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The Role of Guts and Grit in Successful Facility Maintenance

The facility maintenance industry is dynamic and challenging, demanding a unique blend of technical expertise, problem-solving skills, and decision-making prowess. While hard skills and technical knowledge are essential, gut instinct and grit should not be underestimated. These intangible qualities often distinguish between success and failure in resolving complex maintenance issues.

Harnessing the Power of Gut Instinct

Gut instinct, often called the sixth sense or intuition, is an innate ability to make decisions based on subconscious cues and patterns. In facility maintenance, gut instinct can manifest as a hunch or feeling that something is amiss, even if there is no clear evidence to support it. While relying on instinct in a technical field may seem counterintuitive, experienced technicians often develop a keen ability to sense potential problems before they escalate—a highly respected and valued skill in the industry.

Cultivating Grit and Determination

Grit is the unwavering perseverance and resilience to overcome obstacles and achieve goals. In challenging maintenance issues, grit enables technicians to persist through setbacks, adapt to changing circumstances, and find innovative solutions. This driving force keeps them going when the solution seems elusive and the pressure mounts, leading to a sense of accomplishment and inspiration.

Integrating Gut and Grit in Action: Six HVAC and BAS Scenarios

  1. Unexplained Temperature Fluctuations: A facility manager notices unexplained temperature fluctuations in a particular zone. Although the BAS data does not indicate system malfunctions, their gut instinct tells them something is wrong. Guided by this intuition, they conduct a thorough inspection and discover a partially clogged air filter, the culprit behind the erratic temperatures.
  2. The Phantom Electrical Hum: An electrician hears a faint humming sound while working on a panel. Their gut instinct prompts them to investigate further, leading them to a loose connection that could have sparked an electrical fire.
  3. The Intermittent Chiller Glitch: A chiller technician encounters an intermittent fault that disappears upon testing. Relying on their experience and gut feeling, they meticulously examine the system’s history data and identify a pattern that points to a faulty relay.
  4. The Network Anomaly: A BAS technician notices an unusual spike in network traffic. Their instinct tells them it could be a sign of a malware attack. They promptly isolate the affected devices, preventing a potential data breach.
  5. The Elusive Leak: A plumber suspects a water leak, but the source remains elusive. Their grit and determination drive them to meticulously check every pipe, fitting, and fixture until they finally discover a hairline crack behind a wall panel.
  6. The Unforeseen System Overload: During a peak demand event, a facility manager’s gut instinct tells them the power grid is reaching its limit. Their proactive decision to implement load-shedding measures prevents a widespread blackout.

Skills Required in Facility Maintenance

Hard Skills: These include technical expertise in HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and other mechanical systems, proficiency in using specific tools and technologies such as Building Automation Systems (BAS) or diagnostic software, and the ability to understand and interpret data from systems like HVAC or electrical monitoring tools.

Soft Skills: Soft skills are less quantifiable and related to personal attributes and traits. Key soft skills in facility maintenance include:

  • Gut Instinct (Intuition): An innate ability to sense or recognize subtle cues that might not be immediately apparent through data alone.
  • Grit (Determination and Resilience): The perseverance to face challenges, which includes identifying a problem’s root cause despite initial setbacks or seeking a solution when a system behaves unpredictably.

Application in Facility Maintenance

The provided scenarios illustrate how these soft skills complement hard skills. For instance, in the case of unexplained temperature fluctuations, a facility manager might use their gut instinct to go beyond the BAS data and manually inspect the system, leading to the discovery of a clogged air filter. In the intermittent chiller glitch scenario, the technician combines their technical knowledge with a gut feeling to scrutinize historical data more deeply, eventually identifying a faulty component that wasn’t obvious in regular diagnostics.


While hard skills are essential for performing specific technical tasks in facility maintenance, soft skills like gut instinct and grit enable technicians to extend beyond standard procedures and data limitations. They allow for a more holistic and proactive approach to maintenance, which is critical in managing complex, dynamic environments where not all variables are known or predictable. These soft skills effectively bridge the gap between routine maintenance and exceptional problem-solving capabilities, ensuring higher efficiency and system reliability.