Dina Murray is APPA's director of member services. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The popularity of the new television show, Survivor, soared during its run, surpassing the numbers of viewers of the year's other blockbuster television hit, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? There were talks about who made the cut this week around the watercooler and on radio shows. This newfound genre of voyeuristic television is giving rise to similar programs to meet the hunger of audiences for watching the daily habits of others.
Whether you were a fan of the show or not, you are a survivor on a daily basis without even probably knowing it. Of course, you have not signed a pact of secrecy about your job or plan to appear on the morning talk show circuit after your island experience, but you do face many of the same obstacles that the two Survivor tribes faced. While no one on your staff will be forced to leave the campus for not being the most resourceful person of the day, their actions do have effects that echo throughout the campus.
What makes the skills of an island survivor transferable to the facilities arena? Because budgets are regularly reduced, educational facilities officers are left with the monumental task of making due with less, having to pool skills and creativity to complete jobs and stay afloat. It takes a combination of hard and soft skills to be competent and successful in educational facilities management. This skill set has definitely changed by definition considering that leadership was not held with the same regard as communication skills until recently. Facilities professionals must be competent in their technical skills, knowledge of complex procedures, and application of widely accepted paradigms.
It is now common knowledge that management and leadership are not the same thing. Successful APPA members know this to be true. Years ago, this would not have stirred enough interest to become a subject for Facilities Manager, but times have changed. The magazine now regularly features articles on leadership, management, measurement tools, and customer service.
Besides the magazine, APPA reinforces its members' skills by offering the Institute for Facilities Management, the Professional Leadership Center, and APPA's Educational Conference. The Franklin Covey Workshop, including the 360-degree profile review, is also offered through the Leadership Academy or can be requested as a stand-alone workshop on an academic campus.
Would you be a survivor or a cast-off if your leadership skills were reviewed today? What have you done lately to bring your skills up to date? Have you participated in any of the programs listed above or do you review leadership books that may be of interest to you listed regularly in "The Bookshelf" column in Facilities Manager? Even a visit to your local or online bookstore can help keep you up to speed on new topics in leadership.
Besides the leadership aspect of the programs mentioned above, APPA provides its membership education that in most cases is not readily available through other resources. The Resources in Facilities Management catalog offers books, periodicals, online resources, and other materials to both members and nonmenbers. APPA wants facilities management professionals to have the most current information that they will need to succeed on their campus. And if you're ready for new challenges or a change of scenery, APPA offers Job Express to help you achieve those goals in a new environment.
Plain and simple, customer service cannot be ignored as a measurable denominator of any job performance. Most people practice customer service without even knowing it. Customer service is not a fancy or complicated discipline, but disregard any aspect of it and the rumbling of discontent will be heard coming from your customers, students, and administration. Most of the time there is no immediately recognizable reward for good customer service. The real reward is knowing that the job was well done, and that your next performance review recognizes your skills.
Everyone talks about teamwork, but is it theory or practice on your campus and in your professional life? Each week on Survivor one member of a team was voted off the island for one infraction or another, ranging from poor communication with others, lack of survival skills, attitude, or, most importantly, lack of teamwork. Obviously, some participants took this very seriously each week to beat the odds of dismissal off the island. How do you let your staff know that "teamwork" is not just a concept to you? To paraphrase Hillary Clinton, "It takes a facilities team to have a functioning campus." In order to stay afloat, be bankable, or be deserving of a promotion, all businesses, whether profit or nonprofit, must work at a capacity above merely functioning just to compete in a world that moves faster and changes at a speed of technological obsolescence.
Island inhabitants have only indigenous materials to survive on a daily basis. Palm fronds and other plants were used to make huts and sticks were sharpened to make spears in order to catch dinner. Educational facilities managers are constantly faced with making due with less. If it's not the budget, it's stretching staff, or reduced education and travel appropriations. Regularly, you and your staff make decisions on capital renewal and deferred maintenance. It's all about making the soundest choices for today and in the future based on the information at hand.
The Survivor website featured a brief description of each tribe member. Those who watched the show talked about their favorite person as well as the one they thought will be the ultimate survivor. Some would rally with a participant who they thought had skills like their own and therefore their own survival rate would not be in question. The popularity of the show rests in our innate need to survive, to achieve, and ultimately to come out on top. APPA wants you to achieve your career goals as educational facilities professionals by not just surviving but thriving in an atmosphere that encourages your professional growth through education and leadership.