Becoming a Good Maintenance Manager – Part Two: Working as a Maintenance Manager

Apr 15, 2019 1:01:55 PM

We asked seven seasoned maintenance managers how to be a good maintenance manager.


In Part One of our series, we asked seven seasoned maintenance managers about their experience, and what they would recommend in order to become a maintenance manager.  In Part Two, the group shares their thoughts on what to do once you’ve become a maintenance manager, to achieve your goals and continually improve.


The guys we spoke to are all active in coaching the current generation of maintenance professionals. Feel free to contact them:


  • Ian Goodwin
  • Andy Malcolm
  • John Thomsen
  • Steve Flannery
  • Gerard Wood
  • Brett Peebles
  • Steve Mitchell


Also, if you find these useful please send us some feedback or comment on what other insights you may find useful in your career or work life.


Tips for being a good maintenance manager:

  • Set clear goals / KPI's
  • Keep meetings short effective and with an agenda
  • Clearly articulate your expectations
  • Don't get bogged down with emails and other media distractions - set specific time during the day
  • Set regular one-on-one performance meetings with direct reports. Give honest feedback.
  • Walk the shop floor - talk to all levels. Show you care about them personally, particularly safety and their wellbeing. Listen to their views.
  • Be a good listener
  • Always be open to suggestions - ensure you give follow-up
  • Don't be afraid to reach out to others for help - use networking internally and externally
  • Welcome other people to come into your organisation and give you their views, in the end you make the final decisions and the views of others can help you. If you don’t like what they say you can always reject it!
  • Create a team environment - keep them informed. Involve them in decision making.
  • Set and manage the budget as if it is your own money being spent. Challenge individuals to be creative to reduce costs
  • Recognize good performance and reward.
  • Create a diverse team and encourage debate. Know your team strengths and recruit to fill the gaps.
  • Ensure your one-up Manager is informed of department performance and not exposed to surprises.
  • Seek feedback on your own performance from direct reports and one-up.
  • Always have at least one Business Improvement being worked on. Share progress.
  • Create an individual training plan that meets the needs of employees and the business.
  • When being assertive be firm but fair.
  • Ensure you are always approachable.
  • Encourage decision making.
  • Have 'think time' to evaluate dept. performance with the view to improve.
  • Think outside the box, challenge the status quo.
  • Engage experts to assist but own the outcomes
  • Don't micro-manage. Trust people.
  • Have a succession plan and continually evaluate.
  • Ensure dept objectives and strategy meets the business needs - 5-year plan is understood.
  • Be factual
  • Be confident
  • Present yourself how you expect other to present themselves, how you look, how your environment looks, is important
  • Be vocal – how you sound, empathetic yet decisive
  • Be verbal – what you say is important so mean it
  • Be visible – attend shift starts regularly, don’t hijack them or waffle, support the Supv / Supt but if asked for input give clear messages, reminders, and praise
  • Create a team – pull your team together weekly
  • Have one on ones with every member of the Maintenance Management Team. A get to know them and what they do and not a performance review, understand their world. What is their burning unresolved issue?
  • Make time to get out and talk to the maintainers
  • Do safety interactions via the work the maintainers do i.e. they are interested in being a maintainer, not a safety rep. Talk maintenance then how can the maintenance be done safely
  • Don’t be afraid to sweep the workshop floor
  • On particularly hard days (e.g. really hot weather), get out towards the end of shift and go around to each work site and thank them for their effort
  • Go in periodically on nightshift or the weekend
  • Ride with the breakdown team for a few hours a month
  • Go hard on the budget – start on it early, spread the involvement and workload to the correct people i.e. it is not the job of an RE to put the budget together
  • If you are going to make change, communicate early and have good sound reasons
  • Be completely honest with your GM. Don’t try and hide things. Give them info warts and all and take responsibility for your team performance
  • Don’t talk to the GM about more people and more cost, talk to the GM about the things that matter to him ie more tonnes, no incidents and lower costs. Explain what you want to do in maintenance in terms of achieving these outcomes
  • Hold OEM’s accountable but own your equipment, don’t blame OEM’s for the problems in your department
  • Lead by example / Be open and honest / Get to know your people
  • Spend quality time in the field, especially with your leaders in order to develop them
  • Support your Superintendents/direct reports but don’t be afraid to make changes if they’re not up to the job but be open with them
  • At this level you need to have a higher level of understanding of equipment. You don’t need to be an expert in every bit of equipment. You need to know enough so that people can’t bluff their way around you. You would know what to look for when you do a walk around.
  • Quickly build a working relationship with the operations manager or production manager
  • You need to be visible in the work place
  • Transparent and honest comms are highlighted for me.
  • One of the most important aspects is being a good communicator even a great communicator. Be a good listener.
  • Obviously, you need to visibly demonstrate the companies Values
  • When going into a new role you need to get out and about and start understanding where the gaps are with your new team. If there are major gaps you need to make changes quickly. Within a month.
  • Learn to delegate. There are no rules on this, and it depends on the people you have reporting to you.
  • Treat expenditure like it is your money, challenge your people when they are seeking approval.
  • Be prepared to have the tuff conversation, do your homework and don’t put if off.
  • Make decisions, get the data don’t procrastinate.
  • One of my roles in that position was more about regaining the trust in the maintenance dept from the rest of the site, explaining why things were taking as long as they do, explaining to my supv & trades about providing feasible delivery times and sticking to them.
  • And ... develop a bloody good relationship with the HR dept, you're going to need them.


In Part Three, we ask the group about common errors to avoid.