Now is the Time for Strong, Decisive Leadership

Jun 27, 2020Leadership Development

In the first of our series of features looking towards building a new normal that was better than what we had before,  with the insights collated from the many panel sessions hosted by Kris Oldland throughout the pandemic, we begin with establishing an understanding of what leadership looks like in a post-pandemic world… 

The challenges of coping with the sudden on rush of a series of global lockdowns as governments across the globe reacted to the threat of the coronavirus pandemic meant that many organisations who were in the midst of planning how they could evolve their service offerings were suddenly faced with a much more pressing concern – how could they stay operational.

One man who was involved in a number of such situations was Harald Wasserman, Co-Managing Director Si2 Partners.

Field Service News has produced an eBook ’10 Thoughts for Service Leaders Planning Recovery’ for our subscribers based on the many hours of live streams we hosted to support field service organisations.

If you are already on either our Access All Areas or VIP subscription tiers you can access this on the button below now. If you have yet to subscribe or are on our complimentary subscription tier then click the button to upgrade or subscribe now

The FIeld Service Centre is a Key Asset in Today’s new world

“Only a few weeks ago I was working with a number of companies and we were talking about how to transform the company into a pro-active service organisation. Then as the onset of the coronavirus and the global lockdowns arrived, the situation changed rapidly and totally. We were no longer talking about high level strategies, but instead our focus was now centred on immediate challenges. Where do we get the workload for our service technicians tomorrow?” Wasserman explained.

“It soon became clear that the service centre was one of our key assets in this discussion, as they are in contact with the customers and so were fundamental in establishing where the work could be for our service technicians. What we discovered very rapidly was that having this customer contact would be key to our survival and that the service centre would be instrumental in establishing that contact.

Another early discovery that was crucial that Wasserman believes played a pivotal role in companies being able to adapt to the new world that we all suddenly found ourselves in as the pandemic spread was the importance of an orderly approach to initiating customer contact.

“I noticed that it was important that we have a structure which is effective and allowed for fast contact with our customers,” he recounts “it was absolutely this customer communication that has allowed us to continue with a workload that has remained at 80% to 100% of our capacity – which was excellent at such a challenging time.

“We have also started an initiative to contact customers who we may not have been in contact with for a number of years, and this proactive approach has been very much welcomed by these customers…”

 – Harald Wasserman, Si2 Partners. 

“We have been able to adapt our organisation to a more customer focused organisation now,” he says reflecting on the work that has been put in place since the onset of the lockdowns. “Instead of waiting for the customer to make contact with us we have pivoted to become much, much more proactive in reaching out to them and this has meant that we are still able to generate the work required to keep our business operational.

“We have also started an initiative to contact customers who we may not have been in contact with for a number of years, and this proactive approach has been very much welcomed by these customers. So, we have implemented both new engagements with our lapsed customers and also a more proactive approach to our existing customer base and this has been the positive approach we have taken to guide us through this crisis.

It has meant getting some of our people out of their comfort zones – we have changed the status quo in that whereas before we would have waited for the customer to initiate the conversation, now our team are contacting the customers themselves and kicking off the conversation. It is not easy, in some cases it is like searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack, however, it has been an endeavour that has been essential.”

Another aspect that has changed radically as a result of the crisis is how the role of management has changed and this is another area that Wasserman feels has been under increasing scrutiny.

“The management role within field service has become increasingly important during this time. Perhaps at the top of their responsibilities is the ongoing communications with their team. This is vital because our field service engineers and technicians, those in the front line are often operating more or less alone at the moment and they of course have many questions at this time.

“For example, what are the guidelines for them if the customer isn’t taking the necessary precautions that can ensure that our engineers are working within a safe environment given the current conditions? Our approach has been to issue clear advice to give our field workers firm support in their decision making. In this situation for example, if the customer is not willing to provide an environment in which our people can work safely then they must respect that the importance of our staff is our most fundamental priority. This had to be a management decision and had to be communicated strongly to give our staff the confidence to act when they are isolated in the field, and to know that they had our full backing.

‘Day by day we have to make a lot of these types of decisions to support our field workers, but also we have to ensure we are able to adapt our working processes to be able to be more flexible to fulfil the workload we have. 

“We see that the companies that are probably dealing with the situation the best are those who have a built-in resilience. It is those companies who have a built-in adaptability and flexibility embedded within their DNA already…”

 – Nick Frank, Si2 Partners

“The very way we in which we work has changed fundamentally both in the field but also the way we as management are working. For example, I would normally have four or five meetings a day, now I am having ten or more which are all remotely hosted. The meetings we have now are quicker and more intense, which is of course a part of the current situation, but also, they are more direct.”

It is clear that much of the areas which Wasserman outlines as crucial elements shared amongst those companies he has seen adapt best to the challenges of Covid-19 have centred around strong and decisive leadership. This he believes is no coincidence. “There has absolutely been a correlation between those organisations that were able to make quick decisions and show strong leadership and those who were able to adapt easiest to the shifting sands of the operational environment of the pandemic,” he comments.

“The people on the working level they need guidance. They need clear rules. If you don’t give them this, they will struggle. There simply isn’t time for them to be thinking about ‘am I doing the right work?’ ‘Should I do X or Y in this situation?’ or even ‘what do I do?’.

Such questions will have a direct impact on the productivity of your field workers. Therefore, strong leadership and providing strong support for your team is absolutely critical in maintaining efficiency in crisis situations.

“We saw this very early and the importance of ensuring that we were communicating important decisions very quickly to our people and continuing this level of clear, consistent communication with our workforce on an ongoing basis is essential, “ he added.

However, one of the that has arisen as we work under the confines of the current lockdowns, is finding the time for communications that are discussions rather than announcements. For many of us now is a time of action as we continue to constantly adapt and fight to hold onto to the business we have and meet the needs of the customers we serve.

“We are all dealing with a critical situation and it is hard to find time for anything else when we are in the midst of the challenge,” comments Nick Frank, Wasserman’s Co-Managing Director at Si2 Partners.

“However, when we are able to bring our key personnel together there are so many lessons to be learnt. This is because it is so extreme, everything has happened so quickly, and we haven’t really had time to think about it. We see that the companies that are probably dealing with the situation the best are those who have a built-in resilience. It is those companies who have a built-in adaptability and flexibility embedded within their DNA already.

“Those are the companies that we are seeing emerge as those who are ‘most comfortable’, certainly as comfortable as it is possible to be at such a time. They are making decisions; they are showing strong leadership and I think if there is one lesson to be learnt it is the value of strong leadership,” Frank concludes.

Field Service News has produced an eBook ’10 Thoughts for Service Leaders Planning Recovery’ for our subscribers based on the many hours of live streams we hosted to support field service organisations.

If you are already on either our Access All Areas or VIP subscription tiers you can access this on the button below now. If you have yet to subscribe or are on our complimentary subscription tier then click the button to upgrade or subscribe now

This content was originally published here.

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