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Leadership in Facility Management

Every time we talk facility management, we often discuss the trends, innovations, challenges, issues and successes. However, very little is ever mentioned on the leadership role required to drive the various activities and personnel involved in many aspects of the FM work.

Facility management (FM) is often characterized by all manner of issues resulting in pressure situations. As a result, leadership in whatever form or scale will play a major part in navigating those times. Therefore, the question to ask maybe, ‘what kind of leadership is required for the facility management space’?

All types of FM work, no matter their nature, come with two basic leadership truths. First, they demand all hands to be on deck. This is even more profound in times of crisis such as the current pandemic. Everyone on the team has to row together and therein lies the second truth about leadership.

You can’t row together without a qualified team. Leadership in times of calm or chaos is as much about those being led as the ability of the leader to inspire. Having a workforce that has a passion for what it does, understands the vision and goals, and shares the same focus is essential. However, inspiring that passion requires a certain kind of leader.

There are different types of leaders—the leader of a big team is not necessarily the right leader for a small team. In the same way, leadership in times of calm is a little different from one leading during a crisis.

Another level of leadership is required where the crisis is a headline grabber. In such extreme times, extreme measures may be required but in crises that occur in the daily line of duty, a steady hand is what matters most. These situations often test the leader’s technical and business skills to drive the dedication and perseverance of his/her team to get the job done because the stakes may be high.

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High performing FM practitioners usually demonstrate their talents and ability to accomplish what needs to be done in a given situation. With experience comes a certain level of instinct, knowing how to respond.

Having worked for a certain amount of time within an established and well-defined structure, they understand what client expectations are, philosophies on customer service, problem-solving and leaving the client feeling good that value has been delivered.

FM leaders should be capable of leveraging the strength and professionalism of individuals on the team and guide them towards accomplishing their tasks. Such team members often know the risks and rise to the challenge.

The ability to build trust must never be underestimated and to constantly seek to build a stronger and more cohesive bond between members of the team so that the leader gets a buy in when creating a strategic plan. FM leaders must never be afraid to ask for help and be open to other viewpoints.

FM leaders ought to be aware of their weaknesses and should be willing to surround themselves with people with different strengths who are as talented or more talented than they.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, playing the role of FM leader is trickier because of the often-shifting challenges and sometimes, ever changing guidance from the authorities as wrong decisions can impact the team’s confidence in their leader. Assuring the team that their safety and well-being are valued and that the situation continues to be evaluated will serve the leader well.

In FM, every crisis comes with its own peculiar challenges but the leadership skills required to successfully drive the team through management of this or any other crisis are almost the same. The leader will have to be decisive in order to take control whilst exercising some caution and positivity.

Throughout, the leader must be concise and close to the message until it is not working, then change the course. An effective leader’s style should be respected and embraced by his team to foster understanding and allow the team to feel comfortable.

FM leaders worthy of the title cannot be afraid of failure. They will make decisions that won’t work because such decisions are often without 100 percent of the facts. The COVID-19 pandemic is a good example.

The traits of a true FM leader are short and to the point: Awareness, decisiveness, empathy, accountability, confidence, tenacity, perseverance, impartiality, transparency, honesty, ability to inspire and encourage, and leveraging the strength of individuals.

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