Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with ‘Olympia’, a Facilities Coordinator at a national law firm. Also a student and a mother, I talked to Olympia about working in the facilities field and what leadership means to her.
Tell me about the facilities field. It it typically a male dominated arena?
Yes it is. Only 5% of people in the field are women. The challenge for me has been, how not to be a bitch in order to get the job done. When I meet other women they are bitches but they get the job done. I’ve witnessed them myself and with the exception of one, all women were bitches. The one exception was a Facilities Manager who was recently let go. I don’t know why she was let go. My mentors tell me that I don’t need to be a bitch to get the job done. They tell me to be firm and at times aggressive but that there is no need to be nasty.
Would you have any advice for women who want to work in the facilities field?
Don’t! Just kidding. Take as many courses as possible so that you know the insides and outs of your systems. Your air conditioner systems, your pre-action systems, know what they are supposed to do. Have a thorough understanding of services that are supposed to be provided by the building. For example, know what’s in your company’s lease.
What education is needed to move up in facilities?
A Master’s Degree in Facilities Management or Business Management. Getting certified from organizations such as BOMA (Buildings Owners and Managers Association International) and IFMA (International Facilities Management Association). They have lots of courses to help you. FMA (Facilities Management Accreditation) is also important. Although each course costs about $2000.00, the course books have been my bibles.
How has the transition been moving into facilities from reception?
I think I experienced baptism by fire when I started. It was rough due to my fear of making mistakes. I was scared that I was going to shut the system down. But guess what? If the system gets shut down, it can be restored. You don’t know that going in. Another challenge has been the transition from peer to supervisor because certain men don’t like direction from women.
That being said, since you’ve been in a transitional phase, can you describe what leadership means to you?
Letting go. A true leader can do what she is asking her employees to do and realizing that it is ok to teach you what I know and not feel jeopardized. I need to feel confident in what I know.
That’s interesting because I am currently reading a book called ‘The Master Motivator’ (by Mark Victor Hansen and Joe Batten). It talks about changes in behavior and the difference between asking and telling.
Please and thank you are important. I show appreciation to the people I work with. We are all part of a team and the team can’t run without them. I also acknowledge my mistakes. I don’t let others take the hit for my mistakes. They respect me for it.
Do you believe leaders are born or made?
Tricky question. I think they are made or cultivated. But, there is something there that has to be given life.
Do you think you have a particular leadership style?
Honestly, no. I’m all over the place. I try not to be Mother Hen. I don’t think that’s a good thing.
And just to clarify, what is Mother Hen?
You fall down, Mother Hen picks you up. She is a caregiver who fixes problems. Not always the best way to do things. It’s like that quote from Ben Franklin. “Involve me and I’ll learn.” I’m learning not to be so quick to fix. I’ve learned to delegate.
It seems as if you are finding your way. On that journey, how would you describe your personal brand? It it complete or a work in progress? Have you ever thought about it?
I haven’t thought about it. But, ask me where I want to be in five years, I want to be Facilities Manager of an office. But now, you’ve given me something to think about.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve learned that anyone and everyone can be a mentor. From CEO to the cleaning staff, they all have something to contribute and all have something special to teach you, especially with the care of a building.
Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.
One more thought that I want to convey to you. Even though I came into this field late (late thirties), with no experience or Facilities Based Education, and it can be a very challenging, I can’t see myself doing anything else. I feel confident that I’m good at what I do know now and do and will become even better as I pursue my education and navigate the ‘hiccups’ that occur on a daily basis.