Importance of resilience in estates and facilities management leadership

Covid-19 has changed the landscape for estates and facilities leadership teams who have been forced to adopt new ways of working in a very short time period. In areas such as higher education and the NHS, this has had a direct impact on saving lives by providing effective facilities for research and the delivery of medicine to affected patients.

Covid-19 has put efficient facilities management at the top of the strategic agenda and leaders who can demonstrate resilience and an openness to change with new ways of working will soar in their future careers.

We asked one of the sector’s most renowned leadership coaches on her views on resilience and the future of management in the sector. Melanie Loizou runs her own management and training consultancy with past clients including the University of Surrey and University of the Arts London. She recently had a book published called When Fish Climb Trees: Can-do leadership in a world of can’t which explores many of these issues in more detail.

What are your views on the importance of resilience in leadership?

I have always believed that great leaders need to be resilient. 2020 has tested our resilience to the limit and I have seen even the most capable leaders struggle with everything that has happened.

Resilience is often defined as the ability to recover from difficult situations but for me it’s more than that especially in the leadership context.  It’s about our capacity to remain resourceful in our thoughts, feelings and behaviours when faced with challenges and then take all that learning and apply it, so we don’t just bounce back but are actually end up in a better place as a result of it.

Do you think Covid is a learning opportunity for teams to explore new ways of working and adopt new practices?

Yes, it is, and I bet if you were to list down all the new skills you have acquired since March you would be surprised how much that was ‘new’ has become part and parcel of your working life.

Many of my clients have been surprised how quickly they have been able to take a seed of an idea and implement it – one that they would have labelled impossible prior to Covid.  It’s amazing what teams can achieve when they are all focused on a common goal and the usual dynamics (silo working, red tape and a ‘yes but’ mentality) are put to one side.

I really hope leaders look back at all their teams’ successes during this time and identify what was different from how they worked previously so they can embed these practices into their processes.

Are leaders born with resilience or is it a skill one can learn?

Some leaders can naturally be more resilient than others,  but it is definitely a skill that can be learned.  There are five dimensions to resilience: emotional, social, spiritual, physical and mental.  The first step is recognising where a leader has natural resilient habits and where there are opportunities to develop.  Of course, all of the dimensions are inter-related, so the ideal is to have a balance of skill across all five areas.

With facilities management now playing such a key part in creating a Covid secure environment, will future FM stars be strong in embracing new ideas and change management?

Absolutely, as long as they are happy to take all their learning and apply it to future challenges rather than storing them away in a box marked “TOXIC – NEVER OPEN AGAIN”.

In 2018, Forbes magazine highlighted the importance of resilience long before Covid lockdowns and the challenges of remote working and disparate teams. Their views have never been more apt:

‘When we think of resiliency, the image comes to mind of a person who just completed an ultra-marathon with two prosthetic legs. We do not think of a leader who went through a gruelling year and came out a better leader. While personal resiliency is important, it is a critical component of effective leadership’.

‘The true grit of a leader is not how they perform during the good times but rather how they display emotional strength, courage and professionalism during the most trying times. It is impossible to demonstrate resilience unless you have gone through difficult times. For example, a leader who leads a team during a time of leadership transition, through a period of high turnover, through an organizational restructuring or through a season where surveys revealed poor performance. The harder the leadership challenge is, the easier it is to develop a resilient leadership posture’.

Assessing the skills required in the new settings can be difficult and a traditional competency interview might not yield the information required. Many interviewers are now turning to psychometric tests such as the Thomas International Personality Profile Analysis (PPA) which looks at behavioural style.  We have a number of trained assessors within The Management Recruitment Group and are happy to discuss how they can be applied during a recruitment process.

Michael Hewlett, Director, The Management Recruitment Group

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