How critical are soft skills to the healthcare facility management professional? 

Asked another way, what is the appropriate percentage of hard skills (technical) versus soft skills (leadership/communication) needed in this unique role?

We have that discussion with Lamar Davis, Director, Facilities Engineering & Support Services at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago, on the latest episode of High Reliability.  

Lamar has had a lengthy career in healthcare facilities management in the Chicagoland area. In addition to the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, Lamar has worked in facility leadership roles at Access Community Health Network, Provena Health, and Advocate Health. Lamar has volunteered nationally and locally with the American Society of Healthcare Engineering. He has mentored individuals throughout his career.   

As a worldwide leader in applying research in real time to physical medicine and rehabilitation, the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab attracts patients from across the globe. Resultantly, Lamar’s facility teams need to be comfortable taking on outward-facing, engaging roles with patients and families.

Lamar speaks to their interview process

When we interview prospective employees, it’s great that they have technical skills, but we ask how you feel interacting with the public and how you feel interacting with teammates? Are you comfortable talking to people of different backgrounds?

We look for that personality factor because it is so important. People come here from all over the world at some of the lowest moments of their life. We need to be able to satisfy them.

How often do interviewees say they are comfortable utilizing soft skills?

Roughly 50/50. Half will say they are comfortable, and the other half will say, “I want to stay in the boiler room, don’t bother me.” I will say to their credit, people who aren’t personable at work, they can turn it on when they need to, and that is huge. We appreciate them for doing that.  

We have had people who have exited our organizations because they couldn’t do it (the soft side). In the interview, they said that they will try, that they could do it. But it only comes out later (that they can’t).

On the importance of rapport

What is important for me is to establish rapport with all, from the hospital president to the greeter at the door. Let them know they are my customer, engage with them. People respond a lot better when you are engaging with them.

To establish rapport, realize that you are going to have something in common with that person. There is going to be something, and I always try to find that something. Start with the weather or a trip. It is tougher with some people; they won’t give up anything (about themselves). But keep trying, find that common thing. Sports can be easy. Or say, “hey, that is a cool-looking shirt.”  There is always something; you just have to keep at it. 

Learn more about the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab.

Coming Attractions

Please stay tuned to our website for our latest job promotions. In the next week, we will be promoting:

  • Director, Facilities  
  • A Vice President opportunity
  • A  Director, PDC opportunity 

While you wait for these roles to appear, check out our new website, our Partnered Search Program, and the revamped  Gosselin/Martin Career Hub.