With so many challenges facing facility management organizations these days, the decision to take on a leadership role often is a difficult one. In making the decision about whether to set off on a career path toward a leadership position, facility professionals should take stock of themselves. The following abilities are widely accepted as being essential for anyone who wants to move into a position of leadership.
Take charge of and communicate the vision for organizational change.
Nowhere is the need for leadership more apparent than when reshaping a new facility organization’s alignment. An individual who wants to become a leader must be able to design and articulate a vision for a reconfiguration of an organization and know how to engage other facility staff as agents for the change. It doesn’t matter if the organizational change is as small as a work unit or as large as a whole facility department, a leader has to be clear on how resources should be aligned and then enlist the support of others to make it happen. At some point, facility leaders will face an internal realignment. This means that leaders have to be willing to take on the role of change agent to optimize human resources to meet business changes.
Use quarterly and annual metrics to measure results rather than focusing on short-term wins.
Facility leaders know that consistently positive results are the goals for any facility management organization, individual work unit or special project. Aspiring leaders have to be willing and able to manage the results process and focus on long-term gains. The concept of using results as a diagnostic tool for those involved — whether it is improved customer relations, reduction of operating costs, improvement in operating efficiency or completion of a renovation or retrofit — is essential to leading in facility management. Potential facility leaders should be sure they understand the connection between behavior and outcomes and are willing to build a staff capable of having an open and honest dialogue about milestone attainment. Individuals who want to achieve quick fixes and short-term results often do not make the best leaders because they lack the patience to develop staff skills to sustain long-term results.
Recognize the leader doesn’t always have all the answers.
In facility management, as in any professional environment, individuals who have a proven track record in a technical area and may be well known as “the answer person” often get promoted into leadership positions. When they move into this role, the tendency is to continue to believe that staff expect them to be all-knowing and have the answer to every problem or situation.
Truly effective leaders, however, know that their job is to help others sort out the right answer, not always be the point person. Instead of controlling or dominating the process, a successful leader drives the problem-solving and decision-making process. An aspiring facility leader must have a clear appreciation for the power of collaboration, rather than control, to encourage those around the leader to come to the right decisions. An individual who does not feel the need to be right all the time will likely become the type of leader the organization requires.
Understand the constraints of time and use it strategically.
This concept often is one of the most difficult for budding facility leaders to grasp. That’s because time is an element that always seems to be in short supply. Savvy leaders know, however, that trying to squeeze too much into a limited time period often backfires. Perhaps the classic example in facility management is the team leader who promises the build-out of new space within a tight timeframe, knowing that staying on schedule will be next to impossible. Project staff become over-committed, suppliers and vendors can’t deliver on time, and the client ends up unhappy. An astute leader commits to doing fewer things well, knowing that the team may meet or exceed expectations. An individual who is accustomed to standing over staff and driving them to work harder because of time constraints probably will not become an effective leader.
Create and sustain a healthy culture in the facility management organization.
Of all the concepts associated with facility leadership, the ability to create a healthy and productive work environment may be the most important. Assuming a leadership position in facility management requires the individual to diagnose an organization’s culture to determine what is working and what is not. A healthy facility management culture is the outcome of shared vision and clearly stated goals, open communication channels throughout the organization, open-book information sharing among all levels of staff and a general feeling of positive contribution by all.