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What's in a word? A manager's role
IF YOU LISTEN CLOSELY, sometimes you can hear the language change right before you. Consider the way that maintenance and engineering managers talk about what they do for a living.
It wasn’t all that long ago that calling maintenance management a profession raised more than a few eyebrows. It had been called many things before, certainly, but generally not a profession, and certainly not by a large number of people. Today, of course, it’s a profession according to any conceivable definition, and a robust one, at that.
But the more I talk with managers about their short- and long-term challenges, their priorities, and their visions for the future of their departments and organizations, the more I hear the word stewardship.
Lately, it has come up in discussions about hazardous materials management in institutional and commercial facilities. As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presses for greater compliance with federal regulations, managers are rethinking their roles and responsibilities when it comes to facilities and their occupants and visitors, and stewardship has become a popular description.
The word’s range of definitions offers a few clues as to why more managers are choosing to identify themselves in this way. According to the dictionary, a steward is the person in charge of household affairs, a restaurant’s management, a ship’s or plane’s passengers, or a trade shop’s overall operation.
Those all give a sense of a steward’s role, but the most general definition pinpoints the real attraction to the word: “a person morally responsible for the careful use of money, time, talents, or other resources, esp. with respect to the principles or needs of a community or group [our responsibility as stewards of the earth’s resources].”
In many facilities, maintenance and engineering managers are the members of the management team closest to day-to-day facility operations, including the use of materials and resources. They also have the authority to influence key decisions on a range of important financial and operational issues. Given these dual roles, it’s little surprise that “steward” appeals to today’s managers.