Sustainability applies to people too!

I’m worried. It seems to me that our sector is becoming more concerned about the effectiveness of our buildings and plant, and less concerned about our people. If you find something unexpected with, for example a chiller unit, what do you do? Take action! Why? Because it’s critical to the running of the building, right? You might call in an engineer, increase the number of checks, replace a filter – you do whatever is needed to get the chiller unit working effectively again.

But what do we do for our people?

Pressure is a typical aspect of modern life and particularly in the work environment. We ask a lot of the people who work for us – continuous improvement, commitment, long hours, loyalty, innovation, creativity. Things are no easier outside work with most people juggling the demands of their job with family, hobbies, friends and numerous other commitments.

Pressure in itself is not however inherently bad. It’s when pressure goes beyond our ability to cope that problems arise. When our people are in their ‘stretch zone’ rather than their ‘comfort zone’ they are usually highly engaged, innovative, productive and, as long as they are not permanently stretched in one single direction, highly satisfied and motivated. Most organisations understand this, but are not so able to recognise when teams are sliding from ‘stretch’ into ‘panic’. At this point their performance starts to diminish rapidly.

Often employers are not aware that there is a problem until pressure has increased to a level where the employee feels overwhelmed, by which time the situation is more obvious but harder to recover from.

So, if you again compare the faulty chiller unit with the people working for you, we need a way to check in before the pressure is too much to bear.

One of the quickest and most productive ways of doing this is by having ‘leadership conversations’ with your people. You need to gain a clear understanding of their performance and find out which ‘zone’ they are spending most time in.

We can do this for you, as it’s often easier to bring in outside experts to assess how effective your people are in terms of their coping mechanisms. But if you want to make a start yourself, here are some sample questions to ask yourself and your teams:

  • Which teams are coping well? How do they approach their issues? How can other teams learn from their experience?
  • How can we help individuals change their approach and so get better outcomes for them personally and for the team?
  • What else would improve as a result?
  • What knowledge, experience, resources do you already have in the organisation to help?
  • What might be the first small step?

To find out more about ensuring high performance without pushing your people into ‘panic’ contact Liz Kentish, The FM Coach on Tel: 01778 561326 / 07717 870777 or email:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *