10 Smart Questions Every Facility Manager Should Ask Themselves

by Elizabeth Dukes on May 1, 2014

Inc. Magazine recently published a very informative article called 100 Great Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask. Although every question is appropriate for leaders spanning every industry, we have tailored a few (and quoted a few exactly) that we felt were the most relevant to the Facility Manager’s role.

1. How will your role change in the next 5 years?

The first consideration is your current role in the organization. Are you still considered part of the back-office? Is your primary role to ensure the facility and services are delivered the most economically? Or are you engaged with company leadership in helping to create a workspace that is flexible to meet the changing dynamics of the workforce? The professional world is changing, along with the environment we work in. Being able to define your role today will certainly help you clarify your future position. In Sodexo’s 2014 Workplace Trends publication, they highlighted 30 different jobs predicted for 2030. A couple of job titles their team of leading futurists described include:

– Office Concierge – This person will help managers and teams identify the type of space to reserve and coordinate scheduling, as well as all necessary resources such as desks, chairs, technology and even walls to meet specific individual or collaborative need of the workforce.

– Office Quartermaster – This person will provide staff with the resources they need to get their work done – whether it is technology, web access, office space, office supplies, training or the many other things it takes to produce work effectively and efficiently.

Do you see yourself in one of these roles?

2. How do you want to be viewed by the Executive team and the general work population?

Do you want to be considered a contributor to the success of the organization or just the person who makes sure the lights are on and the toilet is not clogged? We are certainly not trying to minimize the need to have functional and clean restrooms. It is one of the most basic requirements for creating productive workspaces. However, you and your team have so much more to offer in terms of space management and service in a dynamic work environment.

3. Are we changing as fast as the world around us? -Gary Hamel, author and management consultant

No way! The world is changing at a rapid fire pace. No organization can keep the pace and still focus on their core business. However, it is critical to keep abreast of these changes and understand how they would impact your company. Change is definitely a requirement in today’s dynamic world, but each change must be thoughtfully evaluated and validated as a valuable asset for your organization.

4. Do you have the right people on the bus? -Jim Collins, author and management consultant

Is your team made up of hard-working professionals that are diligent in their efforts and deliver quality services, but are unwilling to learn new ways of doing their job or refuse to embrace technology? Expertise is definitely a critical requirement for delivery of workplace services. But in the words of Bob Dylan, “things are a changin’. Your team needs to be comprised of not only expertise but of individuals with the desire to learn new ways of doing business. A Forbes article titled How Google Picks New Employees lists their core attributes for hiring new talent. The number one criteria is the “Ability to Learn”. Food for thought, coming from the 55th ranked company in the United States.

5. What should we stop doing? -Peter Drucker, a management expert and author.

We all have wish lists of things we would like to accomplish, both personally and professionally. It is easy to get caught up in our day-to-day activities, putting our wish list on the back burner until things calm down. Do you have a pile of proposals on your desk for alternative solutions and technology that could dramatically enhance your operation and yield you better control? Stop and take the time to evaluate and implement these solutions. The upfront investment in time and resources may be significant but the payback is beneficial to your organization as well as your personal satisfaction.

6. What prevents me from making the changes I know will make me more effective? -Marshall Goldsmith, leadership coach and author

There could be a variety of factors holding you back from change. Lack of time, lack of expertise to effectively make the change, lack of resources to implement and the list goes on. Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator recommends identifying small subsets of your organization’s issues and projects, implementing them in stages rather than all at once. Not only will your tasks seem less overwhelming, but you then have the ability to delegate some of those responsibilities to other members of your team. This outside perspective may help you identify issues and solutions that you might otherwise have missed.

7. What are the gaps in my knowledge and experiences? -Charles Handy, author and management expert

The only way to climb to the top (and stay there) is to continuously learn and grow. Surrounding yourself with a team of the strongest and most diverse talent is critical. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of each member of your team and how you can learn from each other. Seek out ways to build on the knowledge you currently have, as well as filling in your knowledge gaps by attending seminars and subscribing to articles authored by top leaders. No matter how enlightened you are, there is always room to expand your knowledge base.

8. If the board were to bring in a new facilities manager to fill your position, what would they do differently? 

Technological advances over the last decade have led to a cut-throat, competitive market. Customers know that if they do not receive the best service to fit their needs, they can take their business down the street to Company B. The key to maintaining top-notch service is identifying what your competition has to offer over you, what you offer over your competition, and what your organization offers that could be updated or even abandoned.

9. Do you keep 50% of your time unscheduled? -Dov Frohman, engineer and executive, author 

While 50% may be a high number to strive for, the core of this statement is that leaders must maintain a gap in their schedule to allow time for reflection and contemplation. No matter how great you and your team are, there will always be setbacks along the way. The key is to learn from these experiences so that you and your company continuously grow. This “free” time will also allow you the time necessary to tackle unexpected issues as they arise, without having to abandon other current projects.

10. How will you motivate the “dishwashers”? -Bill Keena, independent casino consultant 

Keena indicates that, of all the job interview questions that could be asked, this is most critical. And there is only one correct answer: “If they are overloaded I would roll up my sleeves and start washing right alongside them.” The answer to this question speaks volumes as to the culture of your workspace environment. As the facilities manager, your customers ARE the employees. Your job is to keep your employees inspired, motivated and engaged. By rolling up your sleeves and jumping in, you show you value every employee and their contribution, building trust across the entire organization.

As the Facilities Manager for your company, you are a major contributor in the organization’s success. While you likely have a whole arsenal of tools at your disposal, perhaps the most powerful tool is question. Questions force you to look at things from various perspectives, reflecting on what is and what should be. These questions inspire you to embark in directions you might never have considered, affording you the knowledge you need to take action.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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