The FM personnel playbook: Building your championship team

by Mark Cannon — This article originally appeared in the September/October 2021 issue of FMJ

As the role of the facility manager expands, so does the FM team. Long gone are the days when managing a facility meant making sure the cleaning crew showed up and the lawn was mowed. Today, FMs oversee everything from the integration of smart building solutions to the implementation of sustainable practices. It is a complicated role that requires the assistance of a talented and dedicated team.

Like the head coach of a team, FMs are responsible for the success of their team. They must recruit team members, oversee their training, keep them motivated and ensure they perform to their full potential.

Whether an FM relies entirely on third-party vendors or manages a busy in-house department, they must have the right people with the necessary mix of talent and traits so they can build their championship team.

Scout out team players

Starting with the obvious, a championship team must have team players. “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’” may be a cliché, but that does not make the sentiment behind it any less true. Individuals with a me-first attitude are often detrimental to a team and can diminish its long-term success.

In professional sports, it is far too common for egos to get in the way of a team’s success. A wide receiver yells at his quarterback because he thinks he is not getting the ball enough. A star running back skips training camp because he wants a better contract. A recent draft pick spends too much time celebrating his newfound wealth and not enough time practicing. All of these scenarios can damage a team’s morale and performance.

Being a team player is just as important in FM. Keeping a facility running smoothly involves a lot of moving parts, literally and figuratively, and these parts are often interconnected. Electrical issues can affect the security system, for example, and leaky faucets can damage a variety of surfaces. Team members must collaborate, communicate and coordinate to maintain and improve their facility.

Being a team player is not the same as being a follower. The best team members often demonstrate strong leadership skills. Team members help move the team forward, and that includes speaking up and offering suggestions and ideas rather than passively awaiting direction.

Recruit for individual strengths

Being a team player and focusing on personal performance are not mutually exclusive. On the most successful teams, they go hand in hand. Team members play very specific roles tailored to their individual strengths. It is the way they combine these strengths and work together that ensures whether the team succeeds.

Think about the different positions on a football team. The offense contains four types of players with very specific skill sets: the quarterback, the wide receivers, the running backs and the offensive linemen. Each player contributes in a unique way. While there are exceptions (and the occasional trick play), in general, it is rare for a player to transition from one position to another. Similarly, the defense is made up of specific players: linebackers, defensive linemen and defensive backs. Even the special teams players have clear-cut roles. A kicker can make a 50-yard field goal and a punter can send the ball 70 yards downfield, but neither can perform the other’s role equally well.

Each member of an FM team likely has a specialization as well. Building engineers oversee the facility’s electrical and mechanical systems. Janitorial staff provide a clean and safe workspace. Landscapers keep the grounds looking their best. Surface care providers deep clean the carpets and polish the floors. These roles require extensive training and expertise, and the individuals who perform them can’t simply be swapped out to fill gaps on the team.

When building a championship team it is important to understand the needs of the team. That means clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of each team member. This will help ensure the right people are hired for the right job.

Look for coachability

Talent is an important consideration when hiring new staff or contractors. FMs want to work with people who are good at what they do, whether scheduling elevator repairs or applying a high-performance coating to a concrete floor. But talent is not enough. It is much more important for team members to be coachable and willing to learn.

Far too many coaches have been dazzled by talent. They have read about a player’s accomplishments, and seen the highlight reel where no one comes even close to touching them as they race down the field, and they are ready to give away the barn to have them on their team. What they do not realize until it is too late is the player simply is not coachable. They do not learn the routes, or make blocks and they talk back to the coaches. Within a couple of years they wash out of the pros.

Most FMs will not be mesmerized by a candidate’s resume, but they are still susceptible to being charmed during a job interview or impressed by past big-name employers. This can be a mistake, especially in a complicated field like FM that requires extensive knowledge of multiple systems and processes. No matter how experienced or talented a candidate may be there will always be a learning curve when starting a new role.

It is not always easy to determine whether someone is coachable during an interview or initial meeting, but there are some clues to look for. Do they come across as arrogant or boastful? Are they constantly interrupting or failing to make eye contact? Did they do any research on the company ahead of time? Watching for red flags can prevent headaches and hassle down the line.

Seek out winning attitudes

Nothing kills motivation like negativity. When a team member complains endlessly about a project or talks about everything that can and will go wrong, the energy is sucked right out of the room. A winning attitude is critical in determining a team’s ultimate success or failure.

When a team starts the season slow, it can be discouraging. Professional athletes are the best of the best, and they are not used to losing. Many of them come from college powerhouses where they regularly won conference or even national championships. They certainly do not expect to lose five games in a row. For many players, it would be easy to admit defeat and mail it in for the rest of the season. But players with winning attitudes know they can get the team back on track. Through hard work and determination (and maybe a little luck), a team that begins the NFL season at a dismal 1–7 can finish with a winning record of 9–7.

By the very nature of their jobs, the members of an FM team need to have a winning attitude. In a perfect world, HVAC systems would never malfunction and carpets would never get stained. But this is not a perfect world. FMs and their teams are constantly responding to crises and putting out fires. Without a winning attitude, every day would be disheartening and dispiriting.

When interviewing a potential hire or contractor, it is important to ask questions that can reveal whether they have a winning attitude such as “Can you tell me about a time you overcame a major obstacle?” or “How do you handle employee or tenant complaints?” These questions can unearth other key qualifications as well, including strong communication and customer service skills.

Consider the team culture

It does not matter how qualified or experienced an applicant is if they do not fit the team culture. Shared values, beliefs, behaviors and attitudes are essential to ensuring team members are on the same page and working toward the same goals. It takes just one bad apple to spoil the bunch—or one toxic member to destroy a team.

Similarly, talent and size will only take a football player so far. Coaches want players who show up on time, listen to their coaches and teammates and give their best effort. In other words, they want players who are reliable, respectful and hardworking. Players who argue with their coaches, miss practices and consistently make bad choices in their personal lives become a liability and are at risk of being traded or even dropped, no matter their superstar status.

FMs should look for people who share and believe in the company’s core values, such as diversity and inclusion, environmental stewardship and transparency. When interviewing job candidates, asking about the accomplishments they are most proud of or the ways they measure success might reveal details about their values. When evaluating potential third-party contractors or vendors, it is a good idea to seek out mission-based companies who have similar corporate values and are committed to putting purpose above profit.

Ensuring personal and corporate values align benefits both the FM team and the individual team member. Common passions and interests bring team members together and build strong relationships. Team members are more motivated, more inspired and more productive. Ultimately, they achieve greater success. By considering both culture fit and job fit when hiring, FMs are more likely to build a true championship team.

About the Author

Mark CannonMark Cannon is the president of APEX Surface Care, a national specialty surface care company and Certified B Corporation headquartered in Texas. Cannon was drafted out of the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984 and played center and long snapper for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts over the course of his seven-year career. As a member of the Packers, he served as the team representative on the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA).


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