Being far from the embrace of your spouse and children is a great hardship. Yet this is a familiar feeling for those of us who travel for work. You must cover your work responsibilities while longing to be home with your family. You quickly dream up a myriad of ways to reduce your time on the road, because these dreams have to be achieved while you manage remote locations and effectively supervise your team.
My current facilities management role oversees 8 regional campus locations, 11 medical clinic sites, and 6 corporate buildings. These locations spread across Florida, Colorado, and Puerto Rico, and are separate from Nova Southeastern University’s Fort Lauderdale Campus, which is housed across 300-plus acres in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
For me, seeing my team and reviewing the needs I am responsible for is not as simple as walking down the hallway or jumping on a golf cart. It takes a lot more coordinating to achieve the desired results. APPA, the facilities management team at Nova Southeastern University, and my family have helped me develop my five “Ts” for building and maintaining productive remote relationships.
Trust, even without the pressure of remote supervisory responsibilities, is already an elusive task. Those you supervise remotely need you to show up, manage resources, represent the department well, and troubleshoot problems. You are expected to be available at a moment’s notice, have resources to solve every problem, listen to the remnants of negative interactions, and be ready to travel 300 miles or more. Trust in this context can be defined as never feeling alone. This is an important part of belonging to APPA—it reassures you that you are never actually alone.
It is impossible to be at all your locations all the time. To keep the structure from failing, time management is of outmost importance. How do I make it home in time for my anniversary? Will my son’s birthday celebration get moved back a few weeks to accommodate the Southeastern Region (SRAPPA) Annual Conference? These are examples of deliberations that require managing time well. The list goes on and on—and includes ordering supplies, hiring contractors, getting the project done on time, and staying on budget. At some point you prioritize, consolidate, and act proactively and plan for tomorrow—and for Tuesday—and Thursday. You get my point. As the great mantra goes, “Time lost or wasted can never be regained.”
“Zoom…Zoom…Zoom…” used to be the sound of my work truck heading up the highway. Now the word “Zoom” represents a staple of our daily communications. Video technology is not new. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a revisit of how we use technology to effectively communicate. I still remember the YouTube video our university vice president issued shortly after the entire university and the state of Florida went on lockdown. He did not have all the answers, but we were reassured that someone was working on them. Nova Southeastern University, like many other colleges, had online components built into their learning platforms. It was the leveraging of technology that played a great role in keeping many colleges viable. The same was true for maintaining remote relationships. I cannot begin to tell you how many inspections I have completed via FaceTime. My colleague who is four hours away won the inaugural ugly sweater contest at our first (and hopefully last) annual online holiday party. It is with the use of technology that I became the first Certified Education Facility Professional (CEFP) at my University, and through technology we have more than tripled our staff’s continuing education hours via APPA’s Facilities Symposiums, SRAPPA workshops, and weekly webinars.
One of my favorite sayings goes like this: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will never depart from it.” I believe the same is true for a productive team. When working with a remote team, is it important that procedures and processes are standardized. There are always anomalies, but at the core there should be guiding principles that each member of the team can utilize to accomplish their portion of the task. This is why programs like the CEFP, the Supervisor’s Toolkit, the APPA Facilities Symposium, and the SRAPPA conference as well as other regional conferences are so important. These standardize FM language, bring FM trends to the forefront, and create invaluable professional networks. When managing a remote team, proper training moves the conversation and project along much more quickly.
I believe it is also important to note that not all trainings are created equal. After all, if you practice the wrong thing long enough you will get good at doing the wrong thing. This is why trusted organizations like APPA have stood the test of time and keep delivering quality training.
I cannot come to the last T without one more gem. Come on everyone! Say it with me: “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work.” Just in case I have been too long-winded, and you forgot the dream, the dream is to be successful at running remote locations while ensuring those you love have the attention and time they deserve.
This is only possible if you and your team work together. Generally speaking, your hands do not perform the duties of your foot, nor do you speak with your ears, but they are still a part of a great team called the body. When creating and maintaining productive remote relationships, each team member must know their role and fulfill it. Each team member must seek to know what the other team members do and intentionally learn how to complete the same tasks. If teamwork means helping the dreams of others come true, some team members cannot be left having nightmares over what someone else failed to do.
APPA taught me the need for this, especially during the pandemic. It was the national APPA team, working with the SRAPPA regional team, that helped my local team excel during a difficult time.
In closing, I know at first glance that the five Ts might sound super fancy. But what is more important than five principles that actually work? Trust, Time Management, Technology, Training, and Teamwork. APPA and your region have a vital role in all of these coming to fruition.
Mallica Reynolds is assistant director of regional facilities at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He can be reached at email@example.com. This is his first article for Facilities Manager.