Most literature for custodians focuses on the hard skills; how to clean a classroom, how to mix chemicals, how to strip a floor. But what about the intangibles? Where can custodians learn the soft skills of writing an email, stopping rumors and advancing their careers? Mike Ward tackles these issues and more in his first book, “Who Swings Your Mop.”
Holding a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resources and 30-years’ experience on the front lines of custodial work, Ward’s position is unique. He has lived the day-to-day life on a cleaning crew, working his way up from a 3rd shift custodian to union president and department head. He understands the value these professionals bring to multi-million dollar facilities and wants to empower other custodians to be their best.
Ward’s book gives real-world solutions to common problems, along with tips on remaining professional at all times. He explains how to navigate difficult situations and personality types. Ward even presents common interview questions and gives advice on how to shine. “Many custodians show up to an interview empty handed and wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I explain how to dress properly, create a simple portfolio and come to an interview prepared.”
Ward understands the importance of building comradery among the cleaning crew. “The biggest pain point for any supervisor is discipline,” Ward insists. “Educating people on how to handle themselves and situations greatly reduces these issues. Ward also emphasizes “family work” over “teamwork.” “Teamwork is a tired cliché,” he explains, “It creates ‘not-my-job’ and ‘territorial cleaning’ thinking. Family work changes the mindset. You’re more likely to help out a co-worker if you think of him as your uncle.”
Ward urges custodians to take the long view and be proactive in their careers. “Become part of your school’s building council, join the safety or crisis committee, volunteer to read to students,” he offers. Ward acknowledges that administrators will not typically approach the cleaning crew for this kind of work so he gives advice on how to ask for--and get--these high-profile spots.
Ward also knows that even the most professional custodian is only as effective as their tools. That’s why he’s a big fan of Kaivac products. “Cleaning crews are always being asked to do more with less,” he says. “Kaivac products like the OmniFlex save us a lot of time and lets a reduced crew cover more ground.”
Click here for more information on Mike Ward and to order his book, Who Swings Your Mop.
Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines.
Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.
She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.