By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
This week is International Womens Day (IWD) and in recognition of that we have some great women-led content to feature! Coming up Wednesday, I talk with a woman field service leader about her journey, lessons learned, and vision for the future. For today, I thought what better way to celebrate than to showcase some of amazing women I’ve been fortunate to have as guests on the Future of Field Service podcast.
The IWD theme this year is #EmbraceEquity – with an emphasis on understanding the difference between equality and equity. Equality means opening up opportunities to all, while equity-based solutions to inclusion take into account the diverse experiences of individuals. That is a critical difference, particularly in industries (like field service and others) where the workforce is not exactly as diverse as it could be. There are barriers to entry that go beyond just the existence of available opportunities.
When it comes to the idea of embracing equity, I believe listening to women’s stories is a powerful way to learn. I am so thankful to the women who take the time to share their stories and insights with me and with the Future of Field Service audience. I love that there’s a good range of industries, roles, and topics represented – along with their own unique experiences – and today I’m reflecting back on some of the wise words of the past year.
At the Future of Field Service Live Tour event in Austin last year, I had a conversation with Sonya Roshek, VP Field Services at B+T Group that focused a lot on the ongoing challenges of being a woman in this industry, how things have changed, and what work still needs to be done, particularly around the cultural assumptions that still dog a lot of managers.
Sonya said: … I actually remember having my supervisor in Idaho, he's like, "I don't want to hire women, they can't lift." I'm like, "Our job description says 50 pounds, go get a bag of dog food, put it in your office. They can pick it up, put it on their shoulder, you're hiring her." [There is just a] mindset of, women can't do this. Not, "How can we engage women?" It was just, "Women can't do this." And so when I look at women in the workplace, I was talking to somebody in the back there and the reality is, it starts when we have children. We give girls a doll and we give boys a hammer and drills and a toolbox and let them go take things apart.
We don't do that with girls. I mean, so why are we expecting girls to be in field services and be technical, because we just don't train our girls to do that? I think it's getting better. Title IX helped a little bit. But … I think that's where initially I think we need to start looking.
Last November, I spoke with independent IT services contract technician Tamika Fields who had this to say about the value of both full-time and contract technicians, and the diverse points of view, talents, and experiences available for service companies: I feel like the available independent contracting opportunities in addition to the full time employment opportunities, they're going to continue. As you say, the need is there. It's just that if we keep open dialogue with the diverse sums of experience that are being leveraged, it allows capable talent and intelligent technicians to just contribute in a way that's more sustainable in the long run. It just allows individual contributors like myself to make a greater impact. And now, I think that'll just make us all stronger than any one individual part of the whole.
I recently interviewed Danielle Waterworth, VP-NA Dealer & Customer Solutions and Global Maintenance & Service Development at CNH Industrial (which specializes in agricultural equipment) about how the company is segmenting and evolving its service offerings, and the importance of considering the end-to-end use of the equipment when differentiating your service offerings.
Danielle shared: At the end of the day, you can design the perfect widget and think that it's wonderful … [but] then if you haven't figured it out though, how it's actually going to be utilized and acquired into the market – that's the key point, that should drive everything that you do. How is this actually going to provide value back into your customer and dealer base? And if it's not, then you need to go back to the drawing board because it's probably not something that you need to spend your time on.
And it's really important that when they're in the field harvesting that they have that assurance that their machine is going to perform, or that there are people behind them that are going to enable that to occur. So we look at not just selling them an asset anymore, but the whole captive finance model, base warranty, extended warranty. How can we make sure that we're looking at you and your dealerships from a maintenance and inspection perspective before you go into a planting and harvesting season, which are their heavy times of use? So it's looking at that in that holistic picture, and that really starts defining how you go to market versus your competitors.
I had a really interesting and thought-provoking discussion with Amy Herman, New York Times Best-Selling attorney, former Frick Collection Head of Education and art historian, and author of Fixed: How to Perfect the Fine Art of Problem Solving about the power of thinking out of the box.
Amy said:…Let me try something different this time to see if it works. And you know what, sometimes it doesn't, and it's an epic fail, but sometimes you fail forward. It doesn't work out, but you say, you know what, I tried it because I learned something. And sometimes you go back to your default thinking, but I want to give people another avenue because of all the problems we're facing right now, some of them are just intractable. Some of them are just such new dilemmas that I want to give people a new way to think.
Sometimes good is just good enough. Sometimes you have to solve a problem and you need to put all the pieces in place because you gotta get out the door or you can't let everything fall apart. So I don't think we need to strive for perfection every day. I don't. And you know what? That's hard … So, one of my biggest takeaways is don't let perfection be the enemy of the good. We don't have to be perfect all the time.
I recently welcomed Dr. Elizabeth Moran, former VP of Global Talent Development at ADP, who now works as a consultant and executive coach and recently published the book Forward: Leading Your Team Through Change.
Elizabeth shared:…As soon as you shift your mindset that somebody's reaction or tough question is not a barometer of my change-leadership ability ... And it might not even be a barometer that they're resisting change or not. Resistance is simply concerns that haven't yet been addressed. So, if you can shift to that, that often helps again ... As I like to say, as soon as we trigger curiosity in ourselves, that oftentimes alone reduces our own anxiety. In the brain, there's a different emotion that's now in line in your amygdala, and it's not fear or anxiety.
What I like to say to leaders is across the board, the one tip that will really help is, "Stop thinking you have to give an answer right away."
Last fall, I spoke with Elizabeth Dixon, who previously led Strategy, Hospitality, and Service Design at Chic-fil-A Corporate and has authored the book The Power of Customer Experience: Five Elements to Make an Impact.
Elizabeth said:…What's amazing is that the frontline employees typically are going to be the ones who come up with the very best solutions and they can anticipate the problems faster than anybody else. Why? Because they're dealing with it. And they're the ones who are thinking, you know, how we could do this better.
And so if we can go ahead and in that moment when someone comes along and says, "I have an idea," and we want to be like, shut it down, the best thing as leaders we can do is to just say, tell me about it. Open up the space. Give enough oxygen in the room for people to share the ideas that they have. We don't have to act on it, but let's at least be able to talk about it. And once we can talk about it, if we can then move to the place where we can actually have a system and a process for collecting pain points and solutions and making those connections better, and finding those people who are great at identifying the pain points and finding the solutions and put them in positions to be able to do that more often, then that's the next level.
In an important discussion with Darcy Gruttadaro, former Director of the Center for Workplace Mental Health, part of the APA Foundation, we discussed employee mental health and how to avoid burnout.
Darcy explained:…If you're an employee in an organization that shows they care about you, not just your physical health, but your mental health too, you're going to walk into that business every day, or get ready to go wherever you're going in the field, and you will feel much better about the fact that your organization cares about you. And in turn, you will be a high performer whether you live with a condition or not.
And the more they feel good about what they're doing because they're being treated well and they're in a culture that cares about them, the more they're going to project a positive image for the brand, which really matters at the end of the day with the competitive marketplaces we all work in.
In a conversation last year at the Live Tour in Stockholm, Berit Hallgren, Program Director at Tetra Pak, shared some excellent advice on strategic alignment, prioritization, and change management.
Berit said:…[Be] clear on why you are doing this. What are the problems you want to solve? Because if that is not clear, how can you communicate to your audiences? And then, what are the areas you want to transform in the end? It needs to also be very clear for people, so they understand we are not going everywhere. We are going in these specific areas.
So, bringing that and also showing to the organization, "This is where we want to go. This is where we are." That becomes really, really powerful. And then, I mean, "What's in it for me?" You need to be able to explain that for the customer, for the employees, and for the company as well, because it's not the same message to all of these people. And finally, I will say, have courage because it takes... That's probably one of my stronger skills. I'm persistent, "So, okay. Didn't go this way. Let's try the other way." Because you need that when you drive a big transformation. You have to be persistent because it will take time. There will be challenges, but it will happen if you have decided it will happen, it will happen, but you need to be persistent.
And Carolyn Stern, emotional intelligence and leadership development expert and author of the book The Emotionally Strong Leader: An Inside-Out Journey to Transformational Leadership spoke with us about how more vulnerable leaders are taking center stage.
Carolyn:…Here's the biggest thing that I get asked by executives. You do not need to be a therapist or a financial advisor or a lawyer for any one of your employees' problems. All you have to do is listen and coach them … [C]oaching others is really about asking them questions so that they figure out the answers, so you don't have to be the problem-solving hero, right?
I just hope if I could get leaders to just learn one thing, it would be [to] stop being so afraid of your emotions. They're just feelings. Feelings are not facts. They're not always factual. They can be factual, but they're not always. But they're fleeting, and we feel thousands of them, hundreds of them, lots of them throughout a day or throughout a week or throughout a month.
They're transient. They're incredibly personal. And it's hard to be an objective bystander from your own emotions, but that is the key to your success.