Talk the Talk
Why communication skills are crucial for facilities managers.
By: Jamie Friedlander Serrano
When many people think about facilities management, they picture tasks that occur behind the scenes — the lights being turned on in the morning, the HVAC system being set to the perfect temperature, the sidewalks being paved. People don’t often think about the importance of soft skills like communication and presenting, said Michel Theriault, a Facilities Management Consultant based in Ontario, Canada, with over 30 years of experience managing large portfolios of buildings.
Employees who work in departments like finance, operations and human resources are more likely than those in facilities to have received training in business communication, Theriault said. But he believes changes in the industry — such as the much higher cost of real estate and the increased complexity of what’s being managed — have made communication more important than ever for facilities managers (FMs).
“When you think about legislation, environmental requirements, the complexity of new buildings and the technology that goes into them, the need for better communication and related influence in facilities management is greater,” said Theriault, who wrote the book “Managing Facilities & Real Estate.” “I think the key thing many facilities people don’t realize is that they’re competing with their peers for resources.”
Although most FMs communicate extremely well when it comes to technical solutions for problems, Theriault believes many struggle when it comes to selling that solution to their peers or superiors. They know what needs to be done, but they often can’t convince people why it needs to happen.
“It’s not because they’re necessarily bad writers or speakers, it’s because they don’t think about the reason why they’re writing or speaking,” he said. “Facilities people are not, by nature, salespeople. They are people who get things done — they do things. And that is a mindset that needs to be shifted a bit, so they can have a combination of those skills.”
Whether it’s getting a staff member to follow instructions or persuading one’s boss to give them resources and approval for a project, communication is a crucial part of the job. “In facilities management, communication is about influencing and persuading in order to get the people, the resources and the projects that we need in order to do our jobs,” Theriault said. “You can have the best idea or the greatest solution, but if you cannot convince somebody to give you the resources, then you’ll get nowhere.”
To help FMs improve their communication skills, Theriault developed a three-part webinar series for ConnexFM. Here is a brief overview of the three webinars.
1. Presenting More Effectively
Theriault said knowing how to present well is important because many presentations — like status reports to senior management — can be a large part of business justifications. “Presentations need to not just convey data, information and what we did last month, but also the benefits and achievements of FMs to help influence the future of facilities management,” he said.
This webinar breaks down why traditional presentation best practices aren’t always effective. It doesn’t focus on the tactical side of presenting, like how to stand in front of a crowd, Theriault said, but rather the strategy behind how to better present information and create visuals to achieve one’s goals.
2. Communicating in Person
The second part of the webinar series covers how to communicate better in person, whether in a large meeting with staff or with one individual, such as a Supplier or client. The objective of this presentation, Theriault said, is to equip FMs with a better understanding of how to achieve a result from each of their business interactions. The presentation also helps attendees create and refine their elevator pitch.
“I think ultimately, the biggest message here is that every time you communicate, you have to think about what your objective is,” he said.
3. Trade Show Preparation
The third webinar, Theriault said, is designed to help FMs go beyond the traditional sales pitch and leverage their interactions at conferences, like the ConnexFM | 2022 National Conference. FMs don’t typically have a concrete plan for how to maximize the tradeshow floor, he said, and this presentation gives them strategies to help, such as understanding how to get their needs across when walking up to a Supplier booth.
Theriault looks forward to giving brass-tacks advice to FMs during his three-part webinar series. “Communication is a topic I’m extremely passionate about and that I feel FMs need to be better at in order to navigate the business world and get the resources they need to do the professional job they want to do,” he said.
Learn About Communication
To learn more about Michel Theriault’s webinar series, visit connexfm.com/Education-Resources/Webinars.