The FM Professional

Your ultimate facility manager soft skills checklist

David Spence
May 4th, 2016
facility manager soft skills

When managing an office, you’re going to need certain technical skills to keep everything running smoothly. These skills can be easily evaluated, whereas “soft” skills — personality traits and interpersonal abilities — can be harder to quantify. These soft skills are incredibly important when it comes to managing people, so when you’re considering how to grow as a facility manager, you’ll need to develop a balanced blend of both.


Soft skills relate to an individual’s personality and character. They are skills that can’t necessarily be taught in an academic setting, and are often learned and fostered through interpersonal relationships. Mastering this type of skill is especially important for those in leadership roles, such as FMs. Let’s take a look at one example that might require an FM to utilize the soft skills in their wheelhouse.

Say you’re facing the problem of your office space becoming overcrowded as your company continues to grow. This situation requires you to utilize a number of important hard skills. It demands excellent IT savvy and the ability to use space management software to your advantage. It requires financial know-how to answer questions about the costs of moving to a new facility and can the company afford it.

But it also demands important soft skills. Take creativity, for example. How can you think outside of the box to make the most of a tricky situation? Are there ways to rearrange the current office setup and utilize underused space? Can you find creative ways to maximize meeting spaces?

Here are some of the most important soft skills that FMs need to hone in order to prosperously manage both the office and their staff.

Here are seven different soft skills that every FM should have (in no particular order — as they can certainly vary depending on the type of facilities you are managing), and why each skill is vital to crafting an efficient and satisfying work environment that everyone will enjoy.

1. Creativity

facility manager creativity

Facility managers will have a ton of challenges thrown at them every single day. Many of these challenges will demand creative solutions. If you’re used to simply following the rules and doing “business as usual,” chances are you’re not going to build an innovative workplace and it’s very likely you’ll fall behind on many important tools you should be aware of. 

Workplaces constantly change to cater to the needs of the modern worker. By having a creative mind, you’ll be open to new trends that will promote a healthier and more productive office in the future.

2. Compassion

Can you understand and easily relate to common worker issues? Since a lot of facility manager tasks will focus on creating a happier and healthier work environment, it’s imperative that you can put yourself into the shoes of your workers.

According to Wharton management professor Sigal Barsade, there is reason to believe that the latter scenario — which illustrates what she refers to as “companionate love” in the workplace — is not only more appealing, but also is vital to employee morale, teamwork and customer satisfaction.  

Why Fostering a Culture of ‘Companionate Love’ in the Workplace Matters

The ability to better understand your workers’ struggles and anticipate their frustrations will allow you to create a workplace that actually addresses their needs, instead of one that just looks good on paper.

3. Adaptability

adaptability facility management

Do you perform well under pressure? This is a likely question you’ll get in any interview – but it’s extremely important as a facilities manager. No matter how talented you are with Excel or building management software, you need to be able to quickly handle new or urgent tasks and situations that come your way and do so, in a very calm, cool, collected deameanor. 

In fact, it’s your role as a FM to ensure you are the calm one, the one to count on to keep the peace and the one to lean on during stressful times — and heaven forbid — serious safety situations. So if you’re considering this role (especially Millennials), it’s important to keep in mind you must be able to adapt to any situation and ensure your reactions and actions are both calm and strategic in approach. 

Are you ready for a career in FM? Take the Quiz: Performing Under Pressure, hosted by the Institute for HEALTH and HUMAN POTENTIAL

4. Leadership

Sometimes your role as an facility manager will require you to take the lead on projects — ok, maybe for some FM’s 99% of your role is taking the lead, as you could very well double as a project manager. So, the question you have to ask yourself is do you have the ability to engage and inspire your peers? Are you able to set achieveable goals, monitor the performance and even churn our metrics to support the results?

Need help in managing these projects? Check out Request Manager with OfficeSpace to see if it’s a fit)

Without essential leadership qualities, you run the risk of leaving employees in the dark and dragging on projects that could have been completed quickly. Especially if you have virtual or non-traditional teams to manage, this will require strong managerial qualities such as decisiveness and confidence.

5. Active listening skills

office space listening

Often, when we think we’re listening, we’re really just waiting for our turn to speak. Real listening involves paying attention to and digesting your workers’ complaints and criticisms, then acting on the new information you’ve received.

If you don’t listen to your staff, you run the risk of designing an office based upon your own assumptions, instead of what people actually want. As an FM you must have a game plan in place for hearing your employees, whether it be via a survey, weekly meetings or even daily check-ins. 

6. Flexibility

Every day will be different and you’ll need to be able to handle uncertainty. If the thought of not knowing what the day ahead of you holds is too much stress, then facilities management might not be for you.

You’ll need to smoothly transition between a multitude of tasks that include monitoring space usage, managing requests and keeping an eye on the latest industry tech.

7. Communication

office management communication

Can you take complex information and make it easily understandable? As a facility manager, you’ll be pouring over legal documents, safety handbooks, technical documentation and much more. You’ll need to process this information and make it easy to digest for the rest of your employees.

Communicating effectively to your team and all employees as a facilities manager, is just as important as your listening skills. There’s no worse scenario then a misunderstanding of actions or resolves, in which miscommunication is pointed at the FM. In fact, being an effective communicator is often what elevates you from an good manager to a great manager, and one that is undoubtedly respected as well.  

Facilities management involves a lot of procedural work, but it’s primarily a people profession. The ability to connect and engage with others around you is one of the most important skills of any facility manager. If you can gain the respect of your employees and develop great working relationships with them, you’ll inspire people to do their very best.

Photos: helpsg, christilove, sheff /, kherrmann, Africa Studio /