Posts

5 Characteristics Custodial Leaders Need Right Now

“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.” — John Kenneth Galbraith

Connections. We break them when we clean and disinfect surfaces throughout a building, breaking the chain of infection. Yet as a business leader, it’s also essential we build and maintain connections—particularly with the people on your team.

With so much uncertainty and disruption, many people around the globe are looking for guidance and stability. Childcare, concern of an elderly family member, personal health—these are just a few of the concerns clouding our minds right now, including the people on your team.

This presents an amazing opportunity for custodial managers to inspire and lead. 

According to leadership expert Nancy Koehn, “…real leaders are not born; the ability to help others triumph over adversity is not written into their genetic code. They are, instead, made. They are forged in crisis. Leaders become ‘real’ when they practice a few key behaviors that girls and inspire people through difficult times.” 

As we look to help our teams look beyond the shadows, what characteristics can effective leaders reveal to encourage those around us to see a future opportunity?

1. VISION

Jim Hagemann Snabe, Chairman at Siemens AG suggests that when business leaders consider a post COVID world, they should look at it as a “renewal, not a return.” 

What would a renewal of your cleaning operation look like? If you received additional budget to staff, train and supply your department, what would you want to add and why? Would you do a better job of standardizing your processes? Measuring cleaning performance? Providing additional training?

Facilities managers and custodial professionals can expect to play a bigger role in business operations following the pandemic as leaders will have a much greater appreciation for their expertise. Prepare a vision for the role of your team in a post pandemic environment and how you can improve the service you deliver. Being able to clearly communicate this vision will to only inspire your team, but also the leadership. 

2. FLEXIBILITY

Martial arts master Bruce Lee is coined with saying: “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” 

Due to the nature of the work, flexibility is a characteristic many custodial professionals already demonstrate, but this is increasingly important during a crisis. From inventory to staff, schedules to moods, almost everything is in a state of flux. Demonstrating flexibility and a growth mindset will help you better adapt and “bend with the wind.” 

3. AUTHENTICITY

When COVID first hit, Marriott President and CEO Arne Sorenson responded less than a week later in a message to Marriott employees. His message was honest, immediately tackling several sensitive topics including his personal health and the impact of COVID on their business. 

“I can tell you that I have never had a more difficult moment than this one. There is simply nothing worse than telling highly valued associates—people who are the very heart of this company—that their roles are being impacted by events completely outside of their control,” he said.

Employees watch their leaders carefully. Don’t hesitate to keep it real with your employees. This will help you earn their respect. 

4. RESILIENCY

Setbacks are inevitable. This applies to life in general, but particularly when you’re leading others during a crisis. Being resilient not only means having a plan in place to protect your team from the impact of a pandemic, but also recovering quickly when setbacks occur. 

Forbes Magazine identifies these key steps to becoming a more resilient leader: communicate powerfully, be coachable, build positive and trusting relationships, embrace risk, develop others, champion change and act decisively.  

Resiliency means creating balance by accepting the things we can’t change and creating meaningful change where we are able. 

5. INCLUSIVITY

Custodial teams are often one of the most diverse groups within a business. Building an environment where everyone on your team feels that they are accepted and belong should be a top priority for every custodial professional right now. 

According to Harvard Business Review, “what leaders say and do makes up to a 70 percent difference as to whether an individual reports feeling included.”

Recognizing biases, demonstrating cultural intelligence, collaboration and humility are just a few of the key traits inclusive leaders possess. Within a custodial operation, these attributes can inspire greater productivity than any new piece of equipment. 

*****

Cleaning is in the spotlight right now. From profiles highlighting the safety risks to janitors to features of cleaning processes, there’s a lot of dialogue happening around how buildings are cleaned.

By setting a vision for your team and leading them through the other side of this thing, you can help ensure that everyone emerges stronger.