Open-access content Thursday 15th November 2012 — updated 2.38pm, Tuesday 5th May 2020
15 November 2012
Yesterday's BIFM Women in FM conference had as its strap line, 'Let's Inspire'. It certainly lived up to that.
You'd need a heart of stone not to be inspired by the stories of Diana Man and Ismena Clout, one overcoming meningococcal septicaemia and now focused on competing in the 2016 Paralympics, the other living with secondary breast cancer on a scan-to-scan basis while chairing the BIFM.
These stories of ordinary people who have became extraordinary, in order to overcome huge personal obstacles, were complemented by presentations on a range of professional obstacles. Confidence, creativity, positive thinking, the nurturing of talent, effective written communication, mentoring and networking all were on the agenda, and all had strong speakers to make their topics come alive.
From Tee Dobinson's confidence rating system, Ruby McGregor-Smith's points on the power of positive thinking, Gwen Rhys' networking tips and Oona King's extraordinary revelations concerning melons and swords (more in our larger report, 12th December edition!), the WiFM conference did a sterling job in covering these softer management skills.
Now, it's possible that some of those not in the room might conclude that this is all a bit 'fluffy'; stuff that's nice to know, yes, and worth taking into account when looking to improve one's own performance but not necessarily essential to day-to-day FM delivery.
Not essential? Perhaps that could have been argued in earlier understandings of FM's role, but not today.
There's an emphasis shift in the skill-set of the 21st century facilities manager; a greater need to be, first and foremost, a project manager dealing constantly with people inside and outside of the organisation, bringing in specialist knowledge and abilities from third parties as needed. That means less of a focus on technical specialisms, and much, much more on being an FM 'generalist'. And that in turn means the FM needs to be something of a communication guru.
There's a case to be put that the facilities manager has to interact with more people, in a wider range of capacities, than anyone else in an organisation. That means communications skills now top the agenda; skills such as the ability to empathise and relate to different people, adapting on a case-by-case basis - and yes, even inspiring the people who work with them.
In short, even an ordinary FM needs to be an extraordinary communicator these days. And yesterday, some pretty extraordinary people made that point abundantly clear.
Martin Read is FM World managing editor