When you think of a competent and successful facility manager, there are likely a few qualities that immediately spring to mind. For example, it goes without saying that a facility manager should be a skilled and experienced maintenance person, and should have a strong knowledge of industry standards for operational elements like energy efficiency, sustainability and construction.
On top of this, however, there are a number of important soft skills that can separate the good facility managers from the great ones. Hands-on experience and industry acumen are important, but just as important are leadership ability, communications proficiency, and even problem-solving and conflict resolution.
The successful facility manager of today and, more importantly, tomorrow will need to ensure that their toolboxes are stocked just as much with these soft skills as they are with their maintenance tools.
Communication is often regarded as a soft skill, but the fact is that it's the foundation of nearly every operational endeavor, whether it's carrying out repair tasks or updating budget data. As facilities grow more complex, FMs will have more moving parts to keep track of in the complex ecosystem that is the modern building. It's crucial that they maintain a keen understanding of how all the cogs are fitting together. For example, building maintenance schedules rely heavily on budget and inventory information to be accurate, which in turn require capital forecasting. All of these factors are also influenced by elements such as personnel issues. Proper facility management may feel like spinning plates at times, but the ability to coordinate between all the essential parts of a facility is one of the strongest skills an administrator can develop.
Older paradigms of facility management likely positioned the department as separate and distinct from the rest of upper-level management in a building. However, the past several years have been a period of evolution for the facility management field, as many buildings are beginning to integrate their maintenance and inventory management into more of an executive function. Facility managers may be used to purchasing rather than selling, but according to FacilitiesNet, FMs should be competent salespeople, as well. Of course, you aren't selling products – you're selling your department. Specifically, facility managers need to drive home the importance of maintenance management to the building as a whole. If administrators aren't of the mindset that things like energy efficiency and inventory management are the concern of everyone in the building, they need to be convinced. Successful and sustainable building operation and proper maintenance budgeting require everyone to take an active interest in preserving the life of the building and improving its efficiency.
Even though planned maintenance schedules are a crucial part of facility management, the ability to adapt to situations that are unexpected or even unwanted is just as important. Emergencies of any kind are far from uncommon when managing a facility. Whether it's responding to a burst pipe or addressing a budget that doesn't match up with expected figures, the best facility managers are the ones who are able to keep a cool head in the face of any unexpected problem and work toward a solution.
Despite the fact that facility managers deal largely with equipment, infrastructure and inventory, facilities are still populated by people. In many cases, managing a building's tenants is just as important as managing its maintenance. Whether it’s replying to tenant complaints or managing personnel issues among maintenance staff, facility managers need to be as good with people as they are with tools.