I watched a video on inc.com not long ago that stuck with me. In it, Simon Sinek, bestselling author of Starts With Why, discusses the fact that leadership isn’t a rank achieved, but a skill you always practice. He brings up a few really good points, including the fact that good leaders recognize the fact that they aren’t experts; rather, they are students that are always learning and continually improving their skills. He also mentions that great leaders always prioritize the needs of their people above their own needs.
Sinek’s thoughts are worth the quick watch, and they are applicable regardless of what industry or type of leadership we’re discussing. For field service specifically, I think the point of recognizing you aren’t an expert is particularly valid. I’ve talked with some field service “leaders” who seem fairly egotistical about the rank they’ve achieved – whether they’ve landed in that position from other management roles, or whether they came up through the ranks of the technicians themselves. This superior mindset, however, is not conducive to helping your field workforce succeed in their jobs (and therefor helping your company succeed).
Keeping the mindset of the continual student is imperative, both for your own evolution and to keep the respect of your team. I had a conversation recently with Robert Latvis, regional VP of field operations at Cox Communications, that made me think back to this video and the message it is conveying. Latvis has been with Cox for nearly 30 years, and over time progressed through the ranks to his VP-level. Latvis mentioned to me that he has his technician uniform from all those years ago framed in his office to remind him of where he started.
This struck me, and it ties in with the message Sinek delivers in this video. Never forget where you came from, and always remember that you still have so much to learn. These two things will help you gain, and hold, the respect of your workforce – and that respect is key to success for every party involved. Being a great leader helps you succeed in your career, it helps your workforce succeed because they feel valued and empowered, and it helps your company succeed because that relationship is healthy and effective.
Latvis mentioned to me that Cox has a very strong field technician retention rate, and I have no doubt that a strong leadership mentality and style in the company plays a role in that. If you feel like you may be in a leadership rut, take the time to try one of these exercises: