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January 23, 2023 | 4 Mins Read

Leadership Sets the Tone in Service Transformation – What Tactics Are Most Impactful?

January 23, 2023 | 4 Mins Read

Leadership Sets the Tone in Service Transformation – What Tactics Are Most Impactful?


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

Change management is a huge challenge when it comes to business transformation initiatives, and one that can easily be glossed over by managers who are caught up in agenda setting, technology purchasing, financing, and the general logistics of these projects. To be successful, though, service leaders need to leverage their interpersonal relationship skills to ensure that every team member understands, supports, and contributes to these efforts. Change is disruptive, sometimes painful, and leaders need to display a degree of empathy, understanding, and openness, along with creativity and drive.

On this week’s podcast, I talk with Adam Gloss, VP and GM of Service at McKinstry, a facilities management company based in the Pacific Northwest. When you listen to our interview, one thing that you will immediately notice is Adam's enthusiasm for service innovation, for problem solving, and for the potential for business transformation in service, and what that can mean for customers and service organizations. 

The shift from cost center to profit center has changed service delivery approaches, customer expectations, and expanded the role of technology up and down the service chain. The pace of this change is invigorating for some, but can be exhausting for others.

Adam’s enthusiasm is one of the reasons I wanted to talk to him about service transformation, and the role leaders play not just in initiating change, but also shepherding their team through the process, particularly since not every team member is going to be equally as happy about these projects.

Gloss says that managing perceptions around change is an important part of leading team members through it, helping them move past identifying a problem to seeing the potential impact in the solution. "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,” he says. “Being able to wake up one day and look at something and go, ‘Wow, I helped do that.’ That's really exciting and engaging."

As facilities owners are faced with some steep belt tightening in the wake of the pandemic, changes in building usage, and economic turmoil, McKinstry has been focused on changing the mindset of customers and employees alike as it shifts to an outcomes/solutions-based service model. Both the company and its customers must adapt to a new reality in facilities management that will affect the sales process, procurement, service delivery, technology, contracting, and billing.

“If I'm really going to help a customer, I need to understand their problems,” Adam says. “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.”

This can be difficult for an organization that is used to delivering service a certain way. Leaders not only have to be cheerleaders for these new concepts, but also have to acknowledge the frustration people experience as these changes occur, or they aren’t going to feel included or invested in the process. But you ultimately have to push past focusing on the problem and focus on the customer outcome you are trying to achieve, rather than your own internal discomfort. That changes the energy around the whole process, but it requires a more sympathetic approach to leadership.

“As a leader, you need to balance confidence and vulnerability,” Adam says. “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.”

That balance is also critical because there are going to be people who will take longer to embrace change, and few who are completely resistant to it. It's too easy for leadership to get wrapped up in the excitement around change, to focus on logistics, and to try and push the entire organization across the finish line as quickly as possible to reach those outcomes. 

That approach can be overwhelming for team members that may need to move at a slower pace or that need some convincing about the value of what you are doing. Adam says it's important to know when to dial it back a bit, actively listen to what team members are telling you, and empathize with their experiences – educate, inform, and give people an opportunity to feel like they had real input.

"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 the frontline. And the messaging, it will change," he says. "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."

In other words, an effective service leader in this situation will focus on setting the right tone rather than setting a fast pace. You also have to celebrate small, incremental victories along the way to acknowledge the progress the team has made during what can be a very lengthy journey.

Listen to the full podcast to hear more about how Adam has harnessed both his enthusiasm and his vulnerability to help lead McKinstry through the changes and challenges during the past several years and to harness the potential he sees on the horizon.