recently wrote about the need for facility management (FM) executives to hire and retain the right in-house custodial workers—and let subpar workers go before they cost upwards of $1.2 million each. Now, I would like to focus on another “people” area that generates a significant return on investment (ROI)—your leaders. Excellent leadership is especially vital considering the diversity and complexities of in-house custodial teams.

Think Like a Mechanic

  • I like to compare in-house custodial teams to the features of a car. Products, procedures, and protocols are like the vehicle’s body, where the shape, color, and add-on features are the first things you see and the easiest to change. The engine and drive train are the workers; they determine how fast and responsive the car is and how consistently it operates.

However, the key to optimal performance is the caliber of the driver (leader) and fuel grade (leadership style). The leadership team inspires and motivates, steering the custodial staff in the right direction, while a poor leadership style leads to inferior performance. The leadership team determines if the race is won or lost. As an FM executive, you are like the race car sponsor, identifying, developing, and giving their in-house leaders the assistance and support they need to win.

To “win,” FM executives need to ensure the right leaders are in place. This sounds simple, but as many of you know only too well, it is not so easy in real life. Many in-house custodial staffs have good, even great, managers. Yet, many do not have competent leaders capable of creating a staff culture of trust, engagement, and empowerment.

Managers Vs. Leaders

Great leaders create the environment necessary for motivated, engaged, and efficient employees to produce consistent operational excellence. These leaders set a clear, compelling vision and strategy and make sure they are understood, accepted, and followed by the entire team. This type of leadership requires the proper skill set, which is different from a manager or supervisor. The first step in identifying those capable of leading the department is having a clear understanding of the skills, attitude, and responsibilities of a good manager versus a true leader.

Below are what good managers do:

  • Plan
  • Organize
  • Budget
  • Supervise
  • Measure
  • Report
  • Reward
  • Control.

The following is what great leaders do:

  • Coach
  • Inspire
  • Motivate
  • Support
  • Build confidence
  • Bring out the best in people
  • Make workers feel they and their work is appreciated
  • Assures the organization’s mission, vision, core values/guiding principles, strategies, tactics, and plans are all properly aligned and always adhered to.

Great leaders do these things by

  • Listening
  • Asking focused questions—and paying attention to the answers
  • Communicating openly and transparently
  • Asking for input and feedback
  • Clarifying expectations
  • Focusing on results
  • Providing specific, objective feedback—good or bad
  • Helping reports make decisions
  • Making the key decisions for the long-term success of the team
  • Holding people accountable
  • Removing or minimizing obstacles/roadblocks
  • Caring about their team members and their well-being.

To complete the above requires leaders to have specific traits, including being

  • Trustworthy
  • Ethical
  • Humble
  • Empathetic
  • Respectful
  • Appreciative
  • Authentic.

As can be seen, the traits and qualifications of true leaders far outweigh those of managers and supervisors, which is why it can be harder to find good leaders. However, often these leadership qualities are there, ready to shine given the right coaching, training, and support. If, however, the qualifications are not there despite these efforts, the in-house custodial team will never reach the best-in-class.

Successful FM executives constantly explore ways to improve their operations, facilities, and leadership. They are always looking for ways to achieve positive outcomes, enhance effectiveness, increase efficiency and productivity, and boost employee morale and engagement. They recognize that real change must start with them. They are not afraid to make improvements where necessary, knowing the positive outcome will reflect well on themselves, their leaders, and their teams.

Facility Management Executives: Don’t Leave It to Chance

How can you be sure your in-house cleaning operations are operating as efficiently and effectively as they need to be to satisfy the demands of all stakeholders? Learn how to assess your products, processes, protocols, people, and leadership team; prioritize and make improvements; and obtain the data necessary to verify your and your department’s ongoing value. Book a no-obligation exploratory call with me today.