Workplace Doctor: When the tools of your trade need replacing
A mechanic seeks advice when management fails to update his team's equipment
I am a middle manager responsible for a team of automotive mechanics. We are good at our jobs and my team is committed to providing the best service possible, in fact we have a large number of repeat customers, so we must be doing something right. However, despite repeated promises from senior management over the past 18 months, our equipment has neither been upgraded nor replaced when it is past its sell-by date. My team have to resort to ‘make do and mend’ which is becoming increasingly unfeasible. Some have even had to resort to using their own tools, which I feel is completely wrong. As automotive is now a highly technical sector – and the tech is accelerating all the time – I feel it’s imperative that management stick to their stated commitment and provide my team with the quality and number of tools we need to continue doing the jobs as best we can. How do I get them to actually do what they say they’ll do?
In an ideal world, senior management would always honour their commitments and communicate any changes or amendments should they arise. However, despite their best intentions, senior management may struggle at times to meet their promises, possibly driven by changing market conditions, competitive forces or internal budget constraints and expectations. This is an increasing and challenging reality today, where senior managers are having to deal with more complex dilemmas and pressures, often having to weigh up competing alternatives in their decision making. Situations like this obviously require careful prioritisation and don’t always result, as in your case, in win-win outcomes.
That being said, repeated gaps in management commitments can negatively erode employee trust, morale and motivation, leading to wider organisation consequences of productivity and service quality level reductions. These knock-on effects ultimately have an impact on customer satisfaction and retention. Equally, not having the right tools and equipment available to safely and competently carry out required tasks as you have detailed, will exacerbate these negative effects even further.
So, how do you get senior management to not only honour their promises of getting the required equipment you and your team need today, but to also provide you with the appropriate up to date technology your industry sector will require tomorrow?
It’s all down to the essential skill of influencing upwards. Consider what you need to do to let your senior management see the importance of sticking to their commitments and providing what they need in order for your team to be competitive in your industry. It may take some courage to raise the issue, so consider why this is critical to you and your team. Being a strong communicator who can connect with what is important to senior management and your company is imperative. Start with the strategic focus of senior leadership and work backwards to link your key points with their top priorities, clearly indicating the relevance of what you are requesting.
Another strong skill to lean into is being able to adjust your own communication style to match that of your senior management in order to be more persuasive. Understand how they tend to make decisions and what you need to speak to in order to win them over. Try to understand the mind-set and agendas of all individuals involved, think how this may fit into the points you are raising and decide how to best navigate the landscape for a successful outcome.
Although you and your team are doing well at the moment, bring to life what becomes possible when you have the right tools for what you need combined with the future technology to support you, and demonstrate the impact this is likely to have on the company overall. Value is created where promises are honoured, as employees are likely to be more engaged and committed as a result. In your role as middle manager, being able to influence upwards to create understanding and trust whilst connecting the dots for how all will benefit is a strong way forward.
Yolande Basson is an executive coach and consultant at Ashridge Executive Education – Middle East
Updated: September 23, 2018 05:54 PM