What if Abe Lincoln were a Facility Manager?

For a recent article It’s too Cold! It’s too Hot! – Thermostat Wars in the Workplace, I consulted with the facility manager of a large corporation to fact check points I wrote about thermal comfort. In response to a sentence “And with winter approaching and the complaints growing louder, it’s difficult at best to please everyone”, the FM wrote back “More like impossible – you can quote Abe Lincoln on that!.”

So I did.  He was referring to, “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” I received several comments applauding the remark because so many facility managers can draw parallels to their own job.

Politicians love to quote Abraham Lincoln in their speeches because Lincoln is considered America’s wisest president. A major effect Lincoln has on the U.S. today is simply through the example he set when it came to leadership and integrity which are necessary qualities of a Facility Manager.

So I got to wondering (not sure why), what if Abe Lincoln, with all of his wisdom and quotes, were a Facility Manager? Could he be effective?

The International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) defines Facility Management as the practice of coordinating the physical workplace with the people and work of the organization. It is a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the built environment by integrating people, place, process and technology.

Below are traits of an effective facility manager.  Let’s postulate if the oft quoted Lincoln could have been a good facility manager:

1. UNDERSTANDS CUSTOMER NEEDS – A successful facility manager requires an understanding of the true measure of satisfaction to a customer. By knowing what makes your customers happy, you will be able to connect with them and provide guidance to your subordinates on how to take care of customers’ needs.

Lincoln wrote: “The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves — in their separate, and individual capacities.”–July 1, 1854

2. COMMUNICATES EFFECTIVELY An effective facility manager knows how to communicate and has the ability to get their message across to staff, superiors and, most importantly, customers which is an essential skill that will be put to the test each day.

  • I think Abraham Lincoln had that covered.  He gave a series of great speeches before and during his presidency including the House Divided Speech, the Cooper Union Address, the First Inaugural Address, the Gettysburg Address, and the Second Inaugural Address. He was an unfaltering commander-in-chief during the Civil War which preserved the United States as one nation.

3. UNDERSTANDS THE ORGANIZATION’S FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE Facility Managers are directly responsible for contributing to their organizations’ financial performance.

  • Lincoln carried out the most sweeping reorganization of the economy along American System principles since the founding of this country three-quarters of a century earlier.

4. MOTIVATES THE TEAM Organizations don’t get much done unless their people are motivated which can be achieved by understanding and addressing the individual needs and concerns of your staff.
Lincoln said:

  • “This is essentially a People’s contest. On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men — to lift artificial weights from all shoulders — to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all — to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life.”–July 4, 1861 Message to Congress
  • “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing.” –November 5, 1855 Letter to Isham Reavis
  • “Everybody likes a compliment.”
  • 5. TRACKS AND MEASURES STAFF PERFORMANCE Establish specific measurements that tell your staff how they are doing against the goal. This will provide you with the clear base for employee recognition, but also for staff development.

    Lincoln said:

    “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”

    “I can’t spare this man; he fights.”

    6. CREATES A POSITIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT Provide specific, timely and respectful coaching and feedback to your crew to ensure operational excellence and to improve individual performance. As a role model to your staff you also need to be responsible for your own self-development.

    “I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end”

    “Wanting to work is so rare a merit that it should be encouraged.”

    7. ENFORCES STANDARDS  Ensure staff adheres to all policies and practices established by your organization and government regulations.

    “I can make a General in five minutes but a good horse is hard to replace.””You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

    8. INFUSES PRIDE IN ORGANIZATIONAL VALUES AND MISSION Effective facility managers act with integrity, honesty and knowledge that promote the culture and mission of the company.

    • I suppose he didn’t get the nickname “Honest Abe” for nothing….

    Another famous Lincoln quote was “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.”

    Do you think he had the qualifications to be an effective facility manager?

    1 Comment on What if Abe Lincoln were a Facility Manager?

    1. a realistic, fair and honest one at that!

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