I've collected these off my LinkedIn posts over the past year and I think they come together to provide a pretty good guideline for manager trainees. Over the course of my career, I've lead teams of 5 to 50 and these tips can help you make the best of your leadership position, particularly from a property management perspective.
- Start every day asking what you can do to improve the life of your employees: Every aspect of your job is supported by this one mantra- income, expenses, asset management, personnel management, corporate culture. Make things easier for your employees, solve problems for them, and your income will improve, your expenses will go down, your company culture will be one of success and your properties will look good. Is it really that easy? Well, not really. Sometimes as a Manager (Property or Regional) you can get bogged down in numbers, but you cannot manage by numbers. They are vital, but they are only information. You have to make decisions based on that information and you must get your team involved and on board to support your decisions. By proving every day that you work for your employees, you will win their loyalty, support, and hard work.
- Inspect what you expect: A no brainer we've all heard before, right? But in the throes of balancing a multi-million dollar asset or multiple assets, people, problems, it is very tempting to ask someone else what it looks like. Whether it is landscaping, new lights, a project you asked someone to complete, you need to look at it yourself. This is not to say not to trust your employees. Of course they can tell you if something is done, and send you pictures to show you it has. An oft ignored, yet important factor in inspection is that a personal inspection shows the person who worked on the project that their time is valuable to you, and that you care about their work. It shows your direct reports that you are on the team in working with them on problems they've addressed with employees or vendors and that you will support their decisions. Looking at and appreciating the work that someone has done or coordinated is just as important to them as it is to you.
- Don't manage by email: This is a newbie mistake. You think you can send out an email and change a policy, process, address an issue, or communicate a decision. You are wrong. It takes more than even the most well composed email to communicate complicated decisions. If you are changing a policy, you need to explain why you are changing it, so that you get buy-in, and so that people understand what you are thinking. By taking the time to discuss it, you may find loopholes you didn't think about, or flaws in your logic that on-site people discover because they do the process more often. You can explain the business reasons behind your decisions much more passionately in person than in an email, and if you can get the team to understand the "why" they will get with the program more quickly. If you are remote, have zoom/google hang out meetings to discuss the change. If you have manager or team meetings, that is a great time to discuss changes. Additionally, personnel and performance issues are difficult to deal with efficiently via email, as most people need a chance to talk about what happened, get it out of their system, and only then they can start to move forward. Plus, it's hard to point out issues with a turn or property upkeep via email. You can make sure they see what you are seeing a lot better in person than via email. This doesn't mean you don't need to document everything. Once you've had your discussions, come up with your policies, or made a decision, take a moment to recap the conversations in writing. Whether it's an email review of "what we discussed" or a private document in which you bullet point what you covered with your team, documentation has saved me a lot of grief. It's certainly helped me in circumstances when I have been put in the difficult position to fire one of my employees. Even if they did not sign any document, that I could provide verification of a date and time that I had addressed the behavior before has worked in my favor when it came to paying unemployment.
- Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: If you are sugar-coating information, you are not being clear. When you are dealing with a performance issue, it doesn't pay to be ambiguous. If you are hemming and hawing around the fact that a behavior is unacceptable because you do not want to be mean, you are failing your employees. There is a difference between being mean and being direct. You will hurt people's feelings. They will get upset at what you have said to them, because you are pointing out issues that are sometimes in their character. But if you have taken the time to get to know them and you've proven that everything you do is to make their life better (see #1), then they will take your well-meant and constructive criticism and become better employees.
- If you are meeting and coaching your employees like you should, reviews should be a breeze because you will be on the same page, as you will correct the course as things happen and not store up a list of things to work on. There should be very few “serious meetings” needed, and your goals should be aligned with your team. Use reviews for setting future goals and discussing accomplishments. Use every day moments to address performance issues.
I hope this is helpful to you in growing your career as a new manager - or just a manager in general. Managing people is very stressful and challenging, but I think if you always follow number one, you will have a team that supports you and always roots for your success as well.