We don't have a patent on them. Any mechanical contractor can go and buy them. They just didn't think to ask the question. They just didn't rethink how they're approaching the problem.

And at the end of the day, the customer's still getting the same result that they were getting and they're saving 25% and they look like a hero to their boss and we have a much tighter relationship with that client because we are the ones that thought creatively about how approach that problem. Oh, and by the way, I just cut my labor need on that account by 25% and I can go sell another account and I can actually grow our business. When Covid hit, we grew our business 25% that year. Not for this solution, but because we thought about other things to do, just to your point.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. Yeah. No, that makes sense. Okay. I want to go back to one of the points we touched on, which is as a leader, the role you play in setting the tone around this is huge. And you are someone who has a probably better than average amount of enthusiasm around the potential that exists, how to be creative about overcoming problems to seize that potential, et cetera. But you have to balance that enthusiasm with empathy, for one, and that recognition that, as you said, sometimes people become a bit tired of change. I think the way I put this to you when we talked to prepare for this is I think it's really exciting that you love what you do so much. I can see how some people that don't feel so positive about change may find it annoying. You know what I mean?

So as a leader, you're playing to different people's emotions and strengths, so you're kind of figuring out the best ways to leverage your enthusiasm to motivate others. How do you strike that balance between sharing your enthusiasm with the people on your teams that feel similarly or are motivated by it versus switching to empathy a bit more with some of the people that are not as excited about change or a bit tired because it's just been a lot at once? How do you navigate that?

Adam Gloss: Carefully. It's a great question. I remind myself of a few things. The first is that I am in the role I am in because of who I am and how I am built, but not everybody and maybe very few people are like me. And I'm not saying that as an ego. I'm saying that just because if everyone was, everybody would be a leader. I told you earlier, thank God there's people that want to do the same job for 20 or 30 years. I'm not one of them. I know that they're not like me and I'm not like them. So recognizing that difference I think is the first thing. And recognizing that full strength Adam can be a little bit much sometimes. When I need to dial that back for people. And being audience appropriate. So there's a way I communicate with my leadership team. There's a way that we communicate down to managers. There's a way we communicate down to frontline. And the messaging, it will change.

The other thing is culture of this company. McKinstry, there's an African proverb that, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." We didn't make it up. But it is spoken about regularly here and it is cultural here. Now for me, I can sometimes be frustrated that change doesn't happen fast enough or things were more challenging than I think that they should have been, or I didn't quite get the outcome or result that I wanted. And I have to again remind myself it's not about me. It's about us. It's about getting there together and it's about the outcome. So those two things I try and remind myself while keeping myself in check.

The next thing gets back to what I talked about earlier, and that's listening. It is incumbent on me to be connected to my frontline, not distanced from it. And to be out in the field with my people, to be walking around the office with my people, to be having really engaged conversations and checking mood and checking attitude and asking how people are doing and really listening and measuring my own pace against some of that sometimes. So that empathy that you talked about, that's kind of how I exercise that.

I think the last thing for me is vulnerability. And I mentioned that earlier, but it's really important to me to own my mistakes. And I think it's important for my people to see me do that. I promise them actually that I'll do that  it's one of the few things I promise people. I will screw up, but when I do, I'll own it. I'll work to make it right. That develops a level of trust that I think is critical in this process.

Sarah Nicastro: It also shows them you will screw up and when you do, I will support you.

Adam Gloss: Oh, yes. It's mutual.

Sarah Nicastro: It normalizes that. Right. Like you said, you're not going to make the progress you want to make without failing. But there's a difference between a leader saying that and how people feel and a leader showing that by putting themself out there and going out on a limb and publicizing their own missteps in a way that makes people believe, okay, it really is for us to try things and not get it right the first time, and we know that because he's doing the same thing.

Adam Gloss: Yeah. And I think the last thing is celebrating with them success. And I'm actually really bad at this, by the way. I accomplish something and I'm immediately thinking about the next thing.

Sarah Nicastro: There's so much of what you're saying that I am laughing at because it reminds me so much of myself. And you said, "Sometimes change doesn't happen fast enough for me." And I'm like, "Uh-huh." And then that's the other one. I am really, really bad at it.

Adam Gloss: I know that's a weakness. I have people around me and people on my team who are better at it, and I rely heavily on them. You guys put the celebration together. Remind me that we need to pause and celebrate. "Adam, cool your jets for a couple days." Let us celebrate this and take a breath. Again, it's listening. It's listening to my leaders, my managers, my frontline people, but then also realize I can't be good at everything. I'm just not. Nobody is. So surrounding myself with people who compliment me is also really important.

Sarah Nicastro: For sure. Yeah. I think too, I mean a lot of what you're saying reminds me of you talking about closeness in relation to customers and also the long game view. You're working to have the same closeness you want your team to have with customers with them, because ultimately they are also internal customers. And I think you recognize kind of the investment you need to make in people for them to get good at this process of seeing potential and solving problems over time, which sometimes means applying more patience than you might want to, or understanding that they need to better understand the why or whatever that looks like. It's meeting them where they are instead of expecting them all to get on the Adam level. Yeah. That's really good.

Okay, so one more question, which is, in your 17 years of leadership within field service, what would you say is your biggest lesson learned?

Adam Gloss: It's to shut up and listen and really listen. Actively engaged listening. Again, I can't be an expert in everything. The people who are the most expert, the people who are closest to my customers, the people who are most expert in the work are on my front line. And if I'm not out with them, if I'm not rolling up my sleeves with them, if I'm not listening to what they tell me and taking that as expert opinion, I do that at my own peril. Early in my career, i let my own ego and love of my own ideas get in my way and they failed flamingly and spectacularly because I didn't do this. And once I learned this, things were much easier.

That doesn't mean that I'm not going to have people who are naysayers or people who can be Eeyores that you have to deal with. I think we talk about how we manage through that concept constructively. We talk about the why, if we educate, if we inform, if we give people an opportunity to feel that they would really listened to and they had input, then we all go together. And we might not agree along the way. There's going to be bumps in the road, but we all do get there together. So listening is the number one thing.

And if I had to have a caveat or a second thing, it really is about alignment, that people in our organization understand not just where we're going, but why we are going there and why it matters and why it's important and that they're invested in it. Everyone here cares deeply about what it is we are doing. And if they didn't, we couldn't be successful. The people who don't care deeply about it and who aren't invested, frankly, they don't last. They leave. They want to do something else, which is fine. But yeah, listening is number one.

Sarah Nicastro: Well, I give you kudos for, I guess, growing enough on your own to recognize... What did you refer to them as? Flaming failures.

Adam Gloss: Flaming, spectacular failures.

Sarah Nicastro: Because to be honest, I mean the reality is there are a whole lot of people in leadership positions today that have let their ego get in the way all along and never taken the time to reflect or change their path. So good for you for owning it.

Adam Gloss: I'm not saying it's still not a challenge.

Sarah Nicastro: And growing and evolving. Yeah. But the awareness is the most important thing in terms of owning it, right?

Adam Gloss: A work in progress.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes, always. All right, Adam, well thank you so much for coming on and sharing today. I really appreciate it.

Adam Gloss: Yeah. If I can just close with a thank you to you. I think what you are doing to share industry voices and ideas is really appreciated, it can be frustrating to look at the challenges we face every day, but it's comforting to know that everybody's facing the same ones and that together we can find solutions for them. I think you're building a community and a platform that helps to do that and helps shape the perception that problems are actually opportunities if we look at them right. And I'm excited about being a part of this with you and glad you're doing it.

Sarah Nicastro: Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate that. Like I said, when I started all those years ago, I didn't see myself building a career in field service. But here we are and I love the community and like you, I think I get so excited about the potential, but it's potential that is hard to see when you're in the day-to-day struggle. And if we can help inspire each other and brainstorm together, it makes everybody's journey a bit easier. I'm honored to do the work and thank you for the feedback. I appreciate it.

Adam Gloss: You're very welcome. Thank you.

Sarah Nicastro: You can find more by visiting us at You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening.