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22 October 2018
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FM DNA: Nature or know-how?

(Left to right) Deborah Rowland, 2013 BIFM FM of the Year, Tricia Stanley (2008), Dave Richards (2003), Julie Kortens, (2010 winner and current BIFM chair), Andrew Kelly (2007) and Chris Newton (2014). Credit: Graham White

Are facilities managers born great? Do some achieve greatness, while others have greatness thrust upon them? One current and five former facilities managers of the year sat down together recently to debate the issues of nature vs. nurture in FM

4 December 2014 

Six facilities managers of the Year award winners gathered recently at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London for a special BIFM People Management special interest group meeting.

The topic? What stand out as the characteristics of a truly exceptional FM.

Recently crowned ‘FMOTY’ Chris Newton, employed by Mitie on the Lloyds Banking Group contract, spoke of his growth as an FM and the steps he took to become an award winner. A lively presentation and panel debate followed, with Newton joined by 2013 winner Deborah Rowland, 2010 winner and current BIFM chair Julie Kortens, Tricia Stanley (2008), Andy Kelly (2007) and Dave Richards (2003).

A workshop involving all those ppresent came up with a list of characterstics including emotional intelligence, patience, flexibility and a pride in the organisation. Being a good influencer, commercially aware and a good collaborator were also cited. Being a diplomatic and inspirational influencer of behaviours were other key attributes.


Are strong FMs born as such, or is it a skill that can be taught?

Julie Kortens: “Yes, you can transform people (into strong FMs), but [one of our characteristics is that] we want to be transformed, we want to change. You’re generally born with respect for other people or you’re not. You can tweak people’s behaviours; but generally I think to be really successful you are born with the DNA of an FM.”

Dave Richards: “When things are not going well, people look for someone to grab to make things right. I don’t think that’s something you can teach.”

Chris Newton: “You can teach the technical skills, but you can’t teach the softer skills.” 

What did entering the BIFM Awards do for you?

Deborah Rowland: “Going through that process instilled more self-belief in me. I think I grew just by entering.”

Tricia Stanley, 2008’s FM of the Year: I didn’t feel like I was talking about myself; I saw the award as a result of all the people in my team, not just something belonging to me.”

Dave Richards: “I was on the judging panel when Tricia won in 2008. The thing that appealed to me most was the way that she almost fel t embarrassed telling us about all the things she’d achieved. I think it’s great that people are self-promoting, it’s better sometimes that you don’t. Quality talks.”

Julie Kortens: “Wendy Cuthbert phoned and asked me if I thought she should go for it [enter for FM of the Year]. Chris Stoddart asked me the same thing. So there was a humility to them.”

Inspiring a generation

Dave Richards: “Young people really have to be inspired by people to get something from them.”

Chris Newton: “At the moment, we’re not bringing through enough young talent.”

Julie Kortens: “Does it really matter whether we can describe comprehensively what FM is? We should celebrate the fact that it’s so broad, so inclusive and that there are so many opportunities. When I talk to kids of today, I tell them to come and join FM. You can work in catering, security or whatever it might be, and we will train and nurture you so that you can be a leader of the future.”

What one thing would you change?

Deborah Rowland (2013): “We have to start working better with procurement.”

Dave Richards (2003): “Our approach to work-life balance: we focus on grinding out excessive hours and mistake that for productivity.”

Chris Newton (2014): “I’ve got to release control, to empower people to make decisions and let those teams flourish.”

Andy Kelly (2007): “To get my senior management team to take a step back. It’s not all about the bottom line, it’s about the service you deliver.”

Julie Kortens (2010): “There isn’t a thing I would change about what I do!” 

The photographer for the event was Graham White. The full set of photos from the event can be seen at his Flickr site.