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August 16, 2023 | 33 Mins Read

How Can Service Leaders Nurture Empowerment?

August 16, 2023 | 33 Mins Read

How Can Service Leaders Nurture Empowerment?


Christine Miners, Managing Director of Verity International and Rick Lash, President of Rick Lash Consulting, co-authors of Once Upon a Leader: Finding the Story at the Heart of Your Leadership, join Sarah to talk about some of the challenges today’s leaders face and provide some practical advice for avoiding common missteps and mindset traps that work against intended impact.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we're going to be talking about how service leaders can nurture empowerment among their teams. I'm excited to welcome today to the podcast Christine Miners, who is the Managing Director of Verity International, and Rick Lash, President of Rick Lash Consulting, who are both co-authors of the book, Once Upon a Leader: Finding the Story at the Heart of Your Leadership. Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast!

Christine Miners: Thank you, Sarah. Thanks for having us.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I'm excited to have you both. So Christine and Rick gave a keynote presentation at Field Service Palm Springs this year, and unfortunately it was on day one and I was delayed coming in, so I missed it. But I heard rumblings of how great it was throughout the next few days, and so I reached out and said, Hey, I'm really sorry I missed your presentation. I heard it was great. Can we talk about some of these things on the podcast? So lucky for me and for you, they agreed to join us and we're going to have a great chat today. So before we get into everything, can each of you just tell everyone a little bit more about yourselves.

Rick Lash: Christine?

Christine Miners: Oh, sure. Gosh, what can I say? I'm a mother. How about that? I'll start with that. I'm a mother. I have two kids and a super busy life outside of work, I think as probably most people do, but work wise I started my career in the nineties. I actually started at Dell Computers working in the operation side of the business. So I was in sales for a number of years, got my feet wet in my first leadership job in my mid-twenties at Dell and learned a lot, definitely fly by the seat of your pants the role and opportunity. And since then I've really grown up in this field of leadership development and talent management. So I've worked in industry for a number of years and I've now been in professional services working with literally thousands of leaders over the last probably 10 or 12 years or so. So that's a bit about me.

Sarah Nicastro: Awesome. Thank you, Rick.

Rick Lash: So I'm also, I'm a father, so I have two lovely daughters in their twenties who are just starting off their careers, which is interesting to watch as a dad. And my background is I'm actually a psychologist by training, so I did my PhD here at the University of Toronto in educational and organizational psychology, and I've been a career consultant. So unlike Christine, I didn't grow up in a corporate environment, I grew up as a consultant. I've worked with Fortune 500 organizations both here in North America, but also globally. I've worked with large global consulting firms such as Korn Ferry and the Hay Group, and serving as a senior client partner. I ran the North American practice for Hay Group a number of years ago, and I'd also like to write in the field as well.

So prior to roping Christine into writing this book together, I've published in the Harvard Business Review and other mainline journals, and most of my work has really been around leadership development. I've always been interested in how leaders become leaders and how to accelerate their growth as they move into leadership positions. And I have lots of hobbies. I have my telescope behind me, so I've been a lifetime astronomer, and so just always intellectually curious about a whole bunch of things.

Sarah Nicastro: That's awesome. I love that you have the psychology background and the corporate background coming together to look at this topic. I think it's really interesting. My undergrad is actually in psychology, and I think that that has influenced the lens through which I look at a lot of what's happening in the field service space over, I've been doing this for 15 years. So a lot of the evolution and change that's taken place when you talk with service leaders about what are their biggest challenges, it's almost always related to somehow to the people. So that's where the psychology piece comes in hugely and plays a big role. And, of course, within leadership itself, we've seen so much evolution as well, and we'll talk about some of that.

So you both obviously engage and interact with leaders across a big variety of industries. And so I'm curious, when you were at Field Service Palm Springs and you gave that keynote and you had an opportunity to listen to some of the other sessions and connect with some of the people there, what stood out to both of you about the service leaders and the state of their mindsets or our industry as it is just given the perspective you both have?

Christine Miners: Yeah, I guess I can start, because I think we probably both have a perspective. Listen, that in truth, that was my first business trip since the pandemic. So we are still in this interesting time. And so spending three or four days with a group of literally hundreds of leaders almost felt foreign to me in a weird way. But I also craved it and truly enjoyed it. I think what stood out, number one, relationship completely rose to the surface. So not sure I expected that quite truthfully. I think I expected more strangers coming together for a conference. And what I experienced was far different, it was very clear that there were strong networks within this group, really strong relationship, a real desire and authenticity around connection and leveraging one another and learning from one another.

And that was incredibly refreshing to see. And as I sat through the sessions and listened to the speakers, one thing that comes to mind is innovation and just how innovative and creative leaders are in this sector in particular in resolving the challenges that they have. So those are the quick thoughts around what rose to the surface. Rick, what do you think?

Rick Lash: Yeah, I would completely agree. For me also, it was the first time really traveling from Canada to the US for business. But just being in a room full of hundreds of people took you a bit aback and you are rusty, just learning how to interact with people who in a large setting was exciting, but also, I wouldn't say anxiety provoking, it was just it was fresh and it was new. But the other thing that I was struck by, because prior to the pandemic, like all of us, we traveled and went to conferences and attended business meetings. I have to say that I was taken back just by the warmth and the welcoming nature of the people at this conference. Every conference has its different feel and every industry has its different feel. But I was really just struck by just how kind and generous people were and how very much, I think Christine used the word maybe you didn't, but down to earth and genuine and authentic people were, which I really appreciated.

To me, there's nothing worse than having to pretend that you're somebody else for three days and putting on that kind of business space, I didn't feel you had to do that at all. I felt everybody that we met with, there was this instant connection. You felt that you were connecting with people as individuals. And I just thought that it was lovely. I truly, I mean this quite genuinely, I truly enjoyed the three days that we were down there. It was just not that we made friends, but I felt that I just spent time with just really nice people.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, it's so interesting to hear that because when I try and explain to someone how I happened upon a career in this space, because it was never my intention. People on this podcast have heard the story before, but I happened into it with really not the intent to stay for a long time or certainly for my whole career, but fell in love with it. And so it's interesting to hear your perspective because that's a lot of why, that I got hooked and became very passionate about the opportunity in this space and the connections, the community, et cetera. I was also nodding with the points you were bringing about it being your first trip since COVID. I've been traveling now significantly for the last two years, but I distinctly remember the first event I went to after not traveling for a long time. And I remember walking into the room and thinking maybe I can't do this anymore, just because I loved it so much before, and it felt, like you said, so foreign and I did feel some anxiety.

I was just like, I don't know if I can do this anymore. And obviously I came around. But yeah, so I'm glad you had a good experience. Now, when we connected to prep for this podcast, I spoke with you about wanting to focus on the topic of empowerment because in field service, and I'm generalizing for the sake of our conversation, but we're coming from a period where the frontline workforce had very technical repeatable work, and they were generally speaking, folks that were happy to come to work, do the same job every day for 10, 20 years at a time, and leadership was aligned to that and very much management, if you will, versus leadership.

And now we're at a point where that frontline role is changing significantly to be one where we're expecting in different ways, but folks to engage a lot more with customers. And that brings about a lot of different needs and I think demands leadership versus management. Okay. So that's why I wanted to talk about that topic. But before we get into that specifically, I know that part of what you both spoke about at the Palm Springs event was the overall shift in leadership since or as a result of the pandemic. So can we talk a little bit about what you've seen and what you've shared?

Christine Miners: Yeah, I think Rick and I talk a lot about this. In many ways, the pressures and the demands on leaders I think are higher than ever before. So it's returning to old service levels, but with fewer resources, talent resources are narrow and hard to find. People are working in weird environments, hybrid environments that they've never had to work in before. I think it's complex. And I think one of the quick and easy observations that I would say is leaders seem to be back into the weeds as a result. And I think that's normal, and I think that's natural. I think what happens when we feel like we're in a crisis, kind of a, oh my gosh, how do I get out of this sort of an environment? And it is a normal leadership style. When we're in a short-term crisis, we tend to get a little more command control or we tend to get a little more directive in our leadership. We tend to get more involved and more engaged to keep our arms wrapped around things and to keep it moving forward.

I think the challenge right now is that environment has become almost a permanent state of operation. So where crisis used to come and go, and we could shift into that style and back out of it. Now it's just here and it's just here. And I think the word that we used when we were at the conference was permacrisis. We didn't invent that word, it's the Collins Dictionary 2022 word of the year. But it captures the state. I think the challenge for leaders is they've dipped back into these back in the weeds, short-term leadership styles and truth, it's just not sustainable. It's not sustainable for them, it's not scalable for a business. And then when you talk about the shift that's happening at the frontline, which to me when I hear you talk about the shift, what it says to me is frontline people need to be more empowered to draw on their capabilities and exercise sound judgment and make better decisions and connect and learn new skills. And I think if you've got managers that have gone into crisis mode, it's like this vicious circle.

So we're not able to bring people along and we're experiencing this sense of burnout all at the same time. I don't know, Rick, if you would add anything. You and I have this conversation constantly because we're constantly talking to leaders.

Rick Lash: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think that as you pointed out, Christine, that one of the consequences of living in this permanent state of crisis is that people don't get the opportunity. There's a number of consequences. One obviously is burnout and exhaustion, but I think that prolonged periods of stress, from a psychological standpoint, prolonged periods of stress are just bad for you. They're bad for you physically, they're bad for you mentally. And I think that one of the things that we also see is that not only are people exhausted and feeling a sense of burnout, but they're feeling a disconnection from themselves. They show up every day, they go through what they need to do, but there's this incredible sense, I think, of people feeling just drained and disconnected from who they are and what it is that... Why it is that they do what they do. They're just always in this execution mode.

And I think that one of the challenges is that increasingly people, no matter where you are at an organization and no matter where you are in your life, at some level, you have to have a sense of purpose. This is funny, we just recently moved my mother into a retirement home. I know this is going to go off to the side, but this is actually an important learning point. And yesterday I was there for dinner and there's a woman there who I've met a couple of times before who is, she's 86 years old, she is just full of beans, full of so much energy, and she wanted to read to me a speech that she's going to be giving to a local synagogue on the power of resilience and the power of having a purpose.

She used to be a clown, that was her, part of her profession, which is quite amazing. And what was very clear to her is just the days to me just don't seem long enough. I have so much that I have to do. I feel there's so much that needs to be done, and I just love every day that I wake up and full of energy. And I thought this is the living embodiment of living with a sense of purpose. And I think that in the work environment, living in a sense of permacrisis is that it's corrosive on our sense of purpose and on our sense of ability not only to connect with ourselves, but to connect with others. And I do think that one of the things that we are seeing is that in this current state of permacrisis, people are just, they're starved for stuff that feeds their soul.

And as leaders, leaders play a critical role in creating the context of the environment whereby people feel that they can operate with a sense of purpose. And I think that that is the major shift, that shift. But I think the major challenge that this creates for leaders is on the one hand management, the word management has its roots in using your hands. Management is about task and it's about getting things done. But the roots of leadership is about a focus on the future. And no matter where you are in an organization, you got to manage the task, but you also have to focus on the future. There was one individual that, I can't remember his name, but he talked about his approach to working with his staff of instead of setting annual goals, what they do is that they establish resume building objectives.

So what people are working on is, is it's not just about the tasks that you have to accomplish for the organization, it's about seeing how these tasks that you're accomplishing fit into the broader purpose of your life and what it is that you're trying to achieve and how engaging and energizing that is for people. So I think helping leaders to shift from, it's not just about the hands, it's not about managing the task because that in and of itself isn't going to get you what you need in the long term in terms of engaging people and driving productivity forward.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, there are so many points you made there that really resonated. So one thing I just thought of though is just recently I recorded a podcast with a gentleman named Anthony Billups who is with Comfort Systems. And we were talking about some of these things and just really we were reflecting on some of the outdated thinking that can exist in our industry around talent, around leadership, around what customers want, a variety of things. And when we were talking about leadership, I just love the way he put this is what we need to realize is leaders shouldn't care about their people eight hours a day. They should care about the 24-hour person.

So this idea that... And what you're saying with what made me think of that with the resume building versus goal setting is it's not about what you can do for the company, it's about how can we make you better and more of what you want to be more fulfilled, et cetera, and trusting that if leaders do that, it will also help the company. So looking at it less from the context of just their own agenda and more from the genuine place of care. So I think the other thing I loved that you said is about the idea of people want more of what feeds their soul. And I think one of the learnings that I hope people take from this episode and other content that we're creating is in service, there's so many opportunities to give people that, it's just not the context through which we've historically looked at what our goals are or how we're interacting with our teams.

It's because it has been very transactional or very, we had people that were happy to just go fix this, great, come back, go to the next job. But today we have people that want more purpose, they want more fulfillment. And service is a world where there's so many opportunities to give them that, we just need to look at things a bit differently. So I love those points. There's two other themes that came up in your presentation that I want to make sure we touch upon and maybe we can split them up and one of you can take each, those are personal clarity and mindset traps. So can we talk about how you define those things and what it means to the work that you both do?

Christine Miners: Yeah. Rick, do you want to talk about personal clarity? I have some thoughts that I might add, but I know that's a topic of passion for you.

Rick Lash: Yeah. So the idea about personal clarity that we spoke to is that all of the research from the last probably 60, 70 years into what drives successful performance is that we talk about this notion of organizational climate. Climate is the feel of the place, and there's tons and tons of research on the dimensions of organizational climate and how creating the right climate as a leader helps to drive performance within a team, however you measure that performance. And one of the key dimensions of climate is this dimension of clarity. And clarity really is about two things. It's about, first of all, do people have clarity on where they fit in the bigger picture? So how does my daily contribution align with the goals of our team and the goals of the organization, and how does that contribute to society at large?

So having clarity and having that line of sight is important. But equally important too is having clarity on lines of authority. Who do I go to? Who are the key decision makers? How do I get things done? And clarity is the most important dimension of climate. If you're lacking clarity in a team, nothing else matters because you've got just people who are showing up every day but are operating in a vacuum. The old adage of, I just feel like I'm a cog in a wheel, that's really what it is. That's what lack of clarity gets you. And so-

Sarah Nicastro: I think also that ambiguity creates anxiety for people.

Rick Lash: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: So then when you layer that we are in this permacrisis landscape, it's creating, it's fueling this sense of anxiousness.

Rick Lash: Yep, because you can't predict what's going to happen next. Christine talked about the word that we used around permacrisis is, is that you're constantly, it's the old psychology experiments of putting a dog in a cage and then shocking the bottom of the cage, and eventually the dog just lies down and just waits for the next shot to come because they can't do anything to control their environment. But the important aspect of clarity is, is that as a leader, your number one task is, is to create the context, to create that clarity for people. Sometimes even in the absence of having clarity yourself, just not having clarity because your boss isn't giving it to you, doesn't excuse you from not creating clarity in your own team. And that's why leaders get paid what they get paid, because your job is to create clarity for your team.

But before you can create clarity in your team, you as a leader have to have clarity yourself. It's the old adage, you're putting on the oxygen mask for yourself before you put it on for other people. So as a leader, you got to know, you've got to be able to answer the question of who am I as a person and why do I choose to lead? And what is the impact that I choose to have through my leadership? If you can't answer those questions, you can't hope to create clarity for others.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So I have a follow-up question, and I'm trying not to come up with too many of these because I don't want to get us off track on time and everything. So relating this back to the topic of empowerment. Okay, so first of all, I absolutely agree with what you're saying. Like I said, I think a lack of clarity just fuels this discomfort in people or anxiety in people. But what I'm curious about specifically when we're thinking about empowerment is knowing that, like you said, the number one objective needs to be creating this clarity. How do we make room within that clarity for creativity? Because I'm just thinking another aspect of empowerment is that we aren't so rigid in our expectation or our defined clarity for people to not have that sense of ownership, to be themselves, to weigh in to the extent that it's feasible and realistic to solve problems on their own, to do things in what feels like their own way. So I'm just curious, when we talk about the importance of creating clarity, how do we also as leaders, leave room for and even encourage creativity?

Christine Miners: I have a thought on that, and I feel like Rick, we've talked about this before, but I think there's a difference between big picture clarity that creates parameters for people and guiding principles for how we make decisions and helps people understand in a clear way the context in which we operate and what's important to us and what value we're trying to create for our stakeholders, usually our customers. That's clarity to me. I think sometimes though, in a leadership capacity, we confuse that with creating task clarity for people, which is much more directive and much more prescriptive.

And I think when we confuse that and we start to think that creating clarity for people is really about creating task clarity and being directive in that way, then we start to drive empowerment, innovation, creativity, being nimble, agile, having people who know how to think and make decisions, that starts to go away because we teach people that if you wait long enough, I'll tell you exactly how to translate this big picture clarity into actions. I think it's important we set expectations for people that people have clarity around what good looks like in their role and what functionally they're accountable for and what's important in their role. But I think we can't cross the line and invest all of our time in task clarity. That's where we get in trouble.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So maybe part of it is that leaders can get confused or blur the line between parameters and prescriptiveness. That makes sense.

Christine Miners: And I think Sarah, it's a challenge in this industry in particular because I think in this industry, not to say I hate generalizations, and not to say this is true for everyone, but I think many folks in this industry have risen through the ranks into leadership roles. And the challenge with that is for most leaders in this sector, they're already expert at the jobs of their people. And so it's very easy then to fall into this is how it needs to be done, and into that task clarity is they actually know how to do the jobs, they've done the job. And so I think it's an extra big challenge and an extra big self-management opportunity for leaders in this sector to stay up and stay up in the purpose clarity as opposed to task.

Sarah Nicastro: I think that's a really good point, and I think it's a totally different conversation, maybe one we can have you back to talk through, but I know many leaders in this space who have risen through the ranks that are phenomenal leaders, phenomenal. But we also, I think as an industry and really just in general across the board, have to be very careful of the go-to way to acknowledge someone's excellence as an individual contributor is to make them a manager and a leader. And not everyone is built for that.

So I think when we're talking about a landscape where leadership is equally important or in some ways maybe more important than management, we need to make sure that we're not promoting just anyone to those roles. And also that we're putting the time, effort, and money into training and ongoing development of our leaders because we acknowledge how critical that role is. But it's a really good point that when they know the job intimately, they might be more inclined to say and do this, this and this.

Christine Miners: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. Rick, can you talk a little bit, or wait, who was going to talk about mindset traps? Sorry, I got us off track.

Rick Lash: It's Christine.

Christine Miners: Yeah, no, it's okay. I can talk to mindset traps. I feel like it's my favorite topic of conversation probably because I get caught in them too. But you know what? There's some common ones that really stand out and I know Rick and I, we work with leaders in all capacities. So whether it's one-on-one coaching, we do Intacct team coaching for executive leaders, and then we do leadership development programming. And it doesn't matter in what context we work, there's some mindset or thinking traps that tend to rise to the surface that I think are problematic. One of them is actually just that very simple mindset of I'm only adding value when I'm getting stuff done. And I think that, that is problematic, because if I'm only adding value when I'm getting stuff done, that's management at the most, but it's certainly not leadership.

Leadership is, yes, it's about driving results, but it's not about checking things off a list and bringing things to completion. And I think where that gets leaders in trouble is when they've got capacity to actually sit and think and reflect and do the kind of thinking that would allow them to create clarity and empower people in their environment. They have this feeling often of guilt or not knowing what to do with that time, because it feels like I'm not creating value for the organizations. That's one that rises to the surface. One of the other ones that rises to the surface, and it's funny because I just had a conversation with a CEO yesterday about this in a different sector, but it's this notion of I get something from my people. It's not really the way I wanted it or it doesn't quite meet my expectations.

And it's this mindset trap of, well, I give feedback. It's just faster if I do it myself, and surely they ought to know, after I've done it myself and shown them what it was supposed to look like. Surely they ought to know how to do it the next time. And surely I've created clarity around what my expectations are, and I think that is, it's flawed thinking. I think it's a common mindset trap, and I think it gets us into this place where people start to take shortcuts in their work because they become dependent on their leader to fix it and bring it to completion. And it's problematic for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which it erodes role clarity. So people at the front line start to believe that my role is to bring it 70% of the way there and my leader will bring it the other 30%, and it continues to pull leaders back down into the weeds. It feels good-

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I was also thinking about empowerment again, that could create resentment in the sense of, okay, well you want me to do this, then you step in and do it, so just do it anyway. Do you know what I mean? It's like you said, you trusted me, but so rather than a teaching moment of let's try this or have you thought about this or whatever, it's when you just step in and finish it or redo it or do it yourself. It's working against the idea of empowering people to improve and have that sense of ownership.

Christine Miners: Yeah. And I think we leave a lot to implied. If I think of the CEO that I was speaking with yesterday, the individual said to me, actually gave me an example and said, I have this stuff that somehow ends up on my desk and I'm at eight o'clock at night after dinner with my family I'm like, I'm editing it. And I said, well, why do you do that? I can't imagine as the CEO of a large organization that you are creating value for the organization by actually editing grammar and spelling and how things are written at eight o'clock at night. And the individual said, well, I'm not, but it comes to me with all these mistakes. I said, well, have you ever actually pushed it back to people to say, I expect by the time it lands on my desk, it's 98% of the way there that I'm not editing. The only value I'm creating is more around point of view and her response-

Sarah Nicastro: I think too... Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you.

Christine Miners: No, her response was, well, I send it back to them. Surely they ought to know. That's where the mindset trap is. It's in this implicit feedback that we're giving as opposed to explicit. And explicit resetting expectations around what you're accountable for, what right looks like as opposed to just taking what feels like the faster road to getting the result we want, which usually the faster road is, I'll just fix it myself-

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that's exactly what I was going to say. It's not only a mindset trap, but it's also just habit because it's like-

Christine Miners: Totally.

Sarah Nicastro: ... it is faster and easier a lot of times to fix something yourself or do something yourself than it is to teach, enable and empower people to do it. But yeah. Yeah.

Christine Miners: And I think these thinking traps do create habit. These thinking traps become deeply ingrained. We believe they're true. We never challenge whether they're true or not, and they just ingrain habits and almost belief systems of what's true as opposed to challenging it, really challenging, putting the mirror back on ourselves and saying, if I'm not getting what I need here, what aspect of how I'm showing up and what I'm reinforcing or not reinforcing is getting in the way of bringing people along. And oftentimes I think if you just told people what you needed from them, I think most people are experiences, they rise to the occasion or they at least try. People don't wake up in the morning and think, how can I mess up my job today? So, those are the big ones for me. I don't know, Rick, if you'd add anything to that.

Rick Lash: Yeah, the only other thing that I would say is that there's a very big emotional component to all of this that tends to drive behavior that we tend not to pay attention to. And I think, as you said earlier, Christine, that many folks in field services did rise through the ranks and they rose through the ranks because they were good at getting stuff done. In our language, we say that they're very achievement driven. They get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to set goals and solve complex problems and then to be able to get things done through their own efforts. And that's deeply satisfying.

The challenge is that when you move into these leadership positions, is that you have to draw upon a different well of emotion, which isn't so much driven out of a need for achievement. It's more driven out of what we would call a need for power and influence. So it's not so much that I get satisfaction out of getting things done myself. I get satisfaction out of being able to elevate others to get things done. And that's actually, that draws from a very different motive. And it's hard for leaders often to make, not just make the intellectual shift, but make that emotional shift. Because part of it is, is that habits are fueled because they feel good. We keep feeding them because it's satisfying just to roll up our sleeves and get things done.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. We don't have time to get into this. So I'm going to say this question, but we're not actually answering it. But then I think about what you just said, Rick, and power and influence sounds, especially power, sounds very risky to me because then I think you go in the other direction equally risky for empowerment of ego. So then it becomes not taking satisfaction in achieving, but taking satisfaction in telling people what to do, but also not empowering them or really leading, which seems like it would be also a big problem. Again, we'll have to come back to that because... Christine's like, no, we'll not.

Christine Miners: I know. I'm like, no, we won't. We got to come back to it now in 20 seconds or less, just because I don't want to leave you hanging on the word power because I think Rick, you did the short version. The slightly longer version is there's two different kinds of power. One is socialize, the other is personal. So when we talk personalized power, that's a little bit more, I think what you were talking about, Sarah, around ego and status and where do I stand in the system? Socialized power is different. Socialized power is that desire to create positive impact for others because it empowers them to be more capable and creates more. That when Rick talks about power and influence, that's the version of power that he's really talking about, is drawing on that component of ourselves.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, no, that makes perfect sense. But it just reinforces the importance of people having the education and the coaching because if you just say, well, you need to exercise more power, and that's left to interpretation. Some people, even when the intent is good, can think of that as, okay, I need to be more directive versus I need to build better teams and et cetera. Okay, there's two more questions, at least we'll say two. Well, two more questions I want to make sure we get to. The first is thinking about empowerment, we already talked about why that's important for a lot of leaders in our space. So empowerment, nurturing, a sense of ownership among teams, what works?

Christine Miners: Okay. I don't know. I have a strong perspective on this one in terms of what I think leaders can do, and it's going to sound like a little trite, but I think if you're going to empower people, so we talked about a bunch of things like clarity and big picture and make people understand the context and what's important. I think the other missing ingredient that we haven't really talked about is leaders need to have an incredibly strong learning and growth orientation and mindset around that, and that has to be part of the impact they seek to create in terms of the climate and the environment they create for their people. Because I think what happens is most of us are wired, it's like instant gratification. So you assign me a task, I got my task done, great, and now I'm moving on to the next one.

And so people bounce back and forth, check this one off the list, I'm going to move to my next task. I'm going to check that one off the list. I'm going to move to the next one. And that is the opposite of a learning and a growth mindset. And when we lead in a fast-paced environment and we're driving for performance and results, that can sometimes be really attractive. I've got people who get stuff done and they move on. Where leaders I think can be stronger on empowerment is being more patient around learning and creating, I think you actually have to actively create the learning environment. Do you know what I mean? So it's almost like, I hate to use the word imposing, but it's still early in the morning and I can't think of a different word right now, but you've got to impose reflection on people.

And there's some real simple questions. It's quite systematic, it's reflect back on the experience, what worked, what didn't work, what can we do better next time? That's not rocket science. We're not reinventing the wheel. It's just leaders when we don't do that, our people don't naturally do it on their own either, and so they don't get smarter and more capable and they're not improving their judgment and decision-making skills. And then how can you be empowered if you don't have those skills?

Sarah Nicastro: I think it's prioritize and protect, because it's prioritizing it because we know it's important, it's protecting it because everyone's busy. And so it's really easy to let those opportunities slide and just get consumed with moving on to the next thing. But when you brought this topic up, Christine, what it makes me think of is we talked about permacrisis, which for better or worse makes me think it's dynamic, it's constantly changing. So when we as leaders or with our teams allow ourselves to become static in a dynamic environment where we're not evolving along with the continually evolving landscape and circumstances, it's a problem.

And so I think it's a really good point that leaders need to be taking that time for themselves, as you mentioned earlier, and not feeling guilty for it or frozen with what the heck do I do with this white space I put on my calendar? And then making sure they do the same with their teams. So Rick, anything else you want to add? Or also the other question is looking at what are the common missteps that leaders make when they're aiming for empowerment, but then what happens when they're maybe falling short? So you can weigh in on either of those or both?

Rick Lash: Yeah, well, maybe a little bit of both. I think that the point around creating an environment for learning is absolutely critical. And I would say that as leaders, one of your roles is to push people out of their comfort zone because if you are not, people aren't developing new capacity and you're not increasing capacity within your team. So I think some of the best practices that we've seen are leaders who actively are thinking about what are the stretch opportunities that they can provide for their people, but also providing a safety net so that people can learn from their mistakes. And I think that in permacrisis environments, leaders are more and more reluctant to do that. But in fact, you have to do it if you ever want to increase capacity in your team, but you have to do it for yourself as well.

So learning how to be uncomfortable, if you're not uncomfortable, you're not learning. And I think that creating that as a value within a team is important. So I would say that for leaders to think about how they can create an environment whereby people can feel supported in their own growth and development, I think is key. And I would say in terms of missteps, one of the biggest missteps is first of all for leaders not to be pushing themselves to be growing and learning and experiencing new things, but also not encouraging an environment where people can use failure as an opportunity for growth.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. Yeah. And I think when we think about the changes in talent, and again, it's hard to do that without generalizing, but I think going back to Rick, some of the points you made earlier about a sense of purpose and experiences that fuel someone's soul, for a lot of today's workforce that is tied to those opportunities for growth and learning and not feeling that they're stuck or staying still. So in a lot of ways, when we can figure out how to get it right, it's mutually beneficial because it's good leadership, it's serving a purpose for the organization, but it's also helping those people ideally be more satisfied in their roles and hopefully stay part of the team longer because they're getting those opportunities with your organization versus feeling complacent or bored and wanting to go seek them somewhere else.

So on the flip side, some of the more long-term workers where you might be pushing them a little bit more, you might also have team members who are very welcoming of that, and you have to strike that balance. Okay. So in terms of missteps or best practices or really anything else, any final points or thoughts before we close?

Christine Miners: For me, I guess my final thought is overcorrecting, that's a misstep. So sometimes we make a decision, we want to change our leadership in a certain way, and it's almost we overcorrect, we swing the pendulum from one side to the other and it's too drastic, it's not sustainable, it's hard. I think it's leadership comes from these small new actions and habits and really taking the time to embed those new habits and understand their impact and iterate them as we go, as opposed to making these broad reaching massive goals in our leadership that are just hard for us to swing to that other side.

Rick Lash: Yeah. And I would say that the building on that is a big misstep is not creating the spare capacity for yourself and for others because learning and growth can't come when you're a 120% over capacity. And so it's a bit of a red herring to say we simply don't have the time. You never have enough time, but you have to be, I think, intentional and deliberate about creating that space where you can take the time to breathe, you can take the time to push people to learn and to grow and take the time for yourself for that important self-reflection to help you to continue grow and develop as an individual and as a leader.

Sarah Nicastro: I think what might make for a really interesting follow-up discussion if you guys were willing to come back is this idea of, Christine, you mentioned overcorrecting, and I think also sometimes people think it's one or the other. So to put it simply, I'm going to say management or leadership. We talked about those things being distinct or directive or empowering, however we want to define it, but having a conversation around the fluidity between those things and knowing the appropriate times to transition or switch or what that can look like for different leaders, I think that would be really interesting. But I could go on forever. I've already taken more of your time today than I was supposed to, so really appreciate that. Can you tell our listeners where they can find the book and also connect with you if they would like to?

Christine Miners: Yeah, so it's super easy. The website is just So and you've got information about the book and it's also a way of reaching out to me or Rick. And then, of course, the obvious one would also be LinkedIn to reach out to us directly.

Sarah Nicastro: Excellent. I'll make sure to link the website in the show notes and everyone, please go have a look and get the book, have a read, and then would love to have you both back again in the future if we can. So thank you so much for your time and for the great conversation.

Rick Lash: Thanks Sarah.

Christine Miners: Thanks Sarah. We'd love to come back, so we look-

Sarah Nicastro: Thank you.

Christine Miners: ... forward to that.

Sarah Nicastro: That sounds good. You can learn more by visiting us at While you're there, be sure to register for the Future of Field Service Insiders so you can stay up to date on our latest content. We also have one more Future of Field Service live tour event left for 2023 in Stockholm on October 10th. So if you're in or near that area and would like to join us, please register for that. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening.