Fast technological (r)evolutions have made technical equipment, machines and infrastructure more complex. Field service technicians often find themselves in situations they cannot solve the technical failures of that machinery on their own.
Have your field technicians grown acquainted with asking help? Have they set aside their pride?
Engineers especially don’t always tend to ask for help. When the ego, and the boyish idea of ‘I can solve this’ kicks in, too much time has been wasted already.
Asking for help is perceived as a sort of weakness, showing you did not get it right the first time you tried. It seems difficult to find the balance between asking a lot of help and realizing that one does not actually have the right expertise for the job.
The American Management association refers on their website to the book “Mayday! Asking for help in times of Need” by M. Nora Klaver. She refers to a list of reasons why people hesitate asking for help. In my opinion these are the 4 most relevant.
- We ask for help too late because we don’t recognize early enough that we actually have a need to be filled
- We may not see the whole picture, so the help we ask for satisfies only part of our need.
- We may ask the wrong person or people to help us with our request.
- Our requests may be so unclear that others may not understand that we need help at all.
Klaver debunks in her book some common cultural myths about asking for help. When it comes to field technicians these are the 2 most important myths.
- Asking for help makes you look weak or needy: In fact, there’s no shame in turning to others in true times of need. It’s a sign of strength.
- Asking for help signals incompetence—especially at work: In fact, seeking help at work shows others that you want to do the job right—and to develop and learn.
Implementing the culture where technicians are allowed or encouraged to ask for help influences the efficiency of your team. And this efficiency gain should be the best incentive for every manager to at least think about the above.
Implementing this culture is a managers duty. He should make it acceptable for engineers to be helped by another for complex issues. Make it acceptable for a technician not to be the superhero or the better half of Wikipedia. Problem analysis should be their best skill combined with knowing the best person to solve the issue. This way they can make it a teamwork and solve the issue in the shortest time.
Providing help is a great way to build good relations between co-workers in a team. The person that helped someone will be having a great feeling just because he/she could help someone. It’s a fast and easy way for competence sharing what will benefit the overall competence level of your team. And of course, it will benefit the total efficiency of your team.
For those who love an inspiring story about this, check out the TedX talk of Michelle L. Sullivan. Caterpillar’s director of corporate social innovation and president of the caterpillar foundation.