clean floor inside hallway of Hillside Middle School in Salt Lake City Utah
The custodial crew does an amazing job of maintaining Hillside Middle School

Trust can be just as important as the quality of service you offer. A reputation for honesty is the bedrock upon which to build long-term relationships. This is why you should always be honest in your communications. Remember, trust takes a long time to build, but can be lost instantly.

We gain trust when we are accountable for our actions and responsibilities. This is an essential element to sustaining positive relationships. Having a routine inspection for you and your employees is a great way to track accountability.

It is also important to take ownership of your mistakes. Don’t blame or make excuses. Instead, propose solutions.

For example, let’s suppose you forget to set up for an event and the principal confronts you with, “Why didn’t you set up for the after-school program? I let you know a week ago. I even e-mailed you.”

What not to do is lay blame elsewhere: “There’s something wrong with my computer, and I don’t receive emails.” And don’t make excuses: “Lunch was a mess. I’ve been getting a lot of clean-up calls. I’ve been really busy.”

The proper way to handle this is: “You’re right. I read the e-mail this morning, but I forgot. I’m going stay late and help my crew set up so it’ll be done before the event starts.”

Mistakes are going to happen, but the more you blame or make excuses, the faster you will lose the trust of others. Instead, always own up to your mistake and offer a solution, then make sure you follow up.

Not following up with a patron or staff member is a recipe for disaster. Don’t lose credibility, take appropriate action. Problems will not solve themselves; it takes the desire to be a problem-solver if we are not to be considered just the person who sweeps the floor.

By integrating the concepts of internal leadership, external leadership and personal leadership concurrently, we can change the culture of being known as mere “cleaners.” We can evolve into being known as leaders and innovators, the defensive frontline in fostering clean, healthy learning environments. 

MERVIN BREWER is an Assistant Custodial Manager who has worked in the Salt Lake City School District, Utah, for 38 years — the last 12 as a District Supervisor. He is in charge of research and development of new techniques and procuring new cleaning supplies and chemicals within a nationally recognized “Green Cleaning Program.” He also assists in administering a nationally and internationally recognized integrated pest management program. Brewer is a founding member of Healthy Schools Campaign’s Green Clean Schools Leadership Council and shares his expertise through presentations at state maintenance organization events, on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency webinars and on stage at industry conventions.

RICKY MARTINEZ is an Assistant Custodial Supervisor at Salt Lake City School District. His key role is developing training for the custodial staff and assisting in the administration of the district’s Integrated Pest Management Program. During his 25 years with the District, Martinez has served on a committee that was successful in obtaining a School Improvement Grant and was selected to visit Washington D.C. to provide input on the successes of the grant. He was responsible for establishing a recycling program that changed the culture within the district and became the model for other schools. He also piloted and implemented a green cleaning program that included environmentally responsible chemicals and processes. Martinez also serves as the Vice President of the Utah Schools Custodial Managers Association and former President of the Utah Schools Employee Association.

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