TemptationOne of the most significant challenges of being the leader of an FM team is sometimes to be able to step away from the day-to-day detail of the job, away from the intricacies and the minutiae that can bog us down from seeing the bigger picture. There are five behaviours which we need always to be able to master if we are to be able to lead our teams and our organisations to success. These behaviours may seem like common sense, but they are hampered by corresponding temptations of the human condition that can lead us astray.

This post pays unashamed homage to the book The Five Temptations of a CEO by Patrick Lencioni and draws heavily upon the five simple human temptations we can be quickly drawn into as a leader.

The book which was written ten years ago, is unique amongst other business books as it is told as a fable of a company CEO who is about to face his first annual board review. Lencioni uses the power of storytelling to illustrate the frailties of leadership and the consequences of the human condition.

I have taken the five temptations that Lencioni outlined in his book and applied those to a Facilities Management context.

Temptation #1 – Choose Status over Results

The most important principle for any FM leader to grasp is the desire to produce results for our Clients, whether these are in-house colleagues or outsourced Customers and however they are measured. Whether this is input, output or even outcome-based, the agreed metrics become the sole arbiter of your performance. 

Having achieved a level of seniority within your organisation that has put you at the head of a team, many Facilities Managers fall foul to the most dangerous of all temptations which is a desire to protect themselves and their status ahead of the team and of the results they are responsible for. The FM leader is ultimately accountable for the results and so this must be your ultimate measure of success or failure.

many Facilities Managers fall foul to the most dangerous of all temptations which is a desire to protect themselves and their status ahead of the team and of the results they are responsible for Click To Tweet

It is true that circumstance does not always lead to situations over which you have the final control, but rather than making excuses, make results the most important measure of personal success, or step aside and let someone else do the job. The future of your customers, employees and shareholders is too precious to hold on to, in hostage to your ego.

Temptation #2 – Choose Popularity over Accountability

Even FM leaders who managed to master Temptation #1 and not to focus on protecting their status, will still fail. Why? Because they do not hold their direct reports accountable for delivering on the commitments that drive the results. 

This happens because they succumb to Temptation #2: The desire to be popular.

Being a leader can be lonely. The desire to be popular and liked by your direct reports and team is understandable but profoundly threatening to the effectual working of the team. In a tight-knit team, it is common to have close friends as your direct reports, but you cannot be in a situation where you’re distracted from your mission particularly if they are unhappy with decisions you’ve made. 

You will have to implement difficult, decisions from the senior executive. This may even include having to retrench members of your team and so you cannot afford to succumb to choosing popularity over accountability. 

This is particularly true when it comes to the time to conduct performance reviews when there is a temptation to water down feedback to make it more palatable for your team members. Far better is to provide constructive negative feedback as soon as possible, before this degenerates into a full-blown performance problem resulting in having to fire an individual.

The desire to be popular means that we may not hold our direct reports accountable for delivering on commitments that drive results.

I am not saying that you cannot have a social relationship with your team and that you need to be aloof and unapproachable but concentrate on working for the long-term respect your direct reports, not their affection. Do not view them as a support group, but as crucial employees who must deliver on their commitments if the company is to produce predictable results.

Temptation #3 – Choose Certainty over Clarity

Even FM leaders who conquer Temptation #2, in protecting their status and who do not seek popularity with their team also fail.  Why? Because even if they are willing to hold their team members accountable for the results, they are often reluctant to do so because they don’t think it’s fair. The sense of fairness does not come from external, influences it is because they have not made it clear to their direct reports what they are accountable for. 

Why don’t they make these things clear? Because they give in to Temptation #3 and the need to make “correct” decisions, to achieve certainty.

Many highly analytical FM Leaders especially those from technical backgrounds want to ensure that their decisions are correct, which is impossible in a world of imperfect information and uncertainty. 

Where there is an overwhelming need by the FM leader for precision and correctness, decisions around the teams’ deliverables get postponed and the FM leader fails to clarify the team accountabilities. 

In situations that are complex and ambiguous, where there are no clear answers, these leaders tend to provide vague and hesitant direction to their direct reports. This is done in the hope that they will disguise their own lack of certainty and that the team will figure out the right answers along the way. The chances of this happening are slim.

FM leaders need to make clarity more important than certainty. Remember that your people will learn more if you take decisive action than if you always wait for more information. Indecision will rob you and your team of momentum. If you’re going to make mistakes make mistakes fast and learn from them.

FM leaders need to make clarity more important than certainty. Remember that your people will learn more if you take decisive action than if you always wait for more information. Click To Tweet

As a Leader, it is your job to risk being wrong. The only real cost of this approach is a possible loss of pride. The cost to the company of not taking the risk may be paralysis or worse.

Temptation #4 – Choose Harmony over Conflict

Even FM leaders who resist the temptation to protect their status to be popular with their team members and who make clear and decisive choices sometimes fail because they don’t feel comfortable with the decisions they have made. 

Why is that? Because the leader has not made use of the best source of information that is always available to them: their direct reports. Why not? Because they give into Temptation #4: The desire for harmony.

Good decisions can only happen when they are based upon the best information available. The best information does not just happen it is forged by the airing of alternate and conflicting opinion. 

Productive and constructive conflict that comes from different ideologies is essential to the formation of the best solutions but this can be challenging in a team environment where it is more comfortable for people to agree and get along.

Unless we engage in understanding all of the perspectives of the team members we cannot hope to have considered all of the possible options. When all the knowledge and opinion within the team have been passionately shared and considered, the chances of optimal decisions are greater as well as the likelihood of confidence in those decisions by the team.

For better solutions, we may need to tolerate temporary discord in the team. We need to encourage our direct reports to air their ideological differences and to do this with passion. Difficult and raucous meetings are often a sign of progress providing this does not degenerate into attacks on each other’s personality or to the point of stifling important decisions or the viewpoints of the less outgoing members of the team.

Temptation #5 – Choose Invulnerability over Trust

And so we come to the last temptation, Even FM leaders who resist the temptation to protect their leadership position status, to be popular with their team, to make quick decisions and to create harmony sometimes fail. Why? Because even when they are willing to encourage productive conflict their team members may not be willing to do so. Why not? Because the team leader gives into Temptation #5 which is the desire for invulnerability.

As an FM leader you have a team for whom that you are responsible. Trust lies at the heart of a well functioning and cohesive team. Without it, teamwork is impossible. As the leader of that team you are in a position of power and being vulnerable with your team is not always a comfortable prospect. But it is a mistake to believe that you will lose credibility if you allow your people to feel too comfortable in challenging your ideas.

being vulnerable with your team is not always a comfortable prospect. But it is a mistake to believe that you will lose credibility if you allow your people to feel too comfortable in challenging your ideas. Click To Tweet

While trust means allowing your team to be able to challenge your ideas, this is often not enough. Your people need to be able to know that the circle of trust allows them to feel safe in challenging your opinions. If you do not then the resultant culture is one of groupthink around the FM leaders opinion.

I am reminded of the response from Nelson Mandela when asked what made him such a great leader. He said that he learned from his Father who was the principal counsellor to the King of the Thembu, that in any meeting where you are the leader always be the last to offer your opinion. This allows three things, firstly; everyone else has a voice and feels as though they have been heard. Secondly opinion is not guided by or necessarily aligned with the leaders. Thirdly, it allows you as the leader, to have heard everyone else’s opinion and to consider facts that you may not have been aware of before you proffer your opinion. 

Trust requires team members to make themselves vulnerable to one another in the certain knowledge that those vulnerabilities will not be used against them, this is particularly true of the leader. So, no matter how counterintuitive it feels, allow yourself to be vulnerable and encourage your team to challenge your ideas. As the team leader this is the greatest level of trust you can have in your team and they will return this with respect and honesty.

Conclusion

FM leaders  who focus on results more than status, accountability more than popularity, clarity more than certainty, productive conflict more than harmony and trust more than invulnerability can still fail, but only if they are thwarted by competitive market pressures that are largely out of their control.

In my earlier post The 5 Reasons your Team is not Performing I elaborate on another Patrick Lencioni book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. As with that model this one needs to be applied in reverse order thereby illustrating the sequential impact of the principles upon one another.  

  1. Instilling trust gives the team members the confidence to have productive conflict.
  2. Fostering conflict gives team members confidence to create clarity
  3. Clarity gives team members the confidence to hold each other accountable
  4. Accountability gives team members confidence in the expected results
  5. And results are a team’s ultimate measure of long-term success.