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When someone unfamiliar with the profession asks me to describe maintenance and engineering managers, I always struggle to characterize them appropriately.
But after a recent conversation I had with Joe Payne, public works operations supervisor with the city of Springfield (Mo.), I feel confident I can explain what makes this profession, and its leaders, so unique.
During an interview for an article on the city's Public Grounds department Payne detailed the hardships his department is facing, including job freezes, aging equipment, and a restructured approach to maintenance.
After listening to Payne list his most pressing challenges, I asked him how he is holding up. I wondered how he manages to overcome these adversities and continue to do not only his job, but motivate his staff, as well. His response?
"I feel good about it," he said. "It's been a tough period through here, but I do commend my staff. We all have the attitude of looking for the lemonade in the batch of lemons."
There you have it. From this point forward, anyone who asks me to describe maintenance and engineering managers, I will use Payne's response to illustrate the mental toughness managers need to be successful.
I have found that managers have no problem discussing the difficulties they face. It almost becomes a badge of honor, their overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges. But rarely do they let those struggles stand in the way of their mission and the mission of their department. Managers know the lemons will continue to surface, and it's their job — and the job of their staff — to turn them into lemonade.
Chris Matt offers insights gleaned from conversations with managers who make key maintenance and engineering decisions in commercial and institutional facilities.
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