Ada BaldwinAda Baldwin, MA, M.R.E.S.E.
Director for University Housekeeping
North Carolina State University

Babette BeeneBabette Beene
Environmental Services Manager
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Doreen BassertDoreen Bessert, C.E.S.E.
Worksite Placement Coordinator, Custodial Supervisor & Central Purchasing Agent
Manitowoc County DPW

Michael JonesMichael Jones
Director of Custodial Services
Columbia Public Schools

Gene WoodardGene Woodard, R.E.S.E.
Director of Building Services
University of Washington

Many managers have been in their position for a long time. What advice would you give industry veterans who might be stuck in a rut?

Baldwin — Take time to refresh your mind. Relax and do things that you enjoy. This will assist in getting out of the work mode and into "Life mode." It provides a time to reflect upon what your personal goals are. Develop a plan and strategy of where you envision yourself both personally and professionally within the next five years. Identify areas of conflict, stagnation, frustration and road blocks in what you are trying to achieve. Then list solutions for the areas that you have identified.
Develop and understand your staff. Learn weaknesses and strengths among your staff and assign/delegate tasks accordingly. Review and learn new business models and engage your staff into team building projects.
Continuous improvement of yourself, your career, staff members, professional development and organizational development helps to avoid being “stuck in a rut.”

Beene — In our environment, you have to stay engaged with your staff. Let them know the importance of their job and recognize them for jobs well done. Let them know the opportunities that exist at your facilities, and encourage and mentor them so that they can grow to be the best that they can be. Also, be fair when making those hard decisions.

Jones — New, emerging technologies helps keep interest. Every facility or department constantly changes, and managers have to be flexible, accept new challenges and provide solutions utilizing a team approach.

Woodard — My advice is that one should always be attempting to improve individually and departmentally. Try to be a lifetime learner, explorer and opportunity seeker. I’ve always thought that if I am not improving, then I must be falling behind. It goes back to leading with humility and realizing that there are so many learning or teachable moments, and new things to try.
My department is regularly evaluating new products, processes and piloting programs. If it doesn’t work, then we try something else, or we become more confident that a particular practice and/or process is the best that it can be today. But that may not remain the case tomorrow.
I’ve worked with people who are “stuck in a rut,” so to speak. Attempt to find out what they are passionate about or discover something that they can become exceptional at doing and give them the opportunity. It’s worked some of the time. However, I have learned that once a person falls into a rut, they can stay stuck for a while.

What advice would you give to a new manager just promoted into the position of overseeing a department?

Baldwin — My recommended tools for becoming a successful manager are: Communicate, document and empower. Additionally, learn policies and procedures regarding budgets/purchasing and human resources.

Beene — Educate yourself and network. Be assertive, meet people within the industry and build relationships. I’d recommend joining an association such as IEHA that offers education — register for IEHA’s boot camp.

Bessert — If they are not already, put a good recordkeeping system in place. Keep track of purchases and repairs of equipment (including dollar amounts) to better plan for replacements in the future. Inventory cleaning supplies (if possible) to know where and how much product is needed and how much to keep on hand.  
Also, don’t try to come on board and make a lot of changes immediately. Wait to see what is working or not and then make appropriate changes where needed. Above all — keep an open-door policy and be approachable to your staff.

Jones — Don’t make any changes until you have time to visit all departments, listen to staff on what is working or not, and their ideas to improve operations. Establish a team to discuss and review changes. Including them in the changes will help with gain buy-in from the staff.

Woodard — I would say do a whole lot of listening and get out and establish relationships with your team members, key customers, and those that can help you understand the policies and procedures you will need to understand. Refrain from making quick judgements or decisions until you have collected enough input to make a well-informed decision. Talk to your people about your leadership style and philosophy. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

What advantages are there to being part of an industry association/group?

Baldwin — Knowledge, mentorship and networking.

Beene — I had the wonderful opportunity of being recognized with the Manager of Distinction Award one year. That was amazing.

Bessert — The greatest advantage I’ve experienced has been the networking with other professionals in the industry. Questions, comments, or concerns can be shared in order to find a solution that works. Also, staying abreast of the changes occurring within the industry, and being aware of the latest and greatest products and equipment available.

Jones — The exchange of ideas with other industry professionals is extremely beneficial. Why reinvent the wheel when others have already provided a solution?

Woodard — The opportunities to learn from other industry leaders and to have a network of people in the industry that I can reach out to has been invaluable. Also, associations provide a forum to discover and share best practices. Whatever you put into an association membership is returned to you twofold.

previous page of this article:
Cleaning Industry Veterans Share Management Tips
next page of this article:
Biggest Challenges Cleaning Managers Face