George was the operations manager at a small university. His love affair with the cleaning business—and his wife, Peggy—began on that same campus when he was a student and worked as a cleaner during the summer. Upon graduation, George was offered the position of campus supervisor. Married, with one child and another on the way, he decided he’d better take it. Twenty-seven years and four promotions later, it was time for him to hand the reigns over to someone younger. That person was Sammy.
Sammy was more than qualified. She had worked three years as a custodian at a local high school while finishing her degree. She had been a custodial supervisor at the university for the past two years and chaired committees on quality control implementation and sustainability. She was organized, dependable, and got along well with others.
George was surprised the day Sammy came to him in tears, begging him not to retire. “I feel like I’m being pulled in every direction,” she told him. The university wanted more from the cleaning staff, but the staff was already overworked and Sammy believed she was missing quality time with family.
Whether you own your own cleaning company or work as a cleaning supervisor, we’ve all felt like Sammy at some point in time—even cleaning consultants like me. Here are several tips you can use to help navigate the tumultuous times.
- Promote your work. Always make sure clients or supervisors are aware of your work and the technologies you employ. See yourself as a partner, and they will see you the same way. Exchange information regularly and solicit input. If you have innovated in some way that improves efficiency, promote that, as well. At the same time, don’t take every suggestion as a criticism. Consider feedback and sincerely evaluate whether there is room for improvement.
- Stay abreast of what’s happening. Most cleaning operations have similar issues. Learn and exchange ideas at conferences and read trade journals. Yes, there is a cost to joining organizations and attending conferences, but the cost you will pay for being out of the loop is far greater. Budget for you and others in your organization to get the knowledge necessary to do the job right.
- Develop positive relationships. Find people you admire and meet with them regularly. These could be people within the cleaning industry or people in other industries who hold a position like yours. Whether it’s an informal group that meets for lunch or a trade association, make sure you are part of a team.
- Value Employees. Employees are your boots on the ground and can often identify issues you might not be aware of. Foster a culture of knowledge-sharing and trust between employees and supervisors. It may take a while for employees to feel comfortable making suggestions to the boss. Find ways to let them know you value their input.
- Find a work-life balance. We don’t often think of eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep as part of our work. Decision-making is much easier when your mind is clear and you feel refreshed. Make time for friends and family outside of work and learn to say “no.” Delegating is a skill that pays off in the long run.