Facility Management is a challenging profession. This is not only because of how much you need to know, but partly because of the lack of industry-standard information out there. As we bring value to our organizations, we must share what we learn with fellow FMs and those that are looking to make facility management their professions moving forward. These 6 Essential Characteristics of Facility Managers is one attempt to do just that.
6 Essential Characteristics of Facility Managers
This is far and away the most important attribute in my humble opinion. I was caught off guard in my first FM interview when one of the three colonels on my hiring board asked me if I was a leader or a manager. I knew what the right answer was, but it took me a second to figure out why. It was ironic that even though I was interviewing to be the facility manager of the Army installation, I knew I needed to be both a leader and a manager. A leader influences and motivates their followers to accomplish a common goal. A manager is adept at controlling their resources to accomplish given tasks. You need to do both to be successful in FM.
Problem solving comes in at a close second to leadership. I firmly believe that one reason I enjoy and excel at FM is that I love puzzles. I like figuring out causes behind problems and solutions that work best for everyone. And trust me, there are many problem to fix in FM. During my days of building custom homes, I could build the same exact house ten times and run into different problems each time. It can be frustrating, but it’s also exciting and fun. You have to love to solve problems. Murphy’s Law states that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. It never fails that the one critical asset that has to work will break at the least opportune time. It takes a great problem solver that can stay calm under stress to get through some of those challenges.
The one constant in the FM industry is change. The built environment is constantly shifting and evolving. In order to stay relevant, we must learn to evolve with it. There is a reason there are so many credentials available to obtain, symposiums to attend, seminars to catch, and industry updates to read. Many of the facets of FM are driven by changing technologies and it is our job to inform our stakeholders of ways to improve the facilities we manage.
Hand in hand with a thirst for knowledge comes adaptability. Because many facets of FM change so often, it is incumbent on us to change with them. I remember a $32mm dollar new construction project I helped design in the military, which took nearly four years to complete. By the time the design was finished, part of it was so out of date that it had to be changed. Adaptability also has to be thought of in terms of ever-changing preferences of the stakeholders you serve. More than once, I have completed a renovation only to change part of it weeks later because the outcome didn’t satisfy the needs of the stakeholders, even though the specifications were followed exactly.
A colleague once told me that when he received a request by email, he deleted it. It was only after the request was resent that he acted on it because, “only requests worth asking twice are worth answering.” Obviously, this is completely unacceptable. But, I will never for the life of me understand why, in today’s era of modern communication equipment, it still takes some “professionals” days to address emails, return phone calls, and act on formal requests. Route all of these communications to your cell phone, keep it on you, and answer them the same day. As a facility manager, you have to communicate with everyone. You must be able to walk into a board meeting and present problems and solutions. You must be able to direct vendors, contractors, and employees. You must be able to negotiate with suppliers and work with peers within the facility to hear their problems and solve them in ways that stay within budget (but also meet their needs).
You might see this and wonder where I could possibly be going here. However, you’ll find out that the ability to tell the story of your facility will be an invaluable characteristic that you will rely on time and time again. Keep in mind that FMs have a hard time describing exactly what we do in generally descriptive terms. You must be able to pinpoint how all aspects of your facilities are working synergistically with one another and what you’ve done to improve their efficiencies. Describing how your efforts improve the stakeholders’ experience will go a long way to increasing your perceived value within the organization.
Wrapping It Up
So, that’s it. Those are my 6 Essential Characteristics of Facility Managers. To be clear, this list is not all inclusive. There are many traits that FMs benefit from and I’m sure there are many more that could make this list. That said, I would love to hear what characteristics you think are essential to FM. Please feel free to leave comments below and, as always, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.