Case Studies

Applying The Legitimate Leadership Principles To Enable Excellence In Those In The Front Line Of A Business

Aug 2016

One of the key roles in a vehicle tracking and recovery business is that of installation technician. A good installation can literally mean the difference between life and death if there is a hijacking and the device fails to activate. Further to this, the person who installs the device in the vehicle is, for most customers, the only face-to-face contact they have with the service provider. The installation technician is synonymous with the company’s brand.

In 2014 a small team was constituted with the purpose of applying the Legitimate Leadership principles for enabling excellence in those in the role of installation technician in a leading South African vehicle tracking and recovery business. What the team did and the results achieved are outlined below.


  • The starting point was to define excellence in the role. What does an excellent performing installation technician look like? The team identified and agreed on nine individuals (three were superior performers, three were average performers, and three were poor performers) whose names were written down on cards. The pack was shuffled and three names drawn. Then, for example, the question was asked: ‘How are these two the same as and different from the third person? How are these two superior performers similar to and different from this average performer?’ The exercise was repeated over a number of permutations. From the data the following definition emerged.


  • Goes the extra mile
  • Takes ownership of a problem
  • Has excellent relationships with colleagues in the business
  • Does everything that is asked of him cheerfully
  • Always looking for and coming up with ideas to do what we do better
  • Accommodating/flexible with the customer
  • Spends time explaining in depth to the customer how the installation device works
  • An extremely hard worker
  • Takes pride in a job well done
  • Does not rush the job/compromise on standards
  • Has a passion for the work/loves the job
  • Asks for more work if not fully utilised
  • Advises in advance of a potential problem
  • Is proud of working for the company
  • Deliberately seeks to grow/to learn/to be the best that he can be.


  • Works to rule
  • Complains/gripes all the time
  • Needs to be nagged/reminded/checked up on
  • “Hardegat”/inflexible with customer
  • Will leave for extra money (a small increase) for an easier job
  • Refuses to work overtime, do stand-ins, work in certain areas, and assist colleagues
  • Negative about everything and influences others to be the same
  • Feels owed/entitled/hard done by
  • Talks badly about the company
  • Poor internal communicator – particularly with scheduler and manager
  • Shows no remorse for bad service.

What was significant, and which emerged from the exercise, was that the differentiator was not ability. Excellence was all about behaviours and attitude, which are a matter of the will/choice.

  • The next step was to go out into the field and conduct one-on-one interviews with installation technicians across South Africa. In each interview the following questions were asked:
    • What frustrates you/makes it difficult for you to do your job?
    • What motivates you/what is important to you?
    • What would make you more motivated in your job?

The findings were illuminating. Some of the key insights were as follows:

  • There were real means issues like inadequate tools and poor scheduling, especially when head office did the scheduling for the regions.
  • What was important was not money so much as feeling part of a team, contact and support from the immediate manager.
  • What would make installation technicians more motivated would be to feel more part of the business, to be more appreciated/acknowledged for their contribution, to be assessed on things that were within their control, for their suggestions to be taken more seriously, and to learn and grow.

All of the issues raised were in fact leadership issues and therefore actionable. The team drew up an action plan to address the issues and implemented the agreed actions. They included inter alia changing the structures so that installation technicians had a manageable span of control, setting a requirement for supervisors to spend time accompanying technicians in the field to ‘watch the game’ and changing the assessment/reward criteria.

  • The issue of measurement and reward requires special attention because it was clearly a ‘stone in the shoe’ for both installation technicians and management. The team agreed that changes to the current system should achieve two goals:
    • Measure what the installation technician have control over.
    • Institute measures which actually differentiate excellent contribution/performance from average/poor performance.

The following changes were implemented:

  • Customer service: reword the SMS to customers, provide definitions for the 1-5 rating scale, separate the customer service SMS from the customer centricity SMS.
  • Poor Installation Complaints (PIC): provide definitions for a 1-5 rating. Discount PICs which are not the technician’s fault
  • Quality of work: five post assessments to be conducted per month per technician by his/her immediate manager against an agreed set of criteria
  • Recovery rate: discontinue as a measure because it is not in the technician’s control. At the same time keep technician informed because they want to know.
  • Efficiency – change the scale to align with contribution/value add: 100% jobs complete (3 (good rating)), 101% – 109% (4 (very good)), 110% (5 (excellent))
  • Behavioural Assessment: a new measure based on the criteria for excellence. The rating to be done by the manager and discussed with technician, but the final rating to be made by the manager.

In summary the assessments were changed from 100% (results) to 60% (results)/40% (contribution) as shown below.

Results Customer Service 15
PICs 10
Quality of work 20
Efficiency 15
Contribution Excellence Behaviour/Attitude 40


The results were immediate both for the installation technicians (“We are basing our day to day behaviour on the behavioural/contribution requirements. This is what is now driving us to perform better than usual”) and their managers (“the technicians now know exactly what is expected of them and most are actively working to make a difference in their performance”). A follow up in 2016 showed that “the behaviour change has been sustained after two years”. Also that the company has made further changes to the assessment criteria to include demonstration of the company’s values.


  • The sustainable bottom line performance in any business is a function of those in the front line of the business. They are undoubtedly the most important people in any business.
  • There is no substitute for ‘watching the game’, to ascertain on an ongoing basis what will enable people’s contribution/excellence in the role. This is what makes it possible for those in leadership roles to fulfil their primary task, which is to provide the appropriate means, ability and accountability for excellence in contribution.
  • Focusing people on excellence in contribution, what excellence looks like me, and measuring and rewarding excellence is what delivers excellence and impacts positively on the desired results.
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