Advice For Dealing With Top Management: Shrug It Off

When the subject of top management comes up in conversation, you can divide facility managers into two categories: the eye-rollers and the shruggers.

I’m only half kidding. Top management makes more than a few choices that, to a facility manager, seem to fall somewhere between short-sighted and foolish. Confronted with one of these decisions, some facility managers roll their eyes and shake their heads in evident amazement and frustration; others, who may be equally amazed and frustrated, simply shrug their shoulders and say, “I explained the options and the potential consequences, and they made their decision.”

It’s not that these shoulder shruggers don’t care. Far from it. Experienced facility managers know that, ultimately, the decision isn’t theirs. Their job is to do their homework and provide top management with good advice, and then do the best they can to carry out the decision in the most effective way possible.

What do these facility managers advise when it comes to communicating with top management? At the top of the list is to present options. Senior executives know there are always choices, so offer options, including the option to do nothing, along with the consequences of each choice.

But be realistic about those consequences, say veteran facility managers. If a chiller is truly on its last legs, being kept running only by extraordinary maintenance efforts, say so. On the other hand, if the unit is past its expected life cycle, but not on the verge of failure, be clear about that.

Of all the consequences to be realistic about, savings  tops the list. Presenting only objective, conservative savings estimates is a proven way to build credibility.

Following any of that advice can take a lot of work, especially the first time around. The same is true of the other big recommendation for communicating with top executives: Explain things clearly, and in language they can understand. But facility managers who put in the time needed to master those skills will likely get a solid return on the hours they invest.