Swindon Coaching Team Member David Rigby recently spent eight months in the desert near Abu Dhabi coaching and advising the government on customer service.
The Abu Dhabi Municipality offers 400 services to its people. With the opening of one-stop-shops, in the six cities in the Abu Dhabi desert area known as Western Region, the citizens were no longer obliged to travel the 100-200 miles to Abu Dhabi to undertake several transactions. One hundred of these services were, in theory, offered at the one-stop-shops, called TAMM centers. In practice only three of them could be undertaken in one visit. I developed processes to enable all the services to be offered through media including web, phone, call centre, SMS etc. They were all redesigned to international standards and to standard templates. None of which would be of much use unless the frontline staff knew how to use them, so this is where my coaching skills became very important.
My client was Ebrahim Alhosani Director/ Integrated Government Services Western Region Municipality, And on first meeting he said “I am studying for my masters from Harvard, what do you study?” One of my clear learning objectives is about spontaneity, and thinking on my feet responded “I study learning who to ask for help.”
The only way I could manage this project was to ask for help and give help in return. The key challenge was always knowing who to ask without losing face.
As a first-time visitor to UAE at the beginning my main challenge was the food – what it was and more importantly how to eat it. I took my training very seriously – first of all asking my Arabic assistant how to eat rice with my right hand without it spilling everywhere. Not to mention how to eat while sitting on the floor on special occasions – including making sure my feet pointed the right way.
One of my team from Jordan asked me why I asked people for help, as it appeared to be a sign of weakness in his culture (at least among the males). I told him that it saved so much time and gave better results. An example I gave him, was that I discussed with his boss how to get a number of documents printed and rapidly delivered to me from 100 miles away. He suggested using a taxi. It worked brilliantly.
My Arabic customer services trainer, Maher Al Nukkary, asked me for help with his life. I coached him to identify and live his vision: he is now in Australia studying for his second degree in translation. I never told him what to do only helped him make a decision.
Some of the work required demonstrating international best practice – EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management) and ISO (international Standards Organisation). Not my best subjects, but I knew who to ask for help from my colleagues in the UK, which was based on the relationships I had built in the past.
One of the things we wanted to know was what the citizens thought of the service they were currently getting . So, we asked them!
We were looking to improve the way the customer facing staff worked. Who are the people who are best likely to know? You guessed right! So – we asked the staff!
So how do you ask for help without losing face? It’s about developing a mutual trust with the person you are asking for help, and making yourself available to help people.
This is when your coach can be a very important person. Someone you know and trust, who can help you identify the issues and enable you to decide who and how to approach to resolve them. Someone who you know who’s on your side.