Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > They call my right hand men Himmler & Hess and want me fired Part 2- more tales of life on the facilities front line

They call my right hand men Himmler & Hess and want me fired Part 2- more tales of life on the facilities front line

Last week left my team and I somewhat on the back foot. The clients were ganging up demanding my head to head off the changes I wanted to make and, in at least one case, to waste a 6 figure sum. My team’s morale was on the floor and, quite frankly, I just wanted to get back down the M4 before the fog set in as the winter darkness fell, but this was not the time to be walking (OK driving) away.

Things had gone badly wrong in taking this building on and I had made a mess of the politics. These things shouldn’t get in the way of doing what is right, but they often do in an organisation where genuine leadership is a rare quality. So how do you come back from these sorts of depths?

One of the keys to leadership is a belief that the objective can be achieved. Not by you as the focal point, but by your people. Your job is to make them believe in the goal as a thing both worth doing and within their grasp, and then to do whatever you have to do get them across the line.

So there we were on this dank, grey, day with our future seemingly just as bleak; what to do?

Well to a large degree I had got the outcome that I wanted. The building was being run as a collective of fiefdoms and needed sorting out if any progress was going to be made; for 7 years they had been raiding the maintenance budget to fund other projects. The top brass may have been posturing, sore because we had control of the maintenance and operating budgets for the site, but their troops needed a better building and better facilities, and that we knew we could give them.

I had already made costed proposals to the client at board level and had their approval, so I had isolated my local problem from above and knew that I would be backed if that became necessary. We were also tacking the problem from below by enthusing the workers and middle management about what could be done. It was only at local senior management level that there was an issue and the problem had been festering long before we had come on board. I just lanced the boil.

The first job was to follow up with those senior people one on one and give them room to step back from the position that they had taken in the meeting without loss of face. I was privy to their individual business plans so presenting them with ways in which we could help them meet their targets through saving costs and, in most cases, reinvesting some of that saving in new technologies, furniture, ways of working and more gave them a way to move forward in a positive way.

One year on we had the building sorted as far as essential maintenance was concerned, almost all floors had new workstations and better space utilisation, that allowed us to bring in another functional team and sub-let their building. Everyone won in the end and all ended up with operational performance benefits because their people could work in a building that was better. My team got done what they needed to and we took over half a million a year out of the running costs of the site.

Yes we took some flack, and yes the name calling was a shame. We had to be ruthless about sorting the problems, but we did it and made friends in the end.

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