Leadership Best Practices for the FSM Industry
Every organization requires great leadership. Without it, a company can become aimless and ineffective from top to bottom. Field service businesses are no exception. In fact, they need great leaders more than most.
The nature of field service means there are multiple moving elements involved at all times. Those elements include people, parts, projects, and personalities, all of which need to be carefully coordinated to keep customers happy and the bottom line healthy. Just doing things adequately takes an immense effort. Doing them exceptionally well takes even more. Getting all those moving elements to stay in sync requires great leaders at the helm of teams, departments, and the executive ranks. Arguably nothing matters more than leadership for success in field service.
That means everyone in this industry must ask themselves – am I an effective leader? The answer will be apparent from one indicator: customers. If customers are not receiving the experience they want, need, or expect, they will make that apparent. And while there can be multiple causes of unhappy customers, many originate from leadership issues: either lack of enough leaders or lack of effective leaders.
As the FSM industry evolves into a new era and becomes more competitive than ever before, leadership will be critical for navigating changing times. At the same time, good leadership will never happen automatically – leaders must be cultivated on a continual basis and empowered throughout the organization. Here is a list of best practices to follow:
Choose the Right People
The easiest and most obvious way to bring great leaders into an FSM business is to hire them. Of course, that is easier said than done. The most obvious leadership talent will be quickly recruited and command a top salary. For everyone else, recruiters will need to evaluate, as much as possible, if someone can become a great leader.
Given the importance of leadership in FSM, these companies need to be proactive about filling key roles. That may mean enlisting talent scouts or executive search firms, and companies will probably need to have a more visible brand on social media. Proven talent can add a lot to a company, especially at the executive ranks. Still, the demand for that talent far exceeds the supply.
Finding promising, but as yet unproven, leaders takes a direct approach. Ask candidates if they will be good leaders and why. Consider how they will work with other leaders. Evaluate their potential to fill higher roles or develop professionally. Lots of great leaders are flying under the radar.
Once those future leaders are in the organization, do everything possible to help them fulfill their potential. Coaching and mentoring, starting early and continuing regularly, can be invaluable for helping leaders develop their core skills. Empowering emerging leaders to have a voice is also essential. They can’t fill a greater role in the company until they’re given a chance, after all. Companies need to be innovative as well, both in who they hire and how they develop those professionals into tomorrow’s decision-makers. If there was a proven formula for creating leaders, everyone would follow it. Since there isn’t, however, companies need to be creative about finding what works.
Understand the Values of the Business
Companies are not defined by their products or services. They are defined by the values they embody. Those values guide every decision the company makes and define what the company stands for, especially as it grows and evolves. Values couldn’t be more important – to understand, to maintain, and to elevate.
Since the values of a company are driven by internal decision-makers, it’s important to look for those values in any leadership candidate. Don’t count on teaching someone what to care about. Values are not an item on a checklist or a priority among others. Instead, they are the principles at the heart of everything – something that can’t be compromised.
That explains why the best leaders have a natural alignment between their personal values and the company’s values: customer focus, innovation, quality, ownership, etc. People who care about these things automatically and have a personal and professional history demonstrating as much are the best candidates to take the reins of an organization. Even as they lead it through change and into the unknown, the company’s values shine through and remain central to its success.
Empower Employees to Be Effective
Micromanagement works even less in field service settings than elsewhere. There are limits to how much oversight leaders can have over techs in the field. Of course, much can be done to ensure that techs follow the proper protocols and represent the company positively. Once a tech leaves for the field, however, they are operating independently and invisibly for the most part.
A good leader will empower those employees to be effective on their own. That means providing necessary tools, training, support, and in-the-field resources. Leaders will also set clear goals and expectations so techs know how to excel in their roles. And should issues arise, leaders will focus on finding solutions rather than assigning blame.
Above all, great leaders are accountable for their team’s success. If the team falls short of company or customer goals, it’s the leader’s job to find and facilitate the solution.
Provide Mentoring and Coaching
Some people are born great leaders, but most develop into that role after gaining skills and experiences. FSM companies should be proactive about that effort. Instead of expecting people to mature naturally, provide mentoring and coaching to help expedite the timelines while developing traits that are vital to the future of field service.
Executives are the ideal people to mentor and coach more junior leaders. Senior leaders who have led teams successfully in the past have valuable experience they can impart to others. Mentors can also serve as a valuable sounding board as new leaders navigate their first important decisions.
It is important to be proactive about nurturing future leaders. Make the mentoring and coaching process a systematic one so it does not lapse and leave unexpected talent gaps in the organization.
Have Empathy for Others
Countless anecdotes have shown that great leaders don’t operate with an iron fist. That approach always fails eventually. And in the time of the so-called “great resignation,” as professionals leave jobs and careers in droves, a callous management style could lead to a talent exodus.
Just as many anecdotes reveal that strong leaders have empathy for others. Getting the most from a team starts by believing that each member has the best intentions. Therefore, when something falls short of expectations, it’s not because of malice or incompetence – it’s because of a flaw in the process that can be resolved.
Leaders who practice empathy get more from their teams since they are focused on solutions rather than problems and punishments. It also comes as no surprise that teams tend to rally around leaders who treat them with respect and care. Referencing back to some of the previous points: empathy is a trait people are born with (and recruiters can look for) but it is also a skill people can cultivate (with the help of mentoring and coaching).
Turn Visions into Plans
Leaders are a source of vision: where the company is headed and how it will change. But leaders who are only about aspiration and inspiration are not doing their teams any favors.
Great leaders create clear, detailed, actionable plans that focus on the day-to-day, as well as the big picture. They know the destination, and they have a plan to get there – one they are orchestrating every day. Plans turn ambitions into activities.
For leaders, the biggest challenge when planning is balancing what is necessary with what is possible. Visibility into what’s happening at all levels of the business, back and front office, makes it easier for leaders to devise realistic plans and track their progress along the way.
Know the Why
Leadership should never be arbitrary. Every choice a leader makes, no matter how large or small, should have a greater purpose. It should reflect the company values and further the company strategy.
Acting with purpose starts by understanding the “why” when making decisions. If the rationale for a decision isn’t apparent, reconsider that decision. This process helps ensure that leaders remain impactful and aligned with the company. It also keeps the team committed and onboard with change since decisions are justified.
Communicating that justification to impacted teams is key, and the best communications always err on the side of transparency and honesty.
Slow Down When Things Speed Up
Some of the best leadership advice sounds completely counterintuitive. Here’s a prime example: The more hectic things become, the more leaders need to step back and slow down.
In the field service industry especially, it’s easy to get consumed by the immediate details and lose perspective on bigger objectives or obstacles. Putting out the latest fire or hitting the next target demands a lot of attention – but they cannot be the entire focus.
Leaders can avoid losing the forest through the trees by making a conscious effort to dial back the pace and narrow their decision-making. Some issues require intense, undivided, unhurried attention. Good leaders should make it a priority, and good FSM companies should facilitate it as much as possible.
Use Tools to Enhance Leadership
As the field service industry becomes increasingly driven by technology, so does the leadership within it. Technology can help companies create their own leaders using various talent management and training tools. Maybe even more significant is the ability to use online tools such as video conferencing, which keeps future leaders closely connected to mentors and other resources.
Technology can also help current leaders be more effective. With a comprehensive FSM tool, for example, complicated instructions get turned into intuitive checklists and clear processes that help technicians do exactly what leaders intend, and customers expect. Strong leaders will take full advantage of these tools to communicate and collaborate with their team and to provide a great experience for their customers.
NextService – A Leader in the Field Service Industry
FSM leaders have important obligations in the coming months and years. An industry-wide realignment means that every company – large or small, scaling or struggling – will need to plan for change and pivot into the unexpected. Things will look drastically different in a decade. Smart leaders are getting started now.
In many cases, that means embracing technology for the first time or upgrading technology that’s inadequate. It also means integrating technologies, between service delivery and business management, so there’s an end-to-end digital foundation that provides one source of truth and a complete picture of everything that is happening within the organization. Leaders will be the ones to make (or not make) critical decisions about technology headed into a digital future – yet another argument in favor of having seasoned leaders.
NextService, a complete field service management solution that runs within the NetSuite ecosystem, is also a leader in the field service industry, raising the bar for what service providers can do. As your business considers who and what it needs to thrive from here forward, NextService merits a closer look – it’s the last FSM solution you will ever need. Imagine what the right tool could do in the hands of the right leaders. To learn more, please contact us for a demo today.