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Part 1: GM's FM Coach: Mari Kay Scott
Part 2: Achieving Economic Efficiencies At General Motors Facilities
Part 3: Toolkit Of Leadership Skills For Facilities Managers
By Naomi Millán, Senior Editor
September 2014 -
Facilities Management Article Use Policy
The success is not accidental. GM has a strong culture of continuous improvement and constant honing of leadership. Through her career path at GM, Scott acquired a toolkit of leadership skills that has helped her advance and which she now uses to run the portfolio.
To begin with, one aspect of Scott's success is that she's always game for a new job assignment — whether a lateral move or a step up. New responsibilities can seem daunting, even a little bit scary, but she always went for it.
"Sometimes you look back and you think, 'How did I get here?'" she says. "Number one, I came from a very competitive and sports-minded family, so if somebody gives you a challenge, you just figure out how to go and get it done."
Of course, sheer will only gets you so far. Here are some of the other job skills Scott calls out as aspects of her success that any facility manager might consider adopting.
Know the Business. "It's really important for facility managers to understand the business that they support," Scott says. "I think that I am a way better facilities management leader because I worked in an assembly plant and I understand the business and I understand their point of view."
With this boots-on-the-ground knowledge, Scott can anticipate the challenges and questions an initiative might face, and allows her to address any challenge with appropriate urgency but without panic. "It's soup to nuts in this industry," Tomaszewski says. "She may be building the next manufacturing facility in the U.S. or in China and then the very next day the HVAC units go out in a building that we have 8,000 engineers in and you have to get that up and running." Despite the wide range of challenges, Scott is able to keep problems in perspective, which helps keep the entire organization calm, Tomaszewski says.
Cultivate Diversity. GM actively supports diversity in its workforce, but when Scott started, GM was a man's world, and it wasn't easy to be one of the very few women supervisors at a plant. "I learned a lot by watching leaders," she says. "And I learned by watching and saying I wasn't going to do it that way, too. I started in the mid '80s, so things were a lot different then."
She remembers early leadership meetings where more senior women would discuss what individuals could do to be successful in the company as women leaders.
"At one point in time there was one woman my age who was invited to one of these meetings and she was saying, 'I don't want to go to this coffee klatch.' And somebody said, 'Hey, you didn't get your position without somebody helping you, and it was probably a man. That's great, but as women we have to help the next women that are coming up.' And that stuck with me my whole career."
What diversity (of gender, race, etc.) inherently brings, Scott says, is diversity of thought. The last thing a leader wants is a team full of nodding heads, she says.
People Development. Scott comes from a family of educators, and that, paired with her affinity for sports, has made coaching a big part of her leadership style.
"You have to spend one-third of your time on tactical things, one-third of your time on strategic things to make the business better and make your tactical things easier to do, and one-third of your time on people development," Scott says. "That's really important, whether you're an individual contributor and you're working on your own development or you're a manager and you're working on all of your people development. That's something that I stress a lot."
Tomaszewski says this shows in his own career. After 18 years at GM in environmental operations, Scott asked him to come over to run the facility operations in North America, which he has been doing for the last four years.
"Mari Kay empowers people," he says. "She gives them those opportunities to grow and she knows how to coach them through it."
It's not just at GM, either. Scott is very involved in mentoring, and is involved with several educational outreach initiatives in the community.
Transparent Communication. As the company moved through the economic downturn, a lot of cultural and structural reorganization had to take place, so Scott says there was and is a lot of focus on communication. Through Workplace-of-Choice surveys, GM regularly solicits feedback from the employees companywide, and the facilities team's scores have improved with every survey, and are in fact above the average at GM. "I'm proud of that," Scott says. "I think part of that is how I do my job, and my whole staff. You build your team and people dance to the beat of the drummer."
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone. Sometimes people think that in order to advance their careers, they need to find a position with a new company. But Scott is proof that there is plenty of opportunity for growth for facility managers right where they are. They just have to know how to look for it.
"Try something that you haven't done before," Scott says. She suggests facility managers look at their portfolios and find the part they don't like, the part that makes them nervous. "Then, go do that."