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Is every workday being different a good thing?

15 September 2014  

Every boss needs to study his team for signs that his people are not coping as well as they should, blogs John Bowen.

One thing that is likely to grab my interest on TV – and there isn’t a lot these days – is a fly-on-the-wall style programme. Although I accept that these things are carefully edited so as to keep people watching, I do enjoy looking behind the scenes.

I’m not sure what the fascination with seeing what someone else does at work is in general, because it can’t be just me that finds these day-in-the-life programmes interesting. If there weren’t a mass appeal they would not make them. 

I enjoy seeing how things work or what makes things happen and it is not just a personal interest, but a professional one too.

One of the things that often comes out is that there are few typical days. Yes, there are routines, but even in the most routine jobs there are things that don’t always go to plan and there will often be a vox pop from one of those featured to say how much they enjoy the variety, how every day is different and how that makes the job one that they love.

Having people on your team who love their job is a great thing because that alone will do the job of motivating them for you. They will want to get to work each day and do their thing, but although that makes the job of leading such a team easier, it carries an underlying danger.

If you have a job where every day is different and where there is a high level of the unexpected it can be very stressful if you are not well enough equipped to deal with all of the slings and arrows that come your way. 

It is all very well to be running on adrenaline, but it is very wearing so there is a personal physical danger to consider.

Then there is an organisational danger in that if you have a group of people who are constantly firefighting they are not planning, let alone managing. What you need is a balance that keeps the job interesting, but by which your team has the tools in place to enable it to cope with what the day brings.

Those tools may be processes or knowledge rather than just physical tools, but they all need to be backed up by the people using them knowing that they have the support of their boss. And that boss needs to be watching his team, looking for signs that his people are not coping as well as they should.

And what about the people on your team with the really routine jobs? Don’t assume that they are bored because there are people who are happy just to come in, plough through eight hours of routine and go home. As a leader you need to know your people and understand what makes them tick.

It is good that so many people enjoy their jobs because it suggests that there are a lot of bosses out there who are getting it right. But all of us who lead teams need to learn to look at what is going on and to understand our people. You don’t get that from traditional appraisal processes - you get it by opening your eyes and ears, from watching and listening.

Talk to your people regularly about what they need to make things work and put those things in place for them. Happy and satisfied people deliver results.

John Bowen is an FM consultant