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Improve Communication with this Powerful Leadership Tool

Blog-title-slide Improve communication with this powerful leadership tool


Multifamily leaders, we have a communication problem. One-third of multifamily employees surveyed by Swift Bunny in 2021 say they are unable to get a timely response from their supervisor. When they reach out with a question or for support, often their requests are met with deafening silence.

I get it. You’re likely running around with your hair on fire, struggling just to get your highest priority tasks completed. So many of us are feeling overburdened and under-staffed these days. Returning calls and emails from your team just may not rise to the top of your to-do list. But, that lack of response could be contributing to your employees’ dissatisfaction with their role, and even to high employee turnover. A team member who feels unappreciated, undervalued, or invisible will soon look for opportunities elsewhere.

Here's the good news. There is an easy-to-implement management tool that can make an immediate and significant positive impact. It doesn’t require any fancy technology or added expense. I’m talking about the regular, recurring one-on-one meeting.

What’s so great about one-on-one meetings?

Dedicating time to meet privately on a regular schedule with each person you supervise creates space for conversation. It allows room for issues to be raised and addressed, and for you to give your employees honest feedback and recognize their work contributions. One-on-one meetings make your employee feel seen, heard, and valued. All of this is critical to employee tenure.

How frequently should you meet?

The prevailing wisdom says once a week is an appropriate cadence for one-on-one meetings. That may work well with a small team, but if you supervise a larger team, this can become a daunting task. I’d recommend meeting at least once per month; more frequent is better if you can swing it.

Newer employees need more time

Associates who are new to the company or their role may need to meet with you more frequently than others. Consider meeting with them weekly or biweekly to provide needed guidance or advice. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking others don’t need meetings at all. All employees, regardless of their experience or tenure, deserve your focused attention.

Minimize interruptions

Hold your one-on-one meetings in a location where you can talk undisturbed and undistracted (step away from your email inbox, please!) Good options include off-site at a coffee shop or lunch spot, in a conference room or model, or even on your feet while you walk through the community. If you’re not able to meet face-to-face, take your phone or web conversation away from your desks so you’re less distracted by other work. Strive for a setting that provides both privacy and comfort.

Be prepared

A one-on-one doesn’t require a fixed agenda, but it still requires preparation. In advance of the meeting, review your notes from your previous meetings so you can connect on outstanding issues. Think about what’s transpired since you last met, specifically the performance of your team member, and whether there is any feedback you’d like to offer. The meeting is not, however, a formal performance review. Instead, let the conversation flow naturally around what matters to the team member.

What should you talk about?

Plan to do more listening than talking. Bring prompts to your meetings to inspire productive conversation. Here are some suggestions:

  • What do you enjoy most about your work here?
  • What’s getting in the way of you feeling productive and/or successful? How can I help?
  • Am I giving you enough feedback regarding your performance?
  • Do you feel like your role and responsibilities are clear?
  • How can I better support you?
  • Do you feel challenged?
  • Are there skills or roles you’d like to learn more about? How can I help?

Conclude with action planning

This is where the rubber meets the road! A meeting without action is a waste of everyone’s time. Together with your associate, set specific, actionable goals prior to adjourning. Confirm the action items are assigned an owner and a target completion date. Document your action plans in writing. Here are some prompts to consider:

  • What can you do to make progress on what we talked about today?
  • What can I do to make progress on what we talked about today?

What if you have nothing to talk about. Is it OK to cancel?

No! Even if you think you have nothing to cover, meet anyway. You never know what’s on your employee’s mind – and you never will unless you create that space for them to open up to you. That’s the value of uninterrupted time together. This may be awkward when you first begin conducting one-on-one meetings, but over time, both you and your associates will come to appreciate them and find many things to talk about.

Employing one-on-one meetings on a regular basis will help to take the guesswork out of management. You can use the information you learn from associates’ feedback to make informed decisions, improve the work environment, and drive results. Most importantly, by improving communication with each contributor on your team, you’re likely to boost their satisfaction—and their tenure. 

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Excellent advice!

  Donje Putnam
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Thanks, Donje!

  Kara Rice
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So many great tips here!

  Stephanie Oehler
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Stephanie, thank you so much!

  Kara Rice
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Great piece, Kara!

  Adrian C Danila
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Thanks for reading, Adrian!

  Kara Rice
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Love everything about this! When I was a Regional Manager, I always felt pulled between being there for my managers and their team vs. meeting my responsibilities to my supervisors. My true belief was that my managers were the priority. but It's so hard to balance, especially if you aren't able to work 50-60 hours per week. Thanks for sharing such a simple concept that will have major benefits!

  Becky Currie
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Thanks for sharing your experience, Becky! I totally understand that conflict you describe. I think it's a cultural thing - with some organizations demanding that the needs of the home office crew come first (after all, they are "the boss.") Others are more sensitive to the needs of the community teams who are closer to the customer. But regardless, Regionals can feel stretched from both sides! I'm hearing that pressure has gotten even more acute during the last 2+ years of pandemic craziness.

  Kara Rice

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